Remarks With Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis After Their Meeting
But before I turn to the important issues that we discussed today about Haiti, I’d like to take a moment to discuss an issue that affects us all, and that is the scourge of piracy. The attempted capture of the Maersk Alabama and the attack yesterday on the Liberty Sun off the coast of Somalia are just the most recent reminders that we have to act swiftly and decisively to combat this threat. These pirates are criminals. They are armed gangs on the sea. And those plotting attacks must be stopped, and those who have carried them out must be brought to justice.
Last weekend, we were all inspired by the courage and heroism of Captain Phillips and his crew, and by the bravery and skill of the U.S. Navy. These men are examples of the best that America has to offer. And I salute and thank them. But now it falls to us to ensure that others are not put into a similar situation. As I said last week, we may be dealing with a 17th century crime, but we need to bring 21st century solutions to bear.
I want to commend the work that this Department’s anti-piracy task force has already done, along with their counterparts throughout our government. In the past several months, we have seen the passage of a robust United Nations Security Council resolution, a multinational naval deployment, improved judicial cooperation with maritime states and an American-led creation of a 30-plus member International Contact Group to coordinate our efforts.
But we all know more must be done. The State Department is actively engaged with the White House and other agencies in pursuing counter-piracy efforts, both unilaterally and in concert with the international community. This Friday, a steering group that includes State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the intelligence community, will meet to consider recent events and potential responses.
This week, the State Department is taking four immediate steps as we move forward with a broader counter-piracy strategy. But let me underscore this point: The United States does not make concessions or ransom payments to pirates. What we will do is first send an envoy to attend the international Somali peacekeeping and development meeting scheduled in Brussels. The solution to Somali piracy includes improved Somali capacity to police their own territory. Our envoy will work with other partners to help the Somalis assist us in cracking down on pirate bases and in decreasing incentives for young Somali men to engage in piracy.
Second, I’m calling for immediate meetings with our partners in the International Contact Group on Piracy to develop an expanded multinational response. The response that came to our original request through the Contact Group for nations to contribute naval vessels has turned out to be very successful. But now we need better coordination. This is a huge expanse of ocean, four times the size of Texas, so we have to be able to work together to avoid the pirates. We also need to secure the release of ships currently being held and their crews, and explore tracking and freezing pirate assets.
Third, I’ve tasked a diplomatic team to engage with Somali Government officials from the Transitional Federal Government as well as regional leaders in Puntland. We will press these leaders to take action against pirates operating from bases within their territories.
And fourth, because it is clear that defending against piracy must be the joint responsibility of governments and the shipping industry, I have directed our team to work with shippers and the insurance industry to address gaps in their self-defense measures. So we will be working on these actions as well as continuing to develop a long-term strategy to restore maritime security to the Horn of Africa.
Now, with respect to the important meetings that have been held here yesterday and today on behalf of Haiti, I want to state to you, Prime Minister, how impressed and grateful we are for the leadership that you and President Preval have shown.
We have seen a tremendous commitment by the Government of Haiti in the face of tremendous difficulties, most particularly four hurricanes in one year. It’s almost impossible to even imagine. But the government has come forth with a recovery plan that lays out very clear priorities, which we intend to work with the Government of Haiti and the people of Haiti, with businesses, NGOs, academics, the religious community, as well as other international partners to address. This is important not only for the people of Haiti, but for all the people of our region. You know, our lives are linked in so many ways, and we share a common space and a common future.
At the Haiti Donors Conference yesterday, officials of the Haitian Government and the international community discussed the plan that the Haitian Government has put forth. This will respond to Haiti’s short-term reconstruction needs while addressing the longer-term development goals. We appreciated the prime minister’s leadership at the conference and the constructive engagement of Haiti’s government. They have set realistic and achievable goals.
And I assured the prime minister again today that the United States will remain a committed partner throughout this process. The Obama Administration is very willing to work with you, Prime Minister. And as an expression of our commitment, I announced at the conference the United States will provide more than $280 million in assistance to Haiti in 2009.
During my visit tomorrow, I will be meeting with President Preval and other officials, and I look forward to working with both the president and the prime minister. We want to help Haiti because Haiti deserves our help.
