Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Remarks Following Meeting
Washington, DC
February 3, 2009

Date: 02/03/2009 Description: Secretary Clinton meets with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the State Department.   State Dept PhotoSECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. I’m very pleased to be here today with Foreign Minister Steinmeier. We have had an excellent and broad discussion. Germany is one of our closest allies, and we greatly value opportunities like today to discuss the issues that affect our nations and the international community as a whole.

I conveyed to the Foreign Minister this afternoon our deep appreciation for everything Germany has done for the people of Afghanistan and for its continued commitment to this important effort. As President Obama has made quite clear, we need our closest allies, like Germany, to help us ensure the success and stability of the Afghanistan nation at this very important moment.

We also discussed Iran. The United States and Germany must work together to ensure that Iran fulfills its obligations to the international community. President Obama has signaled his intention to support tough and direct diplomacy with Iran, but if Tehran does not comply with United Nations Security Council and IAEA mandates, there must be consequences. The United States, Germany, and our EU partners must coordinate closely to obtain the best possible outcomes.

We also discussed the situation in the Middle East and the importance of coordination between our countries to ensure that the ceasefire that is being worked toward in Gaza is sustainable.

We discussed a broad range of issues, including what we see as the need to work constructively and develop a common approach with Russia in the coming months on issues like Afghanistan, Iran, Georgia, and others.

You know, the longstanding and enduring German-American relationship is close and firm. And as our meeting today made clear, we rely on Germany’s support and assistance to face global challenges together. And so it is my sincere hope – and my delight that I was able to welcome the Foreign Minister here today. I look forward to working with him on a personal basis and on behalf of our two countries to make the kind of progress that he and I and we all share and hope to see occur.

Thank you so much.

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: (Via interpreter) Madame Secretary Hillary, I would like to thank you very much, most warmly, for the kind reception here in Washington. When a German foreign minister comes to the United States, it’s for one thing always, visiting friends, and secondly, it’s to assure you that Germany, the German population, has not forgotten that the freedom and security of Europe is, to a great deal, thanks to the help of America.

We today discussed the transatlantic ties, the relations between Germany and the United States, and this is not the first time that I’ve been underscoring that it is my impression we must not let this good transatlantic relationship become a routine, but indeed breathe life to it every day and fill it with life. And therefore, I’m particularly grateful, Hillary, that you also agree that this transatlantic relationship needs also to embrace a number of themes that are there for us to reflect on.

Hillary, I think it was 12 or 18 months ago that I spoke at Harvard University, and in my speech I touched on a number of tools and instruments in foreign policy that are there for us to use. And also, in that respect, I talked of – I talked about smart power. Now, at the time, roughly a year ago, I could not possibly foresee that today we are talking to an American administration that, in many points, agrees with our stance and that agrees that we need to embrace those new opportunities not only to reduce the severity of international conflicts, but in some cases, also find a resolution.

In your introductory words, you touched on a number of international conflicts that will keep us preoccupied in the days and weeks to come. And one of them includes, obviously, Afghanistan, but also Iraq. And the news that we’re hearing today from the Middle East is also telling us that the ceasefire there is still very fragile.

And after the news that has been communicated yesterday by the satellite launch in Iran, we also have to understand now that we are facing there in that country technical capabilities that really urgently require an intensified dialogue between us in the weeks and months to come. On the topic of Iran, therefore, it is very important that we work together, be it in the E-3+3 format or the 5+1 format – something that our staff will continue to work on instantly.

It is with particular pleasure, Hillary, that I note that one theme has returned to the transatlantic agenda, and that is the issue that has been banned quite for unjustified reasons in the past, namely disarmament and arms control, especially given the current situation around arms control treaties like START or the Conventional Forces in Europe. I think we as foreign ministers have to engage in a dialogue in order to make disarmament and arms control a reality, rather than letting it erode. And it’s a particular pleasure that in the form of the new American administration, I now see a very good interlocutor in those efforts.

Other items on the transatlantic agenda are questions like climate protection, energy, security and not least of all, food security.

And also, there’s one theme on the transatlantic agenda that is quite involuntarily there, I should say, and that is how we deal with the financial crisis in the current situation. And I understand – it is my firm belief – that the means that we take to combat this crisis are very similar in the United States and in Germany and are perceived equally.

I talked today to the senators, and I’ve made it very clear that we are sharing a sorrow that there be new protectionist tendencies worldwide that will do us no good, because I am convinced that both the United States and its economy, as the European and German one, are depending on open markets, on open exchange, and closed markets will be no help at all in this given situation.

And finally, Hillary, once again, thank you very much indeed for the very detailed and intense conversation we had today. And it would be a great pleasure to welcome you to Berlin as soon as possible.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Maybe – yes.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Stephan Bachenheimer from Deutsche Welle TV. You mentioned that Germany is very important, an important partner, in particular, with regard to Afghanistan. What is on your wish list? What would you wish from Germany to contribute, knowing that the German parliament is rather stubborn?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, in our discussion today, we talked about the range of needs that Afghanistan has. Our government is undergoing a policy review with respect to our policy on Afghanistan. Our Special Representative Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will be in the region next week, and then we will discuss with our friends about what we all can do together. And I appreciate Frank’s very constructive advice about what is possible and how we can ensure that our approach toward Afghanistan will be as unified and constructive as we can make it.

QUESTION: Nicholas Kralev of Washington Times. Madame Secretary, do you have a comment on the Iranian missile launch today? And are you concerned about reports that Russia might have pressured Kyrgyzstan not to allow the United States to use the base in Kyrgyzstan for operations in Afghanistan? Thanks.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are obviously concerned about Iranian behavior on a very broad base. It’s not limited to any one event or activity. And as you know, we’re undergoing a comprehensive review of how best to approach Iran and how to influence its behavior going forward.

And I think you’ll find that there is increasing commonality among the United States, our European allies, friends in the Gulf and the Middle East that we need a more effective and united approach toward Iran. And I think that’s – that’s our goal. And I was very pleased in the conversation with the Foreign Minister to hear some of his thoughts about how that could be achieved.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Was Guantanamo on your talking list today?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.

QUESTION: Was Guantanamo on your agenda today?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I explained to the Foreign Minister that we are following the President’s direction with an executive order that he signed on his first day in office to close Guantanamo in a year. There are a number of steps that have to be taken and studies that have to be conducted. But we’re not in any way at a point where we’re prepared to explain, in any detail, all of the actions that we intend to undertake. It’s a very intensive effort that has been undertaken. I understand the concerns that Germany and other nations have, but it is not timely for us to come to Germany or any country with any specific request yet. And I – you want to add anything to that, Frank?

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: (Via interpreter.) All I can add to that – indeed, the United States is currently in a process of devising the next steps that lead to the closure of Guantanamo. And therefore, it is not – it is not yet the case that any official request has been made to a third country. And all I can say is that we’re going to respond to any such formal requests only once they have been made.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.

PRN: 096