SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the Treaty Room of the State Department. I am delighted to welcome the foreign minister back to Washington. He and I have gotten to know each other over the course of the last year since his appointment, and I very much appreciate the chance to work with him. We talked a lot over lunch about the many issues that Germany and the United States are concerned about and how we can together strengthen security and foster prosperity, not only in our own countries but throughout Europe and the world.
The partnership between Germany and the United States is very strong. It’s vital and it is essential to our respective citizens. We see that in Europe where Germany has led the effort to sustain and strengthen European integration, including the expansion of NATO and the European Union. And I congratulate the foreign minister and Chancellor Merkel and the people of Germany on the upcoming commemoration of unification.
In Afghanistan, Germany has shown a continued commitment to the international mission and the future of the Afghan people. Whether it is in the wake of an earthquake in Haiti or a devastating flood in Pakistan, Germany is there with support to assist the people who are so devastated by these natural disasters. We see so much evidence every day of Germany’s leadership and the critical role that the German-American partnership plays in the world to promote peace, defeat common threats, further economic growth, reduce poverty, and defend democracy and human rights.
Today, the foreign minister and I discussed several priorities, including the Middle East peace process, ensuring that Iran meets its international obligations, the upcoming NATO and U.S.-EU summits in Lisbon. It is always a great pleasure to work with the foreign minister.
And on Sunday, October 3rd, the world will be reminded of all that Germany has accomplished in the last two decades to heal its wounds and to reconcile its people. German unification is a remarkable story. It is testament to the vision of Germany’s leaders and the strength of the German people. I often talk about it, Minister, with others who are not yet able to overcome past differences in order to build a better shared future. But Germany has shown the world that walls can be torn down, that communities can be stitched back together, that lasting peace is possible even after long periods of division and discord, and that cooperation is the best way to achieve peace, progress, and prosperity.
So on behalf of the American people, let me extend congratulations to the people of Germany on this upcoming anniversary, thank you for your many years of friendship and partnership, and pledge that the United States will continue to look for ways to deepen and broaden the work we do together. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER WESTERWELLE: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, Hillary, it is a great pleasure to be back in Washington. Thank you very much for your warm hospitality. We had a very good conversation, intensive dialogue, and it was very good to exchange our ideas and our perspectives, of course.
Please allow me, first of all, a few words to a very special occasion. On Sunday we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of German unity, and it is something what you mentioned, and you expressed your appreciation what the German people did in those days. But I, by myself, I would like to thank you. I would like to express our gratitude to the Government of the United States of America, but also to the people of the United States of America for their great support over so long years. You stand with us in the painful time when we have been divided as a country. You worked with us for our unification, and the German unification was also the European reunification.
And I really want to express our gratitude to the people of America. We really are very grateful about your support and we are now in a very, very close friendship like we saw in our meeting here. Once again, without your unconditional support, our freedom and our unity would not have been possible, and this is something the German people will never forget to the American people.
Thank you very much, first of all, to this. And now I would like to change for some short remarks into my native language.
(Via interpreter) I would like to repeat in my very own language too that I want to express my heartfelt and strong gratitude towards the American people for having cooperated with their government to contribute to German reunification. That is something that Germany, that the German people, and the German Government will never forget, especially as we are looking ahead to the 20th anniversary of that very date of reunification.
We are facing important foreign policy decisions this autumn. Our intention is to use the NATO summit on 19th and 20th November this year to pass a new Strategic Concept of NATO. Secretary General Rasmussen has circulated a draft that we believe provides a good basis for further discussions and that takes up many of the suggestions that we have made in the process of preparing this new Strategic Concept.
The very important topic of Afghanistan too will be a point where the Lisbon summit will provide an important milestone. Our intention is to prepare the ground to throw the switches, so to speak, to prepare the ground for a step-by-step handover of the security responsibility, the responsibility for the security into Afghan hands. We want that to begin next year.
We also talked about the Mideast, and I assured my colleague once again of the very strong support that we intend to show and that we have shown for the American effort in the peace process.
