Remarks With Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen After Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 20, 2009

Date: 04/20/2009 Description: Remarks by Secretary Clinton and Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen after their meeting. State Dept Photo
Good morning, everyone. I cannot tell you how happy I am to welcome a colleague and a new friend to the State Department. It is always wonderful working with our Dutch allies on a range of issues. And as many of you know, the foreign minister scheduled and pulled off the meeting we had in The Hague about Afghanistan in just a record period of time. Minister Verhagen is someone who takes so seriously the range of issues that not only concern our two countries, but indeed our concerns about the world.

We have just discussed a wide range of issues and set up a process that will continue going forward so that we can get in depth on a number of important matters. I told the minister that unfortunately, I have to leave to attend to my first Cabinet meeting, which was scheduled long after we had set this time aside for our meeting. But we were able to touch on everything from piracy to the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and last but not least, the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage to the New World, which has particular interest to me as a New Yorker.

I want to just quickly mention a few of the matters that we discussed. Obviously, piracy is a concern to both our countries and indeed to the world. And I want to thank the Netherlands for the work they have done to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia, including their recent successful mission over the weekend to free 20 Yemenis, whose fishing vessel was hijacked by the pirates. Dutch ships and aircraft have been instrumental in the interdiction of pirates and the prevention of capture for ransom of several ships.

We look forward to continued cooperation. And we’re going to work together to seek more effective ways to hold these pirate criminals accountable for their actions, which threaten not only the lives of merchant seamen and the vessels on which they sail, but the security of critical maritime routes.

To this end, we will work on clarifying the legal authorities that exist. There will be, at our request, a meeting of the international piracy contact group in New York City in early May, in addition to the meeting that will be held shortly in Brussels. We’re going to have to determine the best way to bring pirates to justice after they’re captured. And there will have to be additional discussion about this at NATO as well.

I appreciate very much the foreign minister’s extraordinary work in highlighting the necessity for us to be effective in our efforts in Afghanistan that came out of the conference in The Hague. You know, the Dutch contributions in Uruzgan province have been instrumental and a real model in showing how we can bring stability and security to the people of Afghanistan. Dutch soldiers and civilians have done excellent work. In fact, the Dutch “3D” approach – defense, diplomacy, and development – pursued simultaneously, which may sound familiar to some of us, is a model for our own efforts and the future efforts in Afghanistan. There’s a lot of work for us to do there, and the minister will be meeting with Ambassador Holbrooke as well to go into greater depth.

I also want to thank the Dutch Government for their leadership in the G-20 process. The successful London Summit was enhanced by the prime minister and the foreign minister’s strong support for open markets and opposition to protectionism. We know that the Dutch economy has been hard hit by this global downturn. With the world’s seventh largest international financial sector, the Netherlands is a major participant in the global economy. And we continue to seek the Dutch perspective on how to set the economy back on the right track, and welcome your advice on how to proceed.

And finally, let me acknowledge the foreign minister’s leadership with regard to the situation in the Middle East. He has demonstrated steadfast support for a lasting and comprehensive peace, and has long maintained that in order to be accepted by the international community as a true partner in peace, Hamas must take responsibility for its actions, renounce violence, and accept Israel’s right to exist. This is a point on which we are in total agreement and on which we cannot waiver. The United States is grateful for the Dutch Government’s leadership within the European Union on establishing a robust dialogue with the Israeli Government, while insisting that the parties and the process and the region rededicate themselves to prior commitments.

The historic relationship between the United States and the Netherlands is going to be especially celebrated this year because of the 400th anniversary of the legendary voyage of Henry Hudson. He set sail from Amsterdam and landed five months later in New Amsterdam. The people in both cities have begun their celebrations. It’s not only about the past, however, but it is about the future.

To further that partnership and in honor of this Quadricentennial, the Dutch Government has announced a new Fulbright scholarship for research into the historic relationship between Holland and the United States. Our two governments will fund this research jointly. We are confident that the discoveries it will yield will point the way forward toward future collaborations.

The foreign minister just presented to our government a really stunning display of the original documents as to the purchase of New Amsterdam. And it certainly taught me something, because I didn’t know exactly what was involved, but a lot of skins were involved. (Laughter.) And I think if one were to take the value of those skins and forward them into the present and look at the present value, it wouldn’t necessarily cover all of the costs, but it would come closer than what I’d heard before. And I was very proud to give to the foreign minister a copy of the letter George Washington personally wrote appointing John Quincy Adams as the first ambassador to the United Netherlands. So our friendship goes back many hundreds of years. And we welcome you here today, Mr. Minister.

