Remarks With Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome back a friend and a colleague, a partner on so many important issues. Foreign Minister Rudd is one of our regular visitors here and someone whose friendship and counsel I have valued. Before I speak about the important work that we are doing between the United States and Australia on so many fronts, I just want to state again, as President Obama announced to the nation, that a murderer is dead and justice has been done. America – and the world – is safer and more secure because of it. We thank all of our partners around the world, including Pakistan, who have helped us put unprecedented pressure on al-Qaida and its leadership for the murders of so many individuals, most of whom over the last years have been Muslim, in countries not only in the United States and Europe but as far away as Bali, Indonesia where many Australians were murdered. While this is an important and necessary milestone, we will continue to press forward.
The minister and I discussed how important it was for us to bolster our partnerships and our networks of cooperation as we continue to fight against al-Qaida and its allies. In particular, in Afghanistan we are committed to supporting the people of Afghanistan against the violence that is sown by the extremists, and we hope that the Taliban will take note of this and begin seriously to consider alternatives to continuing violence. And we remain committed to supporting the people and Government of Pakistan as they defend their own democracy against extremism. So I think that our resolve, our reach, and our partnerships and alliances – including the one we share with Australia – create a strong foundation on which we are defending freedom and pursuing justice on behalf of people everywhere around the world who seek a better life.
Australia and the United States are fully committed partners on a range of critical bilateral, regional, and global issues. We are working to expand security, of course, but also prosperity for the many. We want to end violence against all people, but particularly women and girls; there’s always a full agenda. I thanked the Foreign Minister for Australia’s many contributions toward peace and humanitarian relief. We have a shared commitment to a peaceful resolution in Syria. We are pleased to work together at the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn the ongoing crackdown there and dispatch a fact-finding mission.
Australia is also the world’s third largest non-military contributor to Libya, recently increasing its humanitarian assistance to $25 million and offering a passenger ship to evacuate up to 1,000 people escaping the bloodshed that Qadhafi and his forces are inflicting.
And of course, Australia remains the biggest non-NATO contributor, from troops to aid relief, toward our joint efforts in Afghanistan, and the Australian people have been so generous and quick to respond to the needs of everyone from New Zealand to Japan, because of devastating natural disasters.
Our security alliance, which has helped to underwrite stability for 60 years in the Asia-Pacific, including through the annual Australia-United States Ministerial, known as AUSMIN, discusses a range of important security issues including cybersecurity and counterterrorism. And both of us understand the benefits of deeper economic integration and fair trade. Minister Rudd was very influential in helping us to work toward a greater, more relevant involvement in the Pacific-Asian institutions, such as joining the East Asian Summit. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is exploring ways to expand opportunity, is critical, and APEC and ASEAN are two other organizations where we work together.
We also appreciate the close consultation we have with respect to China. Our Strategic and Economic Dialogue will be held with China next week here in Washington, and Australia has a very strong set of policies that it is pursuing to ensure that China is a positive presence in the region.
So there is so much else that we consult on and work on, and I’m very grateful to have this time to catch up, on today of all days, with Kevin. So thank you for your partnership and friendship.
FOREIGN MINISTER RUDD: Thank you very much, Secretary of State. Today is a moment in history to be here in Washington with our friends and allies in America, a city which was under attack from terrorists just under a decade ago, and a city where we have heard the news that Usama bin Ladin is dead. It’s a time when we also reflect on the absolute professionalism of American forces in discharging this mission, which has been of critical importance to so many of us around the world. And we congratulate them.
It’s also a day when we reflect upon the families of the victims of terrorism, as the Secretary of State has just said in New York, the city which she represented in the United States Senate; here in Washington, DC, our friends at the Pentagon; in the fields of Pennsylvania; in London; train stations in Madrid; in Bali, where we lost close to a hundred of our own to terrorists. Let us hope that these lives, these families that have been so shattered by these terrorist attacks orchestrated by an organization, the al-Qaida network, led by Usama bin Ladin – let us hope that these events of the last day or so bring some sense of closure to those families who have been so radically affected. Let us never forget in Australia that the victims in Bali, brought about by the Bali bombers, those bombers were in large part trained in Afghanistan in the period that Usama bin Ladin ran amok in that country.
I think also it reminds us today of the absolute importance of determination, determination in the field in Afghanistan, where our troops have been with each other now for close on a decade. And there has been much commentary about the difficulties we encounter in the field. And it’s true; it’s a very difficult, long, and hard battle that we fight. But it reinforces the absolute importance of staying the course to complete our mission, and for our efforts in counterterrorism the same, which have yielded such extraordinary fruit in the actions taken in the last day or so on Usama bin Ladin.
