Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–May 14, 2010.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. I am delighted to welcome Foreign Secretary Hague here to the State Department on his first overseas trip in his new position. I was pleased to host him when he was in his shadow stage some months ago, so this is not the first time that we’ve had the opportunity for a substantive discussion about a very broad range of important matters.
The election of a new government in the United Kingdom and the smooth transfer of power this week were two powerful symbols of the enduring democratic traditions that our two nations share. And we’re very intrigued by and will follow closely the latest incarnation of this long democratic tradition. We’re reminded again that our common values are the foundation of an historic alliance that really undergirds our common aspirations and our common concerns. The Obama Administration looks forward to working with the new British Government. We will continue to build on the deep and abiding trust that has existed between the British and American people for a very long time.
The foreign secretary and I had a lot to talk about today. We discussed our shared mission in Afghanistan, and he reaffirmed his government’s commitment to working with the international community and the Afghans to achieve long-term stability there. The United States is deeply appreciative of the British contributions in Afghanistan, and we honor the sacrifices of the British service members who serve their country with such distinction overseas. The United States and the United Kingdom are also firmly committed to the NATO mission in Afghanistan and we support the efforts by the Afghan Government to fight corruption and build a stable and secure government and country. We will continue our very close consultations on these matters going forward.
We also remain united in our insistence that Iran fulfill its international obligations and prove that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Contrary to recent suggestions, Iran has not indicated any interest in or accepted the standing offer of the P-5+1 to discuss international concerns over its nuclear program. Rather, Iran’s senior officials continue to say they will not talk about their nuclear program with us. So we are working closely with our UK and other partners on a new Security Council resolution affirming that there are serious consequences should Iran continue to flout its international obligations and fail to comply with both IAEA decisions and UN Security Council resolutions.
The foreign secretary and I also discussed the importance of finding a way forward in the Middle East peace process. Our countries will continue working together to encourage all parties to resume direct negotiations. We seek a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with an overall goal of securing a comprehensive peace in the Middle East that requires everyone at the table.
And of course, there are so many other issues that we touched on. We share a mutual interest in restoring confidence in the financial sector in Europe and in the Eurozone, as well as the global economy. We will continue working together to restore economic stability.
So I look forward to a very strong working relationship with the foreign secretary. And it is a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity to begin what will be long, close, and at times, intense consultations over the months and years ahead.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you. Well, it’s an immense pleasure for me to be here today. I was here not so many months ago as a shadow foreign secretary and we had a very good meeting then. But it was always one of my hopes that we would have the opportunity to work together in government, and now we do have the opportunity to do so.
It’s been an extraordinary week, really, in British politics. It’s only a week since the election results were coming in, and now we have a new government created in a new way in Britain. And one of the things that has struck the prime minister and I is the sheer warmth of the welcome we have had from the United States. The first person to call David Cameron, when he entered 10 Downing Street, was the President of the United States. And the first person to call me when I entered the foreign office was Secretary Clinton. And Vice President Biden has had an excellent chat on the telephone with our new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
And one of the reasons I wanted to come here so quickly and have our meeting is to show that we reciprocate that warmth, and we are looking forward to exactly the relationship which the Secretary of State has been describing.
This new British Government has some real ambition and energy and determination to rebuild our economic strength at home, which is, of course, the foundation of any successful foreign policy, but also to deliver distinctive British foreign policy abroad. And I’m aware, coming into this job, that the challenges of foreign policy are uniquely tricky. And that is why I’ve always had such huge admiration for Secretary Clinton. The leadership she has provided to the international community as Secretary of State, the energy, the ideas, her advocacy of women’s rights, education, development, and effective diplomacy are an inspiring example to other foreign ministers and would-be foreign ministers around the world. And I pay tribute to her for that.
And today, we’ve had very productive talks that reflect this very wide agenda of issues on which the United Kingdom and the United States work in partnership on. We talked indeed about our joint effort in Afghanistan, which the prime minister has made our top priority in foreign affairs where we will give the strategy – the NATO strategy and the agreements made at the London Conference the time and support to succeed. We discussed the closely related situation in Pakistan where we and the United States share common goals, and indeed have been – have already started discussing ways to enhance and strengthen our cooperation and the support that we give to Pakistan.
We discussed Iran, where we of course agreed on the need to send a strong and united signal about Iran’s nuclear program to secure the passage of a UN Security Council resolution. And the United Kingdom will thereafter, of course, play a key role in ensuring that there is determined action by the European Union to follow up such a resolution.
We spoke about the Middle East peace process where I expressed my firm and full support for the President’s efforts to re-launch negotiations and what we, as a leading member of the EU, can do to buttress these efforts. We’ll work together on the crucial issue of nuclear proliferation and the progress we hope will be made in New York. And we discussed developments in Europe and I reiterated my determination that the European Union should be a strong partner with the United States in meeting our shared challenges and the determination of the new British Government to play a highly active and activist role in the European Union from the very beginning.
