Remarks with Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen After their Meeting
Secretary of State
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SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good morning. And I am very pleased to welcome the foreign minister to the State Department. We have a strong alliance, partnership, and friendship between our two countries. And I happen to live near the Danish Embassy in Washington. They’re wonderful neighbors as well. And it is a relationship that is rooted in shared democratic values and aspirations. I think it’s fair to say that we are both problem-solving people focused on meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the 21st century. And today once again, I had the opportunity to discuss with the foreign minister the challenges that we’re confronting and how we can continue to make progress on common goals.
I also want to thank the foreign minister for the steps that Denmark and the other members of the European Union announced yesterday regarding Iran’s illicit nuclear activities. These strong measures to implement and accompany UN Security Council Resolution 1929 send a clear message to Iran’s leaders: Uphold your international responsibilities or face growing international isolation and consequences. We also look forward to the announcement of specifics by the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council. And we once again reaffirmed our mutual commitment to pursue a diplomatic resolution, but we have to have the Iranians adopt a more constructive course.
Denmark provides outsized leadership on many of the world’s most pressing challenges. We greatly appreciate the contributions of the Danish people to global peace and prosperity, and deeply value our bond as NATO allies.
The Danish Government also deserves to be recognized for the enormous time, effort, and energy it devoted to last December’s climate change summit in Copenhagen. More than just hosts of the conference, Denmark was actively engaged throughout the year in working to move the negotiations forward and to achieve for the very first time in the Copenhagen Accord that all major economies make national commitments to curb carbon emissions and transparently report on their mitigation efforts. We will continue to work together on that as well.
And I particularly want to thank the people of Denmark for their commitment and sacrifices in support of the international missions in Kosovo, Iraq, off the coast of Somalia against pirates, and, of course, in Afghanistan. We have stood shoulder-to-shoulder to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan. Denmark has suffered grievous losses among their troops in a probably disproportionate manner compared to the size of their country. The courage, heroism, and skill of the Danish forces is well recognized by everyone. And in addition, Denmark’s generous development assistance has been crucial in building institutions, good government, spurring economic development, and providing educational opportunities.
Today, the foreign minister and I also discussed how crucial Afghan women are to long-term stability. We both believe that with – (laughter) – a great deal of personal conviction. And we are targeting assistance to women in areas ranging from girls’ education to health services, particularly maternal health, to protecting women from violence and enhancing their roles in education, the economy, and governance. We are committed to advancing the rights and opportunities of women, and our governments will actually co-host a conference in Copenhagen later this year on this important issue.
We discussed NATO, where, of course, a former Danish prime minister is now serving as secretary general. And we also reviewed, between the two of us, the important work needing to be done in the Arctic. And I want to express the U.S.’s appreciation of Denmark’s leadership as the Arctic Council chair, and I look forward to continued Danish leadership and to attending the meeting that Denmark and Greenland will co-host next year.
There’s so much to say thank you for, Madam Foreign Minister. And please also express our appreciation to your government, to your embassy, and to the Danish people because we are together building a future of greater peace and prosperity, not only for the Danish and American people but for those who deserve it as well around the world.
FOREIGN MINISTER ESPERSEN: Thank you very much. And thank you very much, Madam Secretary, for the hospitality that you’ve shown me. I think we’ve had a very fruitful meeting. And what is, of course, very important for a small-sized country like Denmark is that the country that we’ve been friends with for decades continue to be a longstanding friendship. And I think that is the case with U.S. I think the United States can always count on Denmark being a friend and working together in trying to solve many of the problems that we face today in a globalized world. I also think that we share many values that are the same. And we both have a very pragmatic approach to things. We want to get things done. And that’s one of the reasons why American and Danes work so well together.
