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Some in the media apparently think it is incumbent upon Hillary Clinton to speak out on Syria despite the fact that she is no longer a government official.  As she wraps up her well-deserved vacation and gets back on her schedule of speaking appearances, including the upcoming Clinton Global Initiative, it is perhaps a good time to look back at some of what she said while she served as Secretary of State beginning with this op-ed reposted in full.

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
June 17, 2011

In an op-ed in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemns the violent crackdown in Syria and calls for a transition to democracy. The full text of the Secretary’s op-ed follows.

“There Is No Going Back in Syria”

By Hillary Clinton

As the violent crackdown in Syria continues, President Assad has shown that he is more interested in his own power than his people.

The world has joined Syrians in mourning the deaths of many innocent people, including a 13-year old boy who was brutally tortured and mutilated. Approximately thirteen hundred Syrians have been killed since protests began. Many thousands more have been jailed and abused. Syrian security forces have surrounded communities and cut off electricity, communications and the Internet. Economic activity has slowed, the country is increasingly isolated and its citizens are growing more frustrated every day.

In his May 19 speech, President Obama echoed demonstrators’ basic and legitimate demands: the Assad government must stop shooting demonstrators, allow peaceful protest, release political prisoners, stop unjust arrests, give access to human rights monitors, and start an inclusive dialogue to advance a democratic transition. President Assad, he said, could either lead that transition or get out of the way.

It is increasingly clear that President Assad has made his choice. But while continued brutality may allow him to delay the change that is underway in Syria, it will not reverse it.

As Syria’s neighbors and the international community respond to this crisis, we should be guided by the answers to several key questions: Why has it erupted? What does the crackdown reveal about President Assad and his regime? And where does Syria go from here?

First, there should be no doubt about the nature of the protests in Syria.

Like Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and others across the Middle East and North Africa, the Syrian people are demanding their long-denied universal rights and rejecting a government that rules through fear, squanders their talents through corruption, and denies them the dignity of having a voice in their own future. They are organizing themselves, including the local coordinating committees, and they are refusing to back down even in the face of revolting violence.

If President Assad believes that the protests are the work of foreign instigators – as his government has claimed – he is wrong. It is true that some Syrian soldiers have been killed, and we regret the loss of those lives too. But the vast majority of casualties have been unarmed civilians. By continuing to ban foreign journalists and observers, the regime seeks to hide these facts.

Second, President Assad is showing his true colors by embracing the repressive tactics of his ally Iran and putting Syria onto the path of a pariah state.

By following Iran’s lead, President Assad is placing himself and his regime on the wrong side of history. He will learn that legitimacy flows from the consent of the people and cannot be forged through bullets and billyclubs.

President Assad’s violent crackdown has shattered his claims to be a reformer. For years, he has offered pledges and promises, but all that matters are his actions. A speech, no matter how dutifully applauded by regime apologists, will not change the reality that the Syrian people, despite being told they live in a republic, have never had the opportunity to freely elect their leaders. These citizens want to see a real transition to democracy and a government that honors their universal rights and aspirations.

If President Assad believes he can act with impunity because the international community hopes for his cooperation on other issues, he is wrong about this as well. He and his regime are certainly not indispensable.

A Syria that is unified, pluralistic, and democratic could play a positive and leading role in the region, but under President Assad the country is increasingly becoming a source of instability. The refugees streaming into Turkey and Lebanon, and the tensions being stoked on the Golan, should dispel the notion that the regime is a bulwark of regional stability that must be protected.

Finally, the answer to the most important question of all – what does this mean for Syria’s future? – is increasingly clear: There is no going back.

Syrians have recognized the violence as a sign of weakness from a regime that rules by coercion, not consent. They have overcome their fears and have shaken the foundations of this authoritarian system.

Syria is headed toward a new political order — and the Syrian people should be the ones to shape it. They should insist on accountability, but resist any temptation to exact revenge or reprisals that might split the country, and instead join together to build a democratic, peaceful and tolerant Syria.

