Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
March 2, 2009


QUESTION: Madame Secretary of State, thank you for being with us.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.

QUESTION: It’s a great pleasure to have you on Egyptian Television. You’re coming here – this is your first visit to the region as the Secretary of State. And after eight years of the Bush politics that have inflicted such damage to the image of the United States and to the region itself, what are you telling the people of the region about your foreign politics? What are we expecting from you? Are we expecting better relations? Are we expecting a more balanced America? Are we expecting a new foreign policy?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are looking forward because we have a new President and he has made it very clear that the United States is going to reach out to the rest of the world. We will consult and listen to our friends and allies like Egypt, which has been a partner of the United States for a number of years. We will work together wherever possible to resolve conflicts and bridge divides.

As President Obama said in his inaugural address, we’re extending an open hand. If those who still have clenched fists will release that, we will work together. So I think what our message is very clear – that consistent with American values and ideals, our commitment to trying to be a facilitator to solve difficult problems - we’re going to be deeply engaged.

I think that is evidenced here in this region by the fact that on the second day he was President, President Obama came to the State Department. He and I announced our Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. We did not waste any time to demonstrate this was of the highest priority.

When Egypt invited us to this conference, I cleared my schedule so that I could personally be here along with our Special Envoy, because there is a lot of work to be done to build our relationships, to be a good listener as well as actor, and we’re tackling these problems from the very beginning of the Obama Administration.

QUESTION: You’ve mentioned Egypt as a friend and as an ally. In fact, the Egyptian-American relations have gone through bumpy relations during the Bush era as well – conditionalities on assistance, and human rights – recent human rights reports. Where are we heading? Are we seeing a new page in that relation?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are friends, but even friends don’t agree on everything. We have a very constructive relationship. I had wonderful meetings today with President Mubarak, with the prime minister, with the foreign minister and other ministers of your government.

And in the course of those, we renewed our commitment to work together on a range of challenges that are not just of concern to the United States, but are of grave concern to Egypt – which is one of the reasons why Egypt played such a leadership role in trying to resolve the situation in Gaza, tried to create a durable ceasefire, trying to find a way to bring all Palestinians together, and we are supportive of that.

And we also want to take our relationship to the next level. We discussed today at breakfast with President Mubarak creating a formal bilateral dialogue that would be meaningful and cover the range of issues that we have concerns about.

QUESTION: With no conditionalities?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are very much looking at this because the conditionality is something that is not our policy, not the Obama Administration policy. So we will be discussing everything.

QUESTION: You’re going tomorrow or maybe tonight to Israel?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: You’re meeting with Netanyahu, someone who has rejected for such a long time the two-state solution. What are you going to tell him? Are you going to talk to him about freezing the settlements, about opening the crossings and the corridors for humanitarian aids?

SECRETARY CLINTON: As you know, the Israelis are forming their government. They don’t yet have a government. We will be meeting with everyone – the current government, those who are in negotiations to form the next government.

On this first trip, I will certainly convey the very strong commitment that the United States has, as I announced again today at the conference here in Sharm el-Sheikh, to a two-state solution, a comprehensive peace – a just, secure peace where the Palestinians, where Israel and the Arab neighbors can live in a productive and constructive ways together to the benefit of all the people.

I got into politics because I care deeply about what happens to children. And as I said today, a child growing up in Gaza has just as much of a right to a job, to an education, to healthcare, as a child growing up anywhere. And parents in the West Bank have just as much right to expect that their children will grow up and have a future that is worthy of their efforts. That’s what motivates me. That is what I’m going to work toward.

So in this first meeting, we will be reasserting what we believe should be the American policy.

Our Special Envoy Senator Mitchell has already met several times. As soon as there is a government in place, he will be coming back. And we are going to put our very best efforts to work here.

QUESTION: On Syria, President Obama today said that he prefers talks, or he’s looking forward to talks, direct talks with Syria. Are we seeing, again, an ambassador, American ambassador, going back to Syria, to Damascus?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are beginning a conversation with the Syrians. We have a number of issues between the United States and Syria. We are concerned about the role that Syria has played which – as you know so well here in Egypt – has not been viewed as productive, but also beyond in the Gulf as well. We’re just beginning to have that conversation. I don’t know where it will lead. But we want the Syrians to know that we are willing to talk and to listen and to see whether there are ways that we can solve some of the problems between us.

QUESTION: Does this go along for Iran as well?

SECRETARY CLINTON: As the President has said, we are open to having engagement but we will do so only in consultation with our friends like Egypt. We are not going off on our own. We are talking with our friends and our allies who have concerns, deep concerns about Iranian behavior and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, its support of terrorism, frankly, including Hamas.

And we want to make it clear to the Iranians that again unclench your fist, come to the table in good faith. We will consult with our friends and allies. And if there is way that we can work toward some resolution of these problems that bother us, Egypt, and others, we would welcome that.

QUESTION: One last question because I know you have to – you have other engagements. How is it – is it more difficult to be a Secretary of State rather than being a First Lady or a candidate? Which is more interesting?

SECRETARY CLINTON: They’re all interesting. They really are.

QUESTION: Which is more difficult?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I have to say, they’re each difficult. When I was First Lady - that’s not a job. You make it up as you go along. I was very interested in all kinds of important issues. When I came to Egypt on some wonderful trips, I was fortunate to engage with your leaders and with many people throughout the country. As a Senator, I represented 19 million people in New York, all of whom had an opinion that I had to listen to.

QUESTION: That’s difficult.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Now, here I am as Secretary of State and working in an Administration under a President with whom I had a political contest. But it was so important to me when he asked me - as a former opponent - to come into his government so that we could work together to bring the American people together. So that we could meet with so many important officials around the world to start solving the problems that we all face, that I said, absolutely.

And there’s a lot of work to be done, but I’m honored to do it.

QUESTION: I want to thank you very much. And I want to tell you that the people in the region are really looking forward to a better America, a better American (inaudible)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. It’s great to be with you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, great to be with you. Thank you.

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PRN: 2009/T2-4