Especially when we look at Afghanistan, I think that the U.S. is, of course, playing the major role, and that you are also suffering many losses. Therefore, of course, I think it’s very important that we stick to the plan and try to get progress ahead in Afghanistan. General McChrystal and ISAF is doing an excellent job but, of course, apart from the military, which is very important, I think that the civilian side as well is extremely important. And I think that our initiative to try and strengthen the role of the women of Afghanistan is very important in creating a future where Afghanistan can stand on its own. So, I’m looking forward to the Kabul conference. And hopefully, we will have a focus on making sure that the rights of the women and the way of enhancing the women will be in focus at that point.
I also appreciate very much the work being done by the U.S. in getting the UN Security Council to actually make a resolution with sanctions against Iran. Denmark is a strong supporter of strong sanctions against Iran, and we’re very happy that yesterday at the EU summit, the heads of state decided to move on and to put these sanctions on Iran. Hopefully, that will put the pressure on Iran to start a dialogue with the rest of us again because both you, Madam Secretary, and President Obama have tried for more than one and a half year to be in dialogue with Iran, have been trying to see if we could move ahead the dialogue. But I think that moved in the wrong direction, and therefore, hence, the sanctions are necessary.
And to trend of – I think that we have a lot in common, even though you are a very big state, a big country – (laughter) – and we are a very small country, there are many ways where we can actually, with our values, create a better world. And especially, I think the work that we are doing in terms of finding legal ways of handling the piracy of Somalia, and especially with regard to the fight against terrorism, also the work that’s being done in looking into new ways legally of handling of people being captured, I think these are all very, very important issues in making sure that the rule of law is being taken care of on a global scene.
So thank you very much for a very good meeting.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: We have time for two questions, one on each side. We’ll begin with Jill Dougherty with CNN.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi, Jill.
QUESTION: Hi, Secretary Clinton. Thank you. A question on Kyrgyzstan. You know there are allegations now that, in essence, what’s going on is ethnic cleansing by Kyrgyz military against Uzbek citizens, and I’d like to hear your opinion on that. And in connection with that, there are some who would say that the United States is softening its criticism of the Kyrgyz Government in order to make sure that the U.S. does not jeopardize its lease to the Manas Air Base. How would you answer that?
And then just one last quick question. An article about you recently, this week in a local newspaper, which said, “Would you like to trade places with Joe Biden?” (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let’s stick to Kyrgyzstan. (Laughter.)
Jill, I think that the situation is much more complex than any short description could possibly capture. I spoke at length to Roza Otunbayeva yesterday, to President Karimov in Uzbekistan. As you know, Assistant Secretary Bob Blake is in Bishkek now. We are trying to do everything we can to deal with the very serious humanitarian crisis that has come about because of the violence and the displacement of people from their homes. I think it would be premature to conclude what the source of this outbreak of violence is, but there are a number of factors contributing. Certainly, the ouster of President Bakiyev some months ago left behind those who were still his loyalists and very much against the provisional government. There certainly have been allegations of instigation that have to be taken seriously. There were a number of problems in keeping control over the violence that was sparked by the crackdown and then the overthrow of Bakiyev, which now have, unfortunately, rippled through the police and the military establishment. So it’s difficult to tell how much arises from preexisting ethnic or political differences, how much was instigated and by whom and for what purpose.
What we are trying to do with many partners in the international community, including, of course, the United Nations, is to help support the provisional government, which had scheduled a vote on a new constitution for, I think, next week. And they are, unfortunately, under very difficult conditions trying to determine whether they can go forward with that vote. And some have argued that one of the potential reasons for the violence was to prevent the constitutional referendum from going forward. So there are many moving actors and circumstances.
So our bottom line is work with the international community to try to support the provisional government in bringing about a resumption of order; work with Uzbekistan, which has opened its borders to tens of thousands of fleeing Uzbeks; work to get humanitarian aid in as quickly and comprehensively as possible, and then see if you can stabilize the situation, how to put Kyrgyzstan back on a much more solid footing. But we’re all searching for answers, so we don’t want to prejudge. We don’t want to say, well, that’s what caused it, because there are many different factors at work.
