Manama, Bahrain–(ENEWSPF)–December 3, 2010.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: (U.S. Embassy interpretation) Ladies and gentlemen, guests, good morning.
I am delighted to welcome U.S. Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Clinton and express my pleasure to have her in the Kingdom of Bahrain. On this occasion, I would like to commend the historical relations that tie our two friendly countries; relations that have been reinforced by the directives and leadership of His Majesty King Hamad bin isa Al-Khalifa and His Excellency President of the United States of America Barak Obama. I am pleased that this visit is a historical opportunity for us to work on developing the good ties between our two friendly countries on all levels to serve our joint interests.
Immediately after this press conference, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa will meet with Her Excellency the Secretary and during the meeting he will reaffirm the strength of the ties of our two friendly countries. The Secretary will also meet with a group of promising Bahraini youth and will address the opening ceremony of Manama Dialogue this evening.
I have the pleasure to work together with Her Excellency the Secretary for our joint interests and enhancing our historical ties. In this context, I would like to inform you that during our bilateral meeting that we have just had, we tackled many issues of mutual interest and we exchanged positive views on those issue.
The Kingdom of Bahrain and the United States of America have long standing cooperation with historical roots that go back for decades. This cooperation aims to reinforce peace, stability and security in the Arabian Gulf region. We hope to increase this cooperation and move it to new horizons.
During my meeting with Her Excellency the Secretary, I welcomed the support of the United States to the municipal and legislative elections in the Kingdom and at the same time I expressed our appreciation to the United States’ positive stance towards the success of the democratic process in the Kingdom.
On another note, I reiterated our interest about the meeting that will be held in Geneva between 1+5 group and Iran and we reiterated the importance of continuing the diplomatic negotiations between the two parties taking in consideration the right to peaceful nuclear energy program with the commitment of full transparency and safety standards.
As for the peace process in the Middle East, we discussed how to reach a comprehensive peace in the region. I hailed the pivotal role of the United States to facilitate the direct negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli parties. On the other hand, we see the importance of continuing to support and enhance the Arab peace initiative as it is considered an important vision for peace in the region. We believe that through the actual commitment towards negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli parties, an agreement could be reached to end this conflict and enable the Palestinian party to have its own viable independent state according to June 1967 borders in return for guaranteed security to Israel.
We affirmed the importance of the unity and stability of brotherly Iraq in light of the formation of the new Iraqi government especially that Iraq is a dear Arab country to us and an important element of security and stability in our vital region.
We also discussed Yemen and affirmed the importance of working with this brotherly country to empower it to confront terrorism. We hailed the efforts of a group of Yemen’s friends who discussed the challenges that face Yemen and gathered international support to overcome those challenges.
We share with our friends in the United States many views on many different issues that we face. This is being reinforced by the friendly atmosphere that we see during our serious talks with American officials. We look forward to continued joint work between us for the interest of our two friendly countries and their peoples and to live in peace and stability in the Gulf and Middle East regions.
Your Excellency, Madam Secretary, I thank you and appreciate this visit and I always welcome you to the Kingdom of Bahrain. (End U.S. Embassy interpretation.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister. And it is a great personal pleasure for me to be here in Bahrain, both for a bilateral visit and consultation, as well as participating in the Manama Dialogue tonight. I am also very excited about the chance to meet with young people, and to have a dialogue with them, as well, this afternoon. I look forward to meeting with His Majesty, King Hamad, as well as the Crown Prince.
This is my first visit, long overdue, something that I have anticipated for a long time. And I want to start by congratulating the government and people of this beautiful country on the parliamentary and municipal elections that were held six weeks ago. The fact that so many citizens voted was a strong demonstration of their resolve to take part in their public life.
And as we know, the challenges of democratic governance do not end with elections. But I am impressed by the commitment that the government has to the democratic path that Bahrain is walking on. It takes time; we know that from our own experience. There are obstacles and difficulties along the way. But America will continue working with you to promote a vigorous civil society, and to ensure that democracy, human rights, and civil liberties are protected by the rule of law, because we view Bahrain as a model partner for not only the United States, but for so many countries that are looking to see the way that Bahrain decides about its future.