(In English) I told Secretary Clinton that we wholeheartedly support the American efforts to take the Middle East peace process forward. The renewed direct talks are a historic change that must not be missed, and therefore we welcome the engagement of the American Government, of Secretary Clinton, of the President Obama. We think this is very important. The strong leadership in this process is so important and it is in our common interest that we bring this peace process to a successful and peaceful end, and therefore I also welcome the engagement of our High Representative of the European Union, of Cathy Ashton, and I think it is very, very supportable and very – we appreciate really her visit now to the region in the Middle East which she will start tomorrow.
(In German.) (Laughter.)
INTERPRETER: He was saying I don’t have – there’s no need for interpretation.
FOREIGN MINISTER WESTERWELLE: Yeah, I really waited for the translation. I’m sorry. (Laughter.)
Finally, we discussed also the relations with Turkey. The relationship clearly has a strategic dimension for both of us. Turkey is not only a NATO ally; it is also an important player in the region. We want to cooperate closely and it is in our own interest that the perspective of Turkey remains European and Western.
Thank you very much for your (inaudible) and thank you very much once again for your hospitality.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Guido. Thank you very much.
MR. TONER: We have time for just two questions. Kim.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary, I have two questions for you, if I may. The first one is on Iran. You met Mrs. Ashton this morning. She has offered to meet with the Iranians. I was wondering whether you have any sense yet – whether she has any sense yet of what the Iranian response is going to be, and how are you going to take this forward?
My second question is about one of your former counterparts. The former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has announced that he’s leaving frontline politics. You worked very closely with him when he was still in office. I was wondering if you had any reactions. And he’s going to be looking for a job. I wonder if you have any advice for him. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, Cathy Ashton has consistently conveyed to Iran the readiness of the P-5+1 to meet with Iran over its nuclear program. And that is a standing invitation. Guido and I were in New York together last week. Lady Ashton held a meeting for the P-5+1 foreign ministers, and we all agreed that we wanted to see the diplomatic process begin again but the ball was in the Iranian court, that they had thus far not officially confirmed to Lady Ashton their willingness to meet in the P-5+1 or offered any dates for such a meeting. So we continue to hope that we will be able to see that meeting occur.
And I have no advice for anyone in politics. (Laughter.) I’m out of politics. I obviously wish him well and I am very intrigued by the interesting political dynamics that are occurring inside the United Kingdom. But we are very, very pleased that our relationship with the current government of Prime Minister Cameron is very strong and focused on all of the important issues that we are working on together.
QUESTION: And a few words about (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I enjoyed working with him and I wish him well.
FOREIGN MINISTER WESTERWELLE: I agree. (Laughter.) So once again, an excellent (inaudible) for American-German friendship.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right.
FOREIGN MINISTER WESTERWELLE: No, we will miss him, of course. He was an excellent colleague and the last year I could work with him together, and we really appreciated his work, but one door was closed and other doors will get opened.
QUESTION: My name is Christian Wilp. I’m with N-TV, RTL German Television. I have a question for both Madam Secretary and (inaudible) minister. How would you describe the current terror threats in the United States and in Europe, and are you especially concerned about terrorists with a German passport?
FOREIGN MINISTER WESTERWELLE: (Via interpreter) Relations between the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Germany are excellent, and I think that is also important to mention because we are standing together in combating terrorism. We exchanged views and we also exchange intelligence where available. And we do so in order to better coordinate our actions in fighting terrorism. We’ve done so in the past and our intention is to continue that practice into the future, which is to say, in other words, that the cooperation between both our countries is to the benefit of the citizens of both our countries, which is to say that we’re providing for their very own security, that we’re protecting them against terrorist threats, against the use of violence. And our intention is to continue that excellent cooperation.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can only say I agree. (Laughter.) It’s a very important part of our cooperation. We don’t comment on any specific threats or specific intelligence, but there is a very positive level of exchange of information that goes on constantly. And we are very grateful for that strong partnership.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We don’t comment on any specific threats or any specific question about intelligence.
FOREIGN MINISTER WESTERWELLE: And once again, we agree. (Laughter.)