SECRETARY CLINTON: I wanted to just say a very few words about how important this is to the United States. In the last year, the people of Tunisia have stood up and demanded their universal rights. And by doing so, they have changed the course of history. In just one month, Tunisians will exercise their newly-enshrined democratic rights and vote for a constitutional assembly.
Now when I visited Tunisia, the one thing everyone wanted to know is: What could the United States do to help the young men and women who courageously went into the streets to realize a better economic and political future? Beginning just days after the revolution, the United States began to deliver $40 million in assistance for Tunisia’s democratic transition. We have supported the Tunisian people’s efforts toward responsive, accountable government and helped to prepare for free, fair, and competitive elections.
Today, Tunisians are looking for new investments, increased transparency, greater access to global and regional markets, and new assistance for their entrepreneurs. That is why we are launching the U.S.-Tunisia Joint Political and Economic Partnership, which is a foundation for our relationship that will not only support the short-term needs of the Tunisian people, but also their long-term economic aspirations. Tunisia is open for business, and we want people to know that, and I particularly want American business to know that.
Also, the Millennium Challenge Corporation is examining Tunisia’s eligibility for a threshold program, which would help Tunisia design and undertake a democratic reform program with an aim toward economic reform. Through our Overseas Private Investment Corporation, we are working to boost franchising and lending to small and medium-sized businesses.
Now, the United States and Tunisia have a long history of partnership and collaboration. In fact, only two years after the United States declared our independence, we signed our first agreement of friendship, cooperation, and trade. Since then, we have traded, collaborated, and built bonds of friendship between us. This signing is another step forward in our long relationship, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the minister and the government, as we proudly stand with Tunisia at this critical time in your history, and do all we can to assist you in realizing a future of peace, progress, and opportunity.
FOREIGN MINISTER KEFI: Thank you very much. Well, I think I have nothing to add to what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. True, our relationship goes back 200 years ago, and as you mentioned, Secretary of State, Tunisia was among the first countries to recognize the young, independent state of the United States.
What happened in Tunisia on the 14th of January is almost the same as what the fathers from the independence did to this country, from George Washington, to Jefferson, to Adams, to Benjamin Franklin, when they wrote the Constitution. We the People, our hope, our wish, is that tomorrow the new constitution of Tunisia, a democratic, free, independent country, will be also We the People. And we (inaudible) from the American long democracy.
Our political relations are very good, and I’m glad the Secretary of State mentioned this first partnership – political and economic partnership we are signing, the new Tunisia, the first country is the United States, and we are grateful for that, Secretary of State. We hope we build on this document and we see more American businessmen coming to Tunisia. Tunisia is open and ready for business. And after the number of high officials from the United States, your congressmen who came, and even some major CEOs who already went to Tunisia, we hope that we put more flesh on the bone, and that our bilateral relationship on the economic, cultural, (inaudible) investment, trade will be boosted by this document we signed together.
We are glad we are now sharing the same values of freedom, democracy, and we are glad to be part of this elite like the United States.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, if you could update us on your work on the Middle East – how were your meetings last night, was there any progress with your meetings with Abbas and Netanyahu, and also is the Quartet any closer to coming to a statement?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say this. I think it is important to note that regardless of what happens tomorrow in the United Nations, we remain focused on the day after. And I was encouraged to hear from both the leadership of the Palestinians and the Israeli Government their continuing commitment to direct negotiations. They both recognize that there has to be a resolution of the outstanding issues to produce a functioning Palestinian state that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and there have to be agreements that provide Israel with the security that it seeks living side-by-side with the new Palestinian state.
So I am – as I have been, I remain committed to working with the parties to obtain the goal that the United States supports; that is, a two-state solution. And as President Obama said yesterday in his speech, we will leave no effort or stone unturned in our commitment to achieving that.
Thank you all very much.
QUESTION: How about on a Quartet statement, Madam Secretary? Is there any progress on that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re continuing to work as hard as we can on everything, Arshad.