And finally, I just want to say a few words about what the President has called the extraordinarily special relationship between Britain and the United States, and we’re very happy to accept that description and to agree with that description. The United States is, without doubt, the most important ally of the United Kingdom. Fundamentally, it is a relationship rooted in the strong alignment of our national interests. And the scope of our cooperation is unparalleled. Our military, our diplomats, our intelligence and security agencies work hand-in-glove together. It’s not a backward-looking or nostalgic relationship. It is one looking to the future, from combating violent extremism to addressing poverty and conflict around the world.
So I believe the UK and the U.S. share common priorities to an extraordinary degree, and we will continue to pursue these priorities. And what I think we can confidently say is an unbreakable alliance, and it’s on that basis that I’ve so much enjoyed our talks today. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, William.
MR. CROWLEY: We have time for two questions on each side. We’ll begin with Charlie Wolfson of CBS.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, we’ve spent a lot of time this week talking about Afghanistan, so forgive me if I switch the subject to Iraq. There’s been a lot of violence in the wake of the parliamentary elections in Iraq in places which, in fact, have been fairly quiet recently. Does – is the Administration concerned about this? How deeply are you concerned and how might it affect the timetable of the troop withdrawal?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Charlie, of course we’re concerned anytime there is the level of violence that we’ve seen and the loss of life and destruction that it has caused. But we are not worried about the ability of the Iraqi people and their institutions to work together to overcome the threat that the extremists are constantly presenting them with.
In fact, we also have seen signs of al-Qaida in Iraq becoming much less of a threat overall, but the spate of recent bombings has certainly been heartbreaking for those who were affected. But what is heartening to us is that the government and the people seem undeterred. There has not been a reaction that has pitted communities against each other. There has not been recriminations even in this difficult period of government formation that is ongoing.
So overall, we are very convinced that Iraq is certainly able to deal with these in both the military and police functions, but also, equally importantly, in their political structures. And we see nothing that would in any way interfere with our timetable for withdrawing American troops.
MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible), BBC.
QUESTION: Foreign Secretary, Madam Secretary, James (inaudible) with BBC. You talked about being intrigued by this new incarnation of democracy in Britain, and I wonder if in the spirit of a two-party government I could ask you two quick questions. One is: Is there any part of you that’s worried about possible fractures in a coalition government, something very unusual in Britain, leading to a lack of solidity in your relationship with Britain and the degree to which you can rely on Britain as a partner?
And on Afghanistan particularly, are you concerned, as many seem to be in Britain, that the surge simply isn’t delivering fast enough and President Karzai, in particular, certainly is hardly delivering at all?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to the first question, the answer is no. I have absolutely no concerns whatsoever. We don’t formally have a coalition government in the way that you have formed one in the UK now. But we have enough of our own internal differences that we have to sort through. So I see nothing at all unusual about this new government. And from our perspective, it is off to a very strong start, and certainly on the foreign policy front, which I follow very closely, obviously, we are extremely pleased. And this meeting and discussion just confirmed our close partnership and our commitment to working together.
And Afghanistan is in one of those areas. I would beg to differ with the premise of the question. I think that the actions that our coalition forces, the NATO ISAF forces, are undertaking are proving to be effective. We conducted our own very thorough review when President Obama took office. And in the course of that review, we made three conclusions. Number one, what happened in Afghanistan was critical to America’s security interests in our own home, country, and beyond in the countries of our friends and allies like Great Britain.
Number two, that the Taliban had, after having been driven out of Afghanistan, regained momentum. And that that momentum had to be broken and that it would require from the U.S. and from our allies more troops on the ground in order to achieve that objective. And I am seeing signs of that.
But that thirdly, there had to be a very close civilian-military partnership because you do not expect to win what is called a counterinsurgency by military means alone. The military commanders who are in charge of this on our side – General Petraeus on the international side, General McChrystal – are taking all the lessons that they learned from Iraq and applying them in Afghanistan, and I think to good effect.
But we also know that we have to strengthen the capacity of the Government of Afghanistan. And I would just add for a little bit of context here this country was so ravaged by not only war, but the most intense conflict and depredations that destroyed so much of their history, of their infrastructure that it may seem like it’s a long time to us with our timeframes in the U.S. and the UK, but the nine years – not even yet – the eight-plus years that have gone by since the routing of the Taliban have seen significant improvements in the lives of the people of Afghanistan and the creation of a democratic government where there had been none.
So are we satisfied? No. That was the substance of our lengthy meetings with President Karzai and a number of his key ministers, many of whom were here to report on the progress that they are making in very critical areas like the economy, like agriculture, like health and education. So part of what we will be doing with our counterparts, with the foreign secretary and others, is to be working to review where we are, what more we need to do, and how we can better coordinate our efforts. I think our military efforts are very well-coordinated, but on the civilian, the governance side, the development side, we want to make sure that we are making the best investments.
