Remarks by Clinton and Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos

Diplomats discuss Afghanistan, Pakistan, Honduras and western Balkans

Office of the Spokesman
December 14, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
And Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos
After Their Meeting
December 14, 2009

Treaty Room
Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good morning. And it’s a particular pleasure for me to welcome the foreign minister to Washington. After my first year as Secretary of State nearly completed, he has been a wonderful counterpart. And of course, Spain is such a valued friend and ally. We are united in a broad partnership based on our many common values, as well as our mutual interests. And I want to express gratitude to the Government of Spain for the many positive actions that they have taken over the course of this past year. Our two presidents have developed a close working relationship, and I think it is reflective of the view about the way forward to achieve more peace, more prosperity, security, and stability around the world.

We, of course, discussed our mission in Afghanistan. And as NATO allies, we have shared a deep concern about the extremist threat that has struck both of our countries and created a very grave awareness of the dangers that we face. And I am very appreciative to Spain’s continuing support of this difficult mission. As Spain assumes the presidency of the EU, they will be certainly involved in a leadership role with the EU’s new action plan for civilian assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And we are very appreciative of their leadership and participation also in the Friends of Democratic Pakistan group.

We discussed wide range of other shared concerns. We’re working together to bring the situation in Honduras closer to resolution. We appreciate the constructive role that Spain has played in that difficult matter. Certainly, our delegations are at this moment in Copenhagen, working to come up with a framework agreement to deal with climate change. And Spain has been a leader in clean energy. Spain has also been very involved in meeting the challenges of hunger, poverty, and disease.

We work together and will continue to do so to stabilize the Western Balkans, and it will be a particular concern of the minister during the EU presidency. There are so many areas that we discussed that we kept you waiting out here. So I just want again to thank the minister and to reaffirm the strong partnership between our two countries.

This is a historic time for Europe with the 60th anniversary of NATO, the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the naming of the first permanent president of the European Council. And it goes to underscore the importance of our transatlantic alliance and the strong foundation that both our bilateral relationship and our alliance relationship present as we work on many of the difficult issues ahead.

Thank you so much.

FOREIGN MINISTER MORATINOS: Thank you, Hillary. Let me start by thanking you and all your people for an extremely warm welcome, and extremely positive and friendly discussion. As the Secretary of State has already pointed out, we had a very positive example of the main issues that both, of course, the United States, Spain, and Spain in the coming presidency of European Union have done to respond in not only now, but in the next year. And of course, we addressed first the tremendous challenge we all – the Western world and the international community has in front of Afghanistan.

I, of course, informed the full support of Spain to the U.S. strategy towards Afghanistan, how President Obama – his speech and commitment, discussion we have in Brussels in NATO Council, and that Spain is going to contribute in a significant manner in all the components of this new strategy. I think that showed a clear commitment of Spain towards this very specific core issue we have to address. And of course, we all continue to work hand by hand in order to prepare the London conference in January to make it a real success.

Of course, we discussed extremely good development in different areas. We have started to prepare the EU presidency, how we are going to work for the new (inaudible) agenda, and the traditional areas of common concern: the Middle East, the North Africa, Western Sahara, also Latin America with Honduras. And that, of course, make us to make this strong appeal to all parties in Honduras to really find a national reconciliation. That’s what always United States and Spain has been working for in a very coordinated manner. And I hope that in the next days we can find this new momentum created in Honduras.

Of course, we also talk about Western Balkans. I just come from Belgrade myself. And I assure Secretary of State and U.S. Administration that we will have a constructive approach and positive engagement in order to bring stability in this European perspective to the whole Western Balkan region. And I think while together, we can make the difference.

And only to thank Secretary of State for what has been an extremely productive discussion. And of course, waiting for the next year for Spain with the new Lisbon Treaty and the new representative, president of the council and high representative, we will work together with the United States in order to bring much better hope and much better, I will say, happy world in 2010. So thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Miguel.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Okay. We only have a few minutes for questions. We’ll start with Andy Quinn from Reuters.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Iran’s foreign minister said today that three American hikers will stand trial presumably on espionage charges, which, under Sharia law, can be punishable by death. What is the United States doing about this case, and do you feel it will further strain ties as the U.S. tries to bring Iran to the table on the nuclear issue?

And on the nuclear issue, Britain’s Times newspaper is reporting today that confidential intelligence documents indicate Iran is testing a trigger for a nuclear bomb. Does the U.S. have any intelligence to back this up? And if it’s true, what does it tell us about where the Iranians are with their nuclear program?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andy, with respect to the three hikers, we consider this a totally unfounded charge. There is no basis for it. The three young people who were detained by the Iranians have absolutely no connection with any kind of action against the Iranian state or government. In fact, they were out hiking, and unfortunately, apparently, allegedly walked across an unmarked boundary. We appeal to the Iranian leadership to release these three young people and free them as soon as possible.

With respect to your second question, I will not comment on any intelligence. But I will say that the concerns that we have regarding Iranian intentions with their nuclear program have been heightened already in the last months with the disclosure of the concealed facility at Qom, with the failure of the Iranians to follow through on the negotiations over their highly enriched uranium for the Tehran research reactor, which they had agreed in principle to ship out of the country for reprocessing. Certainly, the recent announcement by their parliament that they intend to build 10 or 20 more nuclear plants should raise deep concerns among all people. And the minister and I discussed this at some length.

