SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, everyone. I am delighted once again to meet with the foreign minister of a very valued partner of the United States, Bahrain. Our two nations a enjoy a time-tested relationship based on mutual interest and mutual respect. And our meeting today was another opportunity for us to discuss many of our common concerns.
We are working together as partners to spur economic recovery and create new opportunities for our people. As part of the broader engagement between the United States and countries such as Bahrain and Muslim communities across the world, we have launched efforts to encourage entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic diversification, and Bahrain is a prime example. We often point to this country as a premier banking and investment center, playing a vital role in the region and the world’s economic future.
We greatly appreciate the hospitality that Bahrain shows our Navy and its contributions to regional security and stability. We work closely together on challenges such as piracy and violent extremism that threaten peace-loving people across the world.
On the topic of regional security, let me also note the concerns raised by Iran’s refusal to engage with the international community on its nuclear program, which continues to violate IAEA and Security Council requirements. We have pursued a policy of consultation and engagement. We’ve worked with partners in the Gulf and through the United Nations with other countries to offer Iran a clear choice between isolation and meeting its international obligations. Iran’s response to our efforts has been inadequate and we have begun considering further appropriate measures that might convince Iran to reconsider its nuclear program and engage with the international community.
The United States and Bahrain both seek stability in the Middle East. We share a goal of realizing a two-state solution and promoting comprehensive peace. And we appreciate Bahrain’s interest in fulfilling the promise of the Arab Peace Initiative. That is a tangible demonstration of a commitment to a better future for all of the region's people.
The United States is working with the Israelis, the Palestinians, and our Arab partners to re-launch meaningful negotiations as soon as possible and without preconditions. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.
We recognize as well that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue to Israelis and Palestinians, to Jews, Muslims, and Christians everywhere. And we believe it is possible to reach an outcome that both realizes the aspirations of all parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for the future.
So again, on so many issues, only a couple of which I’ve mentioned here, it is such a pleasure meeting with and working with the foreign minister. And our partnership, sir, is a real commitment to the kind of future that we want for our two countries. So thank you again.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Secretary. Good afternoon, everybody. It’s wonderful to be back in Washington, D.C., and to meet once again with my dear friend, the Honorable Secretary of State Ms. Hillary Clinton. This meeting gave us the opportunity to discuss a whole range of issues of mutual interest and concern in a typically warm and friendly American atmosphere.
The Kingdom of Bahrain and the United States of America share a historic, deep-rooted, and multifaceted relationship. We appreciate the pivotal role the United States plays in upholding the security and stability of such a vital region to the whole world. In this context and against this backdrop, we explored ways and means to further enhance our evolving partnership, a partnership that serves our common interest of regional security and stability, and where every step taken, where every step taken to defend the region is a positive, collaborative measure built on a history of joint defense cooperation that spans several decades for the benefit of the region at large.
The Kingdom of Bahrain has always called for a region free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. To that end, we believe that the current situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear file should be resolved in a peaceful manner, in accordance with the Security Council resolutions and in complete adherence to the rules and regulation of the IAEA in a fully transparent manner. Furthermore, we discussed how the Gulf region could benefit from the use of nuclear power for peaceful civilian purposes in a safe, secure, and efficient manner.
We also reaffirmed our commitment to a durable and lasting peace in the Middle East. Bahrain appreciates the leadership of the United States on this issue and its commitment to achieve a peace based on a two-state solution that will bring all countries in the region to a mutually beneficial peace accord. It is imperative that we explore every option there is and not limit ourselves to what we have today, while at the same time working closely with the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas to realize a capable and effective Palestinian state.
On Yemen, we discussed our participation in the London conference which was held last week and explored ways to assist Yemen in overcoming the numerous challenges it faces in order to be able to confront the most salient threats of extremism and terrorism.
Finally, Madam Secretary, while I express my sincere appreciation to you personally and to your very able team, I would like to commend your efforts, continued commitment to your allies and partners; your candid thoughts are on so many important matters. I look forward to continuing our constructive cooperation. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Sure.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, in your opening statement, you described Iran’s responses to date as inadequate. Looking at what Iranian President Ahmadinejad said yesterday, both about the nuclear file and about the detained Americans in Iran, do you regard his – do you see no reason, not a scintilla of a suggestion, that his comments about a willingness to turn over Iranian low-enriched uranium might actually be genuine? Do you think this is just a ploy, the way Iran has often made conciliatory gestures when it sees sanctions coming down the track?
And on the hikers, can you absolutely rule out any possibility of a trade, swap, exchange – any kind of a quid pro quo under which Iran and the United States would mutually release citizens in their custody?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, Arshad, the IAEA made a good faith offer regarding the Tehran research reactor. Iran initially accepted the arrangement but has not followed through and, in fact, seemed to move toward rejecting it. The deal is still on the table. If Iran wishes to accept it, we look forward to hearing about it from the IAEA because that’s the appropriate venue for them to file an official response.
With respect to the hikers and other American citizens detained inside Iran, it is hard to know what the Iranian president meant from these press reports of his comments. As we’ve said before, if the Iranian Government has questions about any Iranian citizen in the United States, there are official channels that Iran can utilize in addressing any concerns it might have, namely through the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington.