Considering the answers to all these questions, the United States chooses to stand with the Syrian people and their universal rights. We condemn the Assad regime’s disregard for the will of its citizens and Iran’s insidious interference.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on senior Syrian officials, including President Assad. We are carefully targeting leaders of the crackdown, not the Syrian people. We welcomed the decisions by the European Union to impose its own sanctions and by the UN Human Rights Council to launch an investigation into abuses. The United States will continue coordinating closely with our partners in the region and around world to increase pressure on and further isolate the Assad regime.

The Syrian people will not cease their demands for dignity and a future free from intimidation and fear. They deserve a government that respects its people, works to build a more stable and prosperous country, and doesn’t have to rely on repression at home and antagonism abroad to maintain its grip on power. They deserve a nation that is unified, democratic and a force for stability and progress. That would be good for Syria, good for the region and good for the world.

http://aawsat.com/leader.asp?section=3&article=627159&issueno=11890

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Below are links to a compendium of her remarks on the deteriorating situation as she met with a variety of action groups on Syria.  This is,  by no means,  a comprehensive collection since she also gave a great many interviews and press briefings following bilaterals over the past two years where she addressed the issues at hand and sought solutions that would permit democracy to take hold.

Hillary Clinton to Human Rights Council: Reject Syria’s Candidacy

April 30, 2011

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks on the Violence in Syria

May 6, 2011

Secretary Clinton’s Statement: Repression in Iran and Syria

June 14, 2011

Secretary Clinton’s Statement on Continuing Violence in Syria

August 1, 2011

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks After Meeting With Syrian Activists

August 2, 2011

Video: Secretary Clinton’s Statement on Syria

August 18, 2011

Hillary Clinton’s Statement on The Human Rights Council’s Special Session on Syria & State Department Update on Libya

August 23, 2011

Hillary Clinton in the D.R. Part II: Remarks at Pathways to Prosperity, on UNESCO, and on Syria

October 7, 2011

Hillary Clinton: Arab League Suspends Syria

November 12, 2011

Secretary Clinton’s Meeting with Syrian National Council

December 6, 2011

Secretary Clinton: Escalation of Regime Violence in Syria

January 30, 2012

Hillary Clinton at Friends of Syria in Tunisia: Remarks and Pictures

February 24, 2012

Hillary Clinton’s Press Availability on Friends of Syria

February 24, 2012

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks Following Meeting with Syrian National Council

April 1, 2012

Secretary Clinton: Intervention to the Friends of the Syrian People

April 2, 2012

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at the Ad Hoc Ministerial on Syria

April 19, 2012

Syria Violence Could Have Domino Effect In Lebanon, Clinton Warns

May 25, 2012

Clinton Condemns Haoula Massacre in Strongest Possible Terms

May 26, 2012

Video: Secretary Clinton Remarks on Syria

May 31, 2012

Hillary Clinton: Friends of the Syrian People

June 6, 2012

Hillary Clinton: Press Conference Following Syria Action Group Meeting

June 30, 2012

Hillary Clinton at the Friends of the Syrian People Ministerial Meeting

July 6, 2012

Hillary Clinton’s Press Conference Following the Friends of the Syrian People Meeting

July 6, 2012

Hillary Clinton: Saddened and Outraged by Massacre in Traymseh

July 13, 2012

Hillary Clinton on the Resignation of Kofi Annan as Joint Special Envoy for Syria

August 2, 2012

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I must interrupt here to correct a rewrite of history.  A few days ago, on CNN, Fouad Ajami said that Hillary Clinton “stopping off to cut a rug” in South Africa on her way to a meeting in Turkey about Syria was bad optics.  His story is upside down.   Hillary had long been scheduled to stop in South Africa and attend a conference there.  Here is her original itinerary which was supposed to be for an 11-day trip – her farewell tour of Africa as Secretary of State.

