Remarks at the Launch of the Joint Coordination Committee

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari
Monroe Room
Washington, DC
December 12, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. It’s my honor to welcome Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari and his distinguished delegation here to the third meeting of our political and diplomatic Joint Coordination Committee. We have had a series of very constructive discussions, starting at dinner last night and going through the meetings at the White House with the President, and now here at the State Department. Together, we are opening a new chapter in the relationship between Iraq and the United States under our Strategic Framework Agreement.

We believe these are truly historic days for both nations, and as we complete the withdrawal of American troops, we are defining our new partnership with a free and democratic Iraq. Our Strategic Framework Agreement commits our countries to work together on a wide range of issues, from governance and rule of law, to economics and education, to energy and the environment. And we are committed to following through. As Vice President Biden said in Baghdad two weeks ago, we intend to keep our promises.

Now, our new beginning is founded in mutual understanding, shared interests, and mutual respect for each other as sovereign equals. We share the same goal, building a self-reliant Iraq with a government that is able to serve the needs of the Iraqi people. And we have made a lot of progress together. Iraq is in charge of its own security and it stands as an important example of democracy in a region experiencing historic transformation and democratic transition.

We are very committed to doing everything we can to support this new Iraqi democracy. We are pleased by the steps being taken by the government to secure the country and to protect Iraq’s minorities as well. And we are very committed to working with our friends in Iraq to create opportunities for minorities and women to participate in the life of this new country that Iraqis together are building.

Likewise, we want to help Iraq increase its voice and engagement on the regional stage. It’s one of the most important countries, certainly in the Arab world and in the region. The upcoming summit of the Arab League to be held in Baghdad represents a key step in reestablishing Iraq’s status in the region and in the international community.

We also want to continue working with Iraq to resolve Iraq’s remaining UN Chapter 7 issues. The Joint Coordination Committee has been critical in helping meet several of the requirements, and the United States was proud to help pass three key resolutions at the UN Security Council last December that recognized Iraq’s progress. We will continue working with Iraq to address the outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait through initiatives such as the Tripartite Commission for Gulf War Missing. We look forward to Iraq taking its rightful place and building strong, peaceful ties with its neighbors.

So the Strategic Framework Agreement provides a strong roadmap for us to work together at the highest levels. And we know that there will be challenges ahead, but we will encounter them together as strategic partners and as friends. The United States, Minister, will continue to stand with Iraq and work with the Iraqi people and your government to build a nation that is stable, secure, and prosperous.

Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER ZEBARI: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Secretary. On behalf of myself and my colleague in the delegations, we want to thank you for hosting us. Iraq is committed to an enduring partnership with the United States on the basis of the Strategic Framework Agreement, which is very comprehensive, and in fact, it provides both countries ways for mutual cooperation in the future in many fields in Iraq and the United States.

Also, Madam Secretary, we think that the withdrawal of the United States forces in Iraq doesn’t mean the withdrawal of U.S. presence and friendship and influence in Iraq. We believe that will continue but in different forms, not through the military means or security means, through the civilian and diplomatic means, which we will carry out. And we want to make sure that your Embassy, your missions will have a secure, healthy environment to work and operate to help us.

Also, we appreciate your help and assistance to free Iraq from the sanction regime, from the many Security Council resolutions under Chapter 7. We look forward also to you to help us to finish the remaining Chapter 7 resolutions related to the situation between Iraq and Kuwait.

And lastly, Madam Secretary, Iraq nowadays has a say in what’s happening – what goes on in the region. And rest assured that Iraq will be an ally to the United States and a friend, and also committed to enduring partnership.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Minister Zebari. Thank you very much.

PRN: 2011/2118