Haiti was making tremendous progress until the national disasters so tragically and unfairly interrupted that progress. In 2007, Haiti had the highest rate of GDP growth since the ‘90s, and there was no doubt Haiti was on the right track. Things happen. Hurricanes happen. But we think by focusing on security, job creation, infrastructure development, sustainable agriculture, we’re going to be able to help the people and the Government of Haiti. And it’s a great honor for me to be standing here with the prime minister.
And I now invite you to speak, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER PIERRE-LOUIS: Thank you very much, Madame (inaudible). Ladies and gentlemen, the purpose of our trip here, as was mentioned by the Secretary of State, was to attend the conference. I myself and the whole delegation were extremely encouraged by the level of participation from all the donors community and especially by the United States of America, because the Secretary of State herself was there and made a very brilliant speech on behalf of Haiti and of the Haitian people.
As she mentioned also, we were on the right path and growing really seriously as the government itself was trying to reinforce the governance best practices. And the GDP was climbing and the rate was really impressive since the 1990s. And also, lots of efforts were being made to attract investment; especially we wanted to benefit from the HOPE II legislation when we were hit by the four hurricanes in a row. And the World Bank’s PDNA, the post-disaster assessment, showed that the effect of hurricanes hit us really bad and close to 15 percent of the GDP. So there was a lot of efforts to – being made and that’s why we were here at the donors conference.
So I want to thank especially the Secretary of State for her personal commitment and that of the United States towards – on behalf of Haiti. And I’m very happy that you are able also to go to Haiti tomorrow to meet with the president, which is also the confirmation of your involvement and that of your country. So Madame Secretary, (in French) merci.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Merci.
PRIME MINISTER PIERRE-LOUIS: Merci beaucoup (in French) to the benefit of both countries.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER PIERRE-LOUIS: Merci. Merci beaucoup.
MR. WOOD: We’ll take a couple of questions, the first one from Matt Lee of the Associated Press.
QUESTION: Hi, Madame Secretary. I have a couple of questions about the piracy issue, the initiatives you just announced. I’m curious as to how does one exactly go about tracking and freezing the assets of pirates? I mean, as you mentioned, it’s not the 17th century anymore and we’re not talking about buried chests of gold doubloons. But we are talking about people who do – who operate outside the traditional financial system. So, I’m just wondering how you think that that might go ahead.
And the second thing is that how can you expect the Somali transitional government, as well as the Puntland and Somaliland authorities, I guess, to crack down on these pirate havens when they have zero capacity, and with the Islamist movement there complicating it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Matt, as to the first question, we track and freeze and try to disrupt the assets of many stateless groups – drug traffickers, terrorists just to name two. We have noticed that the pirates are buying more and more sophisticated equipment. They’re buying faster and more capable vessels. They are clearly using their ransom money for their benefit, both personally and on behalf of their piracy. And we think we can begin to try to track and prevent that from happening. Take, for example, the attempt to buy more sophisticated vessels. You know, there are ways to crack down on companies that would do business with pirates.
With respect to the transitional government in Somalia, we want to listen to them. The indications are that Sheikh Ahmed, the president of the Transitional Federal Government, understands that these pirates are a threat to the stability and order within Somalia that he is attempting to reassert. We want to hear from him and from other partners in the region what would be useful to help them.
If you look at a history of piracy, very often you will read that everyone reaches the same conclusion, that you have to go after the land bases. We have a pretty good idea where the land bases are, and we want to know what the Somali Government, what tribal leaders who perhaps would not like to have the international community bearing down on them, would be willing to do to rid their territory of these pirate bases.
MR. WOOD: Last question from Sue Pleming of Reuters.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you met Javier Solana today and discussed Iran. Have you heard back from Iran yet as to when they would be prepared to meet, along with the other major powers? And also, President Ahmadinejad today had some quite positive noises to make, particular – and he also said that he was interested in offering up his own package for the nuclear talks. I wondered if you had any reaction to that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, your first question refers to the P-5+1 meeting, which, as you know, we participated in fully with Under Secretary Burns attending. There was an outreach effort following the P-5+1 by Secretary General Solana. He has not had any response as of yet.
With respect to the latest speeches and remarks out of Iran, we welcome dialogue. We’ve been saying that we are looking to have an engagement with Iran. But we haven’t seen anything that would amount to any kind of proposal at all.