Hillary Clinton’s Itinerary in Africa

July 30, 2012

Well, the Africa trip is official, and we can see why it took awhile for the State Department to post the itinerary – it’s another long one, and arranging it must have been very complex since it does not coincide with earlier reports.  More than a week,  it’s another killer – six countries/11 days.  Ghana and Nigeria are not mentioned, but Kenya and South Sudan are.  I think I speak for everyone here in wishing her a safe and successful trip and hoping she manages to sneak in a little vacation time when she gets back home.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Travel to Africa

Press Statement

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 30, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Africa July 31 through August 10, 2012. During this trip, the Secretary will emphasize U.S. policy commitments outlined in the Presidential Policy Directive – to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, advance peace and security as well as promote opportunity and development for all citizens

The Secretary’s first stop will be Senegal, where she will meet President Sall and other national leaders and deliver a speech applauding the resilience of Senegal’s democratic institutions and highlighting America’s approach to partnership.

Next, Secretary Clinton travels to South Sudan where she meets with President Kiir to reaffirm U.S. support and to encourage progress in negotiations with Sudan to reach agreement on issues related to security, oil and citizenship.

In Uganda, the Secretary meets with President Museveni to encourage strengthening of democratic institutions and human rights, while also reinforcing Uganda as a key U.S. partner in promoting regional security, particularly in regard to Somalia and in regional efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army. She will also highlight U.S. support in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The Secretary will then travel to Kenya where she plans to meet President Kibaki, Prime Minister Odinga, and other government officials to emphasize her support for transparent, credible, nonviolent national elections in 2013. To underscore U.S. support for completing the political transition in Somalia by August 20th, Secretary Clinton will also meet with President Sheikh Sharif and other signatories to the Roadmap to End the Transition.

The Secretary continues her trip in Malawi, visiting President Banda to discuss economic and political governance and reform.

In South Africa, Secretary Clinton will pay her respects to ex-President Mandela, and to participate in the U.S.-South Africa Strategic Dialogue focusing on the partnership between our two countries in addressing issues of mutual concern and our shared challenges on the African and world stage. Secretary Clinton will be accompanied by a U.S. business delegation.

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While the trip was in progress, additional stops were scheduled.  Many countries wanted Hillary to stop during this tour.  Some were added late, e.g. Nigeria, because security issues needed to be resolved and Ghana for the sadly unpredictable funeral of the late John Atta Mills.   Turkey was also added because the meeting was scheduled after she was already on tour.

Professor Ajami, we do not appreciate men with white whiskers trying to rewrite history.  She did not “stop by” South Africa on her way to Turkey.  South Africa was long-scheduled, Turkey was tacked on when the meeting was scheduled.  If FM Mashabane wanted to throw a farewell party for her friend and partner with whom she had worked for four years,  you, Professor Ajami,  should be grateful that someone in our government understood that the next battleground with China is Africa,  that the battlefield is economic,  and that Hillary Clinton made strong friends there, often while putting herself in grave personal danger.   Your smirky, snarky, and untrue comment is shameful, insulting, and disgusting.

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Confirmed: Hillary Clinton’s Africa Itinerary Extended

August 5, 2012

U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) reacts during here visit to Malawi August 5, 2012. Clinton paid a lightning visit to Malawi on Sunday to congratulate its new president, Joyce Banda, one of only two female heads of state in Africa, for pulling her impoverished country back from the economic brink after a political crisis. REUTERS/Eldson Chagara (MALAWI – Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS)

The rumor mill has been whizzing out of control all weekend with stories of additional countries to be added to the already packed schedule for this trip.  Originally arranged as an 11-day trip,  the addition of  Turkey next Saturday for talks on Syria extends that by at least one day.  Within the African leg of the trip, Voice of America reports the inclusion of Ghana, Nigeria, and Benin.  The first was expected since the purpose is to attend the funeral of  Ghana’s late President John Atta Mills who passed away unexpectedly on July 24.  Sources for that early story appeared credible.  The Nigerian leg was announced by local sources last night.  Benin comes as a complete surprise since neither very early reports nor the buzzing rumor mill had ever mentioned a stop there.  VOA reports:

Clinton is due to fly to South Africa Sunday, and later on to Nigeria, Ghana and Benin.

In Ghana, she is expected to attend the state funeral of the country’s late president John Atta Mills.

