Press Availability in the Dominican Republic

Press Availability
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
October 5, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Let me tell you how pleased I am to be back in Santo Domingo. And I am grateful to our hosts, the Government, and people of the Dominican Republic for the leadership in making the Pathways to Prosperity ministerial a success. I’m also pleased to be here with our ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who understands firsthand how important it is that we continue to stress our efforts to help people escape poverty, achieve prosperity, and build better lives for themselves and their families.

And through the Pathways program, that is exactly what we are doing, by sharing best practices, by embracing good policies, by making it clear that we are going to close the inequality gap in this region, that we’ve had good economic growth, but it hasn’t done enough to lift the many millions of people who are still living in poverty into a better life. We have refocused our objectives. We’ve strengthened our partnerships. We’re working with the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Today at the ministerial, we have adopted a declaration and a plan of action that clearly lay out both the mission of Pathways and the concrete steps we are taking, and we are looking forward to meeting next year in Colombia. We have four pillars for our work: empowering small businesses, facilitating trade, building a modern workforce, and promoting sustainable business practices and environmental cooperation. And I applaud those nations who are serving as co-chairs for these pillars: the Dominican Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay.

We are going to keep working together to translate our intentions into actions. And to help make that progress, earlier today I announced that the United States will commit up to $17.5 million to fund projects that foster inclusive economic growth in the Americas. We already dedicated $5 million during the past year to support a number of successful projects under Pathways. And we’re going to work to increase trade, which is why just a few days ago President Obama submitted to Congress three pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. We are hopeful that the Congress will act swiftly to approve them, along with trade adjustment assistance.

Well, we know what works. We’ve got the models that are proving themselves. Now we have to replicate, adapt, and expand those to all of our citizens.

Again, let me say how good it is to be back in the Dominican Republic. I am blessed to have a number of friends here. And this country is a close partner and friend to the United States. We work together closely to pursue our shared security and prosperity through Pathways, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, the Open Government Partnership, and so much else. This is a relationship we highly value. So again, I am pleased to be here and to have this opportunity to make progress together on our shared goals.

Now I would be happy to take some questions. So, Mike, let me turn it over to you.

MR. HAMMER: We have time for two questions from the U.S. side and two questions from the Dominican side. Is Brad Klapper from the AP – pose the first question.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, could you describe your feelings after Russia and China vetoed the UN resolution condemning Syria last evening in New York? I wonder if it’s particularly disappointing to you after the lobbying effort you pushed with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And with this route effectively blocked off, where do the United States and its international partners go from here to stem the bloodshed?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Brad, frankly, we believe that the Security Council abrogated its responsibility yesterday. It has a responsibility to protect international peace and the security of civilians. The resolution voted on yesterday represented the bare minimum that the international community should have said in response to the months of violence that the Asad regime has inflicted on the Syrian people.

The countries that chose to veto the resolution will have to offer their own explanations to the Syrian people, and to all others who are fighting for freedom and human rights around the world. We note the striking distinction between those Syrians who stand peacefully for change every day in cities across their country and those countries that would not stand with them on even one day in one city yesterday. So the United States and our European allies have made very clear where we stand on this issue, and we think that the people who joined with us from four continents to express our condemnation and call for an end to the violence, and to begin a peaceful transition to a new democratic, non-sectarian Syria are on the right side of history.

In the meantime, those countries that continue to send weapons to the Asad regime that are turned against innocent men, women, and children should look hard at what they are doing. Those nations are standing on the wrong side of history. They are protecting the wrong side in this dispute, and the Syrian people are not likely to forget that, and nor should they.

MR. HAMMER: All right. The next question (in Spanish).

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say that every country in our region is unfortunately affected by the scourge of drug trafficking and the criminality of drug traffickers. No country is immune, and every country must do more to prevent the spread of drug trafficking and the criminal elements who profit from the misery of people.

So we work closely with our colleagues and counterparts in the Dominican Republic. We will continue to do so. Strengthening security for citizens and against criminal elements remains a very high priority. That’s why we are working together in the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. We are partnering with the Dominican Republic’s military to help strengthen its ability to combat narco-trafficking, and we will be very clear about what our expectations are because we know that the people of the Dominican Republic deserve to lead safe, secure, peaceful lives free of the terrible violence that drug traffickers inflict.