FOREIGN MINISTER VERHAGEN: Thank you, Madame Secretary. Ladies and gentlemen, indeed, the United States and The Netherlands stands united by value, such as open-mindedness, freedom, tolerance, and democracy. And we started sharing these values, indeed, 400 years ago when the first Dutch American pioneers settled New Amsterdam. And as Secretary Clinton has said, I have presented to her a replica of the oldest letter in Dutch proscribing the islands of Manhattan and the first map by a Dutch conqueror of what later became New York. And now 400 years later based on these values, the United States and The Netherlands and other European countries will, according to my view, remain the driving force for a safer and better world. And Secretary Clinton and I addressed a number of issues around the world where the United States and the European Union and The Netherlands are working together.

Afghanistan, as the Secretary has said, the Netherlands, and the United States are brothers in arms in the most troubled provinces. And we welcome the renewed emphasis on diplomacy and development alongside defense because according to our view, this is the best way further reduce the threat of extremists who once found a free haven in Afghanistan and who planned attacks on peaceful citizens all over the world. And the U.S. and the Netherlands share the opinion that the Afghan authorities should be stimulated to gradually take over – to gradually take on more responsibility for security. Afghanization is the way ahead. And in this respect, training of the Afghan army and Afghan police is of great significance.

We warmly welcome the outstretched hand of the United States towards other countries, towards, for example, also Iran and we hope the Iranian authorities realize the significance of this gesture. Iran has much to gain, but time is essential. No reaction to the outstretched hands would be an answer in itself.

The Netherlands and the United States are also participating in, for example, NATO force protecting ships and humanitarian aid shipments in the Indian Ocean. And as the Secretary said, we discussed also the problems of piracy and how to deal with pirates who are arrested, thanks to activities of our vessels. And we agree that pirates need to be held responsible for their deeds within the framework of international law. And the U.S. and the Netherlands will send a clear message that piracy is unacceptable, and that pirates will be held accountable. In the European Union mission, Atlanta has this possibility. So we now need to look to other partners like NATO to make sure also in other situations, this possibility can be used as well. And Secretary Clinton has already explained that we also can discuss this within the framework of NATO, because it is essential that those who are guilty of piracy will be also prosecuted and not set free.

Finally, we discussed human rights, because respect of human rights is increasingly under pressure. They are central in the Dutch foreign policy. And we are very pleased by the renewed U.S. engagement in human rights, and we look forward to promoting human rights worldwide in a strong partnership with the United States. As the host country of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, we appreciate also the more positive approach of the United States to the Court, especially with regard to Darfur. And we hope, of course, to see that the United States will work more closely together with this court in the near future. Thank you very much indeed.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir.

MR. WOOD: We have time for just two questions. The first one will be from Arshad Mohammed with Reuters.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, over the weekend, Iranian President Ahmadinejad spoke of the importance of Ms. Saberi getting full access to the legal process. His comments were echoed this morning by a senior Iranian judicial official who again talked about a just, speedy appeal for her. Do you sense in this any inkling that the Iranian authorities may be looking for a way to either reduce her sentence or perhaps free her entirely?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, we believe she should be freed immediately, that the charges against her are baseless, and that she has been subjected to a process that has been nontransparent, unpredictable, arbitrary, and we hope that actions will be taken as soon as possible by the authorities in Iran, including the judiciary, to bring about the speedy release of Ms. Saberi and her return home.

So we obviously are closely monitoring the situation and working with the Swiss, who are our protectorate representative in the country, and hoping that these remarks lead to actions.

MR. WOOD: The second question will be from Dutch public television (inaudible).

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the last couple of days, two NATO member-states apprehended pirates but then had to let them go. Doesn’t that send the wrong signal to these pirates? And in what respect do you think the Netherlands can play a role in finding a solution?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do. Both the minister and I discussed that it sends the wrong signal. And there is a need to coordinate better the reactions of all of the nations and organizations involved in policing the coastline off of Somalia. The minister and I agreed that we will take this matter to NATO. If the Dutch navy had been operating under the EU, they could have turned over the pirates for trial. NATO has not provided that authority. So we need to coordinate this, we need to move very quickly to do so, and we’re going to work together in a leadership role to try to get this resolved. And I’m sure the minister would want to add something to that.

FOREIGN MINISTER VERHAGEN: No, it’s obvious that the problem of piracy will not be solved if we don’t take care also of the prosecution matter. And as a matter of fact, a few months ago, we actually got six pirates handed over from a Danish ship who arrested them when they were attacking a ship under the Dutch flag or (inaudible) flag. So therefore, we could prosecute them because they were attacking a Dutch vessel, and on the same time, it was within the framework of the European Union mission.

So it’s indeed rather cynical that when military action towards those pirates is within the framework of the NATO mission, we couldn’t deal with this in this framework. And that’s exactly the reason why we discussed and we decided also to discuss this together within the framework of NATO.

MR. WOOD: Thank you all very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much. Thank you.


PRN: 2009/348