In Turkey Hillary Clinton Talks No Fly Zones Over Syria

August 11, 2012

Hillary Clinton’s Remarks On Syria With Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu

August 11, 2012

Hillary Clinton on the Appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi to Replace Kofi Annan

August 17, 2012

Hillary Clinton at the Ad Hoc Friends of the Syrian People Ministerial

September 28, 2012

Video: Hillary Clinton’s Remarks on Syria

December 4, 2012

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It was during this final trip as Secretary of State that she fell so ill that she fainted and sustained a concussion.  Later tests detected a blood clot, and she could not return to her duties until January when she did her best to wrap up her stay at the State Department and put the transition into place for Secretary Kerry’s assumption of command.

So for those who would have Hillary Clinton comment at this critical time on a crucial issue, let you be reminded that neither have Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush commented on Syria for excellent reasons.  They are no longer in office and do not have access to the latest intel.  Neither does Hillary Clinton.  The situation is in the hands of the present, second Obama administration.  Live with the history you were so instrumental in making.

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Updated to add:  Of course, as soon as I had this all put together, she decided to come out and say something anyway.   Then again, what would anyone expect her to say?

(CNN) – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton backs President Barack Obama’s proposal to take military action in Syria, an aide told CNN’s Jessica Yellin on Tuesday.

“Secretary Clinton supports the President’s effort to enlist the Congress in pursuing a strong and targeted response to the Assad regime’s horrific use of chemical weapons,” the aide said.

Read more >>>>

Actually, CNN got this wrong.  She did not back the military action.  She backed taking it to Congress.

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Remarks With Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Presidential Palace
Cairo, Egypt
November 21, 2012

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) We welcome our guests. Yes. We’ll begin with a talk from Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, then Her Excellency Minister Clinton will address the press.

FOREIGN MINISTER AMR: (Via interpreter) Thank you. A press release, under the auspices of His Excellency President Mohamed Morsi and stemming from Egypt’s historic responsibility towards the Palestinian cause and Egypt’s keenness to stop the bloodshed and preserving the stability of the conditions and security in the region, Egypt has exerted efforts and conducted intensive discussions since the renewed outbreak of hostilities in the Gaza Strip with all parties: the Palestinian leadership, the various resistance factions, the Israeli side, and the international community, most notably the United States of America.

These efforts and communications managed to reach an agreement to a ceasefire and the return of calm and halt of the violence and the bloodshed that was witnessed recently.

The ceasefire is set to start at 9 p.m. Cairo time today, Wednesday, 21st of November 2012. Egypt affirms its commitment to the Palestinian cause and the need to achieve a comprehensive and just resolution. The Government of Egypt will continue its efforts to achieve this noble objective through ongoing attempts to end the divisions between the various Palestinian factions and to assist them in achieving Palestinian national unity on the basis of genuine Palestinian values and interests.

Egypt appreciates the role of the Arab League, the valuable contributions of Turkey and Qatar, and those of the Secretary General of the United Nations to support the efforts of the Government of Egypt to end the violence. At the same time, Egypt calls upon the international community to be engaged in monitoring the implementation of the Egyptian-brokered agreement and to ensure all parties adhere to these agreements. The agreement will be distributed to you after this conference.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Amr. I want to thank President Morsi for his personal leadership to de-escalate the situation in Gaza and end the violence. This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt’s new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace. The United States welcomes the agreement today for a ceasefire in Gaza. For it to hold, the rocket attacks must end, a broader calm return.

The people of this region deserve the chance to live free from fear and violence, and today’s agreement is a step in the right direction that we should build on. Now we have to focus on reaching a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security, dignity, and legitimate aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis alike. President Morsi and I discussed how the United States and Egypt can work together to support the next steps in that process. In the days ahead, the United States will work with partners across the region to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, and provide security for the people of Israel. Ultimately, every step must move us toward a comprehensive peace for all the people of the region.

As I discussed today with President Morsi, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, there is no substitute for a just and lasting peace. Now that there is a ceasefire, I am looking forward to working with the Foreign Minister and others to move this process. Thank you very much, Foreign Minister.

