SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am very pleased to welcome someone who has become a friend and is a very valued colleague to the State Department. Foreign Minister Sikorski is a very eloquent advocate for the interests and values not only of Poland and not only of Europe, but more generally of universal values, and in particular the value of democracy.
Poland has been in the thoughts and prayers of all Americans in the wake of such a tragedy that took the lives of the president, the first lady, and many distinguished citizens. And I know how deeply President Obama regretted not being able to attend the funeral. And I would like once again to offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to all the people of Poland. Poland’s sorrow is great – we saw the Polish Embassy here in Washington covered with flowers and candles left in remembrance – and I was honored to represent our government and our country in going to the Embassy and meeting with the ambassador and expressing directly our deep sorrow. But the Polish people have responded with resilience and determination once again, in a history that has often called on them to do so, and we express not only our sympathy but our admiration.
Next week, Poland will celebrate the 219th anniversary of its first constitution – the first in Europe, actually. And that is yet another opportunity to honor our shared democratic values and aspirations, our common commitment to freedom, human rights and the rule of law, and to reaffirm our faith in Poland’s very bright future.
The United States is proud to call Poland one of our closest friends and allies. As a member of NATO, our commitment to Poland’s security is absolute and rock solid.
We deeply appreciate Poland’s contributions to the NATO mission in Afghanistan and we mourn with Poland the sacrifice of its soldiers and salute their service. We particularly welcome the recent decision to deploy 600 more Polish troops to serve side by side with U.S. forces in the effort to combat violent extremism and support the people of Afghanistan as they build a more peaceful and prosperous future.
Today, the minister and I confirmed that we are renewing our Strategic Dialogue. Through this forum, we will collaborate on important issues such as political and economic stability in Poland’s eastern neighborhood, NATO’s strategic concept, missile defense, economic and investment opportunities, and energy security.
The relationship that we have is already very deep and broad, but we believe we can achieve additional concrete progress. And today was just the beginning. Our Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon, and the Polish Under Secretary of State will combine to drive this process forward together.
So let me again thank the Minister for this visit, for his friendship, and for our partnership.
FOREIGN MINISTER SIKORSKI: Thank you, Hillary. And I would like to thank you personally, the President of the United States, and the American people for the many expressions of condolences and of support in this testing time. Poland responded emotionally when you had your tragedy on 9/11 and we felt that you felt our pain when we lost so many good people two weeks ago. But as you say, Polish democracy is strong, our constitution has stood the test, and Poland remains a predictable and solid member of NATO, the European Union, and Community of Democracies.
I am delighted that we’ve re-launched the Strategic Dialogue between our countries. We have recently signed and ratified the Status of Forces Agreement, which means that we can proceed on the practical implementation of the political declaration that binds us together, and on the newly proposed MD agreement.
I am delighted that in addition to the strong security relationship between Poland and the United States, we will be working together on promoting democracy worldwide. And I am delighted that you have accepted my invitation to come to Poland both on a bilateral basis and as a member of the distinguished group of ministers from leading democracies who will meet in Krakow from the 2nd to the 4th of July of this year to re-launch the Community of Democracies, something that was set up 10 years ago by our predecessors, Madeleine Albright and Bronisław Geremek. In those days, it was fashionable to talk about the end of history, because it seemed like democratic capitalism was the only game in town. Well, we feel that our commitment to democratic free market now needs to be reconfirmed, because there are, unfortunately, attractive alternatives. And that’s why we are convening the meeting of the Community of Democracies, and I’m very glad that you will be there.
And thirdly, we have had a meeting at the political level of our people working on issues to do with energy, both nuclear energy and prospecting for gas and for other forms of energy. This could be a vital Polish-American project and I’d like to confirm, on behalf of the Polish Government, that we support American companies that are exploring in Poland. And we hope that if they strike it lucky, that this will enhance Poland’s, Europe’s energy security and forge new investment links between Poland and the United States.
I was also very glad to be able to meet General Jim Jones yesterday and this morning, Secretary of Defense Gates. And we’re grateful for his confirmation that the United States will materially appreciate our participation in the Afghan mission by supplying to us additional 24 mine resistance – mine-resistant vehicles, which of course will help to protect the lives of Polish soldiers. We are there as part of the NATO mission. We’ve gone in together and we will also leave Afghanistan together.
MR. CROWLEY: We have time for one question on each side. We’ll start with Courtney Kube from NBC.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, if I could just ask you, earlier this week, the Mexican Government issued a travel warning, warning its citizens against traveling to the U.S. because of the new Arizona immigration legislation. What’s your reaction to the travel warning? Have you had any direct talks with any of your Mexican officials on this? Have they expressed concern? And then – and has this hurt the overall U.S. and Mexico relationship?
