Remarks With Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez After Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 15, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, everyone. It is a real honor and a personal pleasure for me to welcome President Vazquez to the State Department. We had a lot to discuss. We are very excited about the opportunity to continue to broaden and deepen our relationship. Uruguay is a valued ally and a longtime friend of the United States.

Our two nations share core democratic values, a wide range of common concerns, and hopes for a peaceful and prosperous future for all of our peoples. I thanked the president for Uruguay’s leadership on regional and global challenges, for working within multilateral institutions to spur economic recovery, support the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and strengthen democratic institutions.

I particularly want to recognize Uruguay’s first year on the International Atomic Energy Agency board. This organization plays a vital role in maintaining global security and preventing nuclear proliferation, and we are grateful for Uruguay’s leadership.

We discussed how we can strengthen our economic and trade relationship, and I also thanked the president for the participation of several Uruguayan businesswomen in Washington next month for a Pathways to Prosperity conference on women’s access to markets and finance.

And also, I wish to commend Uruguay for the very high participation in peacekeeping operations that enhance security around the world. We will work together on developing alternative energy and responses to climate change, advancing science and technology, particularly in the area of cancer research, something that the president knows quite a bit about.

So thank you, Mr. President. You have laid a very strong foundation for continued progress between our two countries.

PRESIDENT VAZQUEZ: Thank you so much, Mrs. Clinton. It is my pleasure, it is an honor to stay here with you in this beautiful country.

(Via interpreter) There’s not much that we have to add to what already has been said, but what I wanted to stress is the fact that we’ve agreed on all the issues that we have discussed and we consider that this meeting today has been a new hallmark in an already longstanding tradition in the relations of our two countries.

And I’d like to take advantage of this instance to make an announcement. At the end of this quarter, we are going to be announcing a collaboration agreement with the NIH, with the Cancer Division of the NIH, to jointly develop trials and to conduct research and to exchange experience in – for the scientific – for scientific research for the two countries.

So once again, we thank you for your kindness in receiving us.

INTERPRETER: And he’s ready to answer any questions you may ask.


MR. KELLY: We’ll take a few questions. First question to Elise Labott from CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. President and Madame Secretary, I was wondering if you could give us your thoughts on what seems to be a growing transfer of arms and possibly even an arms race in the region. We’ve seen a lot of transfers of technology from Iran to Venezuela. The Brazilians just bought a very big package from the French. And I’m wondering if this is alarming to you.

And Madame Secretary, if I might on Afghanistan, you’ve been meeting with a lot of senators on the Hill. Some are in favor of some more troops in Afghanistan and some are not, as you know. And as you wait for the assessment by General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the need for more troops in Afghanistan and how that might help or hinder your civilian effort. Thank you.



INTERPRETER: Shall we first interpret the question? I’m sorry.


(The question is interpreted.)

Date: 09/15/2009 Description: Remarks by Secretary Clinton and Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez in the Treaty Room at the State Department.  © State Dept Image SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have expressed concern about the number of Venezuelan arms purchases. They outpace all other countries in South America and certainly raise the question as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region. So we urge Venezuela to be transparent in its purchases, clear about its purposes. They should be putting in place procedures and practices to ensure that the weapons that they buy are not diverted to insurgent groups or illegal organizations, like drug trafficking gangs and other criminal cartels.

So there is concern that we have expressed and will continue to raise with other countries in the region. And we hope that we can see a change in behavior and attitude on the part of the Venezuelan Government.

PRESIDENT VAZQUEZ: (Via interpreter) With respect to the arms race, not only is our country worried, but we have already expressed time and again our position against an arms race. We believe that it is quite inconvenient to the region to devote such significant economic resources toward purchasing arms. And – but it’s a fact, and we can’t deny it, that the countries are buying weapons.

And to make things worse, our region is the region that has the worst distribution of wealth. So with – under those conditions, it is still worse to be devoting those resources to weapons. South America has millions of people living in poverty, and there are thousands of children that die across Latin America and South America because of child diarrhea or diseases that could be prevented.

So because of all these reasons, all that should lead the governments of South America to decide to devote more money to promote health, to promote education and education to prevent diseases; to spend that money, instead of spending it in weapons, spending it in housing, good housing for our people, and to further deepen investment, especially in the field of education.

So we should devote our energies and resources to fight against the real scourges of our societies, that are drug – such as drug trafficking and terrorism. That would be certainly a much better use of our resources.

