Well, good afternoon. It is such a pleasure to welcome Baroness Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union – the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy here to Washington for her first visit in this new position. She is, by no means, a first-time visitor to the United States, having served in a number of capacities both within the United Kingdom and in the EU prior to this. But I want to take the opportunity to congratulate her again on the appointment as the EU’s first High Representative, and I look forward to working closely together with her on behalf of the United States and the European Union.
These are historic times for the EU. I expect that in decades to come, we will look back on the Lisbon Treaty and the maturation of the EU that it represents as a major milestone in our world’s history, and not just in Europe and not just in the Euro-Atlantic community. EU enlargement over the past 20 years has contributed enormously to our collective security and prosperity and to democracy worldwide. It has helped to stabilize and strengthen Central and Eastern Europe, and it continues to serve as a vital global leader on so many important matters. As the EU develops a more powerful and unified foreign policy voice in the wake of the Lisbon Treaty, our transatlantic partnership will continue to grow.
Together, we have a population of 800 million, a $27 trillion economy, a zone of peace, democracy, development, and respect for human rights and the rule of law which stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea. Our partnership is the foundation for our mutual efforts to advance peace and prosperity worldwide.
So today, as you might guess, we discussed a broad range of common interests and concerns. We, of course, first focused on the situation in Haiti where one of the greatest rescue-and-relief efforts in the history of the world is underway. This is a broad international relief-and-rescue undertaking, and teams from the United States and the countries of the European Union are working side by side.
But as the High Representative and I agree, we will have to have a coordinated, integrated, international response to the reconstruction and the return of prosperity and opportunity to Haiti. And I want to thank Lady Ashton for the generosity to the people of Haiti, demonstrated by the EU and its member states and citizens. We also discussed Iran. I thanked the High Representative and her team for their support of the E-3+3 engagement with Iran concerning its nuclear program. Regrettably, Iran has not responded to that engagement, even as the international community’s concern about the intent of Iran’s nuclear program has increased. We will continue our close consultation on next steps in keeping with our dual-track approach. But let me be clear: We will not be waited out and we will not back down. Iran has a very clear choice between continued isolation and living up to its international obligations.
We also discussed Afghanistan and Yemen and the upcoming conferences that we will be attending in London next week, the need for economic and development assistance in Pakistan, reviewed the situation in the Western Balkans, and in Bosnia in particular, talked about the range of other challenges and opportunities that we both face.
I am grateful to have such a strong, thoughtful, accomplished partner in the efforts that confront us as we attempt to navigate an increasingly complex world. But I am very confident that with the EU and the U.S. growing even more closely together, we are up to those challenges.MS. ASHTON:
Thank you very much. It’s a great privilege to be back in Washington, and the Secretary of State has said to be in the first of what I believe will be many meetings together as we navigate the course of the European Union and the United States of America together through the challenges that we face.
As the Secretary of State has said, the most critical issue on our agenda today was the people of Haiti. As I speak, the commissioner responsible for development is in Port-au-Prince. He’s there to look at what has happened in order to begin the next stage of our support, which is support for the short-, medium-, and long-term.
So far the European Union has given half a billion U.S. dollars in support, already pledged. Twenty-one member states have sent support in the shape of medical teams or other ways in which they can provide support on the ground. And there is a great willingness in the European Union to work closely with the United States and, of course, under the auspices of the United Nations, to provide that support for the future. Much to do now, but much, much more to do for the future. And we are very keen to work collaboratively in a strategic approach to support that nation into economic growth and into a new world.
As the Secretary of State said as well, of course we have a range of issues to discuss. Iran is of great importance to us. We stand together with the United States, the E-3+3. As I have said already very publicly, we want to have dialogue, but six years of dialogue by my predecessor Javier Solana has not brought us to the outcome that we would wish. And so we do have to consider what else needs to be done, and we stand ready to do that.
We also, of course, looked at issues around the neighborhood of the European Union. Bosnia is, of course, a case in point, Kosovo, where we’re working together to begin to plan for the future and to consider what other options we have available and what else we should be doing. And those are discussions that we will continue with.
The Lisbon Treaty gives me an opportunity too because I can speak on behalf of the council and the commission; two people become one in a job that grows bigger by the day. But one of the great advantages is that we’re able also to look across the range of mutual interests and to find solutions to the mutual benefit of the people of the European Union and of the United States of America.
And I’ve enjoyed today very much. I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Secretary of State Clinton. And I look very much forward to us joining together to face the challenges of the future.MR. CROWLEY:
On the U.S. side, we’ll call on Lachlan from AFP.QUESTION:
Good morning to both of you. With the risk perhaps not too far away that many, many Haitians would risk their lives and travel to U.S. shores, do you think it would make sense that President Rene Preval gets out there and communicates to his own people to reassure them, to inspire them that the Haitian international relief effort can ensure them a good recovery so that they won’t have to flee the country?
