Remarks at the Top of the Daily Press Briefing
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for noticing, Matt. That’s right. See, I’ve got my Secretary of State – (laughter). Oh, goodness.
Well, hello, everyone. I just finished a productive meeting with President Zelaya. We discussed the events of the past nine days and the road ahead. I reiterated to him that the United States supports the restoration of the democratic constitutional order in Honduras. We continue to support regional efforts through the OAS to bring about a peaceful resolution that is consistent with the terms of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
As President Obama said today, we have taken this position because we respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders, whether they are leaders we agree with or not. And I told President Zelaya that we will do everything we can to avoid any further bloodshed, and I conveyed our deep regret over the tragic events that unfolded in the last days.
We call upon all parties to refrain from acts of violence and to seek a peaceful, constitutional, and lasting solution to the serious divisions in Honduras through dialogue. To that end, we have been working with a number of our partners in the hemisphere to create a negotiation, a dialogue that could lead to a peaceful resolution of this situation.
We are supporting the efforts that the OAS has made, but we think there needs to be a specific mediator, and to that end we are supporting President Arias of Costa Rica to serve in this important role. I raised this with President Zelaya, discussed it with him at length. He agreed that President Arias, who not only has a lot of experience going back many years as a mediator – in fact, won the Nobel Peace Prize for the work he did to resolve the conflict in El Salvador – but is the current president of the Central American Association. So he is the natural person to assume this role.
I spoke with President Arias earlier today, discussed it with him. He is willing to serve as a mediator. And we have received word that the de facto caretaker president, Micheletti, will also agree to President Arias serving in this role.
We hope that this process can begin as soon as possible. It was one of the questions that President Zelaya raised with me, what the timing would be. Based on my conversation with President Arias, I think he is willing to begin immediately.
And it is our hope that through this dialogue mechanism, overseen by President Arias, that there can be a restoration of democratic constitutional order, a peaceful resolution of this matter that will enable the Honduran people to see the restoration of democracy and a more peaceful future going forward.
So I’d be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Do you believe that – you use this phrase that is so often used here, “the restoration of the constitutional and democratic order.” One, does that mean that President Zelaya should be restored to his position?
Secondly, do you think it makes any sense for him to try to force his way back into the country, as he did over the weekend when the violence occurred?
And then lastly, does he need to compromise a little on this? Does he need to perhaps give up his plans for a referendum on extending the presidential terms?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Now that we have a mediation process that we hope can begin shortly, I don’t want to prejudge what the parties themselves will agree to. There are many different issues that will have to be discussed and resolved. But I think it’s fair to let the parties themselves, with President Arias’ assistance, sort out all of these issues.
We hope at the end of this mediation there will be a return of democratic constitutional order that is agreed to by all concerned. The exact nature of that, the specifics of it, we will leave to the parties themselves, as I think now is appropriate.
I was heartened that President Zelaya agreed with this. I believe it is a better route for him to follow at this time than to attempt to return in the face of the implacable opposition of the de facto regime. And so instead of another confrontation that might result in the loss of life, let’s try the dialogue process and see where that leads, and let’s let the parties determine all the various issues as they should. It’s their responsibility to do that.
QUESTION: Does the mediation effort now mean that you’re going to hold off on making a determination about whether this was, in fact, a coup that statutorily requires you to suspend non-humanitarian aid?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Matt, we have paused in the aid that we think would be affected by the letter of the statute. There is humanitarian aid, and that is a concern for us – the well-being of the people of Honduras. But we’ve made the decision to basically pause on any further aid. We hope that this mediation process will lead to a rapid resolution, and that would be our preference.
QUESTION: And do you expect President Arias to actually go to Honduras?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, he’s going to conduct it in Costa Rica, and the parties from Honduras, including President Zelaya, will be in Costa Rica for the mediation.
MR. KELLY: Okay, Nick Kralev, Washington Times.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, what status – what official status does President Zelaya currently have in the United States? What has he been afforded? And what is the status of the ambassador of Honduras to the – to Washington? Does he represent the de facto government or President Zelaya?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Those are some of the specific questions that President Zelaya is discussing as we speak with Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon, with Dan Restrepo from the National Security Council, and others, because we do want to work this out in the most appropriate manner. The question of their ambassador to us and our ambassador to them is one we need to resolve. I was very pleased that President Zelaya and the foreign minister who was with him both commended us for the role that our ambassador is playing in Honduras, not only in providing security for members of President Zelaya’s family, but in being one of the few people who can talk to all sides at this time.
We are obviously going to be guided by the appropriateness of whether to leave our ambassador there going forward. If – President Zelaya believes that he’s playing a useful role, so we do not want to abridge that if it could be value-added to this mediation process.
MR. KELLY: Last question to Ginger Thompson, New York Times.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you for taking questions. Can you confirm reports that Assistant Secretary Shannon met yesterday, I believe, with Ricardo Maduro, who is representing the delegation that’s backing the de facto government, and can you tell us about the nature of those conversations and whether you all continue to have meetings with that delegation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to comment on that because our goal has been to reach the point where I believe we are now, which is to get the parties talking to each other and not through us or through other third parties. There’s been, as you know, an enormous amount of contact going on across the hemisphere and, literally, around the world. But it has been my view for several days that the most useful role we could play is to convince all that are directly concerned, not only President Zelaya, but also the de facto regime, the OAS, the UN, everyone, that we needed to have a process where the Hondurans themselves sat down and talked to each other. And that is – that’s been my goal, and I believe that we are on the brink of that happening. I’m hoping that it actually occurs soon.
So we have tried through our good offices to get people to this point. And we’re very grateful for the willingness of President Arias to serve in this position, and we’re also appreciative of the efforts of the OAS as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary --
QUESTION: One more?
SECRETARY CLINTON: All right, one more. One more.
QUESTION: Would you like to say something about the riots in China and also your trip to India, Madame Secretary?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are deeply concerned over the reports of deaths and injuries from violence in Western China. We are trying to sort out, as best we can, the facts and circumstances from the region, and we’re calling on all sides to exercise restraint. We know there’s a long history of tension and discontent, but the most immediate matter is to bring the violence to a conclusion.
With respect to India, I’m very much looking forward to my trip next week. We are working hard with our Indian counterparts to create a very deep and broad strategic engagement. And it is my hope that we’ll be able to announce our intentions when I’m in India, and that we will be cooperating and working together across the broadest range of concerns that our two governments have ever engaged on.
I am very hopeful that the relationship between the United States and India, which has improved considerably over the last 15 years, continues on the path that we’re on. India is an emerging global power. The recent election has provided political stability, and the new government is very committed to pursuing a very activist domestic agenda, particularly around poverty and the conditions of people in rural India, as well as its emphasis on development and job creation, but also to look for ways that India can play a role regionally and globally on the economic issues and other matters that confront us.
So I’m very excited. I was thrilled to go to India for the first time as First Lady and to begin a process that has led us to this point with the contributions of many along the way that really demonstrates that the world’s largest democracy and oldest democracy have so much more in common than perhaps was first recognized.
So thank you. Thank you all very much.