We also know that drug trafficking goes hand-in-hand with corruption. And corruption is a cancer in any society. It needs to be addressed and eliminated. So we do support the Dominican Republic’s participatory Anti-Corruption Initiative, which is the kind of program that can help to strengthen governance and increase transparency and improve the institutional capacity of the security forces in the Dominican Republic to defeat the challenge posed by drug traffickers.

So we will continue to work together, but we will also continue to expect that those who are on the front lines of protecting the people of the Dominican Republic or anywhere in the region, are held to a high standard of accountability. Otherwise, we will not be successful.

MR. HAMMER: All right. The next question goes to Andy Quinn of Reuters.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, UNESCO said today that it will allow its full membership to vote on a Palestinian bid for membership later this month, which some say could be a back door to UN recognition of their statehood. Do you think the U.S. should withhold its funding for UNESCO or even drop out of the organization if this happens?

And we are now almost halfway through the one-month timeline that the Quartet gave for resuming direct peace talks. Do you have any reason to be optimistic now that the Israelis and the Palestinians will make that deadline?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, with regard to the action in UNESCO, I have to state that I find it quite confusing and somewhat inexplicable that you would have organs of the UN making decisions about statehood or quasi-statehood status while the issue has been presented to the United Nations. I think that that is a very odd procedure indeed, and would urge the governing body of UNESCO to think again before proceeding with that vote because the decision about status must be made in the United Nations and not in auxiliary groups that are subsidiary to the United Nations.

Having said that, you know where I stand. It is unfortunate that there is a policy to pursue recognition of whatever sort through the United Nations rather than returning to the negotiating table to resolve the issues that will result in a real Palestinian state, something that the United States strongly supports and wants to see as soon as possible. But we know that there cannot be a state without negotiations.

What is the boundary of this state that is being considered by UNESCO? What authorities does it have? What jurisdiction will it be endowed with? Who knows? Nobody knows because those are the hard issues that can only be resolved by negotiation. And unfortunately, there are those who, in their enthusiasm to recognize the aspirations of the Palestinian people, are skipping over the most important step, which is determining what the state will look like, what its borders are, how it will deal with the myriad of issues that states must address.

With respect to the question about the United States’s response, we are certainly aware of strong legislative prohibition that prevents the United States from funding organizations that jump the gun, so to speak, in recognizing entities before they are fully ready for such recognition. So it is still our hope and our strong recommendation that we take this to the appropriate forum, which is the negotiating table, and take it out of international organizations that are basically engaged in actions that are not going to change the lives of the people that deserve a state of their own, namely the Palestinians.

MR. HAMMER: Okay. The last question (in Spanish).

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that we should start with the recognition that the Dominican Republic was extraordinarily generous and helpful to Haitians after the terrible earthquake. The Dominican Republic, both through the government, through its military, through its private sector, through private citizens, was one of the earliest responders to the terrible tragedy that befell on the Haitian people. So we know that in its most terrible time of need, Haiti received help from the neighbor who shares this beautiful island with it.

I’m well aware that there are very serious concerns about the human rights of Haitians, and in particular those who have been here long enough to be – to have been born here and lived here. And we don’t dispute that every nation has a right, a sovereign right, to establish the laws concerning its border security, concerning its nationality, but we also believe that every nation has an obligation to protect the human rights of migrants. And therefore, there must be a resolution that recognizes those human rights, and we hope that we can encourage the Government of the Dominican Republic to look for ways to resolve these outstanding issues of residency and citizenship.

I know there’s a debate about what would happen to migrants who were stripped of their naturalized residency rights. I know that the Haitian constitution seems to suggest that once a Haitian, always a Haitian, and always the right to be considered a citizen of Haiti. So these are very difficult, complex issues, and the United States is a friend to both Haiti and to the Dominican Republic, and we want to encourage the fair resolution of these issues so that people’s rights are recognized, but also a nation’s right to control its borders and its internal laws is also respected. Thank you.

MR. HAMMER: That concludes our press conference.

PRN: 2011/T53-04