And finally, on the question of Usama bin Ladin and al-Qaida, let us also again, as the President said in his remarks last night, reflect on the absolute importance of vigilance, vigilance in the days and weeks and months ahead. The fighting season begins afresh in Afghanistan. Our soldiers in the field will feel these pressures acutely; also in the work of our counterterrorism agencies across the world; and for members of our traveling public, the adjustments to travel advisories as we alert them to new dangers in our missions abroad.
In our relationship with the United States, this alliance for us is bedrock. It is the guiding principle of Australia’s engagement with the region and the world. And this year, together with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, we’ll celebrate the 60th anniversary of this alliance relationship.
Today we have discussed a range of key challenges. We’ve mentioned Afghanistan. We have also discussed the rise of China. We discussed the future of the East Asian Summit, where America will, for the first time, attend at a head-of-government head-of-state level. And we look forward to that at the end of this year, where Prime Minister Gillard will also be in attendance. This is a critical opportunity to start outlining some of the political and security rules of the road for East Asia and the Pacific so that we can enjoy prosperity and stability in the future.
We’ve also discussed the challenges in the Middle East. Syria, the Secretary has just mentioned. Further to that, Libya, where Australia will join with the United States as a member of the international Contact Group in its foreign ministerial meeting in Rome later this week. And of course, the Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
So, Hillary, thank you again for your kind hospitality in receiving your Antipodean visitors today. (Laughter.) We look forward to gathering again in San Francisco for the 60th anniversary gathering of AUSMIN later this year. And in us you have a reliable partner, a reliable friend, in what for us is a bedrock relationship.
MODERATOR: Time for just two questions. The first is with Jill Dougherty of CNN.
QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, about a year ago you said that somebody somewhere in the Pakistani Government must know where Usama bin Ladin is. Do you still believe that they must have known? And if he was hiding 31 miles from Islamabad, the capital, how can you possibly have confidence in Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism?
And just one other question on the same subject. There is a reward that was supposed to be given – $25 million. Is that reward going to be given? What will happen to it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, as the President made clear, it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation over a number of years now with Pakistan has contributed greatly to our efforts to dismantle al-Qaida. And in fact, cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Ladin and the compound in which he was hiding.
Going forward, we are absolutely committed to continuing that cooperation. And it’s not just cooperation between governmental agencies; it’s cooperation between the people of the United States and the people of Pakistan. They are defending their own democracy against violent extremism. Bin Ladin declared war on Pakistan a few years ago, so this was someone who was an enemy of the United States and an enemy of Pakistan. And it was important for us to work as closely as we could with our Pakistani counterparts, and it remains so.
So looking forward, we’re going to continue to make progress. We’re going to continue to keep the pressure on al-Qaida and its syndicate of terror. We’re committed to this partnership. We think it is in the best interest of the security and safety of the United States.
With respect to the reward, the Rewards for Justice program has obviously removed Usama bin Ladin from its active list of most wanted suspects because of his death. Given the importance of confidentiality to the Rewards for Justice program, I cannot comment at all on whether anyone has been nominated for a reward in this or any other case.
MODERATOR: Brad Norington of The Australian, second question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Rudd, what implications does Usama bin Ladin’s demise have for Australia’s policy on terrorism? Is it likely to speed up our exit from Afghanistan? And is the threat of terrorism in any way diminished for Australia?
FOREIGN MINISTER RUDD: On the first point, in terms of our mission in Afghanistan, the answer is, without reservation, no. That is, we will stay the course in Afghanistan until our mission is complete. And we’ve defined what that mission is in relation to the province of Uruzgan, which our defense forces are by and large committed, together with our American allies. We are discharging our mission there. We are well down the track of training the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army. I’ve been in Afghanistan about two or three weeks ago and seen the work in the field. More broadly in the province itself, I see great progress on the economic development – roads being built, markets being established, schools being constructed. We even opened our first Australian Government-funded mosque in the Tora Valley, which
greeted by tribal leaders with great enthusiasm. So we believe that we have the right timetable to do it. We respect President Karzai’s 2014 date, and we are well on track towards achieving that, and we see no change as a result of the events of the last 24 hours.
On the second point that you asked, in terms of the challenge of terrorism, is it diminished as a result of Usama bin Ladin’s demise? This challenge remains a serious challenge around the world. The al-Qaida network is still alive and well. We see many manifestations of it around the world, be it on the Arabian Peninsula or elsewhere. Therefore, the challenge for us as allies of America, and with our friends and partners right across Southeast Asia and our friends and partners right across Europe and the Middle East, is to remain vigilant.
As the President said last night and the Secretary of State in her remarks as well, it’s critical that this man, this murderer, was brought to justice. It’s equally critical that we remain vigilant against future terrorist attacks. And what we know from the past, these are non-discriminating in terms of where they are launched, against whom they are launched – Muslims, Christians, anybody – and whatever center in the world. So our forces have a challenge ahead of them. Now, security intelligence cooperation is critical, and we in Australia will play our part with America and likemindeds across the world.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.