And so all in all, this is a big challenge. I’m not going to undersell that. But it is in our interests, or we would not be there. And we are making progress and we have a very clear understanding of how much more we and the Afghans also need to be doing.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Just to add to that, I share this perspective on Afghanistan. That is why we say we will give the time and support for the strategy in Afghanistan to succeed. Of course, as a new administration in Britain, we will take stock of how we can best do that. And that includes enhancing and reinforcing the cooperation between the United Kingdom and the United States at the highest levels, so we have a clear shared perspective on what we are doing.
On the first question about the nature of the new government in Britain, I think it’s very important for our partners and friends around the world to know that what we’ve set out to achieve here is a particularly stable period in British politics and government. Two political – two of the three political parties that fought in our election have come together to put the national interest ahead of the party interest, creating, as we have done so, a sizeable majority in the House of Commons to sustain a government over a full five-year term. And I think there has been a strong welcome for that around the world because it does mean stability in Britain to pursue the kind of objectives that we’ve been talking about today. And everything I’ve said today about the – about our approach to relations with the United States is an approach shared by the whole cabinet, and I’m speaking on behalf of a united government.
MR. CROWLEY: Arshad Mohammed from Reuters.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, you spoke to Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo for an hour on Tuesday night. Did that conversation bring you materially closer to consensus on an Iran resolution? And related, it seems inevitable that the Iranians will try to use this weekend’s visit by President Lula to try to blunt the momentum toward additional sanctions at the Security Council. What have you told Foreign Minister Davutoglu of Turkey and also what is the Administration telling the Brazilians in any conversations that you’ve having to try to prevent that from happening?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, first I did have a very lengthy and substantive conversation with State Councilor Dai Bingguo and we covered a lot of the negotiating points that are being pursued in New York. We are making progress every day. This is a – the highest priority not only of the United States but of many of our partners and allies like the UK, and we believe that the case is being made perhaps most effectively by the Iranians themselves. Because when the United States and allies like the UK began pointing out, starting last fall, that the Iranians were not responding to our offers of engagement, that the offer that was made through the IAEA for the Tehran research reactor approach was not accepted, that there had been no meetings since the meeting in Geneva in October, that the Iranians unilaterally said they would start enriching at 20 percent, when the undisclosed facility of Qom was revealed, and the IAEA under Director General Amano issued its report, every step along the way has demonstrated clearly to the world that Iran is not participating in the international arena in the way that we had asked them to do and that they continue to pursue their nuclear program.
So yes, we’re aware of the fact that there will be a meeting in Iran. I also spoke at length to the Brazilian foreign minister. And most significantly, the interchange between President Lula and President Medvedev in Moscow today illustrated the hill that the Brazilians are attempting to climb, because the Brazilians are still hopeful that because of President Lula’s visit that the Iranians will agree to meet with the P-5+1, that they will accept the Tehran research reactor proposal, that they will begin to abide by the international obligations. And in fact, President Medvedev told President Lula in the context of the visit that he didn’t give him more than a one-in-three chance.
So the world leadership, as evidenced by the Security Council, has moved in the same direction, some perhaps more quickly than others, but in the direction of reaffirming the authority of the Security Council, of putting some real teeth into the sanctions, of uniting the world in a way that will send an unequivocal message to the Iranian leadership.
And finally, I have told my counterparts in many capitals around the world that I believe that we will not get any serious response out of the Iranians until after the Security Council acts.
QUESTION: Mr. Hague, there have been, obviously, several foreign secretaries under the previous government to grapple with the Iran issue, and over that time it’s edged just ever closer towards developing a weapon. I just wondered what you thought you could bring to this subject that might be different from the approach of the past government. And looking ahead, at what point do you think we might get to that stage where a strike of some sort, a military strike of some sort, on Iran will be discussed?
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Well, I’m not looking for differences with previous British administrations. We supported the efforts of the outgoing Labour government working with the United States on this subject. And so there will be a strong continuity of British policy on this matter and I fully endorse everything that Secretary Clinton has just said about it. The United Kingdom will work solidly alongside the United States to secure the Security Council resolution we’ve just been speaking of. And we will play the role within the European Union that I spoke of before and we will do everything we can as a new government in Britain to persuade our partners in Europe that it will be necessary to show Europe’s determination to take some similar steps, many similar steps, to those taken by the United States to intensify the peaceful pressure on Iran. I’ve long advocated that the European Union should adopt financial sanctions of the kind the United States has implemented on this issue, but of course, we’ll have to get into the specifics of that once the Security Council resolution is passed.
So there is no magic to this approach. It requires persistence and determination and united strength in the international community to tackle this problem. And so we will buttress that, as indeed our predecessors have tried to do. And we are not calling – and we’ve never ruled out supporting in the future military action, but we’re not calling for it. It is precisely because we want to see this matter settled peacefully and rapidly that we call for the sanctions and we support the idea of a Security Council resolution. So that is our perspective on it.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you very much indeed.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you all.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Excellent meeting.