And with the constantly growing economic and strategic importance of the Asia Pacific, it is even more pressing that we strengthen those historic ties and deepen our cooperation to meet the challenges of the future. The Wellington Declaration, which we signed during my visit to New Zealand, ensures that our governments are in regular contact on a wide range of shared concerns, and we addressed a number of those today.
Before I begin to talk about our bilateral meeting, I’d like to say a few words about the Baghdad round of E3+3 talks which have just concluded. We set forth a detailed proposal focused on all aspects of 20 percent enrichment based on concrete step-by-step reciprocal measures. We had intensive discussions with the Iranians on our proposal. They put forth their own ideas. As Lady Ashton said, significant differences remain. We will seek to address those differences at a further round of talks which will take place in Moscow on June 18th and 19th.
As we lay the groundwork for these talks, we will keep up the pressure as part of our dual-track approach. All of our sanctions will remain in place and continue to move forward during this period. Iran now has the choice to make – will it meet its international obligations and give the world confidence about its intentions or not?
I’d also like to mention Egypt’s historic first round of presidential elections, which is just wrapping up as we speak. This is obviously an important milestone in Egypt’s transition to democratic government. And the world is watching as the Egyptian people embark on their journey toward a freer, more democratic future debating and deciding among themselves about the best way to take these first steps. And we will continue to support them.
Lastly, on the conviction of Dr. Shakil Afridi in Pakistan, as I’ve said before, the United States does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr. Afridi. We regret both the fact that he was convicted and the severity of his sentence. His help, after all, was instrumental in taking down one of the world’s most notorious murderers. That was clearly in Pakistan’s interests as well as ours and the rest of the world. This action by Dr. Afridi to help bring about the end of the reign of terror designed and executed by bin Ladin was not in any way a betrayal of Pakistan. And we have made that very well known and we will continue to press it with the Government of Pakistan.
Now the foreign minister and I covered a great deal about our bilateral relationship as well as regional and global issues. I want to thank the foreign minister and the Government of New Zealand for the excellent role they played and the contributions they made to the success of the NATO Summit over the weekend in Chicago. We saluted New Zealand’s leadership in Bamyan Province and the orderly plans it has set in place for an effective transition to Afghan leadership. New Zealand’s commitment to this critical effort has been exemplary, and we are enormously grateful for the service and sacrifice of the people of your country.
Next, on Burma, as you know, the United States is in the process of easing certain restrictions and sanctions on that country. And we believe and have encouraged our New Zealand friends as well to work with the international community to move forward the reforms, both political and economic, as well as taking actions to improve human rights, speed democratization, and foster national reconciliation.
I also expressed our appreciation to New Zealand for their strong support of the people of Syria, and by the actions that they have taken to help support Kofi Annan’s mission. By supplying personnel, New Zealand has helped the UN’s supervision mission ramp up operations quickly, and we also are grateful for New Zealand’s generous support for the UN refugee program for Syrians fleeing into Turkey. Together, we must increase our pressure on the Assad regime, and we must continue to work toward the day when there will be a political transition that will give the Syrian people the chance to chart their own future.
And finally, I thanked the foreign minister for New Zealand’s leadership as chair of the Pacific Islands Forum this year. New Zealand’s efforts have brought a needed focus on development coordination and curbing climate change. The United States will continue to work with the Pacific Island nations, especially when it comes to responding to disasters, as we saw with flooding and landslides in Papua New Guinea and Fiji earlier this year.
So once again, Murray, it’s always a pleasure for me to have a chance to sit down across the table from you, and to continue this important dialogue between our countries.
FOREIGN MINISTER MCCULLY: Thank you, Hillary. Ladies and gentlemen, today we’ve had the opportunity for excellent talks, and I thank the Secretary of State for her time and for those excellent discussions. They’re part of a pattern of regular engagement that we now have following the signing of the Wellington Declaration about 18 months ago.
Reflecting on the relationship and its development, I was very pleased to be able to tell Secretary Clinton that we are in two weeks time going to receive a delegation of Marines, 50 in number, plus a 50-person Marine band that will be involved in a series of events in New Zealand over about three weeks to commemorate the landing in New Zealand 70 years ago of U.S. forces which provided security and protection for the New Zealand people at a time when we were not in a position to afford that security and protection to ourselves. So this will be a chance for that deed of honor to be recognized. Also there’ll be a chance for New Zealanders to see the Marines exercising with some of our own people, and so this is going to be a symbolic time looking backwards but also looking at the contemporary relationship. Those exercises are part of a pattern of regular exercises that now take place between military personnel from both of our countries. We now have a process of cooperation and exercising that is normal and which we strongly welcome.
