Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton With Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal After Their Meeting

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–April 21, 2011.  

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good morning, and I want to welcome Foreign Minister Rosenthal to the State Department. It is certainly the case that the Netherlands has been and is a valued ally and trusted friend to the United States. We talked about our 400 years of history together, and our nations are part of a transatlantic community that is united by shared values and a firm commitment to work together for peace, progress and prosperity. We discussed a wide range of issues from the crisis in Libya to our shared mission in Afghanistan to our global efforts to support sustainable development and empower women and girls.

First on Libya, we agreed that carrying out the mandate of the United Nations Security Council to protect Libyan civilians remains critically important under Resolution 1973. Colonel Qadhafi’s troops continue their vicious attacks, including the siege of Misrata. There are even reports that Qadhafi forces may have used cluster bombs against their own people. In the face of this inhumanity, the international community remains united in our resolve. We deeply regret the loss of all life, and we are particularly saddened today by the loss of two journalists, and we extend our condolences to their families.

We also call for the immediate release of Americans who are being unjustly detained by Libyan authorities, including at least two reporters. I say “at least” because we do not have any accurate information coming from Libyan authorities about other inquiries that we have made regarding their continuing harassment and detention of journalists including Americans.

I also expressed appreciation for Dutch contributions to the NATO-led no-fly zone and to the international Contact Group that met most recently in Doha and will meet again soon in Rome. We agreed that Qadhafi must step aside and a democratic transition must begin that reflects the will and aspirations of all Libyans.

I want to thank the government and people of the Netherlands for their commitment to our mission in Afghanistan. Our troops, diplomats, and development experts continue to work side by side and stand with the Afghan people. I greatly appreciate the commitment of a new police training mission to deploy this summer to bolster the Afghan Government’s ability to provide security. We are committed to the NATO transition as agreed at the Lisbon Summit to be completed in 2014, and we have a lot of work ahead of us to help facilitate greater security, political reconciliation, and a clear unambiguous stand against al-Qaida and other extremists.

Now, we also are discussing the great commitment to sustainable global development that the Netherlands has demonstrated over so many years. And there’s a new challenge. Nearly two million people, mostly women and children, die each year from breathing the toxic smoke from dirty stoves and open fires that are used overwhelmingly for the cooking of the daily meals. This is more than twice the number of people who die from malaria. So it’s a very serious health hazard. It’s also an environmental hazard. It contributes to black carbon which contributes to global warming. And the United States has joined the United Nations Foundation and a wide range of partners to form the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves with the goal of 100 million homes adopting clean stoves and fuels by 2020. The Government of Netherlands, the Shell Foundation, SNV, Philips have long been leaders in this effort, and we greatly appreciate the historic generosity of the Dutch people.

In that same spirit, I’m pleased to announce that the United States and the Netherlands have agreed to deepen our cooperation aimed at empowering women and girls around the world, especially in emerging democracies. Both our nations recognize that when women and girls are accorded their rights and afforded opportunities, they drive political, economic, and social progress. And we’re so pleased to be working with the Netherlands to create greater political and economic opportunities for women, particularly in the democratic transitions underway in the Middle East and North Africa.

Minister, we have so much that we work on together. We have so much in common. Our histories and our cultures are entwined. We are your friend, we are your partner, and I appreciate your efforts.

FOREIGN MINISTER ROSENTHAL: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your kind words and for receiving me today here in Washington. We have met before, but not yet here. And I also believe we had a very productive discussion today. Indeed, we share our history for centuries, 400 years, and we share also strong economic ties. Over 700,000 American jobs are the result of our Dutch investment and trade relationship. We share important values – freedom, tolerance, democracy, human rights, protection of religious minorities throughout the world. And we are working closely with the U.S. at promoting these values in the Arab region and also elsewhere in the world.

Madam Secretary, let me, talking about the Arab region and Libya, first offer my condolences to the families and friends of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros. They were two formidable journalists, who gave their lives doing their jobs. It’s just part of the human tragedy, humanitarian tragedy in Libya, a tragedy which is simply unacceptable. And that is why we are an active partner in the NATO campaign Unified Protector and why we also provide humanitarian aid whenever we can. And we are, with you, particularly concerned at the moment about the situation in Misrata.

We condemn, on our part, Colonel Qadhafi’s actions in the strongest of terms. Colonel Qadhafi and his regime have indeed lost all legitimacy, and he must step down, the sooner the better. We rigorously enforce the sanctions against him and his cronies, and we strongly support the aspirations of the Libyan people to reform democracy and, last but not least, rule of law.

We also discussed today the situation in Syria, and together with the U.S., we strongly condemn the violence of the regime against its own population. We believe that this was put urgently on the agenda of the Human Rights Council. And for the Dutch Government, it’s unthinkable that Syria would become part of that same Human Rights Council.

With you, Madam Secretary, we agree on the important role of women in societies in transition, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. Our joint statement today will lead to complete joint actions for women in the region.

And then there is Afghanistan. The Netherlands has been actively engaged in Afghanistan since 2002. Today, we are investing in the training of the police force in Kunduz Province in the north of the country. I believe it’s crucial because it helps Afghan people to take responsibility for their own security and to strengthen the rule of law also in that country. And we definitely need to work on reconciliation, accepting the red lines, but with the Afghans themselves taking the lead.

Finally, Madam Secretary, we indeed discussed your initiative for clean cookstoves. I’m encouraged to see that an alliance of public and private players is taking this issue very seriously, including, as you said already, some important Dutch companies like Philips and Shell International. And we do embrace this initiative.

Madam Secretary, to conclude, it was a great pleasure to discuss these important issues with you today here at the State Department. I thank you for that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Uri.