And then if I could ask a quick one on Iran since we only have one question? (Laughter.) President Ahmadinejad has requested a visa to travel to New York next week. Are you concerned at all that his presence at the conference will distract from the overall message or take away from your goals there?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say that we are always in consultation on a broad range of matters with our Mexican counterparts. We are looking forward to President Calderon’s visit in just about three weeks here to Washington, a state visit that will mean a great deal not only to this Administration, but to the millions of Mexican Americans who enrich the culture, the economy, and the future of the United States.
There are a number of issues to discuss. It’s not a surprise that the Mexican Government has registered its very strong concern about the legislation passed across their border in Arizona, but so has President Obama and others. So we will be working to understand and try to mitigate the concerns on that and other issues with the Mexicans. We are deeply committed to supporting President Calderon in his courageous fight against the drug trafficking, crime, and gangs that have stalked Mexico increasingly along the border that we share. So there’s a lot to discuss and it will be a long agenda and a very comprehensive meeting when he arrives.
With respect to Iran, the purpose of the Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, which opens Monday at the United Nations, is to recommit nations to the principal pillars of the NPT regime – disarmament, nonproliferation, and the peaceful use of civilian nuclear energy. So the United States comes to this conference having demonstrated with our recent treaty signing between President Obama and Medvedev our commitment to further disarmament. We are also committed to nonproliferation, an issue that was at the core of the recent Nuclear Security Summit here in Washington. And we are discussing with many countries, including Poland, how to acquire and safeguard and utilize civilian nuclear energy.
That is the purpose of our going to New York. I don’t know what the purpose that Iran sees because their record of violations of the nonproliferation obligations that they assumed as a signatory to the NPT is absolutely indisputable. They have been subjected to critical reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency in recent months, laying out a very clear set of concerns and questions that the international community has about the program that they have pursued, including covert facilities like the one disclosed last fall at Qom. They are consistently violating United Nations security resolutions about their nuclear program.
So if President Ahmadinejad wants to come and announce that Iran will abide by their nonproliferation requirements under the NPT, that would be very good news indeed, and we would welcome that. But if he believes that by coming he can somehow divert attention from this very important global effort or cause confusion that might possibly throw into doubt what Iran has been up to, about which I don’t think there is any room for doubt, then I don’t believe he will have a particularly receptive audience.
We have seen in the last months growing awareness in the international community of nations that the path Iran is on poses a threat. And there is unanimity in our efforts to try to dissuade Iran. We are in the midst, as you know, of discussions with our partners at the United Nations on sanctions that could change the calculus of the Iranian leadership as to their pursuit of nuclear weapon development.
So we wait and see what he has to say. But the mission of those of us going to New York to review, revise, and reinvigorate the NPT regime is very clear. If that’s not his mission, then it won’t be a particularly useful or productive trip on his part.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, some experts and diplomats say that President Barack Obama turns his back on Europe and that European Union actually loses ground in Washington. What can be the reason for such comments that there is, you know, pressing – that there is no pressing issue going on between the European Union and the United States that it’s settling, or rather that being friendly with Europe doesn’t play well in American domestic politics? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have to just reject the premise of the question from the experts and the diplomats that you refer to, because I don’t think there’s any basis to it. The President has made very clear not only his personal but this Administration’s commitment to our relationship with Europe and our bilateral relationships with countries such as Poland.
In the first year of his Administration, he visited Europe several times. As you know, he had a number of meetings with European leaders and representatives in both bilateral and multilateral settings. He made his groundbreaking speech about nuclear nonproliferation and moving toward a world, eventually, of zero nuclear weapons in Prague, came back with Medvedev to sign that treaty. We have a very vigorous effort underway with the EU on energy independence – you heard Minister Sikorski reference that – because we believe that it’s in Europe’s interest, that we believe are also in the United States’ and the transatlantic alliance’s interest for Europe to develop greater energy security. We are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO allies in Afghanistan. There’s a very long list.
And I think that when the President had dinner in Prague with the heads of state or government of, I think, 11 or 12 Central and Eastern European nations, it was another reaffirmation of our strong ties with Europe, our commitment to Europe’s security, and our very clear sense that the United States and Europe have to stand together in this community of democracies on behalf of shared values.
So having been involved in American politics for a very long time, I think I am on extremely safe ground in saying to you that there is absolutely no constituency in our country to lessen our relationship with Europe, that in fact there’s a great deal of pride that is felt by Americans who trace their ancestry back to Europe in the strong and unshakable bond of friendship and partnership that exists.
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