Remarks at the Conclusion of the G8 Ministerial

Hillary Rodham Clinton
   Secretary of State
Victoria Nuland
   Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
April 12, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, and welcome to the State Department, some of you back again, some for the first time. It has been a great honor and pleasure for me to host the G8 foreign ministers here in Washington. We’ve just concluded a second day of productive meetings at Blair House.

This group of nations has extensive shared interests and responsibilities around the globe, so we discussed a range of issues that are of pressing concern. And while there was certainly frank debate about the details, we all affirmed our common commitment to confronting these challenges together and working in close consultation with one another. Let me briefly touch on some of the highlights, from Syria to North Korea to Iran and beyond.

First, the foreign ministers discussed the evolving situation in Syria. We welcomed Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s report that the violence in Syria, at least for the moment, has abated. I also spoke separately about this at some length with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. If it holds, a ceasefire is an important step, but it represents just one element of the special envoy’s plan. As Kofi Annan reported, the Assad regime has, so far, failed to comply with key obligations. The regime’s troops and tanks have not pulled back from population centers. And it remains to be seen if the regime will keep its pledge to permit peaceful demonstrations, open access for humanitarian aid and journalists, and begin a political transition.

The Annan plan is not a menu of options. It is a set of obligations. The burden of fully and visibly meeting all of these obligations continues to rest with the regime. They cannot pick and choose. For it to be meaningful, this apparent halt in violence must lead to a credible political process and a peaceful, inclusive, democratic transition. The United States will be watching closely to see how things develop. We are particularly interested in seeing what the developments on the ground are, and we are in contact with members of the opposition. We remain firmly resolved that the regime’s war against its own people must end for good and a political transition must begin. Assad will have to go, and the Syrian people must be given the chance to chart their own future.

Given the Assad regime’s record of broken promises, we are proceeding, understandably, with caution. The ministers agreed to remain in close contact in the hours and days ahead. As we speak, our representatives in New York are consulting on a potential UN monitoring mission that would go to Syria under the right authorities, circumstances, and conditions. The United States supports sending an advance team immediately to begin this work. And both will need complete freedom of movement, unimpeded communications, and access throughout the country and to all Syrians, as well as firm security guarantees from all parties.

Now let me turn to North Korea. The G8 ministers discussed our concerns that North Korea continues to prepare to launch a ballistic missile in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and its own national commitments. We urge the North Korean leadership to honor its agreements and refrain from pursuing a cycle of provocation. We all share an interest in fostering security and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and the best way to achieve that is for North Korea to live up to its word.

We also looked ahead to the P-5+1 talks with Iran, scheduled to take place in Istanbul this weekend. We continue to underscore that we hope these talks result in an environment that is conducive to a sustained process that delivers results. This is a chance for Iran to credibly address the concerns of the international community. Iran, in coming to the table, needs to demonstrate that they are serious.

A few other points to mention: We reviewed the outcomes of yesterday’s Quartet meeting and agreed this is a moment to focus on positive efforts, to build trust, and improve the climate between the parties.

We also discussed Africa and the Sahel, in particular how we can deepen our cooperation to prevent conflicts, to deal with the food security challenges, and protect and advance democracy. And we agreed on the importance of continuing the Deauville Partnership and supporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa working to transition to democracy, to improve governance, to create jobs, to expand trade and investment.

Finally, I spoke with many of my G8 colleagues about the World Bank and our nominee, Dr. Jim Yong Kim. I have known Jim for some time. I know him to be a devoted public servant with a history of thinking big and taking bold actions. I believe he is an excellent choice, and I was delighted not only when the President nominated him but with the response that his nomination is receiving. And selfishly, of course, I was very happy that he named a World Bank president.

So as I’ve said, we’ve covered a lot of ground over the past two days. All of these discussions underscore a simple truth: Today’s complex challenges require continued leadership of the G8 countries working together. I know that we laid the groundwork for a successful meeting when the G8 leaders meet next month at Camp David. And now, I’d be happy to take your questions.

MS. NULAND: We’ll take three today. We’ll start with Scott Stearns of VOA. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. NULAND: We’re going to start with Jill Dougherty of CNN. All right. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Since it’s Syria and you named Syria first, maybe we’ll start with that, Madam Secretary. You just mentioned now that you – that the United States supports this UN monitoring mission and supporting it immediately. So is that the next step? What do you think about the idea of a buffer zone or this idea of having NATO protect the border with Turkey?