MR. TONER: And the first question goes to Jill Dougherty from CNN. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Surprise. (Laughter.) As – Secretary Clinton, thank you. Libya, again, here we are. The word really on everybody’s lips right now is “stalemate.” Where is this going? You have the casualties that you referred to, the journalists, certainly many more Libyans. The foreign minister was talking about an unacceptable situation right now. Some of the experts who look at this – and when they look at Misrata, they say the problem really now is that in places like that, it’s a ground game; you can’t use air power to do it as it was in the beginning of the operation. So what can the U.S., what can the allies together, do to really turn this around? Because some people are saying this could go on for a year.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, first, I think it is always a temptation in any conflict to expect there to be a resolution quickly. I am not a military historian or an expert by any means, but the fact is that we’ve been at this a relatively short period of time. I know in our extraordinarily fast-paced world of information overload, every minute seems to be expanded to an extent unknown in the past because there’s so much going on and we’re all trying to keep up with it all.

I would remind you that the United States and other partners bombed targets in Serbia for 78 days. And it looked at the end of that as though there had been a success in terms of protecting the Kosovars, but that Milosevic remained in power. But there had been a dynamic put into motion that eventually led to his being in The Hague.

I have publicly and privately counseled some degree of patience, as difficult as that may be to do in today’s world. We have adopted a mission that the United States, as you know, fully supports, to carry out an arms embargo, to run a no-fly zone, and to protect civilians. We have done all of that, and we have destroyed a significant percentage of Qadhafi’s air defense system and other assets that he had been using, from tanks to his warehouses of materiel, to terrorize his own people. The opposition that rose up spontaneously was not a trained militia. It wasn’t a military force. By our best assessment, the vast majority of the young men who are using weapons against the Qadhafi troops and mercenaries had never participated in any such activity before.

You’re right; Misrata is a very brutal, urban battle that is going on right now, where the Qadhafi regime is engaging in activities that are deplorable and which target directly civilians – men, women, adults, children – causing an enormous amount of death and suffering. But the opposition fighters are holding their own against that onslaught, and in large measure because we’ve taken Qadhafi’s planes out of the air, we target every large vehicle that we think is theirs to be used against the opposition and civilians who are trying to stand against him.

So I think that it’s too soon to tell what’s going to happen, and one of the reasons why I announced $25 million in nonlethal aid yesterday, why many of our partners both in NATO and in the broader Contact Group are providing assistance to the opposition – is to enable them to defend themselves and to repulse the attacks by Qadhafi forces.

So I know it’s not a particularly satisfying answer, and I am not in a position at least now to be a pundit who can make all kinds of conclusory statements. I look at what we see happening. And the work that the United Nations authorized and that the UN and the Security Council stood behind and that NATO and other partners are executing is exactly what we said we would do. And we’re going to stay with it and see how the opposition is able to take advantage of the opportunities that they’re being provided.

MODERATOR: From the Dutch side, Erik Mouthaan from RTL News.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you say stay with it, but we see other countries, of course, sending in military observers. Is this something you will say will never happen on the U.S. side? And when you’re talking to partners like the Netherlands, I know you’re constantly saying Europe should step up and do more. Now the Dutch are flying over Libya, but they’re not bombarding and they say, “We won’t fire.” So did you discuss options today for further involvement of the Dutch and other European countries?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, as to your characterization of the United States’ role, we’ve been very clear about what we would do, and we have done it. We’re still flying about 25 percent of the sorties. We’re doing practically all of the support work for the no-fly zone for the fighters engaged in the ground attack. We do the refueling. We do the intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance. So we believe we’re providing the capabilities that we are uniquely positioned to do so. We’re also very active in supporting the arms embargo, the sanctions, which we discussed at length and the minister had some excellent ideas about what more needs to be done to tighten those sanctions. We have a lot of confidence in NATO and our partners. We know their capacity. We train with them, we work with them. We believe that what needs to be done under Resolution 1973 — can be done. And obviously, the more people, the more countries doing it the better, but we’re very satisfied with the activities and performance of our allies and others who are participating in this effort.

Did you want to add anything, Uri?

FOREIGN MINISTER ROSENTHAL: Well, let me add something to this. Madam Secretary, let me first say that I strongly endorse your statement on the situation as such with regard to the NATO mission. Last week in Berlin, we talked resolve, and we talked patience, and that’s what this is all about. And when we talk about the measures and the policies to be pursued with regard to Libya and the Qadhafi regime, I, indeed, use always the three channels. I proceed along the three channels – the military mission, political process – Doha, Rome, on the 5th of May – and certainly indeed sanctions and implementing the sanctions and utilizing to the utmost the possibilities and the opportunities which the sanction package actually lends is of the greatest importance. And I would say that when we do implement these sanctions to the utmost we would, indeed, be able to squeeze this regime. So not only military activities, not only the political process, but I think as a separate third-line sanctions, implementing them to them utmost. I can’t repeat it – I always repeat this and always set it apart because we often forget about it.

Now, and then with regard to the question from the Dutch journalist, the Dutch Government is taking its fair share, I would say, in the NATO mission. We do our utmost to reach out on the humanitarian side also through the EU. And it’s also of importance, of course, to get connected by now to the people in Benghazi. The Dutch Government does not follow the French and Italians on the path to recognition of the Transition Council. We don’t think that’s the right way to go. But we do try to connect with people in the Transitional Council and in Benghazi in order to help out wherever we can.

But finally, when we talk about a historic resolution, 1973, which was passed by the Security Council a number of weeks ago, we think that we have to stick to that resolution and that when we talk about regime change and the urgent need for Qadhafi to step down, to get away, then we talk here about conclusions which have already been determined by the European Council as well as by several countries, as well as by the Doha Contact Group. So there we have the package we should follow, and that’s the position the Dutch Government takes at the moment.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all, very much.