We have pursued, under President Obama’s direction, a dual-track approach to Iran. We have reached out. We have offered the opportunity to engage in meaningful, serious discussions with our Iranian counterparts. We have joined fully in the P-5+1 process. We’ve been at the table. But I don’t think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of positive response from the Iranians.

The second track of our dual-track strategy is to bring the international community together to stand in a united front against the Iranians and to try to impress upon them the importance of changing their actions and decisions concerning the nuclear program, and certainly additional pressure is going to be called for in order to do that.

QUESTION: Hello, good morning.


QUESTION: I’ve got one question for you both. First, Mr. Moratinos. (In Spanish).

And for you, Madame Secretary, what are you expecting from Spain for your new strategy for Afghanistan? Thanks.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’d like to hear the translation. (Laughter.) Because I may only have to say ditto. (Laughter.)

INTERPRETER: The original question, which was in Spanish, was – the question for the foreign minister was: Mr. Foreign Minister, what exactly was on the table regarding Afghanistan? Did the Spanish Government go over any concrete numbers and offers?

And the foreign minister’s response was: Well, we worked on a series of concrete offers, but I would like to say that the government should respect the process in Spain. We must wait to make that announcement public after there is an adequate political discussion within the policy framework, a discussion about cooperation, development, aid. All of that has to be done within the Spanish parliament framework first – but I would like to underscore, however, that the Spanish are seriously committed in its support to President Obama’s strategy and approach, as we said in Brussels.

And today, we simply discussed a variety of offers that we are working on in preparation for the conference in London. So when the Spanish Government decides to go public with a decision, we will certainly let you know. But we worked in order to be prepared for the success of the London conference that – where we will look at the offers made by the international community and Spain in particular.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And we are very grateful for Spain’s support and very tangible offers of assistance with which – as the minister said, are really the prerogative of the Spanish Government to discuss.

MR. KELLY: Next question for Jill Dougherty from CNN.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on North Korea, at the very time that you have some apparent progress – meeting at least directly with the North Koreans, you have this case of the North Korean plane with weapons set down in Bangkok and held. What does this say to you about the intensions of the North Koreans on proliferation?

And if I could, just a quick question on oil contracts in Iraq. American companies did not do very well. It seems that the Chinese and the Russians did better. One – the spokesman said this shows the government is free from outside interference; no one, including the U.S., can steal the oil – Ali al-Dabbagh. What’s your view of that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, with respect to North Korea, I think the actions by the Thai Government to detain the plane that is apparently carrying significant amounts of weapons demonstrates the importance of international solidarity behind the sanctions that were adopted at the United Nations earlier this year. It shows sanctions can work. It shows that sanctions can prevent the proliferation of weapons. And it shows that the international community, when it stands together, can make a very strong statement regarding what we expect from a state like North Korea.

I don’t think anyone should be surprised that North Korea is continuing to attempt to evade the sanctions and export around the world, because that is their principal source of foreign currency. They have a need to continue to sell the one thing that they can export, but we were very pleased to see the strong action taken by the Thais, and it would not have been possible without strong action of the United Nations, and I think there’s a lesson there for people around the world to see when it comes to Iran.

With respect to the oil deals, I’m not going to be commenting on any commercial transactions. In the last round of contracts, one of our major oil companies received a significant contract. So I’m going to leave it to the oil industry and Iraq to work itself out. What we think is important is that foreign investment is back in Iraq, and they’re developing the oil industry, which is essential for providing the economic resources necessary to stabilize Iraq, to grow its economy, to extend hope and opportunity to the people of Iraq.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Good morning. (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you want to do the question first?

INTERPRETER: Sure. Mr. Minister, if we understood correctly, you discussed the issue of Sahara. Right now, there is a problem with a Western Sahara citizen that you were aware of. What type of cooperation did you ask from the United States over that issue? Also, last week, it was said that there is no intervention necessary right now from the king. At what point would the king’s intervention be necessary?

FOREIGN MINISTER MORATINOS: (Via interpreter) First of all, thank you for the question. I was expecting it. So yes, the Secretary of State and I did speak about the issue. We did speak about Mrs. Haidar’s situation concretely, as well as the problem overall in Western Sahara. And obviously, as two allies and two partners with interests in the regions, we must collaborate, we must cooperate, and we need to find a solution to the Haidar case, not through pressure of any kind that we’re applying, but by suggesting to her that her cause, which is a legitimate cause, does not require her to go on a hunger strike.

We are all looking for a solution to the situation that has arisen from her expulsion from Laayoune, and we will continue to work in that direction and we will continue to work, moreover, to find a definitive solution to the situation in Western Sahara, where what we need is a new dynamic, a new engagement, not just there, but in North Africa as a whole. As you know, North Africa – events in North Africa have bearing throughout the international community. We have seen the example of the Sahel. We have seen al-Qaida operating in Maghreb.

So the U.S. and Spain – it’s in their interest to work toward the betterment of the integration of that region. We would like to see a better relationship, a better understanding, between Algeria and Morocco. And we will continue, as I said, to work with the – also work toward an understanding with the Polisario Front so that the people of Western Sahara can have self-determination.

But as far as Ms. Haidar, we think that we need to find a solution. She should abandon the hunger strike, but she should continue to strongly and firmly defend her cause so that we can better and improve the situation in Western Sahara.

However, as far as your second question regarding the king, I would like to say that I feel that this is primarily the government’s responsibility. The king may or may not intervene, but I feel that it is, first of all, the government’s responsibility to act.


MR. KELLY: Thank you very much.

[Source: DOS, Office of the Spokesman, Washington, 14Dec09. Highlighting added]

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