SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning.
FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Good morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is a pleasure to welcome my colleague, Minister Paet, again to Washington. We have enjoyed many productive conversations, both in the United States as well as in Estonia and in many other locations as well.
I particularly appreciate the leadership that Estonia showed in hosting the NATO ministerial meeting in Tallinn last April and at the recent NATO summit in Lisbon – the leadership and support that Estonia gave to the new strategic concept that calls for NATO to develop its defense capabilities against growing threats such as ballistic missiles and cyber attacks.
We have a strong and unwavering commitment to engagement between our nations. It’s built on mutual respect, common security concerns, shared democratic values, and a history of cooperation from air policing in the Baltic region to development assistance in Afghanistan. The close friendship between our nations goes back many years, but it is certainly rooted in today’s world in our admiration for Estonia’s remarkable success. Despite years of occupation and depression during much of the 20th century, the Estonian people never lost sight of the free, democratic, vibrant society they hope to build for themselves.
And in the short space of 20 years since they regained their independence, that’s exactly what they’ve done. Their growth as a wired-in nation of internet voters and cyber innovators, their commitment to good governance, the rule of law, and fiscal responsibility make Estonia one of the most successful models for emerging nationhood anywhere in the world.
Once again, the minister and I covered a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global challenges. We appreciate the cooperation in helping the people of Afghanistan rebuild. We discussed the foreign minister’s recent trip to Kabul and Helmand Province. Estonian civilian experts are working with Afghanis to build healthcare facilities and train police officers. Estonian soldiers are serving shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and our other NATO-ISAF allies. And I thank the Estonian Government and especially the Estonian people for showing their commitment to the ISAF mission with 400,000 Euros in development and humanitarian assistance this year.
Beyond Afghanistan, Estonians have expanded their role as champions of freedom, security, and humanitarian assistance and prosperity from Georgia and Moldova to Haiti and Gaza. We saw this most recently in Belarus, where Minister Paet announced Estonia will maintain its support for an open civil society and educational opportunities for students despite the hostile political environment.
Estonia is also working with their Baltic and Nordic neighbors to liberalize the electricity market in the region and to promote energy independence and security. Through the Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, they have laid the groundwork for NATO’s efforts to protect our alliance and our citizens from cyber attacks. And they adopted the euro as their currency this month to expand trade and attract investors.
Now I could go on and on about Estonia, and I have enjoyed already two visits as Secretary of State to Estonia. But what I am most excited about is how closely we are working together to meet the shared challenges of the 21st century. We are grateful, Minister, for such a dependable, creative and close ally, and we look forward to the work ahead.
FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you very much, and thank you for hosting us here in Washington, and always welcome back to Estonia. Always glad to host you, once again, in Tallinn or in other nice places in Estonia.
But, well, Estonia is also very happy about our very close, open, and strong partnership with United States. Yes, I just also returned from Afghanistan, and I may say that our people on the ground in Helmand Province, also in Kabul, are very happy about direct and very close cooperation with representatives of the United States there. Our very clear and principled position about our joint mission in Afghanistan is that NATO decided together to start the mission in Afghanistan, and the reasons why NATO started with this mission, the reasons were the same for all of our allies and for us as well.
And it also means that decisions about possible withdrawal or possible changes with our mission, we also should make together because also, the environment or circumstances, when and how we can decide it, it’s also the same for all of us. So that our very clear position is that these kind of decisions we have to make together among all allies.
2014 in Afghanistan, of course, is crucial, is important – a important year. We all hope that it will be possible for 2014, that security forces and Government of Afghanistan will take over the direct responsibilities for security and development. But at the same time, of course, most important thing is the situation in Afghanistan. I mean here that Afghanistan cannot be or create any risks for other countries, and it is the most important principle for very deep and principled changes for foreign missions in Afghanistan.
Yes, our important concern is also development of new democracies in Europe, and that’s why we’re going to open next week in Estonia East – European Union’s Eastern Partnership Training Center. And of course, also United States is very welcome to participate with grants or with professors in this project.
Energy security is crucial and I’m glad that the United States has clear and strong interest, but concerns increasing the level of energy security in Europe, also in our region, to have new connections with other European countries, to have also alternatives – what concerns the resources of energy – is it nuclear energy or new possibilities to get gas, for example – so that all of this is and describes, again, the clear interest also of ours but also the clear interest of the United States.
And to sum up, then, for Estonia, it is absolutely crucial to see that the European Union – that Europe has a very strong relationship with the United States in all issues. Also, we’d like to see that in – for – in foreseeable future, we can witness new developments in European Union and NATO relationship, which is also crucial for developments of security and also other areas in Europe.
So that in this sense, I am happy, once again, to be here. I am happy to host our American friends in Estonia. And let’s move together with all the challenges and issues we still face in today’s world. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, my friend.
FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you.
MR. TONER: We have time for just one question on each side. First is Elise Labott, CNN.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi, Elise.
