It is a pleasure to welcome the foreign minister and to have this opportunity for an extended discussion about a number of issues. Croatia is a valued friend and ally of the United States, and this is a very welcome opportunity for us to reaffirm our partnership. Before I turn to the issues that the minister and I discussed, I would like to say a few words about Sudan.
The United States condemns the disruption of peaceful protest and acts of political violence committed by any party. Freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and protection from arbitrary arrest and detention are instrumental to allow for credible elections in April 2010. We recognize that the next few months will be tense as we get closer to the election and the referenda. It is critical that all parties redouble their efforts to resolve problems through political dialogue and without violence. Special Envoy Scott Gration will return to Sudan this weekend to help restart dialogue and resolve outstanding issues that are contributing to these rising tensions. Sudan is an important priority for President Obama and myself, and we are committed to seeing a peaceful democratic transformation as envisioned in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Darfur. I urge all parties to demonstrate the political will necessary to achieve these objectives.
And now let me turn to the subject of the day: our partnership with Croatia and the visit of the minister.
This is a historic time for Croatia and our Euro-Atlantic alliance. In April, we welcomed Croatia into NATO, an achievement that was the result of years of hard work and tough-minded reforms. As Croatia has strengthened its democracy, our countries have worked together in close partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interests. Now we are bound together in the greatest and most successful military alliance in history.
Today I thanked the minister for Croatia’s contribution to the NATO mission in Afghanistan and for its participation in peacekeeping operations around the world. The violent extremism we are fighting in Afghanistan is a threat to peace-loving people everywhere. And Croatia’s efforts to help train Afghan forces are crucial to our mission. It will help to speed the day when the Afghans themselves can take responsibility for their own security.
I also want to recognize Croatia’s regional leadership. Through the Adriatic Charter, Croatia is helping to support the NATO aspirations of its Balkan neighbors. It was one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo and joined the U.S. and others in oral arguments this week in The Hague in support of Kosovo’s legal right to declare independence. And I know how hard the foreign minister himself is working to improve relations between Croatia and Serbia.
The United States supports these efforts. We are very pleased by the progress that is taking place in the concerns between Slovenia and Croatia, and I thank Croatia for its leadership on that as well. We are committed to the full integration of all of the Western Balkan nations into European and Trans-Atlantic institutions. We made progress last week at the NATO Ministerial by welcoming Montenegro into the Membership Action Plan and recognizing Bosnia’s progress toward that goal.
Croatia’s success offers a model for the region on what can be accomplished when a nation commits to reform and progress. And I particularly applaud the prime minister for her excellent leadership in anti-corruption efforts and other important reform measures. I am confident that by working together, as well as through NATO and other multilateral institutions, the United States and Croatia can ensure an even brighter future for our people, a more stable and peaceful Europe, and indeed a better and safer world.
So thank you again, Minister, for your visit and for your friendship.FOREIGN MINISTER JANDROKOVIC:
Thank you, Madame Secretary. I am very pleased to be in United States and I would like to thank Secretary Clinton for her invitation and warm hospitality. Secretary Clinton and I confirmed the excellent relationship between our countries, a relationship that can be defined as one of allies, partners, and friends. I express gracious appreciation for the U.S. support and assistance on issue of vital importance to our country particularly – NATO, EU accession, and regional cooperation in Southeast Europe.
We, of course, spoke about the positive resolution of the Slovenian blockade of Croatia’s accession negotiations and the fact that our parliament ratified the arbitration agreement on November 20, 2009. I also informed the Secretary of the remaining tasks facing Croatia as we proceed along our EU accession path and our intention to conclude negotiations by mid-2010. I especially emphasized reform of judiciary, reform of public administration, fight against corruption, and cooperation with ICTY.
I reiterated to Secretary Clinton the Croatian Government’s strong support for President Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy. Croatia is committed to strengthening its presence in Afghanistan and is seeking ways to further contribute to NATO’s key efforts.
We believe that training Afghan security and police forces to assume ownership for security in their country is the most important task. That is why we will be making a concrete contribution to that task with two additional police mentoring teams in addition to already operating three OMLTs.
We also discussed the situation in Southeast Europe, and I expressed to the Secretary that Croatia welcomed the active reengagement of USA in our region, and particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia considers it imperative that (inaudible) negotiations on constitutional amendments continue until consensus is reached. We concur that keeping the Euro-Atlantic perspective open for all countries in the region of Southeast Europe is crucial for the future stability of this region.
We also discussed Croatia’s ongoing interest in joining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, and I advised the Secretary of the criteria that Croatia has fulfilled today.
Thank you, Madame Secretary.SECRETARY CLINTON:
Thank you so much, Minister Jandrokovic. FOREIGN MINISTER JANDROKOVIC:
Thank you, thank you.QUESTION:
Madame Secretary, Ambassador Bosworth said today that he reached a, quote, “common understanding,” unquote, with the North Koreans on denuclearization, but they did not agree to return to the Six-Party Talks. So my question is: What was really accomplished? It didn’t sound like very much. And could you also bring us up to date on the START renewal talks?SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, Bob, I have before me the transcript of Ambassador Bosworth’s remarks in Seoul, and I think it’s a very fair characterization that he made that the conversations were very useful, that this is the first official meeting on behalf of this Administration with the North Koreans in Pyongyang. It does remain to be seen whether and when the North Koreans will return to the Six-Party Talks. But the bottom line is that these were exploratory talks, not negotiations. They were intended to do exactly what they did: reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the Six-Party process, to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula; and to discuss with the North Koreans their reactions to what we are asking them to do in order to move forward.