We often say that you are a country that punches above your weight, Your Excellency. And our nations cooperate closely across a range of issues. We work together to support entrepreneurs. Our scientists collaborate. Our students, and so many others, have developed close ties between our two people. And the sailors of our ships’ fleets have lived and worked alongside you for decades, as part of our close security partnership.
So, as the foreign minister said, we had a very productive discussion about the challenges facing Bahrain and the region. We share a positive vision for the future of the Gulf and the larger Middle East. We both seek a region where countries can conduct their affairs free of threats or intimidation, where people of different faiths and confessions can coexist peacefully and enjoy the same rights, and where citizens are free to develop their God-given talents in an atmosphere of stability, peace, and prosperity.
We also spoke about the principles underlying this vision, of commitment to solving problems peacefully through partnership and diplomacy, respect for national sovereignty, adherence to international norms, including the freedom of navigation and nuclear non-proliferation, empowering individuals across the region by driving economic development and protecting the rights of all.
We know that Bahrain, like their Gulf neighbors, are working to build a strong region where not only individual countries can progress, but where the entire region can, as well. And I intend to discuss these issues in some depth tonight at the dialogue, and I am very grateful, as always, for the foreign minister’s insight.
We also discussed some of the key concerns, how best to pursue our shared goal of a two-state solution and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. As I have said before, this is not easy. If it were, it would have been done by now. But the United States is working intensively to create the conditions that will permit the parties to negotiate their way forward to a final resolution.
I also appreciate Bahrain’s support for the work of President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, and the Palestinian Authority, who are building the institutions necessary for a viable, independent state that can provide security, law and order, and essential services to the Palestinian people. They need support from all of us. And that is part of what we are attempting to do by creating the conditions for peace, and helping the Palestinian people realize their legitimate aspirations. And we have consistently commended the Arab peace initiative, which was a far-sighted visionary statement of what can be achieved if we work together.
We obviously talked about Iran, and our hope that Iran will pursue a different path in dealing with its neighbors and, in fact, I would add, in dealing with its own people. We continue to hold open that possibility, and will look for a specific way to try to increase our coordination and cooperation, if Iran is willing to do so.
As we deepen our bilateral ties, and pursue important regional and global issues, we must continue to build the structures of cooperation that sustain security and prosperity in the Gulf. The United States has been proud to be a partner of Bahrain for many years. We look forward to continuing our close and productive cooperation, partnership, and friendship with the government and the people of this wonderful country. Thank you, Your Excellency.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Welcome to Bahrain, Mrs. Clinton. My name is Rein Halifa (ph) from (inaudible) Newspaper. And my question is would you agree that U.S. capacity to influence (inaudible) democracy, human rights, and good governance has been greatly limited during this period? And thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Actually, no. I believe that we are seeing significant progress across this region and globally, as countries embrace a democratic future. We recognize that countries start at different points. They travel their own paths. But we are heartened by the commitment to enhance opportunities for men and women to create the infrastructure for economic development, as well as political development. The recent elections here in Bahrain we think are not only significant for this country, but send a broader message, regionally and globally.
So, we are encouraged by the progress that we see. We have watched with great attention the development of a government in Iraq that is an inclusive government representing the entire population. We will work very closely with our partners in the Gulf, and with the GCC, to encourage Iraq to stay on the path of democracy, and to produce a government that actually delivers results for the Iraqi people.
We have also expressed our concerns about any erosion of stability, security, or human rights, and that includes the very important challenges facing Lebanon and others in the region. So we see progress. It may be slower than what many would like, but we think it is steady and needs to continue to have the encouragement and support of the United States.
QUESTION: Good morning. My name is Mohammed Fadar (ph) from France-Presse. My question is to Secretary Clinton. In order to contain the damages which have been caused by all these leaks through WikiLeaks, what are you going to tell your allies, especially those in those parts which touches your allies exactly? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, we have very clearly stated that this action was illegal and regrettable, that we have close and important relationships that will not be affected, or certainly not damaged, but that the United States will continue to engage in the important diplomatic work that I am doing here, bilaterally, and more broadly tonight.
And I think that many people who are experienced in diplomacy, as many of the diplomats here in Bahrain are, know that many of these alleged statements are taken out of context. But most importantly, they do not represent the policy of the United States. The policy of the United States is made in Washington. The President and I are very clear about the direction that the United States is taking in supporting our partners, and that will continue.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Minister, for you a question first. In these recently disclosed cables, the King of Bahrain is quoted as telling General David Petraeus that the Iranian nuclear program “must be stopped; the danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”
I wanted to ask you, first, whether that does reflect Bahrain’s policy. And, if so, are you concerned that the publication of these feelings, as well as those of some of your neighbors, could have a destabilizing effect on the region and on your relationship with Iran?