And as we have said repeatedly, we call on Iran to release all the American citizens that they have currently detained. We believe they are being unjustly detained and they should be released without further delay. We also are very committed to making it clear to the Iranians that they should do so on humanitarian grounds, since the detentions of our citizens is baseless. So there are no negotiations taking place between the United States and Iran. We believe they should unilaterally release our detained citizens.
QUESTION: Do you think it was a ploy to (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to characterize it.
QUESTION: Thank you. If I can stay on Iran, Secretary, there have been recent reports in recent days regarding CENTCOM and American military support for your allies in the region, for anti-missile systems specifically. What kind of assurances can you give your allies? And is this also in reaction to the Iranians not yet going for the negotiation option?
And Shaikh Khalid, if I may, also on Iran, what do you hope the next weeks and months will bring? The tensions continue to surmount in the region. How concerned are you about this, and are you looking for assurances from the U.S.?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as the foreign minister said in his remarks, we have a long history of joint defense cooperation. Bahrain is a very valued ally and partner. That goes back many years. There’s nothing new about that. We will continue to work with Bahrain to ensure that they have the defense capabilities that they need. And we highly appreciate the hosting of the Navy, which, of course, is one symbol of America’s commitment to our allies and friends in the Gulf.
Certainly, we have to be cognizant of the changing atmosphere in the Gulf and the actions that Iran has taken, and its refusal to abide by the obligations of the Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
So we will work with our allies and our friends, and we will continue to send a strong message to Iran that they have an opportunity to truly act in a way that builds confidence and not raise concerns within the region.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Yeah. Regarding whether we need new assurances or – from the United States, the answer is no. We are partners, we are allies for decades, now working together. And the presence of the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, the cooperation over many matters over the last decades to safeguard the region and to ensure stability and security is a testament to that. So the United States commitments to its allies and partners is evident, it’s clear, and it’s been continuing, built on a very clear history together. So we’re not seeing anything new, nobody’s sabre-rattling here, nobody is being belligerent to anyone in the region. It’s just a purely defensive measure for the benefit of the whole world, for the region being so important to the whole world.
QUESTION: Hi, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi.
QUESTION: A question: We’ve heard you speak about trafficking today. With that in mind, I’d like to ask you about the 10 Americans in Haiti. With all that we’ve learned about them so far, can you say that what they were up to was anything short of trafficking, attempting to bring these children across a border without paperwork? And what do you think the next steps will be here? Would you like to see them released?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, trafficking of human beings, particularly of children, is a problem across the world. And it’s something that every nation should be addressing. The Haitian nation acted to protect children who were being removed from their country without appropriate documentation. We have worked with the Haitian Government over the last two and a half weeks, three weeks, to help facilitate and transport children who are properly documented as having an adoptive family or guardianship awaiting them.
So we know how to do this in the right way. And it was unfortunate that, whatever the motivation, that this group of Americans took matters into their own hands. As you know, they have been charged with breaking the laws of Haiti. And we are engaged in discussions with the Haitian Government about the appropriate disposition of their cases. They’ve been granted consular access. We are providing them the services that any American citizen who is detained is entitled to, and we will be working through the questions that the Haitian Government has and that – and looking for the best way forward on this.
But I would just end by underscoring that trafficking in human beings is a form of modern slavery, it is an abuse of the human dignity and the autonomy of individuals, and it’s particularly egregious when it takes children and either puts them into bonded trade or sells them for adoption or abuses them in other ways. So we take this very seriously.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, there has been talk about a – about proximity talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, and I just wanted to see if you could give us any more details. Are these talks going to take place in the United States? Are they going to on the level of principals or teams? And are they going to start with the assumption that it’s 1967 borders plus land swaps or not, because we haven’t heard you speak about this – the proximity talks. (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Want to go first?
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: (Off-mike.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, Senator Mitchell has been engaged in intense conversations, both in the region and elsewhere, with European and Arab partners. On the whole question of relaunching negotiations. And I’m not going to preempt any announcement that might come from the parties because when they’re ready to make such a statement, they will. But of course, we believe that the 1967 borders, with swaps, should be the focus of the negotiations over borders. We’ve made clear that we think that all of the main issues have to be on the table and the parties have to work through them and come to resolution. And we would like to see that start soon and move as quickly as possible forward.
SECRETARY CLINTON: When there’s an announcement, there’ll be an announcement.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Should I answer you in English, if I may? Or you want --
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Okay. Because --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I only have one language. He has at least two.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Sure.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: The question was whether when I mentioned that nobody is being belligerent here from our side and then there is the Iranian reaction, so what do we read into it? Is it a new threat? That’s your question, yeah?
Well, the point is we did not threaten anybody. The measures have been there for decades. I say it again. And it’s being developed, it’s being upgraded, new technology is coming in. So there’s nothing that we are taking the level of the weaponry to that it will threaten somebody in our neighborhood. But we expect Iran not to see it as a measure being taken against it. This is a measure to protect. It’s not a measure to attack. It’s a measure to protect the interests of the whole world. We all know how vital the Gulf region is to the whole world and how vital the waterways out of the Gulf are for everybody. So to just leave it like that, to the elements, is something that we should not expect to do. So it’s something we should do as a diligent move to protect our interest – everybody’s interest.
QUESTION: What about an arms war?
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: What about --
QUESTION: Aren’t you worried about an arms war in the region?
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Of course, if things are interpreted wrongly, there will be an arms race. But things – we should put things in perspective that this is only a defensive measure and should not call for an arms race in the region.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Thank you very much. Thank you.