Remarks With Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci
Secretary of State
Our two nations have worked closely on security and economic issues, particularly counterterrorism, for more than a decade. Algeria is a charter member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum which we launched last September in New York. And we recently initiated a Counterterrorism Contact Group to further facilitate cooperation in the Sahel.
We discussed the evolving situation in Syria and the need to end the Assad government’s assault on its own people. Algeria has participated in the Arab League’s monitoring mission in Syria, but regrettably, the violence has not stopped. And we will continue to work with Algeria and all our partners in the Arab League to end the violence in Syria and to hold those responsible for the violence accountable.
We also discussed Algeria’s upcoming parliamentary elections and ongoing political reforms. The United States is committed to working with Algeria to support an open, free, democratic nation with a thriving civil society and institutions that give the Algerian people the future they so deserve.
We thanked Algeria for the support it has given to Tunisia and Libya. We encouraged greater cooperation with Morocco and an active role in the UN-led negotiations to resolve the conflict in Western Sahara.
So I appreciate this time together, Minister, and look forward to many more opportunities to work together.
FOREIGN MINISTER MEDELCI: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. I was delighted to have this first meeting with you early in this new year, and I do hope that our upcoming meeting, our next meeting, will be in Algiers, where you are invited. And I can only applaud the quality of the discussions that we have had and we have, all working together to work on all of these sensitive and difficult issues, and we are all striving and working together to improve the conditions of the inhabitants of these regions.
And as I stated, Madam Secretary, Algeria will spare no effort to help improve our relations and the situation in the Maghreb and the countries of the Sahel. And of course, in order to do so, we are counting on the support of our partners, notably the United States.
We did indeed talk about the situation in Syria, and we did have a concurrence of views. Both sides denounced the violence which is taking place in Syria. And in this respect, the Arab League’s mission needs all of the support that it can get from its international partners. And notably, we pride on the fact that this mission benefits from the support from the United States.
And in this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to urge all parties in Syria, be it the government or the opposition, to work together with the Arab League in order to help solve this extremely complex problem and issue.
Algeria has acceded to the chairmanship of the Group of 77 of the United Nations since yesterday, and on this occasion I thought it would be most important that our very first meeting would be with you, Madam Secretary, because one of the major efforts that the Group of 77 wants to carry out in the future is to increase bridges between our group and our partners.
So let us express the wish that this year 2012 will be a better, more peaceful year than some recent years that we have experienced lately, and let’s hope that our cooperation between Algeria and the United States will grow even more strong and more intense. Thank you very much, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir.
FOREIGN MINISTER MEDELCI: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: We’ll take two questions today, the first from Jill Dougherty at CNN.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Just yesterday you were talking with us about the efforts by the United States to talk with the Taliban. And unfortunately, today we have this video of U.S. Marines apparently desecrating the bodies of dead Taliban. Is this going to complicate and make much more difficult talks with the Taliban? And have U.S. officials heard anything from the Taliban about that video?
And just one connected with the talks: You mentioned Mr. Grossman is – Ambassador Grossman will be there discussing this issue. Are you absolutely convinced that President Karzai is totally on board with these talks?
And then if I might, in our old tradition of adding one more important issue, which it really is – Pakistan, a lot of political instability there, the civilian government under pressure from the military. What is the U.S. doing to shore up that very fragile civilian government?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, first I want to express my total dismay at the story concerning our Marines, who I have the highest respect and admiration for. But I share completely the views expressed by Secretary Panetta earlier today. I join him in condemning the deplorable behavior that is reflected in this video. It is absolutely inconsistent with American values, with the standards of behavior that we expect from our military personnel and the vast, vast military personnel, particularly our Marines, hold themselves to. So I know Secretary Panetta has ordered a complete investigation of this incident. Anyone – anyone – found to have participated or known about it, having engaged in such conduct, must be held fully accountable.
Now with respect to the implications of this, as I said yesterday, the United States remains strongly committed to helping build a secure, peaceful, prosperous, democratic future for the people of Afghanistan. And we will continue to support efforts that will be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned to pursue the possibility of reconciliation and peace. We don’t have any idea standing here today what the outcome of such discussions could be. I think all of us are entering into it with a very realistic sense of what is possible, and that includes, of course, President Karzai and his government, which, after all, bear the ultimate responsibility and the consequences of any such discussions.
I’m not sure we need to interpret this.
Secondly, with respect to Pakistan, I was delighted to welcome the new ambassador here yesterday. She is someone that I’ve known for some time. My message to her was very straightforward: The U.S.-Pakistan relationship is crucial to both of our countries, to the future of our people, to the safety and security of South Asia and the world; we recognize there have been significant challenges in recent months, but we are steadfastly committed to this relationship and working together to make it productive.
So we will continue to do so, and we obviously have expressed a lot of concerns about what we see happening inside Pakistan. It has been our position to stand strongly in favor of a democratically elected civilian government, which we continue to do, and we expect Pakistan to resolve any of these internal issues in a just and transparent manner that upholds the Pakistani laws and constitution.
MS. NULAND: The next question is from (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you. How do you see the political reforms introduced by Algeria? And the second question: What is your position about Western Sahara question? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me begin by saying that Algeria has undertaken very significant reforms, and we welcome those. We want to see Algeria having a strong democratic foundation that reflects the aspirations of the Algerian people. We commend the Government of Algeria’s recent efforts in that direction.
We will be eagerly watching the outcome of the parliamentary elections. I am pleased to hear that more women will be participating, and we are also very supportive of the Algerian Government’s invitation to international organizations to monitor the elections. And we’re also encouraged by the Algerian Government’s moves to open up the broadcast media so more voices can be heard, and we think that’s very much in keeping with the goal of greater democratization that the government has committed to.
And with regard to the Western Sahara, our policy has not changed. We continue to support efforts to find a peaceful, sustainable, mutually agreed upon solution to the conflict. We support the negotiations carried out by the United Nations, and we encourage all parties, including Algeria, to play an active role in trying to move toward a resolution.
Do you care to add anything, Minister?
FOREIGN MINISTER MEDELCI: (Via interpreter) Since no question was asked of me directly, I would probably just seize this opportunity to say that we are ready to work with all of our partners on development issues. And since indeed these upcoming elections are to take place, we are indeed ready to work with all of our partners.
With respect to the situation in Western Sahara, I don’t think I could have summarized it any better than you did, other than just to say that I just learned yesterday, in fact, that the secretary general of the United Nations is planning a meeting in February involving all parties concerned.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
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