Background Briefing: Secretary's Bilateral Meetings on Colombia, Vietnam, and the Ukraine
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Afternoon, everybody. Senior State Department Official here to brief you on the Secretary’s meetings this afternoon with Colombian Foreign Minister Holguin, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Minh, and to preview the meeting that she will have at 3:15 with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Gryshchenko.
First, with regard to her meeting with Colombian Foreign Minister Holguin, it lasted about half an hour. The Secretary opened by thanking Colombia for its leadership, regionally and globally. They discussed the state of the free trade agreement and their shared hope that it’ll move quickly through the Senate. They then talked about issues in the UN Security Council – as you know, Colombia sits on the Security Council currently – specifically, the issue of the Palestinian bid for statehood and, of course, the shared hope of the U.S. and Colombia that we can have a new strong resolution on Syria, calling for an end to the violence.
Colombia is next year’s host of the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena in April of 2012, so they talked at some length about the agenda for the summit, how to get business more actively involved in particular, and then they concluded by comparing notes on Haiti and the upcoming decision in the Security Council on the UNMIS mandate.
With regard to the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Minh of Vietnam, they talked about how we have worked together to deepen our bilateral partnership on the way to what we hope will become a strategic partnership. The Secretary stressed, followed up by Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Posner, the importance of the upcoming U.S.-Vietnam high-level dialogue on human rights. The Secretary particularly asked her Vietnamese counterpart to look into issues related to the treatment of religious figures and Christian churches.
The Vietnamese foreign minister asked for continued U.S. humanitarian support in dealing with the Agent Orange problem and support in the area of HIV-AIDS. They also talked about regional architecture in the East Asia Pacific region. The Vietnamese minister very much welcomed the fact that the U.S. is going to attend this year’s East Asia Summit at the presidential level. And they talked about the issues in the South China Sea. Vietnam, of course, stressed its eagerness to see the issues there continue to move forward towards resolution in keeping with the Law of the Sea Treaty.
They talked about deepening our collaboration, U.S.-Vietnam, in science and education. The Secretary put in a plug for General Electric’s bid to supply more power to Vietnam. She also thanked Vietnam for recent steps made to reform its adoption system and its decision to join the Hague Convention. And she also encouraged the minister to look hard at also joining the Proliferation Security Initiative, and he made clear that Vietnam is considering that.
As I said, at 3:15, the Secretary will meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Gryshchenko. They will take this opportunity to sign a memorandum of understanding, U.S.-Ukraine, on nuclear security cooperation. This memorandum of understanding formalizes the shared intent of the United States and Ukraine to implement fully the commitment that was previously made by President Obama and President Yanukovych last year at the Nuclear Security Summit, to work together to prevent proliferation, and to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials. In particular, President Yanukovych has announced that Ukraine intends to get rid of all of its highly enriched uranium by March 2012 – that’s before the next Nuclear Security Summit convenes – and the United States, under this new agreement, expects to provide about $60 million to help Ukraine in that effort. Specifically, we’ll be providing financial and technical assistance to help with the elimination of highly enriched uranium and to help modernize Ukraine’s civil nuclear research facilities. The idea is to convert those facilities to operate on a safer basis with lower enriched uranium and also to help Ukraine build a state-of-the art neutron source facility in Ukraine. So that’s the agreement that they’re going to sign, and then they’ll have a – and they’ll also have a brief bilateral meeting.
And she will also see her Indian counterpart, Indian External Affairs Minister Krishna, at 4:00, and we will readout both of those meetings on paper later today.
Matt, with regard to your question, the issue of Middle East did come up in her meeting with Prime Minister Mikati this morning. Obviously, the Secretary took the opportunity to stress our hope that with the Quartet statement’s release on Friday, the parties will now avail themselves of the opportunity the Quartet has put forward to support a path back to negotiations.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, the Palestinians have not exactly reacted with great enthusiasm to this – the Quartet statement. And it’s not at all clear that they’re going to even try to meet the – or to accept the – that both sides will accept the proposal of the Quartet. So in the interim, what is it – like what did she tell the Colombian about – when you said she talked about the bid in the Security Council, what is it that the U.S. wants to see out of the meeting today and in the next couple days? I – realizing that it’s all preliminary, I mean, what do you expect or hope to come out of this?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, there are meetings, as you say, today, and they’ll be meetings over the course of the week to determine the appropriate procedure and steps forward with regard to the letter from President Abbas, and we will take part in that. But as you know, we are hoping that the parties will use the timetable and make good use of the proposal put forward by the Quartet, which calls for preliminary meetings in – within 30 days and getting back to talks within three months as their guidepost for beginning direct negotiations. Because as you know, our firm belief, and I – this was the root of the discussion with the Colombian foreign minister today and all the rest of her meetings with Security Council members, is that it’s only through direct talks that we are going to have a – two states living side by side in peace.
QUESTION: I get that, but, I mean, the Colombians really don’t have – other than being on the Security Council, they don’t have a – any particular influence on this. So within the Security Council itself, what is the U.S. hoping will happen this week? Nothing? Or are you okay with them forming some kind of committee to study the idea, kick the can down the road a little bit?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Again, I don't think I want to speak to exactly where this is going to go procedurally until the meetings have happened. But you know where we are on this, that there need to be some procedural meetings. But our focus is on getting these parties back to the table.
QUESTION: So you’re okay with the procedural meetings? You don’t want to stop anything happening right as – other than a – you don’t want a vote, obviously, but you’re okay – you’ll go along with a committee or whatever they decide to do?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Again, I’m not going to speak to whatever the UN Security Council comes up with in procedure before they’ve done it. But obviously, we’re going to participate in the procedural meetings.
QUESTION: Well, do you know what the options are?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, let’s let the Security Council do its thing. They’re meeting at 3 o’clock, and it’s not even 3 o’clock yet.
QUESTION: Well, actually, it is 3 o’clock, but – (laughter) – there’s got to be a series of options of what the Council can do and what the --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we’ve said what we want to say on this one today. Anything else? No?
QUESTION: On the Vietnamese – the PSI.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Proliferation Security Initiative?
QUESTION: Yeah. They’re considering?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They are thinking about it.
QUESTION: Leaning in any direction?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. I think – well, obviously, they need to speak for themselves, but it’s something that we think is a useful tool for many countries, and we’ve been having a discussion with them about how it works. And our understanding is that they’re looking at how it would meet their own national interests.
QUESTION: And the adoption issue has been pretty – a pretty big one between the U.S. and Vietnam. How pleased are you with the reforms that they’re doing there?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the – I think the number one thing is that the minister confirmed their commitment to join the Hague Convention, which is a very big one, and the Secretary was quite positive on the other reforms and urged them to keep moving.
QUESTION: On Vietnam, can you be a bit more specific what she’s asking the Vietnamese to do when she asked them to look into the treatment of religious figures in Christian churches?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we’re going to leave it there, but I will say that the Vietnamese foreign minister acknowledged that as we deepen our bilateral relationship that continued dialogue on human rights is an important component of that. And there were – it was a good discussion on human rights. And as you know, Assistant Secretary Posner follows up, and I think in some ten days, with the high-level group on human rights.
QUESTION: I’d like to ask you a different topic, ma’am. The U.S. has come out very strongly on alleged links between the ISI and Pakistan and the Haqqani Network and --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we spoke to that in Washington today. I’m just here at this moment to (inaudible). We had a full briefing in Washington today.
QUESTION: Anything more – does he say anything about the upcoming meeting between Clinton and External Affairs Minister Krishna?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we will read that one out after – after we have the meeting, we’ll give you some background points on paper.
Okay? Good. Thanks, guys.