And then also in kind of a broader sense, do you think that now, with the ceasefire holding, that it’s kind of taken the wind out of that move to do something stronger at the United Nations, at the Security Council? Could you also give us a little brief on what you discussed specifically with Sergey Lavrov?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, I had good discussions with all of my colleagues about Syria, and I was encouraged that Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed with Kofi Annan that this fragile first step is only that – a first step. Sporadic fighting continues in parts of Syria, Assad has not complied with the six points of the Kofi Annan plan, his forces have not pulled back, and he has not taken any action on any of the other points.

So our first imperative is to test the commitment. And with that in mind, our teams are working in New York on a UN Security Council resolution that calls for Assad to fully comply with all points in the Annan plan and that supports Kofi Annan’s request to send a UN advance team to Syria immediately to prepare the way for a full, robust international monitoring mission. And let me be as clear as I can: That monitoring mission will only be a force for peace and security if it enjoys the full freedom of action within Syria. That means freedom of movement, secure communications, a large enough ground presence to bear witness to the enforcement of the six-point plan in every part of Syria.

And that’s a standard that we would expect of any UN monitoring mission. Foreign Minister Lavrov joined with the other G8 ministers in welcoming the report of Kofi Annan and welcoming the beginning of the process that would lead to a monitoring mission by sending an advance team. So we are working together to try to enforce, in practical terms, the commitments that the Assad regime claims to have made.

Now, we have to maintain our pressure on the Assad regime to fully comply, so our sanctions and the sanctions of others who have imposed them must continue. Our support for the opposition has to continue because they have to be prepared to participate in a political transition process, and we’re going to continue to work in the Security Council and with like-minded nations as we move forward.

So I think we’re at a point, Jill, where we want to test what has been agreed upon but with our eyes wide open going forward.

MS. NULAND: Next question from Marco Mierke, German Press Agency, please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. You said you talked about North Korea – discussed North Korea and your concerns regarding the possible imminent rocket launch. Since it’s only probably a couple hours away, did you already discuss any consequences that might follow such a launch?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. We discussed our concerns about the announced actions that the North Koreans may take in the next hours or days. We’ve made it abundantly clear, as have our other G8 colleagues, that any missile launch would violate North Korea’s obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874. I think our Six-Party members and all the members of the G8 are in agreement that we will have to be prepared to take additional steps if the North Koreans go ahead.

The text of UN Security Council Resolution 1874 couldn’t be clearer, and let me quote it because I think it’s important that you hear this. The Security Council, and I quote, “demands that the DPRK not conduct any further nuclear tests or any launch using ballistic missile technology.” And there is no doubt that this satellite would be launched using ballistic missile technology.

So Pyongyang has a clear choice: It can pursue peace and reap the benefits of closer ties with the international community, including the United States; or it can continue to face pressure and isolation. If Pyongyang goes forward, we will all be back in the Security Council to take further action. And it’s regrettable, because as you know, we had worked through an agreement that would have benefitted the North Korean people with the provision of food aid. But in the current atmosphere, we would not be able to go forward with that, and other actions that other countries had been considering would also be on hold.

MS. NULAND: Last question, Scott Stearns, VOA. Thanks.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, on the last bit of Jill’s question, could you tell us whether you support NATO protecting the border between Turkey and Syria?

For my question on Iran, please, Iran says it’s bringing new initiatives to these talks in Turkey. Are the P-5+1 bringing new initiatives to these talks? And from your talks with Foreign Minister Lavrov, do you believe that Russia shares your view that time is running out for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to your first question, there is nothing of that nature pending and I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals.

Secondly, with respect to Iran, as the G8 statement makes clear, we are united in our resolve and expectation that Iran will come to the talks prepared. And we are receiving signals that they are bringing ideas to the table. They assert that their program is purely peaceful. They point to a fatwa that the supreme leader has issued against the pursuit of nuclear weapons. We want them to demonstrate clearly in the actions they propose that they have truly abandoned any nuclear weapons ambition.

So I’m not going to get into the details of what we expect. We’ve worked very closely inside our own government and then with our P-5+1 colleagues. I’ve been in close touch with Cathy Ashton, who will be leading our efforts in Istanbul. But we’re looking for concrete results. And of course, in a negotiation we understand that the Iranians will be asking for assurances or actions from us, and we will certainly take those under consideration. But I do think it is clear to everyone, certainly in the P-5+1 but far beyond, that the diplomatic window for negotiations is open but will not remain open forever. And therefore time is a matter to be taken into account, so we want to get started this weekend. And we will certainly proceed in a very expeditious and diligent manner in a sustained way to determine whether there is the potential for an agreement.

Thank you all.

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much.

PRN: 2012/554