I think that for a preliminary meeting it was quite positive. The approach that our Administration is taking is of strategic patience in close coordination with our Six-Party allies, and I think that making it clear to the North Koreans what we had expected and how we were moving forward is exactly what was called for.QUESTION:
And START?SECRETARY CLINTON:
We are working very hard on the START final negotiations. I received a report from our lead negotiator this morning about some areas of discussion that have been proposed by the Russians. I think both sides are committed to completing the START treaty; it’s just a question of when that will be achieved. QUESTION:
Madame Secretary, have you discussed possibility of sending U.S. expert to help Croatia investigate the missing documents from Operation Storm? And if so, Mr. Jandrokovic, would Croatia accept that kind of help? Thank you.SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, we expressed our appreciation for the steps that Croatia is taking. The recent actions which recovered 10,000 pages of documents is a positive step. We would be willing to offer any technical assistance that Croatia would request.
The important matter is for Croatia to do what it is now doing, which is using its own resources, its own law enforcement personnel to track down these missing documents, and to fulfill the requirements that it knows it has to meet in order to move forward in the EU accession process.FOREIGN MINISTER JANDROKOVIC:
Thank you. Very quickly, I’m sure that we can solve this problem alone, and we are ready also to cooperate with others. But this is our documents, this is proof that Croatia is a country which respect rule of law, and we will continue with our investigation. I’m sure that we will solve this problem.MR. CROWLEY:
Thank you. Madame Secretary, could you please give us an update if you can on the arrests of the – in Pakistan yesterday, anything new, any consular access, et cetera?
And then just a second question on Afghanistan. We’ve been watching – this is the third day of testimony up on Capitol Hill, and the ambassador has been talking about the civilian part of it. We know it’s been tripled and all of that. But there are some reports coming from the field that some of the civilians are not able to get into the field to carry out their mission because of the security situation. Can you tell us how serious a threat is that and what kind of an impact is it having on their ability to deliver services and help to the Afghan people?SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, Jill, with respect to your first question, we have had access to the five detainees. That is part of the usual outreach by the United States Government, as you know. I have nothing to add to that at this time.
With respect to Afghanistan and our civilian efforts, we’re quite encouraged by how much of our civilian team has been able to get out into parts of Afghanistan that are targets for our civilian assistance. But it’s clear that we can’t go everywhere we’d like to go. The security situation – doesn’t permit that. So what we’re doing is embedding a lot of our civilians with our military troops, and so, in effect, they get into the field at the same time, or literally the next day, after the Marines and the army have sent the go signal that civilians can begin to work with their – with the Afghan people on a range of issues. And I was very pleased to hear how welcomed our civilians are by our military troops. They see them as very value-added, not as a burden or an obstacle that they have to worry about, but as an additional American presence to begin immediately to demonstrate the assistance that we’re willing to offer.
And I would only add, too, that one of the colonels on the ground in Afghanistan told me when I was in Kabul that what he’s found is that the civilians are, in his words, force multipliers; that if we have an agricultural specialist, for example, with a battalion or a brigade, they can then go around to the soldiers and find out who lived on a ranch, who knows about farming, and in effect, they can be part of the mission that goes out into the field to talk to the farmers about agriculture assistance, or if it’s a rule-of-law expert from the State Department, which was the example that was used, that the JAG lawyers that are in the unit that the civilian is working with can help to supplement that message.
So I think it’s clear we can’t go everywhere, and in some places, we can only go in accompaniment with our military forces, but we’re also getting to a lot of places that we can operate freely as well.QUESTION:
Madame Secretary, (inaudible) correspondent in Washington. Croatia has recently emerged from 10 months Slovenian blockade of its membership talks with European Union, thanks to efforts of the United States and European presidency. Now another blockade is looming from Great Britain and other countries related with missing documents that require from the prosecutor of The Hague tribunal. Would you consider justified to another blockade of membership talks despite all the efforts the Croatian Government undertook, especially yesterday, vast operation of search and arrest of – in searching for documents? And this blockade – the last blockade of 10 months was very damaging also to the United States and the European policy in the region because it block – it’s stopping all the process of Euro-Atlantic enlargement, so would you consider justified another blockade? Thank you.SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, first let me say how strongly the United States supports Croatia’s EU membership. We supported Croatia’s NATO membership. We think that Croatia has an important role to play in the region, and therefore we hope that they will be on the road to EU membership sooner instead of later. Obviously, we don’t have a vote in the EU, but we have made it clear to a number of our counterparts how valuable we think it will be when Croatia is a member.
Regarding the demands by the British and the Dutch, I think the foreign minister should address those.FOREIGN MINISTER JANDROKOVIC:
First of all, we must continue with our investigation. And I’m sure that we will prove during this investigation that Croatia fully cooperated with ICTY. This cooperation is important not only because of the negotiation process. It is also important for Croatian society that we must prove that we are rule of law and the institution functioning in Croatia. I will, of course, discuss this issue with my partners, with my colleagues from some Europeans countries. And I’m sure very soon when they analyze the situation, they will change his position and Croatia will finish negotiations in first half of 2010. MR. CROWLEY:
Thank you very much. SECRETARY CLINTON:
Thank you all very much.