Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tallinn, Estonia
April 22, 2010


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, and I am delighted to be back in Tallinn. I want to thank the foreign minister for his hospitality and his warm welcome. It was certainly a touch-and-go decision as we watched with great concern from the other side of the Atlantic the disruption caused by the volcanic ash clouds. And we know that thousands of people here in Europe are still stranded, including many Americans, and trying to get home. Families have been separated, businesses have suffered significant losses, and I really commend everyone in Europe who has been working to get the stranded travelers home as quickly and efficiently as possible – including, I understand, your own president, who was traveling for days – to get back for this important meeting.

When I visited Estonia in 1994, this nation was emerging from Soviet occupation and just beginning to build the economic institutions and the civil society needed for a functioning, vibrant democracy. When I came back in 2004, only 10 years later, Estonia was a proud new member of NATO and of the EU. And today, Estonia is not only a trusted and valued ally to the United States, but it is a model for countries, particularly new democracies, the world over.

I want to thank the Estonian Government for hosting this meeting of the NATO foreign ministers, as well as our non-NATO partners. And to the Estonian people, thank you once again for putting up with thousands of visitors who have descended here on Tallinn. Some came by every mode of transportation, so we’re all happy to be with you.

Today, the foreign minister, as he said, discussed the importance with me of our partnership, both bilaterally and through NATO. We continue working together on many areas of common concern and shared responsibility. We especially appreciate Estonia’s role in Afghanistan. And we also commend Estonia for working through humanitarian assistance, not only in Afghanistan but in other countries such as Georgia and Moldova.

And thank you again, foreign minister, for your support for disaster relief in Haiti and the outpouring of private donations from the Estonian people is evidence of this country's generous spirit and commitment to helping others in need.

We discussed our very deep concern about security in Europe, and I feel strongly that we are allies in NATO and the principal purpose of NATO is collective security as embodied in Article 5. Estonia has contributed to global security and peacekeeping operations, and the idea of mutual security really will be at the heart of our discussions over the next two days. But let me be clear. Our commitment to Estonia and our other allies is a bedrock principle for the United States and we will never waver from it.

We believe that there continues to be the importance of the open door for NATO to welcome new members because Estonia’s experience is a testament to the value that new members bring to NATO.

I also want to commend Estonia for being known in many circles as E-stonia, the most connected nation in the world, and thank you for providing valuable technology training from Mongolia to Afghanistan. We think that there’s a lot that Estonia can do to help other countries realize the benefits of technology.

So again, thank you for this warm welcome. And I look forward to our discussions and I appreciate greatly the opportunity to be back in Tallinn and wish that I could have kept my original schedule, which included meeting with many Estonians, including young people. But I hope I’ll have another excuse to do that in the future.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you very much. And by the way, there are some young Estonians also in this audience. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Including the foreign minister.


MODERATOR: (In Estonian.) Please just say your question from these microphones.

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Minister. Good morning, Madam Secretary. Madam Secretary, a question to you about recent allegations that Syria is looking to supply long-range missiles, SCUD missiles, to Hezbollah. In the past, as you know, Iran has supplied this kind of technology to Syria, and I’m wondering whether the United States has any evidence or reason to believe that Iran might be again playing a role of transferring missile technology, SCUD technology, to Syria.

And the second question is: In light of this pattern of provocative behavior by Syria – you know, there are some critics who are saying that it calls into question our policy of engagement with Damascus. A congressman yesterday on the Hill said that the Syrians, quote, spit right into our faces. So I wonder, in light of the events of the last couple of weeks, these reports, whether you believe that engagement policy still makes sense and why. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say we have expressed directly to the Syrian Government, including calling in the representative of their embassy in Washington to express in the strongest possible terms, our concerns about these stories that do suggest there has been some transfer of weapons technology into Syria with the potential purpose of then later transferring it to Hezbollah inside Lebanon.

I think that the larger question as to what the United States will do with respect to Syria is one we’ve spent a lot of time considering and debating inside the Administration. Where we are as of today is that we believe it is important to continue the process to return an ambassador. This is not some kind of reward for the Syrians and the actions that they take, which are deeply disturbing not only to the United States and not just to Israel but to others in the region and beyond. But it’s a tool. It’s a tool that we believe can give us extra leverage, added insight, analysis, information with respect to Syria’s actions and intentions.

Unknown tag could not be displayed.

So the actions of Iran speak louder than the words, and the recent statements are of a theme that we hear frequently from Iranian leaders. There’s a very simple way out of this. Iran needs to fully comply with its obligations under the NPT. Iran needs to respond to the frequent concerns articulated by the IAEA, by the United Nations Security Council. Iran needs to become what it professes to be, a country interested only in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. And there are just too many questions that have unsatisfactory answers for us to conclude that it is. So we will certainly continue to raise concerns about Iran’s nuclear program because we think those concerns are well-founded.

With respect to North Korea, I have no comment on the question that you asked. We remain concerned about North Korean actions and provocations. We want to see a return to the Six-Party Talks that we think should lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

But both North Korea and Iran, as mentioned in our Nuclear Posture Review, raise concerns for the United States, for our NATO allies, and for other countries who see the dangers of proliferation.

MODERATOR: (In Estonian.)

PRN: 2010/T28-1