SECRETARY CLINTON: As to Afghanistan, we are in the midst of reviewing the strategy and the status of our efforts in Afghanistan. That will continue for some time. Everyone is providing their best ideas and making their contributions about the way forward in Afghanistan.

MR. KELLY: Next question to Alejandro Figuerero, Teledoce.

QUESTION: Mrs. Clinton, which are your expectations about the national elections in Uruguay?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we will seek to work collaboratively with any democratically elected government of Uruguay. We have worked productively over the years with governments across the political spectrum. We expect to continue doing so. We think that the United States can and should have a positive relationship with whomever the people of Uruguay elect.

We hope to build on the strong foundation that President Vazquez has left, because it has demonstrated that Uruguay can make great progress against the odds, given the economic downturn, and can bring the people of the country together to decrease poverty and increase social justice. So the policies that have been followed by this current president and his government seem to have worked very well for the people, and we look forward to working with whomever is elected.

MR. KELLY: Next question, Bob Burns from the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, one question about the P-5+1 talks with Iran that seem to be coming up in a couple of weeks. The Iranians have been quite explicit and unequivocal that they are not interested in talking about their own nuclear program, although they said they are willing to talk about global disarmament. So the question is: Why would you want to go into these talks if they have said in advance that they won’t discuss the issue that’s of most concern to you?

And if I may add a related question on a nuclear problem, on North Korea, your aides have been saying in recent days that the U.S. is now prepared to talk to North Korea one-on-one, to try to get them to come back into the Six-Party format. Why would you do that? What makes you think that they would change their mind and stop refusing to return? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, we and our partners in the P-5+1 have agreed to a meeting on October 1st. And our delegation will be led by Under Secretary Bill Burns. I think it is important to underscore that we have made clear to the Iranians that any talks we participate in must address the nuclear issue head on. It cannot be ignored. Iran says it has a number of issues that it wishes to discuss with us. But what we are concerned about is discussing with them the questions surrounding their nuclear program and ambitions.

We know that there is no prediction as to what will come from these talks. We have no illusions about the Iranian Government. But the point is to meet and explain to the Iranians, face to face, the choices that Iran has, and to see whether Iran is prepared to engage with us around its nuclear program. The P-5+1 is the forum for addressing the Iranian nuclear program. And we have adopted a two-track approach. We are, on the one hand, working to see whether anything positive can come from this meeting on October 1st. But we are also working with the international community on consequences that would flow if Iran fails to fulfill their international obligations on their nuclear program.

So this is going to be a fulfillment of President Obama’s promise of engagement. We think it is very much worthwhile. But we are not going to be talking for the sake of talking, and we’re not engaging in a process that has no purpose or endpoint. So we will wait to see how Iran responds in that face-to-face venue.

With respect to North Korea, we have made it very clear that we support a resumption of the Six-Party Talks. Both Ambassador Bosworth and Ambassador Kim traveled and spoke with our counterparts in the Six-Party process. They agree with us that we have to try to resume the Six-Party dialogue. But they also recognize that one of the ways we perhaps can get North Korea to engage is by explaining, directly and clearly, what the purpose is and what the possible consequences and incentives could be. So we are in the process of exploring that with our partners, but we are totally unified. The United States is not acting in any way that is not part of agreed-upon – an agreed-upon process that has been worked out with the Six-Party members.

QUESTION: You haven’t made a decision on North Korea, though?


MR. KELLY: And the last question to Maite Fernandez.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) The question is addressed to President Vazquez. After your conversations with Secretary of State Clinton, what are the conclusions that you can draw with regard to future trade relations between the United States with South America as a whole, but also with Uruguay in particular, whether there are going to be any changes in policies, whether it’s going to be more open, or what is the outlook?


PRESIDENT VAZQUEZ: What do you say? What do you say?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, what I say – (laughter) – is that we are working to try to improve our trade and economic relations. The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed in 2007 has been a very successful mechanism for promoting our two countries’ economic interests. We will continue to work together. The president mentioned leather goods, woolen goods, lamb. He mentioned very specific products. And we’re going to be working together on each of those points.

PRESIDENT VAZQUEZ: (Via interpreter) So not only did we discuss those general issues, most of our focus was in the bilateral relations of the two countries. And we both expressed our commitment to continue to work jointly, and so that we could improve the existing exchange between the two countries, not only limited to trade and to economic issues, but also to further enhance the other relations – promoting the cultural, scientific, and artistic collaboration.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.

PRESIDENT VAZQUEZ: Thank you so much.

PRN: 2009/919