Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton With Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg After Their Meeting

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–June 2, 2011.  

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, everyone, and it’s a particular pleasure for me to welcome the foreign minister back to Washington. I’ve had the opportunity of working with Minister Schwarzenberg in the beginning of my term as Secretary of State and now have that pleasure once again. And the close partnership between our countries dates back to the beginnings of the Czech Republic, and we are very proud of the long ties of kinship and friendship, of the shared values and mutual respect, and our joint pursuit of individual freedoms, democracy, economic opportunity, and human rights. And the minister is well known as a champion of those values.

We had a broad-ranging discussion. I expressed the gratitude of the United States to the Czech people for their ongoing contributions to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan and our sympathy for the loss of a Czech soldier just a few days ago. By leading the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Logar Province, Czech troops are providing invaluable support for the Afghan people as they rebuild their country and take responsibility for their own security. And we greatly appreciate the Czech Republic’s decision to increase its troop contributions this year. We are going to be working closely together as we begin a transition to Afghan-led security.

We also discussed our joint efforts to promote democracy and human rights around the world. After the crackdown on democracy activists and opposition leaders in Belarus last December, the Czech Republic led 14 countries, including the United States, in working with the OSCE to conduct a fact-finding mission. That report was issued earlier this week and it marks an important step forward in our efforts to stand up for democracy in Eastern Europe and beyond. And we look forward, Minister, to working together in many different venues to promote democratic transitions and institution building.

Finally, the minister and I exchanged ideas for continuing to strengthen our economic and security relationships. We have a strong foundation on which to build. Over the past year, we have launched an Economic and Commercial Dialogue, signed a Joint Declaration on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, and began technical research and development discussions with the Department of Energy. We have an opportunity to expand our commercial relationship through ventures such as the Temelin Nuclear Power Station. It’s a project that could create thousands of high-paying jobs in both countries over the next several years while improving both Czech and European energy security. And the minister and I agreed today that our countries would begin talks in September on a new, enhanced bilateral investment treaty. We know it’s been a long-time goal that has not yet been realized, but the minister and I are determined that we’re going to bring it to completion.

And I am grateful for the many ways that we cooperate, and I thank the minister again for his lifetime of service and express our great appreciation for your being here today.

FOREIGN MINISTER SCHWARZENBERG: Thank you so much. I mean, you (inaudible) everything we have talked about. I think it was a profound and very good conversation, discussion about (inaudible). And as Secretary Clinton said, we have in many, many aspects of international projects the same view. And of course, it’s a difference of a world power and a small country like the Czech Republic; nevertheless, the aspect we can cooperate very usefully, we’re doing it and we intend to do it even more in the future, not only Afghanistan, there are other areas in the world we are discussing greater involvement of the United States in projects of the eastern (inaudible) of project of the (inaudible) and so on and so on. And we are discussing (inaudible) scientific and commercial cooperation. I do think our alliance is in a good way into the future.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Minister.

MR. TONER: The first question this morning goes to Elise Labott of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Google is reporting about Chinese hacking into the email accounts of U.S. officials. Have you talked to the Chinese about this? Do you have any evidence that sensitive information was compromised, and what are you doing to mitigate any damages?

And on Syria, a Human Rights Watch report on Syria concluded the regime’s abuses against its people and mass killing constitute crimes against humanity. You’ve been saying you hope the regime will end the brutality, but today a Washington Post editorial says that anyone that reads this report could not say this with such a straight face.

Secretary Clinton, is President Asad beyond redemption? I mean, is there any way he can turn this around now and – or is he along the lines of President Mubarak, President Muammar Qadhafi, and President Saleh that it’s time for him to go now? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Elise, first with respect to the recent announcement by Google, we are obviously very concerned about Google’s announcement regarding a campaign that the company believes originated in China to collect the passwords of Google email account holders. Google informed the State Department of this situation yesterday in advance of its public announcement. These allegations are very serious. We take them seriously, we’re looking into them, and because this will be an ongoing investigation, I would refer you to first Google for any details that they are able to share at this time and to the FBI, which will be conducting the investigation.

One of the reasons why we’ve created the first-ever cyber security coordinator position in the State Department, filled by Chris Painter, a very experienced official in this area who was one of the leaders in helping to draft our governmental framework for cyber policy, is because we know this is going to be a continuing problem. And therefore we want to be as prepared as possible to deal with these matters when they do come to our attention.

