Remarks With Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen
FOREIGN MINISTER VERHAGEN: Madame Secretary, ladies and gentlemen, I want to extend a warm welcome to Secretary Clinton for her visit to the Netherlands, especially because we want to celebrate this year, 400 years of friendship between our two countries. Maybe not in a big tent we are today, but in a place big enough to host all the delegations, all the people who are involved in the future of Afghanistan, and who know that we have a stake in the future of Afghanistan.
The United States and the Netherlands and over 80 other countries and organizations are today meeting in The Hague. We have serious choices to make today. In recent years, NATO and its partners have reduced the threat of terrorists who once found a free haven in Afghanistan and planned attacks on peaceful citizens all over the world. But our work in Afghanistan is still far from done. And Secretary Clinton and I discussed our analyses of the situation and the possible ways forward. And the Netherlands welcomes the outcome of the policy review conducted by the United States.
As the review makes clear, Afghanistan and the region cannot be made safe by military force alone. Diplomacy and development are equally important. Afghan citizens as well as our own citizens need to know what our strategy will be. And I hope today in The Hague, we will start working on a new deal for Afghanistan, a common contract, a new Afghan bond. Achieving respect for human rights, good governance, and social and economic progress are equally important. And I’m sure that the United States and the Netherlands agree that such an Afghan bond must reflect a comprehensive and integrated approach.
In the province of Uruzgan in the south of the country, Dutch diplomats, development workers and military, together with our allies, are learning to do just that. And although the situation is far from irreversible, the number of security incidents is stable and development is picking up. So the Netherlands very much welcomes the American commitment to the training of the Afghan army and police, because this will enable the international community to proceed from implementing to assisting.
In the end, the Afghan people themselves have to be able to provide security and to lead the development of their country. And this conference proves the international community as a whole stays and is wanting to stay committed to the Afghan people.
Madame Secretary, thank you very much and I hope that we will have a very fruitful conference today.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you so much, Minister, and I am confident that this conference will make a great difference. And I am very grateful to you personally and to the Dutch Government for making this conference possible in such a short period of time. It was less than a month ago that we first discussed this together in Brussels. And once again, the Dutch Government is at the forefront of the work done on behalf of the global community, and I appreciate that.
You know, as the minister said, Dutch troops are leading the effort in Afghanistan. In Uruzgan Province, as the minister referenced, the success of the policies implemented by the Dutch forces is remarkable. At the center of our efforts is a courageous military commitment by the Dutch people and their government, and it has proven results. It is not a surprise that the three Ds that the Dutch have pursued in their mission in Afghanistan – defense, diplomacy and development – are ones that I personally believe is exactly the right framework.
More than 80 nations and organizations have been brought together here in The Hague. And this conference is critical to our way forward. The Dutch people have played a vital role in advancing security and spreading opportunity far beyond your borders. And this time in particular, our commitment going forward in Afghanistan has great consequences for all of our people, all free people, all people who share the values that the Dutch and the Americans share. I will be speaking later at the conference about the Obama Administration’s strategy for Afghanistan. It is based on collaboration and consultation with our friends and partners.
I looked to the Netherlands not only because of the work that has been done in Afghanistan, but the unsurpassed commitment to fighting poverty and promoting development worldwide. The Netherlands has been a key ally for many decades. The fact that this country is the sixth most generous contributor to international development assistance says volumes about the values of the Dutch people. We will continue to seek your advice and your ideas, your guidance as we work together.
Now the ties between our two countries have a long history. This year, we celebrate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s legendary voyage which took him from Amsterdam to New Amsterdam. And it marked the beginning of a great chapter in American history and American and Dutch cooperation. I know that the people of New Amsterdam, Minister, a city that is very dear to my heart, have already begun to celebrate this anniversary. I look forward to welcoming you to the United States in a few weeks, where I hope that we can bring even greater attention to the ties that join us and to the values that extend beyond time. And I look forward to many centuries of friendship and partnership between the American and Dutch people.
Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER VERHAGEN: Thank you.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary (inaudible) after 2010, what do you think can be the role for the Netherlands after that period?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that is, of course, up to the Dutch Government and the Dutch people. But I think the people of the Netherlands should know, certainly from my perspective, the extraordinary contribution and leadership that your mission in Afghanistan has provided. We understand very well the sacrifices, the individual sacrifices as well as the collective ones that such a mission demonstrates. But it has been extraordinarily successful. And in fact, our strategic review is building on many of the ideas and the principles that were brought to bear by the Dutch in Afghanistan. But of course, any decision in the future is up to the people of the Netherlands and their government.