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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Plane Briefing en Route London, U.K.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
En route London
October 10, 2009


SECRETARY CLINTON: This is on the record, yes. Well, we had a good night in Zurich, watching the signing of the protocols between Turkey and Armenia. And now the process continues. We, obviously, are committed to doing everything we can to build on the milestone that was reached today, but it's challenging. And there is a lot of very difficult, complex issues that have to continually be discussed and worked out. But I am very pleased that we were able to get the protocols signed, and now we move on to the next phase of this.

QUESTION: What was in the protocol that they objected to? What did the Armenians object to in the statement that was to be delivered by the Turks?

SECRETARY CLINTON: There were questions of interpretation as to what should or should not be said. These are issues that Phil and I have been dealing with for months. And we were able to get everybody to understand that it was imperative that we go forward, and so we did.

QUESTION: Can you give us (inaudible)?



SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Phil was at the hotel, and learned that there were some problems that had to be worked out. We went back. I was on the phone with Phil, with Minister Nalbandian, with Mr. Davutoglu.

And then we wanted to get everybody in the same place, instead of having the Swiss come to see us, and then talking to everybody on the phone. So that's when I went in and spent time talking through some of the concerns that had been expressed, and brought Minister Nalbandian with us back to the university, so that the chief Swiss negotiator, (inaudible), plus our other counterparts, Ministers Lavrov, Kouchner, Solana, and --

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, right, (inaudible), were all in the same place. We began to talk it through.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Why not have any statements of --


QUESTION: Why not have the statements afterwards? Why was that decided?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, it got awfully late. I was already two hours late. Lavrov was late. Everybody was late. The foreign minister from (inaudible) had already missed his plane. So it was sensible to get the signing done, and then people could issue their statements, which I am sure they're doing. And we're working on a joint statement among the witnesses.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for an hour?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Because I was on the phone. And I was talking to Phil, I was talking to Nalbandian, and I was talking to Davutoglu, and we were -- and talking to the Swiss. And so, we were trying to get everything worked out so we could move forward. And that's when I -- so when I left the car, I went to ask Minister Nalbandian to drive with me to the university, which he did.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) what is the most difficult diplomatic thing that you have done so far?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean, we do diplomatic --


SECRETARY CLINTON: -- things, yes --


SECRETARY CLINTON: -- of varying degrees of difficulty. Kind of like diving every day. Some of you were with me in Honduras. That was also a very challenging negotiation, which finally worked out very well.

But I think it's just what you sign up for. I mean, this is -- when you're trying to help people resolve long-standing problems between themselves, it is a very challenging process. People have a lot of history that they have to contend with. They have all kinds of domestic, political challenges. The Armenians, as we saw with President Sargsian's tour, have people around the world with strong feelings. So, it is -- you know, it is a challenge, but that is what we're trying to work out here.

QUESTION: Are there --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the possibility of ratification (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they're both going to be submitting the protocols to their parliaments, and it's going to be difficult. But that's the next step of the process.

QUESTION: So what was it that got -- what was it that allowed them to sign? What was the deal that was reached? (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that -- I think there was an agreement that the protocols should speak for themselves. I mean, they have been carefully, painstakingly negotiated over many months. And, at the end of the day, that was what the substance of this was about, what the protocol said.

People are free to say whatever else they want, but let the protocols be the statement. Because, in effect, that's what we were there to sign.

QUESTION: Can I ask what is probably a completely obvious question? Why did it take three hours to get them to agree not to do something?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Phil and I have negotiated over press releases that have taken days. So, actually, this is pretty speedy, all things considered.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: I just want to -- I mean, why -- were they both insistent on giving (inaudible) statements?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I will let Phil pick that up.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: When there are multiple parties involved -- and the Secretary mentioned that we also have, you know, the Russians and Solana, and the French, and the Swiss -- you know, you can't just do this in one second. You have to talk to the different actors involved, and be careful, and make sure you get everything right. And three hours is actually not -- I mean, the Secretary was joking, but a lot of these statements that you see released, when you see the final product, they take an awful lot of time of rolling up the sleeves and talking about issues.

QUESTION: Can you give us any kind of a flavor for what the sticking points were? Just a flavor of what the sticking points were?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: No. I think, you know, you can talk to the parties. I don't think we need to get into the details of diplomatic discussions. Look at the protocols, and you know what this is all about. And the protocols, as the Secretary says, speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Why is --

QUESTION: Was there a critical moment where you said to the principals, "Look, guys, this is too important. We can't let this whole thing unravel?" Because -- if there is such a moment, could you give us a flavor?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there were several such moments, because we believe strongly that this is in the best interests of both Armenia and Turkey. We recognize how hard it is, and what courage it takes to move forward in the face of very strong opposition in both countries.

So, there were several times when I said to all of the parties involved that this is too important, that this has to be seen through. "You've come too far, all of the work that has gone into the protocols, you know, should not be walked away from. And will there be continuing difficulties in working this out? Of course there will be. But you have agreed on these protocols. So let's sign those, and then we will go on to the next stage." And eventually, everyone decided that would be --

QUESTION: Who did more of the talking in the car ride down to the university, you or the Armenian?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I did a lot of talking, didn't I? Yes.


QUESTION: Was that a kind of a -- was that a moment where you were able to bring your point across?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we just kept making our point.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: She looks pretty good. She's been on a plane all night, and --

QUESTION: Four minutes until the --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, he had some really deep concerns, and wanted to make sure people understood them, which we -- Phil and I -- conveyed that we not only did understand, but we appreciated how hard this was, but that this needed to be done.

QUESTION: Did you have to call the President?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Yes. Several times.

QUESTION: From the car or the hotel?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Hotel and university.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Phil and I have been kidding about this, because --

QUESTION: You weren't supposed to negotiate, right, you were just going to witness?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but we know that this is always fraught with potential complexities. And so, we said, "Look, we think we're going to go, and we will be able to witness this." But we weren't surprised at all.

QUESTION: The parties are --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) said the dispute was over language that would say something about, "We will negotiate" -- something about peace in the Caspian region, and that the Turks -- the Armenians objected, because it was a reference to the occupied territory in Azerbaijan.

SECRETARY CLINTON: There were concerns from both sides. It's really not accurate to characterize the questions as only coming from one side. There were concerns on both sides.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are going to leave with Phil, and --

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, one last thing. There was this major attack in Pakistan.


QUESTION: Are you in a position to say anything? I know you have been very busy, but --

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. But, I mean, I've been briefed about it. I am not in a position to say anything about the specifics of it, other than to point out this shows the continuing threat to the Pakistani government, and the very important steps that the civilian leadership, along with the military, are taking to root out the extremists, and to prevent, you know, violence and direct assault on the sovereignty of the state.

PRN: 2009/T13-1

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