And then, for Madam Secretary, as you just said, much of the discussion of WikiLeaks has focused on the negative, disruptive side of it. But I am wondering whether there is perhaps one positive that comes out of it, as reflects on Iran. Does the demonstration of this depth of concern about Iran make it easier for the United States and other countries to build up and sustain a common front of pressure on the Iranian regime? Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Thank you. Also, I would echo Madam Secretary for not wanting to comment on the content of those documents. These documents are the property of the United States Government, and they have been leaked in a way that is considered illegal. But let me state our policy, and see if whatever in that context would reflect it or not.
Of course we are not — we don’t see a cause of concern, and we don’t see that there is a problem with whatever said in there in any way, and our policy. What has been mentioned, though, is our policy: We do believe that every country in the Middle East has the right for nuclear power for peaceful use. We say it publicly, we say it privately, we say it in meetings, in press conferences, everywhere. And when it comes to taking that power, to developing it into a cycle for weapon grade, that is something that we can never accept, and we can never live with in this region. We have said it to all, we have said it to Iran, and we have heard it from all. So we don’t see any contradiction, we don’t see anything that is contrary to what we have said in the past. But again, I would not comment directly on the — what’s the content of the documents, themselves.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as His Excellency has made clear, the policy of the United States is reflected in the policies of every country in this region, but for Iran. There is international concern, as reflected in the United Nations action, to adopt sanctions against Iran, that Iran should not and cannot be permitted to develop nuclear weapons because of the destabilizing proliferation effects of such a decision.
So, I think it is fair to say that there is no debate in the international community. And perhaps the Iranians, with their return to the talks in Geneva starting Monday, will engage seriously with the international community on what is a concern shared by nations on every continent, but most particularly right here, in the region. Because, obviously, if you’re the neighbor of a country that is pursuing nuclear weapons, that is viewed in a much more threatening way than if you’re a concerned country many thousands of miles away. But the concern is the same, and we hope that Iran will respond in kind to that concern.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I am Salman Bebe (ph), managing editor of Daily Tribune. Madam Secretary, if you were in the White House today, what difference you have made to the U.S. economy as it relates to security concerns in the Gulf?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am very often in the White House, as the Secretary of State. (Laughter.) And I am very supportive of the difficult decisions that President Obama has made.
I think when history is written — which sometimes takes some perspective — it will be concluded that the President took necessary tough decisions to stabilize not only the American economy, but the global economy, that created some political opposition, but which were the right actions to take. And I have no doubt about that. And the same on the security side.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: We are taking one more question. We are pressed for time; I am very sorry about that.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, there was a meeting at the IAEA yesterday, not only on Iran, but also about North Korea. And according to your ambassador to the IAEA, it is likely that there is more than one uranium enrichment facility in this country. I wonder if you can give us further details on this. And also, how will this affect your meeting with your counterparts on Monday? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Christophe, I think it’s important to add, as you just have, that the concern about states developing nuclear weapons includes North Korea. And just as the neighbors in this region are very focused on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, the neighbors in northeast Asia are equally concerned about what North Korea is doing. So, we are going to be meeting on Monday in Washington with the foreign ministers of both South Korea and Japan, to review the approach we should be taking. We have obviously reached out to China and Russia and others who have a direct concern about North Korea’s behavior.
But we are all concerned about these two countries. And I think it’s important to recognize it’s not directed at the people of either country; it is a concern about decisions being made by the leaders of these countries that puts at risk the peace and stability of two regions of the world. And I want Iranians and North Koreans to understand that, as His Excellency said, we do not object to the peaceful use of nuclear power for generating energy. Every country is entitled to that. What we object to is a pursuit of nuclear weapons that can be used to threaten and intimidate their neighbors and beyond. That is unacceptable, and it is destabilizing. And it, unfortunately, will spark arms races in both regions that will make both regions even more dangerous. That’s why we must stop it.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Thank you. I apologize for not being able to take more questions, we are pressed for time. Thank you very much.