 

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Today, after shuttling from Israel to Ramallah to Egypt conversing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,  Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon,  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brokered a Middle East cease fire that officially went into effect at 2 p.m. EST today.  In a courageous ascent to a  leadership position,  Egypt is sponsoring the cease-fire.  The encouraging news is being reported by all major news sources.

Here are some photos from her busy day of shuttle-diplomacy.

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God bless you, Mme. Secretary.  Now come home for Thanksgiving.   We are all thankful for your dedicated service.

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Today’s Bus Bombing in Tel Aviv

Press Statement

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 21, 2012

The United States strongly condemns this terrorist attack and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the people of Israel.

As I arrive in Cairo, I am closely monitoring reports from Tel Aviv, and we will stay in close contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s team. The United States stands ready to provide any assistance that Israel requires.

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Remarks With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Before Their Meeting

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Prime Minister’s Office
Jerusalem
November 20, 2012

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:I want to welcome Secretary Clinton once again to Jerusalem. I want to thank President Obama, you, and the American Government and people for their strong support for Israel in this hour of need. I want to also thank you especially for your support of Iron Dome that’s been saving lives, and we are in a battle to save lives.One of the things that we’re doing is trying to resist and counter a terrorist barrage which is aimed directly at our civilians, and doing so by minimizing civilian casualties, whereas the terrorist enemies of Israel are doing everything in their power to maximize the number of civilian casualties. Obviously, no country can tolerate a wanton attack on its civilians.

Now, if there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem through diplomatic means, we prefer that. But if not, I am sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people. This is something that I don’t have to explain to Americans. I know that President Obama, you, and the American people understand that perfectly well.

And I thank you once again for your support. Welcome to Jerusalem.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. I look forward to a productive discussion this evening at such a critical moment for Israel and the region. President Obama asked me to come to Israel with a very clear message: America’s commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza.

The rocket attacks from terrorist organizations inside Gaza on Israeli cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored. The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

President Obama has emphasized these same points in his multiple conversations with President Morsi of Egypt, and we appreciate President Morsi’s personal leadership and Egypt’s efforts thus far. As a regional leader and neighbor, Egypt has the opportunity and responsibility to continue playing a crucial and constructive role in this process. I will carry this message to Cairo tomorrow. I will also be consulting with President Abbas in Ramallah.

Let me also say, to echo the Prime Minister, I am very pleased that the Iron Dome defense system is performing so well. Our partnership in support of this system represents America’s enduring commitment to the safety and security of the Israeli people and to Israel’s right to defend itself.

But no defense is perfect and our hearts break for the loss of every civilian – Israeli and Palestinian – and for all those who have been wounded or who are living in fear and danger. I know today was a difficult day, and I offer my deepest condolences to the loved ones of those who were lost and injured. In the end, there is no substitute for security and for a just and lasting peace, and the current crisis certainly focuses us on the urgency of this broader goal.

So in the days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region toward an outcome that bolsters security for the people of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza, and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region. And I thank you, Prime Minister, for your hospitality and look forward to our discussion.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you.

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Having begun her long day by arriving a tad late for a bilateral between President Barack Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,  Mme. Secretary hopped on her “Big Blue Bird” and took off for the troubled Middle East.  Her first stop was Israel where we see her with PM Benjamin Netanyahu.  From there, she will travel to Ramallah to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, and then to Cairo and a meeting with President Morsi.

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Adding in, here, an interesting and informative portion of today’s press briefing from Victoria Nuland.

TRANSCRIPT:

12:44 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND:All right. Happy Tuesday, everybody. I hope you all got the notice that the Secretary has split off from the presidential party now. She’s on her way to Jerusalem. She’ll have her first meeting there with Prime Minister Netanyahu shortly after landing. It’ll be quite late this evening in Jerusalem time. To the extent that we have information to read out from her various meetings, we will do that, but as you know, her formal press posture is that she’ll have sprays at each of those – of the meetings on this trip. So we’ll try to stay in touch with you over the next couple of days as this proceeds.

