SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m delighted to welcome Foreign Secretary Hague back for his second visit to the State Department this year. Of course, we’ve been in close and seemingly constant contact since he became foreign secretary. We were together in New York yesterday for a session of the UN Security Council which William chaired and we’ll be together again in Lisbon for the NATO summit at the end of this week.
We have discussed a range of important issues – our shared mission in Afghanistan, the difficult choices that the United Kingdom has made in seeking to rebalance its government expenditures. We are very grateful for the strong commitment that the U.K. has given on so many security issues and particularly for their 10,000 troops, the brave young people serving in Afghanistan. And I appreciate too the trainers that are going to be committed to helping us expedite and improve the training of the Afghan security forces.
We discussed our shared priority of achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The foreign secretary briefed me on his recent trip to the region, and I briefed him on our intensified efforts along several tracks to encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct negotiations.
I want to thank the secretary and the United Kingdom for announcing this week an additional 1 million pound contribution to the Independent Special Tribunal for Lebanon in 2011. Both the United States and the United Kingdom strongly support Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, and the work of this tribunal, which is intended to end impunity for political assassinations.
We continue to share a deep concern about Iran’s nuclear program. Again, the U.K. has shown great leadership in this area, and the foreign secretary and I are staying in close communication about the way forward. We have said many times we are committed to meeting with Iran to resume P-5+1 discussions. The EU High Representative Catherine Ashton has offered a date for such discussions to the Iranians, and we urge Iran to confirm this meeting so we can move forward.
The foreign secretary and I also discussed at some length the Balkans. We both are committed to helping the countries in the Balkans achieve full integration into the Euro-Atlantic community and we support a direct dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. And I would like to again thank the U.K. for its leadership and the Security Council and its leadership in NATO and in the EU. There are so many important issues that we are working together on, and I cannot imagine having to face all of these issues without the close collaboration with the foreign secretary and the partnership between our two countries.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Well, thank you very much indeed. It’s six months since we last stood here together when I was a new foreign secretary. I’d been the foreign secretary for about 36 hours at that moment, I think. This was the first place that I visited. And six months on, I particularly want to thank Secretary Clinton for the great friendship, for the excellent working relationship, for the constant discussions that we have on all of these issues. And we had an excellent dinner last night talking about so many of these things and have gone over so many more of these issues this morning.
And yesterday, indeed, we were together in New York at the Security Council situation – Security Council session that I chaired on the urgent situation in Sudan, and I want to thank the United States and thank Secretary Clinton for the immense interest shown in that. It is the prime focus of our presidency of the Security Council this month, and we’re pleased we can work so closely with the United States in our efforts on Sudan.
This afternoon, I’m going to deliver a speech at Georgetown University and for the first time since I was a student in 1982 (inaudible) particular location on the theme of international security in a networked world and on the unshakable partnership between our two countries. I will say in that speech that there will be no reduction in Britain’s global role under this government or in our commitment to working with the United States on the pressing security challenges that we face. As we saw very recently with the al-Qaida cargo plotting its plane flying to the United States, we have a very clear, long-term vision of Britain as an active global power and the closest ally of the United States – as Secretary Clinton herself has put it, the United States partner of choice in mitigating the threats of the 21st century. And we’re determined that our cooperation in diplomacy, defense, counterterrorism, and intelligence continue to be without parallel in the world.
We have indeed talked about the Middle East and the pressing need for Palestinians and Israelis to come back to direct talks to find a just and sustainable two-state solution. And I commend strongly the American Government’s tireless efforts in that area, to which we will continue to give full and active support.
We will be at the NATO summit in Lisbon addressing the latest developments and the plans for the future of Afghanistan, of course, adopting a new strategic concept there.
And on Iran, just a word. Our intense concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program remain. We worked together to put in place strong sanctions that have put real pressure on the government in Iran. We want to negotiate a peaceful resolution of these issues, but Iran’s leaders should know that our resolve is real and that our determination will not slacken on this issue.
It’s been very useful to discuss the Western Balkans, in particular the situation in Bosnia. Our progress remains elusive, and real international focus is needed.
So I repeat my thanks again to Secretary Clinton and this Administration and this Secretary of State. I’ve really seen in the last six months that Britain has a great friend, and it’s a huge pleasure to work together. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Andy Quinn, Reuters.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, good morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning.
QUESTION: The Israelis are saying that they want the new U.S. security guarantees in writing, and I’m wondering, are you willing to do this if it would speed up any Israeli decision on reinstating the moratorium?
And for the foreign secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr. Osborne said today that Britain stands ready to support Ireland in its current financial crisis, and FT has referred to the possibility of billions of pounds in loans. Has your government had any specific discussions with Ireland, about that, what that help might entail? Are you, in fact, considering loans, and if so, at what level? And more broadly, the Irish crisis is being described as a struggle to save the EU. Do you agree with that assessment?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andy, I can’t get into details. I can only repeat what I have said, that we are in close touch with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. We’re working intensively to create the conditions for the resumption of negotiations that can lead to a two-state solution and a comprehensive peace, because we continue to believe strongly that it is only through negotiations between the parties themselves that all final status issues can be resolved and the conflict ended, because the current status quo is unacceptable.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And on the questions you raised about Ireland, the chancellor exchequer has made the position on this clear. Ireland has not made a formal request for assistance. They are a sovereign nation. It is up to them whether to do so. As the chancellor has said, it is in our national interest to assist if we are asked to do so, but we’ll have to consider any such requests, if and when it arises.
And I wouldn’t go for the dramatic language you’re trying to lead me in about – into some saving the EU. Clearly there are difficulties in the euro zone, and it’s very much in Britain’s interest that there is stability in the euro zone, even though we are not members of the euro. And I’m sure we will surmount those difficulties. But the European Union, in any case is – it’s about much more than that. And so you’re using too dramatic language in your question, as you know. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: And finally Mark Mardell of BBC.
QUESTION: Mark Mardell, BBC. Looking forward to Lisbon and Afghanistan, Secretary of State, is 2014 a hard deadline, which cannot flip, for handover? And a similar question to the foreign secretary: Can you see – can you envisage British troops being there longer than that date?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that I think that the Lisbon summit will be a demonstration of unity and affirmation of the strategy that we are pursuing. And our goal, which is the goal set forth first by President Karzai in his inaugural address, is to have full transition to Afghan security by 2014. We expect to begin the process of transition this next year, 2011, where we believe there are now areas and sufficiently trained security forces for the Afghans to assume control. They are, in effect, in control of areas now, and we’re in the midst of doing a review as to how this would be sequenced. But certainly the goal that will be endorsed at Lisbon is a transition that will conclude in 2014.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: I’m in complete accord with that. As you would expect, the U.K. and the U.S. work very closely together on this. There are great improvements taking place in the Afghan National Security Forces. They’re now 264,000 strong overall, and they will be more than 300,000 strong in the course of next year. I don't want to understate the challenges that remain. Of course, in making sure they have the expertise, and logistics, and engineering, and intelligence, these remain great challenges in building up the effectiveness of those armed forces. But they are challenges we can meet with sufficient dedication to, with sufficient commitment to training. And the United Kingdom has recently moved additional resources into training those forces.
And we can do that over this next four years. Four years is quite a long time. I was mentioning at a meeting earlier, that is the length of the entire First World War, in which great armies were assembled and great conflicts took place. And so we should be able to do that. We’ve said clearly what we said about 2015. The prime minister has made our position clear on that. But that is consistent with the objective of Afghans being able to lead and sustain their own security operations throughout Afghanistan by 2014.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you.