The talks we’ve had today have been an opportunity to update ourselves on a range of areas, as Secretary Clinton has said: Afghanistan, where we’ve both just come back from the meeting in Chicago; the Asia Pacific region, where New Zealand strongly welcomes the rebalancing of U.S. resourcing which has seen the Asia Pacific region become a stronger area for focus on your part. We welcome in particular the engagement with the East Asia Summit and the suite of meetings that give us both a chance to work cooperatively promoting the joint interest in security and stability in the region.
We had a chance to review developments in the Middle East briefly, Syria, and of course, as Secretary Clinton has mentioned, Burma. I’ve had the opportunity to visit quite recently, and we’re looking to reinforce the work that is being done under U.S. leadership and some of the work that has been done by the EU in Burma to promote improvements in that country.
Turning briefly to the Pacific, I updated Secretary Clinton on the work we’re leading as forum chair. Our hopes for continuing improvement in the situation in Fiji as we move closer to elections that have been scheduled for 2014. We discussed briefly the challenging situation that’s emerged in Papua New Guinea in recent months. We in New Zealand and Australia are closely engaged, and I thank Secretary Clinton in particular for the USAID engagement in the region, where we now have a USAID office in Port Moresby and our first joint project on Tarawa is underway.
So while we’ve still got plenty of work ahead of us, it’s probably appropriate for me to look back over the last three years or so in this relationship as a time of quite remarkable progress. And I want to acknowledge the positive and effective leadership that Secretary Clinton has brought to that process, and I also want to acknowledge the deep goodwill and friendship that she has brought to New Zealand as well.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, my friend.
MODERATOR: (Inaudible) today. We will start with Reuters, Arshad Mohammed.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, on the Baghdad talks, it’s hardly surprising that differences would remain after only two rounds. Would you say that you made any substantive progress whatsoever in today’s talks?
And on the case of Dr. Afridi, beyond expressing regret and restating your view that there was no basis for his incarceration and sentencing, are you actively seeking to negotiate some kind of a solution that might reduce his sentence or free him inside Pakistan or get him out of the country?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, on the first question regarding the talks in Baghdad, as you know, the talks just concluded and I haven’t had time to get a full debrief from our team yet. But I will say that they were serious. They were an opportunity for the E3+3 to engage on substantive matters with the Iranians. But there are clearly gaps in what each side sees as possible, and we think that the choice is now Iran’s to work to close the gaps. We anticipate there will be ongoing work between now and the next meeting in Moscow. But it’s very clear that there’s a lot of work still to do. Yet at the same time, I have to say this is the second of two serious meetings after a gap of at least 15 months where there was no contact and no discussion about any of these matters. So we will continue to engage seriously with our partners.
And the final point I would make is that the entire E3+3 group is united. And I think if you had asked three and a half years ago, certainly when I started this job, could we have unity around some very difficult issues with Iran and have everybody onboard speaking literally off the same page with the same voice, there would have been a certain level of skepticism. So I will leave it at that. But Cathy Ashton summarized for the press where she saw matters, and we will be consulting deeply with my own team and then with the other countries involved.
With respect to Dr. Afridi, we are in the midst of a series of discussions with the Pakistani Government on a range of issues that are important to the United States and the international community. We certainly consider the treatment of Dr. Afridi to be among those important issues. We are raising it and we will continue to do so because we think that his treatment is unjust and unwarranted.
MS. NULAND: Last question from Daniel Ranchez (inaudible).
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for taking the question. I’d like to ask the foreign minister first if he made a pitch for membership of the UN Security Council – a seat on it. And if he did, what are the main points? And Secretary Clinton, will you endorse New Zealand having a seat on the Security Council? (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER MCCULLY: Can I answer, I think for the Secretary as well, by saying that New Zealand well understands that, as a permanent member of the Security Council, the United States doesn’t make commitments on those matters in advance, and we deeply respect that. But I did take the opportunity of burnishing New Zealand’s credentials briefly – (laughter) – in the course of our discussion.
As part of our ongoing campaign, we are engaged in a touch fight to become a member of the Security Council in 2015 and 16. We think it is very important that smaller countries are able to achieve the opportunity to be represented on the council, and we’re very proud of the way in which we’ve conducted ourselves as a member of the Security Council in the past – probably about 20 years ago – and most recently when we’ve, I believe, dealt with difficult issues well. And I hope that our credentials there will stand any scrutiny.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I would only add that we certainly welcome New Zealand’s candidacy for a nonpermanent seat and are quite admiring of the campaign that is being run. (Laughter.) Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.