Why don’t we go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION:Do you have any news about Hamas claims that the calming down will take place tonight at 9 o’clock their time?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any specifics to report to you either with regard to the ground situation or with regard to the state of the diplomacy. As I said yesterday, the President, the Secretary, all of us are intensely involved here, but we’re not going to be sharing details in public until there’s something to report.

QUESTION: So is it fair to assume that Mrs. Clinton will oversee the signing of calming down between Israel and Hamas under the auspices of Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Again, as you know, intensive diplomacy is ongoing. The President and the Secretary have both been on the phone nonstop with regional leaders for a number of days. The purpose of her trip is to continue and intensify that engagement now, face to face, in service to the goal of trying to de-escalate this violence and restoring calm.

QUESTION: And lastly, should we interpret her trip as a good sign that there’s something in the offing, a calming down in the offing?

MS. NULAND: Again, Said, I think we are all hoping for a de-escalation, we are all hoping for a restoration of calm, we’re all hoping to open space for deeper, broader conversations. That is obviously the goal we all share.

QUESTION: Ma’am —

MS. NULAND: Jill.

QUESTION: What about – Toria, realistically, what can the Secretary do? I mean, even if you look at a ceasefire or a calming down, a lot of that seems linked to larger issues, medium range or long range. It doesn’t appear that they are simply going to stop fighting, or at least Hamas, unless there is some resolution of other issues – issues that affect Gaza, for example. So what, realistically, do you think, even broadly, can she accomplish?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve been saying for some time, we have to obviously start with a de-escalation of this conflict. We have to see an end to the rocket fire on Israel. We have to see a restoration of calm in Gaza. And the hope is that if we can get through those stages, that will create space for the addressing of broader issues, but I don’t want to prejudge. This is obviously ongoing and live diplomacy.

QUESTION: And just one other thing: Some have said that obviously she would not go if there were going to be a ground invasion at the time that she hits the runway. Is that a fair assumption, that she – that there was some sort of knowledge that the U.S. had that there would not be a ground invasion, ergo she wouldn’t go?

MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday, I’m not in a position to speak to the ground situation at all, other than to say that I think all of the parties involved have expressed a preference to solve this peacefully, to solve this diplomatically. That is what we are all trying to support and assist, and that is what we are all hoping for.

QUESTION: On this point —

QUESTION: The United States —

MS. NULAND: Said. Said.

QUESTION: On this point, just a quick follow-up on this point, Israeli sources say that they want a period of 24 hour of calm before they sign any truce. Do you support or do you advocate such a – like a period of calm before signing anything?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not in a position here to get into the substance of any of the discussions that are ongoing. There are a lot of discussions going on involving a lot of different parties. When there’s something to announce, I’m sure it will be announced, Said.

Sir, can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: Yeah, Oren Dorell from USA Today. The Hamas leaders have said that they would like the blockade to be lifted as – if they’re to stop their rocket fire. What is the United States position on that?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re trying to take me into the tactics of diplomacy, the conversations that are ongoing among lots of different parties who are trying to support a de-escalation here. Don’t think that’s productive to the process for us to be getting into the back-and-forth here.

Samir.

QUESTION: What’s the Quartet doing in this crisis? Doing anything?

MS. NULAND: As a formal matter, the Quartet has not met, but as you know, the Secretary’s been in touch with Lady Ashton. In fact, she was in touch with some of her European counterparts today. She had phone calls with German Foreign Minister Westerwelle, French Foreign Minister Fabius again, with Quartet Representative Blair. The Quartet itself hasn’t met, but the Quartet envoys and representatives have all been active. As you know, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was just there. I think he may still be in the region, in fact.

Jill.

