SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to welcome the foreign minister here. This has been a great opportunity for me to visit with him and share our views on a range of important matters. I think it is clear to everyone that Hungary is a close friend of the United States and a valued partner. We work together to address global challenges, and we are looking to broaden and deepen our cooperation. I know the foreign minister is a seasoned, experienced hand when it comes to this work, and I’m delighted he could find time in his schedule to come so early in his tenure now.
There is a lot ahead of us in the upcoming months, including the Lisbon NATO summit, energy security efforts, social inclusion, Hungary’s important role in regional cooperation and stability. This spring marked 20 years since Hungary’s first free elections, and the relationship between our countries has transformed during that relatively short period of time. NATO is a key – Hungary is a key NATO ally. We are grateful to Hungary and the Hungarian people for their contributions to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. We recognize the service and the sacrifice of Hungarian troops serving with ISAF. We appreciate Hungary’s recent commitment to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. And we are very grateful for Hungary’s role in hosting the NATO Medical Center of Excellence in Budapest and the Heavy Airlift Wing at the Papa Air Base.
I also expressed our appreciation for Hungary’s commitment to protecting the rights of its Roma citizens, of reaching out to Southeast Europe, of working for the further integration of all of Europe. And it is exciting to see the commitment and the fortitude that the foreign minister represents on behalf of not just this new government, but of his country.
So again, Mr. Minister, welcome to the United States.
FOREIGN MINISTER MARTONYI: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. First and foremost, I delighted to be here and I accepted with great gratitude this early invitation to come to Washington and, of course, I availed myself of this opportunity immediately. And also that gave me the possibility to reconfirm some of our fundamental commitments – first and foremost, our fundamental commitment to the Atlantic alliance, which believe is the cornerstone not just of our security, but also a safer and peaceful world. At the same time, I also reconfirmed our commitment to continue to make our contribution in Afghanistan. As the Secretary said, we are going to increase our contribution despite all the financial difficulties which we are perhaps running still at home. And also, we maintain our commitment in the Western Balkans. In fact, this is a new dimension of our foreign policy that we would like to strengthen our presence in the countries which are in the Western Balkans, in Southeastern Europe, and this is kind of new expanded Central European policy of Hungary.
We very much appreciate the help and assistance which we are now receiving from the United States with respect to our most difficult domestic problems or challenges, like the Roma integration, as it has been just mentioned. We believe that we have much in common. We have a value-based approach. And also we do believe in social inclusion and we are convinced that ultimately these are the basic principles, values, and human rights which are the fundamental driving force behind our policies.
It is in this spirit that we are going to open a new institute in Budapest, the Tom Lantos or Lantos Tomas – if you prefer that way – Institute in Budapest early next year. I invited the Secretary to come to the opening ceremony of that institute if she cannot come earlier. Of course, if she can do it, she is most welcome. But I think the establishment of this institute will be a very important message to the whole world that we do share the same values, the same principles, the same commitments. And we are very much committed to the legacy of a person who did so much for the successful transformation of my country, and also for the friendship and alliance between the United States and Hungary. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Mr. Minister, thank you again.
MR. CROWLEY: A question on each side. For the U.S., Elise Labott of CNN.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, we know that President Obama has said that the strategy in Afghanistan will continue after Stanley McChrystal’s resignation. But are you afraid that this has been a distraction to the war effort? Do you think that the Afghan Government will use this as an excuse to stall on some things that you want them to do? And how do you respond to calls by some senators, including Senator McCain, that you also need to have a reevaluation of the civilian team there, including Ambassador Eikenberry and Special Rep Holbrooke? Do you have full confidence in the civilian effort?
And Mr. Minister, do you think that this has been a distraction to the war effort in Afghanistan? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Elise, let me start by expressing my deep respect for General McChrystal. He not only has served and sacrificed on behalf of his country over many years, but he is someone who has really given his all to the mission in Afghanistan. As President Obama said yesterday, this was a very difficult decision. It’s one that the President made as Commander in Chief, and he did it by answering the questions that guide his decision making: What is best for the mission and what is best for the men and women who so bravely serve our nation and serve our international joint efforts in Afghanistan?
The President made clear that this was a change in personnel, not in policy. And I echo that. We remain committed to our mission to break the Taliban’s momentum, to build Afghan capacity, and to relentlessly apply pressure on al-Qaida and its leadership in order to strengthen Afghanistan and Pakistan to be able to withstand the pressures from these extremist terrorist networks.
General Petraeus has already proven himself to be an able and successful war commander. He, as the head of CENTCOM, is intimately familiar with the plans and strategy for our efforts in Afghanistan. He is completely familiar with all of the plans that have been put forth and he is going to provide the kind of continuity of leadership that this mission needs and deserves.
The response from around the world, starting in Afghanistan, has been extremely positive. People know General Petraeus. They know his record; they know his extraordinary devotion to duty. He will be leading our military efforts assuming his confirmation, which we hope will be speedy so that he can get to the job. And he’ll be working with very able civilian leaders as well.
This has always been a joint mission in every sense of the word. It’s a joint mission between the United States and our allies like Hungary. It’s a joint mission between our civilian and our military leaders. It’s a joint mission between those of us in the international community and the Afghan Government and people. Nothing about that changes.
FOREIGN MINISTER MARTONYI: I don’t think it’s a distraction in any sense whatsoever. It is certainly not my job to judge or evaluate these developments. As it has been just said by the Secretary, this is a joint exercise. And we got in together, we can only get out together. And the commitment on our part is certainly unwavering. And if you will allow me a small joke, the only lesson for -- I mean, a personal lesson which I draw on from this story, was that you have to be very cautious when you talk and meet with the media. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: Hungarian National Public Radio (inaudible).
QUESTION: Okay thank you very much. Thank you very much. This will have been my first question as well. But now I would like to ask what’s going to be Hungary’s role in the U.S. Government approach to Central Europe after or while the reset policy with Russia? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you want me to start?
FOREIGN MINISTER MARTONYI: It’s to me first? Okay.
SECRETARY CLINTON: You can go first.
FOREIGN MINISTER MARTONYI: Okay. Well, we welcome this policy. We believe that we need good cooperation with Russia, both of us, not just the big powers but also the small ones. We need reliable, predictable Russia, and we also need relations with them which are based upon transparency, mutual respect, openness, frankness, and identifying some basic common interests which do exist between United States and Russia on the one hand and between Russia and Hungary on the other.
Some of those interests are the same. Small and big countries are interested in global security and in meeting global challenges and risks in the same way. At the same time, as you know very well, we definitely need healthy and safe economic relations with Russia. I think that with mutual respect and frankness, this can be assured.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I agree with the minister. The United States is committed to a whole and free Europe. We have supported the integration of Europe. Of course, it is up to European nations to determine how that proceeds. But I think it’s a remarkable accomplishment of the last 20 years to see all of these developments. And the United States stands ready to work with Europe on a range of issues. Energy security is one that the minister referenced, which we believe is very much in Europe’s interest. Working on other matters that are both of bilateral concern as well as regional is a core commitment of the United States Government.
We have so much in common with our European friends and allies. And we hope to see the continuation of the integration of Europe, and I applaud the Hungarian Government’s commitment to that. So there’s a lot to be done, but so much has already been accomplished. And the United States stands ready to be supportive in any way that’s appropriate.
Thank you all very much.
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