SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. It is a pleasure to welcome the foreign minister here today. This year, Romania and the United States mark the 130th anniversary of our diplomatic relationship, and it is a friendship and partnership that grows stronger every year.
Our nations and people share a deep commitment to freedom and democracy, and a profound respect for human dignity and the rule of law. Romania and the United States are working together bilaterally as well as through international organizations to foster greater transatlantic cooperation on a range of difficult issues, from nuclear nonproliferation to energy security to climate change.
The United States and Romania are also allies through NATO, and our shared commitment to the mutual defense of the alliance is unwavering. We are very pleased Romania has agreed to host elements of the phased adaptive approach to missile defense in Europe as we pursue this shared goal. This decision highlights the seriousness with which Romania approaches its role in NATO and its commitment to enhancing global security. Romanian troops have served their country with honor and distinction around the world, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are helping to move those countries toward a future of peace and stability. We mourn and grieve with the people of Romania over the losses that your nation has sustained, Mr. Minister, in this cause, but we thank you for your ongoing, stalwart commitment.
And it is also true that we have so many shared values and deep ties. Many distinguished Americans come of Romanian heritage, including the late Professor Liviu Librescu, who sacrificed his own life to save his students during the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007. We are pleased that the street in front of the new United States Embassy compound in Bucharest has been named in honor of this wonderful Romanian-American teacher and scholar.
The growing partnership between our nations has been nurtured and cultivated for a long time. I vividly remember my trip to Bucharest 14 years ago – not only the hospitality I received, but the energy and optimism of the Romanian people, who had traveled so far in such a short space of time. I told the foreign minister that I hoped to return to see for myself all of the progress that has been made and to work with him and with his government to build on the friendship and partnership between our two nations.
Thank you again for being here.
FOREIGN MINISTER BACONSCHI: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. I truly appreciate your remarks. We had an excellent discussion today on the main bilateral topics on our agenda. And we tackled the enhancement that we have contemplated for the time being, the common wish to add substance to our strategic partnership and our cooperation within NATO and common expectations which we have in the perspective of the NATO Lisbon summit at the end of this year, about our – the increasing of our troops on the ground in Afghanistan and the bilateral cooperation to better protect them, and about Romania’s inclusion in the MD missile defense program.
We would like to also explore together all the possibilities to raise more interest among the business community in the U.S. towards the opportunities offered by the Romanian economy. And I also raised with the Secretary of State our wish to work together for finding new solutions for the inclusion of Romania in the Visa Waiver Program. As we are a full membership – a full member of the EU and NATO, we think that our fellow citizens deserve to travel without visa to the U.S.
We have also addressed some later – latest evolutions in our own region, in the Black Sea region, and in the immediate vicinity of the European Union. And we also took the opportunity to speak about the energy security issues. I have explained to the Madam Secretary of State our main projects in this field.
So I thank you very much for the hospitality during this, my first official trip to Washington. And I’m looking forward to work together with you and to further increase the quality of our partnership.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you so much.
MR. CROWLEY: On his last day of covering the State Department, Nick Kralev of The Washington Times.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Nick.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We should sing Auld Lang Syne or something. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, thank you very much even without doing it.
Madam Secretary, I’d like to ask you a couple things about the Israeli situation which, as you know, is getting more and more serious by the day. I know there are many unknowns at this point, but do you accept Israel’s argument of self-defense? And do you think that the investigation should be done by Israel or by a third independent party, as other Security Council members have said?
And more broadly, we all know there are so many moving pieces to this. There’s Turkey, there’s Israel and in the Palestinians, there’s Iran, there’s Syria. What are the implications in your mind of this situation to the peace process and in the larger issues in the Middle East? Thanks.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Nick, on your last day, you’ve asked a very complicated set of interrelated questions. And let me put it into context as I respond. First, let me say how deeply we regret the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident aboard the Gaza-bound ships, and we offer our condolences to the families of the deceased and the wounded.
Turkey and Israel are both good friends of the United States, and we are working with both to deal with the aftermath of this tragic incident.
The United States supports the Security Council’s condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy. And we urge Israel to permit full consular access to the individuals involved and to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately. We urge all concerned countries to work together to resolve the status of those who were part of this incident as soon as possible.
We support in the strongest terms the Security Council’s call for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation, and we will continue to discuss these ideas with the Israelis and our international partners in the days ahead.
The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable. Israel’s legitimate security needs must be met, just as the Palestinians’ legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access for reconstruction materials must also be assured.
We will continue to work closely with the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority along with international NGOs and the United Nations to ensure adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction and building supplies. And we welcome efforts to promote the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate and internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.
Ultimately, the solution to this conflict must be found through an agreement based on a two-state solution negotiated between the parties. This incident underscores the urgency of reaching this goal and we remain committed to working with both sides to move forward these negotiations.
I think the situation from our perspective is very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned. But we fully support the Security Council’s action last night in issuing a presidential statement and we will work to implement the intention that this presidential statement represents.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for taking this question.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: So how far or hopefully how close is Romania to (inaudible) visa waiver and what are the steps to be taken on both sides to speed up this process and grant Romanian citizens the right to travel to U.S. for education, business, or as tourists? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the minister and I discussed this at some length because we very much support more travel by Romanians to the United States and by Americans to Romania. And you mentioned some of the main reasons – for education, for business, for recreation, and just enjoying the beauty of each other’s country and the hospitality of our respective peoples.
The rules on visa waiver are enshrined in legislation. The Congress has set the standards that must be met, and we are working closely with the Romanian Government to assist Romanian citizens in meeting those standards. We want Romanians to know what the rules are so that they are able to follow them and we can accelerate and increase the high percentage of accepted visas in order to meet the requirements that Congress has determined.
So we are very committed to working, but we have to meet the congressional requirements. And that’s why we want to work on a public education and outreach campaign between our governments to try to help more citizens know those rules and be able to meet them.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.
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