QUESTION: Toria, one more. Why was it so important for the Secretary to go? I mean, it involves the United States in a very obvious and maybe dangerous way because she will be on the ground in a – not physically, I mean, but diplomatically, it could all backfire. Why is it so important for her to go?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think, as we said in the statement that we released announcing her travel, and as Ben Rhodes said when he briefed the White House Press Corps earlier today from Phnom Penh, we have been, the President has been, she has been, actively engaged on the phone. But sometimes, there’s no substitution for showing up, as the Secretary herself likes to say, for talking face to face, for doing what you can in person. And the President and she obviously thought that her going and actually sitting down with leaders – with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas, and with President Morsi – could help de-escalate the situation. So it was obviously important to leave no stone unturned.

QUESTION: Toria, I realize you don’t want to get into any of the details that we might find useful or helpful, but despite that, it is correct that the Administration would like to see this – any kind of de-escalation, whether that would be a formal ceasefire or an informal one side stops so the other side then stops; is that correct? You would just like to see – even if it’s temporary, fleeting, you would like to see a de-escalation of any kind; is that correct?

MS. NULAND: We have spoken about this in terms of a de-escalation, because that’s obviously a first step to help prepare the way for anything else. We obviously need to see this violence come down.

QUESTION: Right, right, but you would be happy with even an informal cessation of hostilities?

MS. NULAND: Again, beyond what we’ve said, I’m not going to characterize X as acceptable, Y as not acceptable. That’s a subject for negotiations.

QUESTION: Well, but I —

MS. NULAND: Matt, I’m not going to.

Nadia, please.

QUESTION: Wait, I’m not done.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m not done. I don’t understand why you can’t say that any halt in violence would be a good thing in the Administration’s eyes.

MS. NULAND: Any de-escalation is a step forward. We want to see this de-escalated.

QUESTION: Okay. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a durable – meaning long-lasting, a fixed period, six months, as long – at least at the beginning – as long as the fighting and the dying of people stops, that’s okay, at least in the short term; is that correct?

MS. NULAND: Matt, I am not going to limit, characterize the steps necessary here —

QUESTION: Okay. Well, surely you’re not —

MS. NULAND: — because the parties are talking, we’re going to be part of that, and we’re not going to negotiate it here from the podium. We’re not going to characterize it here from the podium.

QUESTION: Well, okay, fine, but surely you’re not saying that you’re okay with the violence continuing, are you?

MS. NULAND: Matt, what have I said seven times now?

QUESTION: All right. Then – frankly, you’ve said a lot, but it hasn’t really amounted to an answer. So in his briefing —

MS. NULAND: We’re going to move on now. We’re going to move on to Nadia, please.

QUESTION: In his briefing —

MS. NULAND: Go ahead, Nadia. Go ahead, Nadia, please.

QUESTION: Toria —

QUESTION: In his briefing – in – I’m sorry, Toria. I’m not done, and this is an important question. In his briefing to the White House Press Corps, Ben Rhodes was asked why he would not use the word “ceasefire,” and he said that’s essentially – I’m paraphrasing – he said no, and then he proceeded not to use it again and instead talked about de-escalation.

Does the Administration have some aversion to calling this a ceasefire or – and if it doesn’t, why not just use it? And if it does, what’s the aversion?

MS. NULAND: You know very well from having watched these kinds of situations unfold that there are many ways that this can de-escalate. I’m not going to prejudge here, and I think Ben didn’t want to prejudge how it happens. So your six efforts to get us to do that are not going to be successful.

Nadia, go ahead.

QUESTION: Victoria –

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: — you know that the U.S. has been criticized for not taking a leading role earlier to end the conflict. Just to follow up on Jill’s questions, if you felt that the Secretary needed to be there physically to meet with the leaders, why didn’t she go there in the beginning of the conflict? Was it because she was in Asia or because of the calculated decision on your part that you needed to wait a few more days?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, both the President and the Secretary have been extremely active. As you can see, the President, I think, in the past 24 hours has spoken with Egyptian President Morsi, for example, some three times. The Secretary’s made more than a dozen phone calls. So we have been very active in supporting all of the various efforts to try to de-escalate this. The judgment was that it had gotten to a stage where actually sitting face to face was – would be of value, so that was the decision that the Secretary and the President made.