And if I just may follow up on your Iran remarks, you are signaling growing impatience with Iran on the nuclear issue. But since the P-5+1 meeting over the weekend, it seems to have fizzled. You had a low-level Chinese official there. Talk of sanctions has now muted. What practically do you plan to do? You’re looking forward to London; there are a lot of P-5+1 players there. What do you expect over the next few days?SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, Lachlan, first, with respect to Haiti and President Preval, as you know, he and I held a joint news conference on Saturday. He spoke directly to the people of Haiti through the Haitian media. In the days since, other members of the Haitian Government with specific responsibilities have done likewise. The radio stations are operating at increasing capacity and more are able to come on line, which is the principal means by which people in Haiti acquire information. There is a great effort to have as many voices answering people’s questions as possible. I know the prime minister has been very active. Mrs. Preval has been very active as well. President Preval has worked extremely hard, meeting all day, every day, with not only the members of his own government who are able to come together with him, but also leaders from other countries, NGOs, the UN, and so much else.
We have made it clear by our own means of communication, through the radios, that the United States has granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians living in the United States without documentation as of January 12th
, but that our ordinary and regular immigration laws will apply going forward, which means that we are not going to be accepting into the United States Haitians who are attempting to make it to our shores. They will be interdicted. They will be repatriated. But we also know that so many people are leaving Port-au-Prince into the surrounding countryside. We’re trying to get more aid out there. We’re trying to get more shelter, food, medicine, certainly water. People feel safer in the countryside and we want to support them there.
Just as an aside, as one of the issues that the high rep and I will discuss about how to do more development out in the countryside, because that is a place that needs more attention from the international community, especially as we cope with the devastation in Port-au-Prince.
Secondly, with respect to the P-5+1 or the E-3+3, it’s the same. But we are focused. We’re unified in our resolve to work toward pressure on Iran in the face of their continuing rejection of the overtures by the international community. The last meeting that Bill – Under Secretary Bill Burns attended was another productive step along the way toward accomplishing unified international action. And we are going at this in a very concerted and unified manner because we think it’s important to send that message to the Iranian leadership that the world will act and the world will act together. QUESTION:
Do you care to – Ms. Ashton?MS. ASHTON:
I want to support what the Secretary of State has said. I think in terms of Haiti, that’s an issue for the United States of America. But I’d just say that the issues of development in the countryside, I would agree, are going to be part of our thinking for what we do to help rebuild or build this country for the future. And in terms of P-5+1, E-3+3, it is very important that we do this in a measured and collective way. And there are very clear steps that we now need to take together to move forward, and that, we have to do. This is not about rushing into, but is about determined and concerted steps. And that’s what you’ll see happen.MODERATOR:
Good afternoon. You have spoken on Afghanistan and the situation there. Very soon, the conference will start in London. What results do you expect in (inaudible) world from this conference? You know, I’m asking that because, as you know, the impatience in Germany but in many other countries in Europe also is growing. How long do we have to – how long our troops have to stay there? Thank you.MS. ASHTON:
Well, the first thing is, of course, we need to remind ourself why we’re there, and the importance of making sure that we are tackling the issues that brought us to Afghanistan in the first place and the role that we have to play in doing that.
For my part, the new role that I have enables me to bring together from the European Union side the work that we’re doing in Afghanistan more effectively. And hopefully, that will be part of what comes out of the London conference, is an opportunity for me to be talking with partners about what more we can do to make a difference. And that’s about improving the opportunity for the Afghani people, the Afghani Government to be able to take over issues of security, economic growth, and so on.
I think the second thing that I’d say is that it’s very important that as we look to the future of Afghanistan, that we are building together. And again, the clear way in which the President of the United States has set out the strategy, militarily and in other ways, is going to form a backdrop to the London conference, where what we’re looking for very much is from the Afghanistan Government what they wish to see happen in Afghanistan – in a sense, them clearly being in the driving seat of making sure this country can develop in the way that we want it to.
It’s changed enormously in the last few years. It continues to change. A figure that I find very encouraging is that in 2002, 5 percent of people had primary healthcare. The figure is over 85 percent now. There are definite ways in which we have made inroads and significant changes in that country, and there’s more to do.SECRETARY CLINTON:
I would just echo what the High Representative said. We are heartened by the continuing international support for the security efforts in Afghanistan, and the increasing commitment of assistance that will build up a stronger capacity within Afghanistan itself to deal with its ongoing challenges.
We know that this is an issue of some concern in certain countries and among the leaders of those countries, and we are very grateful for the help that the countries in the EU and elsewhere around the world continue to provide because they stop and they look at the threat that an Afghanistan that reverts to a failed state status would pose in a very direct way. We cannot forget why we are there, and we cannot forget the progress we have made.
One more statistic, because Cathy and I are statistics kinds of people because we think it gives us a little more of a snapshot – in 2001, there were only slightly less than 1 million children in school in Afghanistan, and they were all boys. Today, there are slightly over 7 million. There are still 5 million who are not yet in schools, but the increase in capacity and commitment – 40 percent of the 7 million in school now are girls.
So we can stop and say to ourselves, well, what do we have to show for all of our work? But when it comes to helping the people in Afghanistan, they do feel it. And in every survey that is done which I have seen, that has come to my attention, the people do not want the Taliban back. There is no support for that kind of repressive, regressive regime. What they want is a government that can and will function, and we are expecting a lot from President Karzai and his new government. What they want is to be empowered to do for themselves what they know they need to do.
And I’m encouraged by the change in approach that we’ve adopted and the support that that changed approach to be discussed at the conference in London has engendered.