So we will continue to work with our allies to make it clear that Iran cannot continue to pursue nuclear weapons. We will stand behind the sanctions that have already been implemented, and we will look for new ways to extend collective action vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program.
At the same time, we’ve made it clear to the Iranians on several levels, both bilaterally as well as through the P-5+1, that we are open to engagement with them.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that, (inaudible) on the issue of suspension of uranium enrichment, there’s been a lot of discussion about this. Have you dropped that condition? This was a Bush Administration condition that --
SECRETARY CLINTON: We have not dropped or added any conditions.
QUESTION: In terms of talks, though, could the --
SECRETARY CLINTON: We have not dropped or added any conditions.
QUESTION: Could I ask a (inaudible) question?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we’d love a Haiti question, Matt.
QUESTION: I’m wondering, Madame Minister, if – the donors conference did provide some significant new assistance or pledges, but it wasn’t as much as I believe that you had been hoping for. And I’m wondering if you’re discouraged at all or disappointed that it didn’t meet the top amount that was being sought.
PRIME MINISTER PIERRE-LOUISE: Well, it was – thank you for the question. It was not up to the top amount, as you mentioned, but it was more than we expected. I must tell you, considering the condition of the financial crisis in the world, we were not – I personally was not expecting that much. So it’s a real encouragement for us, and we’re going to make sure to use these funds properly.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I could add to the prime minister’s point that there are other donors. We’re trying to collect up all the donors that are currently operating in Haiti. We were discussing in our meeting, for example, that the European Union is helping on an energy project, Brazil is helping on an energy project. So part of what we wanted the donors conference to do is to help us better coordinate all of the aid that is already in Haiti or intended for Haiti, because we want the aid to follow the very thoughtful recovery plan that the prime minister presented.
There are certain needs that Haiti has above other needs. It has many needs. We all know that. But the security needs, the infrastructure needs – these are paramount. And so part of our challenge – and I’ve got a team working on this here in the State Department, headed up by my chief of staff and counselor, we’re going to find out where all the money is coming from and work with all the donors, both national donors and NGOs and private donors, so we don’t trip over each other, we don’t duplicate each other, and we get the greatest result for the people of Haiti.
Now, one last question. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. On piracy, it seems like a lot now of the international efforts on Somalia are to deal with this piracy issue, but I’m wondering if there’s a concern that the kind of root causes of the piracy, which is the lawlessness and the poverty of Somalia, which hasn’t really – it’s been discussed, but not significantly addressed over the last several years, that that will become less important than the issue of dealing with international piracy. And why should the international community step up efforts now and this has been a problem for several years? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think two things. One, if you look at the international meeting in Brussels at the end of the month, or early next month, whenever it is happening – I lose track of all these meetings – it is about combating piracy and development in Somalia. So it’s not that they have been forgotten or even separated. It’s you’ve got to put out the fire before you can rebuild the house. And right now, we have a fire raging.
The critical mass of hijackings and kidnappings has risen dramatically, in part because the pirates got better vessels and could go further out to sea and they began to use mother ships and they got more sophisticated. And so people who were told stay away from the shore of Somalia, they did, and then they would be accosted 300 miles off the shore.
So I think part of what you’re seeing now is a natural reaction to a problem that we did address through the UN, through bringing together the international community, having navies from Japan and China and Korea and Europe and the United States and India all patrolling that water. So we’ve certainly deterred attacks, but the attacks have continued.
I think the attack on a U.S.-flagged vessel and our naval response also convinced people that we needed to take action, because the modus operandi for a lot of countries and shipping companies up until now has been, okay, they hijacked the ship, they get it into port, nobody’s harmed, we pay a ransom, we’ve done a business calculation so that’s the way it is. And I think now people are starting to say wait a minute, you let that happen and you’re going to just buy more and more problems for yourself. And so the moment has arrived for us to take a hard look at what we have done that worked and what didn’t work.
And finally, on Somalia itself – and there are many reasons for piracy. There are many reasons for lawlessness and criminality. But we’re going to have to stop it first. I mean, that’s our goal. Somalia has many problems. Piracy is one of those problems. But it’s a problem that affects the rest of the international community so directly that we’re going to come together and combat it. And I’m sure that there will be other steps taken to try to deal with some of the other difficult challenges that Somalia poses that we’re all well aware of.
Thank you all.