Remarks En Route Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Traveling Press
En Route Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
January 9, 2011


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this trip is, in many ways, an important follow-up to one directly related trip and another that is equally significant but less direct. The first, of course, was a trip to Bahrain and the speech that I gave at Manama outlining our security agenda, and the countries I am visiting are all very strong partners in our security efforts, on counterterrorism, on the ongoing challenges posed by Iran, on dealing with the difficulties that we are working through as Iraq emerges into a sovereign, independent country, and so much else.

At the same time, I gave a speech in Krakow last summer in which I talked about the importance of countries including civil societies, respecting human rights, involving women, empowering their citizens, and we have been very focused on building a system following up on that speech and making clear that civil society in every country needs to be part of our engagement as well as more involved by their governments.

So in countries that I’m visiting I will be obviously meeting with leaders to continue the security dialogues that we are engaged in to talk through some of the challenges we face, but also reaching out very publicly to civil society and a lot of the activists and the NGOs that have been on the front lines working for change and a particular emphasis – it will not surprise you – on women and girls. So we’ll be working in every one of the countries on that kind of dual track.

I’ll be happy to answer your questions. I can’t talk about one of the countries except off the record and embargo for security reasons. So we can have some questions on the record, but then we should go off the record and talk further. Okay?

QUESTION: Can I ask about Iran? Two questions.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. That’s the country. We can’t talk about that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You’ve already had one trip where you went to deal with fallout from WikiLeaks. You are visiting a couple of places where the leaders were quoted saying some very strong things about Iran. Do you expect you will have to do any further explanation, damage control, et cetera? That’s the first question.

The second question is: In light of what the outgoing Israeli intelligence chief said about potential slow-downs in the development of Iran’s nuclear program, is that going to be a theme? And do you feel – on some level feel that maybe the pressure has eased a tiny bit in terms of fears about Iran?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, on the first question, Mark, I think I will be answering concerns about WikiLeaks until the end of my life, not just the end of my tenure as Secretary of State. I’ve told my team that I want to get one of those really sharp looking jackets that rock-and-roll groups have on tours. And I could have a big picture of the world, and it could say “The Apology Tour,” because I have been very, very much involved in reaching out to leaders and others who have concerns about either the general message of our confidential communications being exposed in this way or specific questions about their country or themselves.

It – that aspect of it has receded a lot. I’ve done an enormous amount of work, as have other members of our government, but it still is in the atmosphere. So I think it is always better to affirmatively raise it, set forth the concerns that we know our friends have. And as you pointed out in an article you wrote a few days ago, there are some specific very serious issues that we are going to be dealing with over the months ahead.

Now, regarding the assessments, the public assessments by the retiring head of the Israeli intelligence agency and other assessments that were publicly discussed by members of the Israeli Government or Knesset, those assessments are ones that they’ve made based on their own analysis. But we obviously – not just the United States, but many of our international partners – have an ongoing, intense, robust discussion about Iran, about Iran’s actions, Iran’s intentions, and it’s especially important to be engaged in that because information comes to life that impacts our analysis and the conclusions we draw from it.

The timeline is not so important as the international effort to try to ensure that, whatever the timeline, Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. I don’t know that it gives much comfort to somebody who is in the Gulf or is in a country that Iran has vowed to destroy that it’s a one-year or three-year timeframe. So I think we should keep the focus where it belongs – on the intensive international effort certainly highlighted by the sanctions, which we believe have had a very significant impact.

The upcoming P-5+1 meeting in Istanbul where we have all who are participating made it clear to the Iranians that the address for nuclear inspections is the IAEA, not individual countries, and that the forum for discussing this and other issues with the international community is the P-5+1.

QUESTION: Are you –

QUESTION: (Inaudible) with Iran. So how do you (inaudible) that wanting them to be very strict on sanctions, but it seems like they have to deal with Iran as a neighbor and (inaudible).

QUESTION: And tied to that, are you worried that – when the Israeli assessment comes out, I can see some of these folks saying, “Hey, well, this bomb won’t come around for five or six years. (Inaudible) to keep the pressure on (inaudible).”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first to both Jill and Jay, I think the point is that these countries that have significant economic relations with Iran have been very responsive up to now. We do keep the pressure on all the time because the Iranians are always looking for way out of the impact of the sanctions. They’re always trying to figure out, “Well, if this bank shut us down, what bank can we do business with?” So we have had a consistent message to our friends in the Gulf that there is no part of the world that has more at stake than trying to deter Iran from becoming the creator and possessor of nuclear weapons than you.

So on the balance sheet, we’ve seen a lot of positive actions, but it will certainly be an issue that I will raise in all the countries that I visit because we want to keep that pressure on. And to go to Jay’s point, we don’t want anyone to be misled by anyone’s intelligence analysis. This remains a serious concern, and we expect all of our partners who share that concern, as these countries certainly do, to stay as focused as they can and to do everything within reason that will help to implement these sanctions. And I think that the balance is that they have done a lot, some more than others, and there is always more to do, but they are certainly very serious about trying to achieve the objective that the sanctions is pointed in.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I had a – what I thought of us a substantive and reassuring meeting with Prime Minister Hariri. I was impressed by his resolve and his understanding of the very difficult situation in which his country finds itself. We obviously, as you know, have been constant in our commitment to the tribunal and to the fundamental principle that Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence must be respected, and that is why we’re working hard with Saudi Arabia, France, and Egypt to form a strong foundation of support for Lebanon and, in particular, Prime Minister Hariri. So I thought it was a very positive discussion.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Continuing support which we are going to provide.

QUESTION: On the Middle East, in the absence of direct talks, Palestinians are taking their case to the UN and they’re going to ask (inaudible) resolution (inaudible). And I wonder what message you’re telling both Arab leaders about that and when you’re expecting (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Michelle, we continue to believe strongly that New York is not the place to resolve the long-standing conflict and outstanding issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We do not think that that is a productive path for the Palestinians or anyone to pursue. The Palestinians are aware of our position as are everyone else. But we also believe that a concerted effort to enable the parties to return to negotiations that will permit them to make progress together is in everyone’s interests. So we are tireless in our efforts to try to bring that about.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) how happy are you with the Gulf countries’ attitude toward the new Iraqi Government?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s improving, and I would like to see more improvements, and I will certainly raise that with the leaders I speak with. I would like to see every country open an embassy. I’d like to see normal relations. I’d like to see the leaders of Iraq invited and consulted. I hope that when I’m in Doha we’ll have a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and that will be one of the issues on the agenda as far as I’m concerned. So it’s slowly, but I think positively making progress. So let me go off the record. Is that all right with everybody?

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PRN: 2010/37-01