Remarks With Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez and Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno Ugarte at Camera Spray After Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
New York, NY
September 21, 2009

Date: 09/21/2009 Description: Secretary Clinton meets with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. © State Dept Image by Michael GrossSECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is always an honor to meet with President Arias and exchange views on a lot of the issues that not only affect our hemisphere but, indeed, the entire world, because he is a global leader (inaudible) respected across the planet.

Today, of course, we talked about Honduras and the return of President Zelaya. Certainly, the United States supports the San Jose Accords that President Arias negotiated, but it’s imperative that dialogue begin, that there be a channel of communication between President Zelaya and the de facto regime in Honduras. And it’s also imperative that the return of President Zelaya does not lead to any conflict or violence, but instead, that everyone act in a peaceful way to try to find some common ground.

Once again, the Costa Ricans will be using their good offices to try to encourage that to occur, because now that President Zelaya is back, it would be opportune to restore him to his position under appropriate circumstances, get on with the election that is currently scheduled for November, have a peaceful transition of presidential authority, and get Honduras back to constitutional and democratic order in a very – on a very clear path toward that goal.

So that’s what we are hoping to see, but let me turn now to President Arias.

PRESIDENT ARIAS: I think this is the best opportunity, the best time, now that Zelaya is back in his country (inaudible) to sign the San Jose Accord. It’s all we have on the table. There is no B plan. And when we wrote this San Jose Accords, it was after listening to everybody (inaudible).

Perhaps the main difficulty has been for Zelaya to be accepted by the de facto government (inaudible) constitutional president of Honduras. But now that he’s back, we just have to put more pressure (inaudible) the whole world, the Europeans, and (inaudible) the U.S. has been very helpful (inaudible) a lot of pressure on the de facto government, as well as lot of Latin America. But I think it is now the right time for them to sign it.

QUESTION: Was his return counterproductive? A question to both of you: Do you think that his return is setting talks back?

PRESIDENT ARIAS: No. I mean, I’m sorry, I didn’t --

QUESTION: Would you say the return is counterproductive?

PRESIDENT ARIAS: No, I don’t see it (inaudible). I mean, if he’s back – I don’t know, he got in, but I think it makes it easier to (inaudible) for us to put some more pressure on the de facto government to sign the San Jose Accord and – well, there is need for more dialogue, for sure. That dialogue can take place in Tegucigalpa or in San Jose, Costa Rica, if it was necessary. But the main difficulty has been Zelaya’s return. Now that he’s back, it’s going to be much easier.

QUESTION: Do you see a danger that the de facto government may act against President Zelaya? I mean, after all, these are the people who hustled him onto a plane in the middle of the night. Have you sought to warn the de facto government against taking actions against (inaudible) or doing anything else to interfere with his ability to speak?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have certainly communicated very directly our expectation that there will be order and no provocation on either side. This is not just a one-sided request. It goes to both sides. Both sides have supporters who need to be restrained and careful in their actions in the days ahead.

But as President Arias said, now is the moment for the two sides to try to work out an agreement to the benefit of the people of Honduras. And as President Arias said, it’s hard to think about how they will come up with something other than the San Jose Accords. They’re – they represent an enormous amount of time, effort, and participation by both sides.

But the important thing is that they begin the dialogue. And if they can come up with their own agreement, we would be fine with that. We just want to see this matter resolved peacefully, with an understanding that there will be the remainder of President Zelaya’s term to be respected, that the elections can go on, that there will be a peaceful transfer of power. I think everyone knows what the milestones need to be. It’s just a question of persuading and convincing and using our best efforts to try to get both sides to reach that point.

QUESTION: Have you warned them today that (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have. We have warned – we have spoken directly to multiple parties and very clearly said that there had to be calm and peace in the streets. I think that the government imposed a curfew, we just learned, to try to get people off the streets so that there couldn't be unforeseen developments. But there ultimately in the next hours has to be some effort to bring the parties together to resolve this between them.

QUESTION: Would it make sense for President Arias to go himself to make sure that things do go smoothly? It seems that the risks are high. On one hand, you’ve got pressure to solve the problem, but you also have the risk that it could all backfire.

PRESIDENT ARIAS: Yes, I would be willing to go, but if both sides, both parties, ask me to go to Tegucigalpa, I would (inaudible).

PRN: 2009/T12-8