FOREIGN MINISTER ESPERSEN: If I can add, it’s exactly the same position of the European Union. We also had the opportunity to discuss Kyrgyzstan during our council meeting on Luxembourg. Exactly as the Secretary is saying, you know that the first victim in any conflict, that’s the truth – there are all these stories about who’s saying what. So what we decided to do was to have our Special EU Envoy Morel being sent to try and look into as a fact-finding mission what is actually going on. There are all these different numbers. But we completely agree with the way that the Administration is looking into that and, hopefully, the international pressure and focus will bring some progress in the future.
MR. CROWLEY: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Broadcasting. Madam Secretary, it is no secret there is a growing war fatigue among allied in Europe when we talk the war in Afghanistan. The Dutch are withdrawing, the Canadians are withdrawing, the Poles are talking about withdrawing, and there are still the caveats among some of the NATO allies on how they can fight in Afghanistan.
What changes in the attitude among NATO allies would you like to see, and would you like to see a further involvement by EU when we talk Afghanistan?
And this is for foreign affairs minister. You said yesterday that a withdrawal from Afghanistan is out of the question before it is safe and peaceful. What did you exactly mean by safe and peaceful when we talk Afghanistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first I want to start by expressing our very strong appreciation for Denmark’s contributions. We appreciate all of the commitments and sacrifices that our ISAF partners have made and are making in Afghanistan, and Denmark has been a model partner in every way. Danish troops have been on the front lines in Helmand Province. Denmark has been a leader in the support for sub-national capacity building and a real model for better integration of civilian and military activity.
Now, certainly, we know how hard this is and we believe that this is in our national security interest and the national security interest of our NATO allies and other partners who have voluntarily joined ISAF for this effort. No one likes war. If people were not worried about or concerned about war, there would be something wrong with them. And we come from nations that are democracies with strong values and ideals, so certainly, you’re not going to find either the foreign minister or I doing anything other than recognizing that war is sometimes necessary. And in this case, we believe it is necessary.
We cannot speak for other countries and their decisions, but I think both the United States and Denmark see the geostrategic political significance of what we are trying to achieve in Afghanistan. Both Denmark and the United States understand that an Afghanistan that once again became a failed state and provided a refuge for terrorists to organize attacks against our countries, our people, our allies, would require response as we had to after 9/11.
So we think that we’re making progress. We know how hard it is. The Afghan military and police are improving, and we are working hard to provide the trainers and mentoring that they need. We are looking to see more results from some of the governmental reforms that we’re expecting. But it is just not true that we haven’t seen positive accomplishments. If you look at a lot of the indicators on education, on health, on government capacity, on agricultural output, on economic growth, on a revenue base for the country to function, there’s a lot of positive indicators.
But the story is not written yet. And we have made very clear that we are going to be committed to this effort, but we want to put the people and the Government of Afghanistan on notice that they have to take more responsibility, which they understand. The foreign minister and I will be in Kabul in July for the follow-up conference that was held in London setting forth very clear expectations from both the Afghans, neighbors, us, and others. So we are committed and we think that it’s a commitment that is in our interests.
FOREIGN MINISTER ESPERSEN: I think that sometimes when we see the casualties, the Danish and American soldiers on Helmand, which is one of the places where the insurgents are in the largest amounts and really fighting back, sometimes we forget why we’re there. We’re there for the safety of ourselves. We’re there for the safety of the Danish citizens and American citizens, because if we weren’t there, we would get attacked by terrorists. So it’s our own safety that’s at stake.
And of course, this means that I think that nobody wants to stay in Afghanistan a second longer than necessary, because they should take care of their own business when they’re able to do that. But it all depends on the ground security. It depends on the progress being made. We’re very fortunate that we now have an Afghan Kandak with a Danish group, so we have a whole battalion of Afghan soldiers being trained into being able to take over responsibility at some point. But I think that the message is that we want them to be able to take over responsibility so that they could secure their own population, and we will do our utmost to train them to do that.
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