With respect to Syria, I certainly am well aware of the human rights report. I think that the report puts into one place much of what we know has been going on. As I have said, the tragedy of the young boy, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, symbolizes for many people around the world the total collapse of any effort by the Asad government to work with their own people. And I think – President Obama said it very clearly: If he cannot end the violence against his own people, take meaningful steps to start a process of reform, then he needs to get out of the way. And every day that he stays in office and the violence continues, he’s basically making that choice by default. He’s not called for an end to the violence against his own people, he’s not engaged seriously in any kind of reform efforts, and the United States has taken a number of steps to try to put pressure on President Asad’s regime.

When we find ourselves in these situations, we have to do a very clear-eyed, calculated assessment of what influence we have and who are our partners in trying to bring about that influence. Although there are general trends in the Middle East and North Africa, each country is a specific case unto itself. And with respect to Syria, as you know, we have signed executive orders, the President has signed executive orders imposing sanctions, we have called out the human rights violations, we have sanctioned even Iranian groups that we think are playing a role in the repression occurring, we’ve closely coordinated with our allies in the European Union, they’ve enhanced their sanctions on Syria, we’ve called for a special session at the Human Rights Council, and, as you know, the European members of the Security Council are circulating a resolution there.

Right now, the attitude of the international community is not as united as we are seeking to make it. We do not yet have the agreement by some of the other members of the Security Council. We certainly have nothing resembling the kind of strong action the Arab League took with respect to Libya. So every day that goes by, not only do we see the outside pressure growing in a public effort to try to end the violence and bring this terrible chapter to an end, but privately we continue to do everything we can with like-minded countries. And I think that the legitimacy that is necessary for anyone to expect change to occur under this current government is, if not gone, nearly run out. The international community has to continue to make its strongest possible case and call for specific actions, like, not just an announcement of an amnesty but a release of political prisoners, the end to unjust detentions, allow human rights monitors into the country.

So I think we’re doing everything we can, and those who we’re seeking to bring to our view of the situation, I think, will have to make their own judgment, but we think they will be better off on the right side of history.

QUESTION: You’re saying that it’s time for him to go?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that we – as President Obama said, if he’s not going to lead the reform, he needs to get out of the way. And where he goes, that’s up to him.

MR. TONER: The next question is Zdenek Fucik of Czech News Agency.

QUESTION: Good morning. As for the bilateral investment treaty, could you give us some timeframe when you expect these negotiations to be closed? And also, do you think you will be able to pass this enhanced agreement through Congress?

And also another pressing topic: It seems that the early warning system center, which would be in Prague as part of the new missile defense system project, has stalled a bit in the last year. What is the reason for this? Are there any problems on the Czech sides or – I don’t know, are there any new options in the Strategic Dialogue? This is to both of you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Great. You want to start, Karel?


SECRETARY CLINTON: First with respect to the bilateral investment treaty, it is the intention of Minister Schwarzenberg and myself that negotiations begin in September and move as quickly as possible. I regret that we’ve not been able to reach an agreement for 10 years with one of our closest friends, partners, and allies. But we are going to drive this process forward, and I’m putting everybody on notice, both in the State Department and in the rest of the United States Government, this is a very high priority. And I believe that if we can finalize negotiations, we will be able to get a favorable response in both of our – his – your parliament and our Congress.

With respect to the shared early warning system, we greatly appreciated the Czech Republic’s strong support of a European missile defense and NATO missile defense system. We are proceeding on that. We have discussed in detail at the highest levels of our defense cooperation what role the Czech Republic might play if it so chooses. But that is something that we are in constant consultations about, and we will continue to work toward a mutually satisfactory outcome.

QUESTION: Is there something concrete on the table right now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ll let the minister respond.

FOREIGN MINISTER SCHWARZENBERG: For the moment, we don’t have any concrete (inaudible). We had to expect, of course, to (inaudible) the talks between the United States and Russia and about the missile defense, and (inaudible) its consequence of the missile defense resolution we had in Lisbon in the NATO. We can now get concrete (inaudible) and we are in discussion in Brussels with (inaudible), we are in discussion with the United States. But I can’t tell you for the moment what the concrete result will be.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.