Remarks With League of Arab States Secretary General Nabil Elaraby at Memorandum of Understanding Signing

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York City
September 25, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, and Secretary General, this is a historic and important event for the United States. Under your leadership at a time of great challenge and change, the United States and the Arab League have worked more closely together than ever before. Our work on Libya broke new ground in U.S.-Arab League cooperation, and I appreciate your strong leadership on Syria as we continue to work to address this crisis.

We also consult on many shared challenges, from Yemen to Sudan and beyond. Today, we broaden our partnership to take on new challenges together. The MOU we signed today launches an annual U.S.-Arab League dialogue. It outlines areas in which we hope to work together to bring tangible improvements to people’s lives, including education and our response to humanitarian emergencies.

As a start, I am pleased to announce a small professional and cultural exchange program to bring Arab League officials together with their American counterparts. I believe in the potential of multilateral organizations, and as Secretary of State, I have made it a priority to deepen our engagement with regional organizations that are playing a growing role in world events, from the African Union to ASEAN to the Arab League.

Now of course, that doesn’t mean we are always going to agree on everything. That doesn’t happen with any two people, let alone two organizations or countries. There will be times when we do differ on principles and approaches. But our hope is that dialogues like this can help us understand each other better, to narrow any areas of difference, and to find as much common ground as possible.

Our hope is not only to strengthen ties between our institutions – the Government of the United States and the Arab League – but between our people, the people of the Arab world and the American people. Recent events remind us we have a great deal of work to do, and we look to partners in regional organizations to help us build mutual understanding and work to uphold and defend principles such as nonviolence and tolerance while we work in very constructive and practical ways to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.

So, Secretary General, thank you.

SECRETARY GENERAL ELARABY: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for this ceremony, and thank you very much for the effort that the State Department has put with the – my colleagues in the League of Arab States in finalizing the text that we have signed now.

Let me, first of all, say two preliminary comments. First of all, the statement – the (inaudible) statement made today by President Obama was very impressive, and I think it was timely, and thank him for that.

The second point of a general nature that I would like to make is to convey personally my condolences for the tragic death of the Ambassador in Benghazi. It touched us all. I called (inaudible) right away to convey my condolences. She was not in. I (inaudible), and the League of Arab States issued a statement.

On this point, let me just say that the League of Arab States, along with the European Union, the African Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, who issued a statement, all of us, on this. And in this statement, there is also a reference at the end that we all should work on further measures to ensure that such events will never happen (inaudible).

As a lawyer – and you are a lawyer – I think the first (inaudible) should be an international treaty that would ensure that certain matters, if happened – should not happen, and if happened, the perpetrator would be punished and the rule of law would apply.

This Memorandum of Understanding is very important for us. The Arab world has a lot of contacts, and historic contacts, with the United States. And most of our, I would say, problems depend on what the United States will do to resolve them. Just to refer to Palestine, we need the United States participation. Now we have Syria; we need United States participation, active participation.

So I think it was said that you are indispensible. But in the world today – and we continue – we think that this Memorandum of Understanding will open new avenues for further cooperation and understanding. And you also – as you rightly pointed out, what is needed is not to start by agreement, agreeing on something, but to, in all honesty, exchange views and see how we can reach a common understanding of certain matters. And I think this is a very good beginning.

We do have also a matter that I have to refer to, is that there is – we have an office here in New York, we have an office in Geneva, and we very much would like that this matter will be taken up and the facilities needed to carry out their mission could be extended at the right moment when we decide that (inaudible).

I’m indeed grateful for the program – the cultural program and the exchange that you have referred to, and I’m sure that you will benefit (inaudible). That’s very generous of you. I hope that this is a beginning, and that there will be many other steps in the future to strengthen ties between the United States of America and the League of Arab States.

Thank you very, very much.

PRN: 2012/1516