QUESTION: Hi, Madam Secretary. Thank you. I’d like to start with the minister. Secretary Clinton spoke about your efforts in the cyber world, and we know that Estonia is a real leader in cyber security, especially since your attack several years ago. I was wondering, in the wake of WikiLeaks, what the Estonians can help the U.S. with in terms of developing an – as architecture to fend off cyber attacks?
And Madam Secretary, on the Middle East, in Lebanon, we saw that the Saudis, the Turks, and the Qataris have all abandoned efforts to help get the Lebanese Government to be stable, and some kind of mediation – they have abandoned their mediation efforts. Considering that the U.S. was relying very heavily on the Saudis and their influence, what now is the U.S. prepared to do to help these mediation efforts?
And on the Palestinian question, yesterday, a very substantial list of former officials and foreign policy heavyweights sent a letter to the Administration asking them to let this resolution at the UN on the illegality of settlements go ahead. What is the U.S. prepared to do to acknowledge the illegitimacy of settlements while not poking into Israel? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you for the question. Also today, we discussed at least two very concrete issues that concerns our cooperation in cyber defense and in cyber issues. First, as you know, we have in Estonia NATO’s Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence and also the United States is going to participate directly in the work of this center with the specialists, with experts. And this kind of joint cooperation inside the NATO among all of our allies and, of course, also U.S. plays important role here. It is important to develop new possibilities, how to avoid possible new cyber attacks.
Second issue is, for example, with Belarus where electronic mail there or what has relationship with internet and free internet, free electronic mail plays crucial role. Here again, our experts of United States, of Estonia should work together, also maybe with some other countries to find the ways how to assist, how to support the free mail, free electronic mail there, internet mail in Belarus and maybe in some other countries where, unfortunately, we see problems with free world and freedom of press.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Elise, with respect to Lebanon, the United States supports the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon and believes that, ultimately, any decision will have to be made by the Lebanese people. Any mediation effort engaged in by anyone outside of Lebanon itself should be aimed at supporting the people of Lebanon and making decisions that will lead to stability and security, justice, and a commitment to bringing those who committed the murders of Prime Minister Hariri and 22 others to account. I think that over the next days you’ll see a lot of activity within Lebanon itself, and we stand ready, as do many others in the region and beyond, to be of assistance. We strongly support the ongoing work of the tribunal and believe that it is in the long-term interest of Lebanon to end impunity for political killing.
With respect to activities concerning the Israeli and Palestinian efforts that we and others support, there is a Quartet meeting of envoys going on in Jerusalem in the next day to discuss the way forward. We continue to believe strongly that the only way that there will be a resolution of the conflict and a two-state solution that will result in an independent, viable Palestinian state and security for Israel is through a negotiated settlement. Therefore, we don’t see action in the United Nations or any other forum as being helpful in bringing about that desired outcome. Our position on settlements remains as it has been. I clearly spoke out about that on many occasions, and will continue to do so. But, ultimately, the Palestinian and Israeli people have to make a decision about whether they can engage in negotiations that will result in compromise on both sides to obtain what we believe will be not just two states living side by side in peace and security, but a much better future for the children of both Israelis and Palestinians.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re working to keep the focus where we think it needs to be, and that’s not in New York.
MR. TONER: The second question, (inaudible), Estonia media.
QUESTION: Hello, and thank you for allowing to ask a question. Madam Secretary, was Estonia’s big neighbor Russia mentioned today during the talks and how can Estonia contribute to the success of the reset policy the U.S. has with Russia? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Yes, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a discussion with any Estonian without Russia coming up, and that’s only understandable because of history and geography. But I appreciate the support that Estonia has given to our reset efforts, its strong and vocal support of the START Treaty which the United States Senate ratified before the end of last year and which we hope and expect the Duma to ratify very shortly.
We have a long agenda with the Russians that we are pursuing with the support of our allies and friends in NATO and in the EU. Of course, we recognize that it’s imperative for Russia to work with and cooperate on many issues from energy to diminishing the threat of any ongoing problem whether it be cyber or anything else. And we’re very forthright in raising that with both the Russians and our friends in Estonia and in Europe.
Ultimately, we believe that a more regularized, normal relationship with Russia is in the best interest of Eastern Europe, of the Baltics; that’s why we’re pleased to see a NATO-Russia summit in Lisbon. But there are many continuing challenges that have to be addressed, and we are clear-eyed and realistic about those.
Did you want to add anything?
FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: I also wondered that it’s interesting that with Americans when we meet, there are no meeting without speaking about Russians. (Laughter.) So in this instance, it’s the same. But yes, I, of course, can confirm also from our side that NATO-Russia, EU-Russia relations, if we manage to improve them to make them more pragmatic and practical, of course, it’s possible and positive. And we also are happy that also from U.S. the START agreement has been ratified. I hope that the Russians will do it in the foreseeable future, so that all these kind of steps to make Europe, to make world more stable – also what concerns security, of course – it’s also our clear interest. I agree that there are challenges there in Russia still which have their relationship also with internal developments in Russia, internal developments of rule of law and democracy in Russia.
But generally, I hope that it will be possible, step by step move closer to normal and every day’s normal relationship between NATO and Russia, between EU and Russia because it’s also our clear interest.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you.