Remarks with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani
Secretary of State
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SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jay, we view what happened today as a transparent effort by those forces inside Lebanon as well as interests outside Lebanon to subvert justice and undermine Lebanon’s stability and progress. When President Obama met with Prime Minister Hariri earlier today, the President commended the prime minister for his leadership in protecting and advancing the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon and for staying focused on the real needs and interests of the Lebanese people.
We believe that the work of the special tribunal must go forward so justice can be served and impunity ended. We believe that the leaders of Lebanon have an ongoing responsibility to serve the interests of their own people, not outside forces. Trying to bring the government down as a way to undermine the special tribunal is an abdication of the responsibility, but it also will not work. This tribunal is a creation of the United Nations and the Security Council. It is supported by many governments, including my own. Its work will continue. And it is important that, as the prime minister and I discussed, we work with the Lebanese Government, the Lebanese people, and our other partners who share our interests in pursuing both stability and justice in Lebanon.
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: If I may add, as you know, the stability of Lebanon becomes priority for us in Qatar, and I think for all our friends in the region and the United States. We know the tribunal and the stability of Lebanon – both of them is important for Lebanon. And I think now – I said yesterday when I had a press conference with the Prime Minister Erdogan that we have to think how to solve this problem in peaceful through responsible dialogue between the Lebanese. The Lebanese by themselves, they can help themselves. And I think our interference or our help is to help them to talk together and to try to reach a solution together. I think we have enough problem in the region that this problem we have to take care about it in a way to solve it, not to complicate it. And we are working by each minute and hour to do so.
MODERATOR: (In Arabic.)
QUESTION: (In Arabic.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Our official stance is to support the effort that Qatar has been leading to bring the conflicting parties together. We know that the government in Khartoum had decided to try to move some of the discussions to Khartoum. I don’t think anyone objects to that so long as progress is made. Under Qatar’s leadership, there was a clear message that expectations were set and responsibility was expected, and people were being pushed to resolve the ongoing conflict in Darfur.
So I am certainly supportive of the efforts to date. If there are additional steps that could be taken, I am sure the prime minister would be the first to support those. We want to see a resolution. A lot of people had given up on whether or not there could ever be a resolution in Darfur. Qatar kept working at it and never gave up, and I think that deserves a lot of appreciation from the international community.
MODERATOR: (In Arabic.)
QUESTION: (In Arabic.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, the United States supported the efforts that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia undertook to try to create a climate and arrive at understandings that would persuade Syria to be supportive of Lebanese sovereignty and independence and to work toward an outcome that would promote both justice and stability. You would have to ask the parties as to why that did not succeed. But we certainly were supportive of the effort, and unfortunately there was not a positive response to all of the Saudi efforts.
But I think let’s keep our eye on what’s really going on here. When the current government entered into their positions, all parties agreed to support the tribunal, including Hezbollah. And the work of the tribunal has been carried out over a number of years. We know that from news reports from the tribunal, they are on the verge of issuing indictments. And this is a matter that should be allowed to proceed as previously agreed to. And I would only add that this not only about the tragic assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri, but many other people died and were injured as well. So it’s not only to seek justice for a former leader whose murder should not be allowed to go unaccountable, but what about all the other families and all the other people who came from across Lebanon?
So this really goes to a very important point, which is that Lebanon needs now to rally behind its own interests. The Lebanese people need to get beyond political parties. And it’s not political parties that would be put on trial; it’s individuals who would either be found guilty or innocent of having plotted and carried out such a horrific crime.
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: (In Arabic.)
MODERATOR: Mark Landler from New York Times.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, we’ve been talking just now about the Saudi/Syrian initiative, but there’s another school of thought on the role Syria played in Lebanon with some evidence that they have tried to undermine the Hariri government. Senior officials have talked about removing authority from the government, and other American officials have been very critical of Syria.
At this moment, would you tell us a bit more about how you view the role Syria is playing and has played? And what message would you have for Syria, a country that the Administration has now been trying to engage with for nearly two years?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mark, I think that there’s a long and complicated history between Syria and Lebanon that many of you know and some of you have not only followed, but lived. It is our hope, and as Sheikh Hamad just said, our commitment to try to work with all the parties to determine what is a peaceful way forward. We don’t think it is, at this moment, useful to be pointing fingers or blaming or going about the business of recriminations about what did or didn’t happen and who did or did not do what. We have to deal with the reality as we see it today.
And I think it’s in everyone’s interest, whether it be different elements within Lebanon or Syria or any of the neighbors and many of us who care deeply about what happens to the Lebanese people, to come together around some very simple principles. Lebanon is a sovereign, independent nation. The Lebanese people need to be empowered in order to solve their own issues without outside interference or without threats from within Lebanon. And countries like the two of ours stand ready to help, to facilitate, to support such a process. It’s happened before, as has already been referenced, but we think it’s imperative that everyone try to play a responsible and positive role. And that is certainly the goal of the United States over the next days and weeks.
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Thank you very much.