QUESTION: I just wondered, if it’s possible, to walk us through when that decision was taken. Is it because the Egyptians have said that now we are in the process of getting a ceasefire and it’s important for the Secretary to be there? Is this the precise timing for her to be in the region?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think the President and Secretary were obviously together; they had a chance to – they have been comparing notes over the last couple of days about how this situation has been evolving. And the conclusion was that her going personally and sitting with leaders who she knows well had the potential to be helpful to the various parties in trying to seek a de-escalation. So beyond that, I don’t want to parse it too finely, Nadia.

Anything else on this subject? Please, can you —

QUESTION: I have some more on the logistical —

QUESTION: Kimberly Halkett, Al Jazeera English.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering how helpful it will be, though, given the fact that the Secretary is only meeting with the Palestinian Authority leader, and, who is at odds with Hamas – given the fact that the U.S. is only speaking to one of the two sides in this conflict, how productive can these discussions really be?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve been saying for some time, there are different leaders in the region, around the world, who have influence with different actors in this situation. So we have Egyptians and Turks and Qataris and others making very strong representations to Hamas. The Secretary obviously thought that it was important to see President Abbas in this – on this trip because he is the interlocutor and the representative legitimately elected of the Palestinian people with whom we interface. So that is the role that we will play. We will work with the Israelis, we will work with President Abbas, and we will work with President Morsi, and others have more direct influence than we do with Hamas.

QUESTION: But do you think by shutting out Khaled Meshaal that you are going to be able to help bring about something beyond a ceasefire, a lasting solution, as I think you called it?

MS. NULAND: Again, the first step is a de-escalation, which the hope is then that can create space for something deeper. But again, we have to take this one step at a time.

Said, yes.

QUESTION: Sorry, Toria, just a quick follow-up on the humanitarian situation.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: There has been reports by the Palestinian Red Crescent, by UNRWA, by ANERA, by almost everybody speaking of a difficult humanitarian situation – shortages in water, food, medicines and so on. Suppose there is a calming-down period; would the United States send in direct aid to Gaza?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re asking me to get ahead of where we are. But as you know, we have always supported the UN agencies and others providing humanitarian assistance through appropriate and agreed channels. Those channels do exist, and obviously the goal of all of this diplomacy is to relieve the suffering of civilians, whether they are Israelis or whether they are Palestinians.

QUESTION: So is it plausible just to break the blockade for a couple of days, or three days, or four days?

MS. NULAND: Again, there are established channels for getting humanitarian aid in, and those are the channels that should be used.

QUESTION: According to the U.S. officials, there are three —

MS. NULAND: Can you tell me who you are, please?

QUESTION: Wi Xu Diao from CCTV. So according to two U.S. officials, there are – three U.S. Navy warships are sending to – near Israel to – just in case evacuation needed. So these are supposed to be – come back after Thanksgiving. Can you confirm that and when the – how long they will be delayed, for their homecoming?

MS. NULAND: The Pentagon has spoken to that issue today or yesterday in terms of contingency planning, so I’ll send you to them for any more detail.

Goyal, still on this subject?

QUESTION: Toria – no.

QUESTION: No. I have two more, one of which – I suspect one of which is easy, and one of which is logistical and it may have been asked already.

So just the first one, which I think is the easy one: Would you – you keep the phrase de-escalate – don’t worry, I’m not going to try and get you to change that, but when you – when the Secretary is in her talks, is it fair to say that she is less about an – less talking about an imminent de-escalation than in how to hold or make durable a longer-term solution? I mean, obviously she’s not involved in mediating a truce, or whatever you want to call it, between Hamas and Israel, because you guys don’t talk to Hamas. Is it her goal to try and make whatever might come out of negotiations – those negotiations that are going on, to make that hold and be longer than just some quick, temporary fix? Is that fair?

MS. NULAND: I think everybody involved in trying to support a de-escalation here wants to see not just a tactical end to the violence, but wants to see the conditions improve for being able to address some of the underlying issues. But the way that unfolds and how much is going to be possible in the next 36 hours I think very much depends on the meetings that she has and what she finds.

QUESTION: You don’t – are you saying that you don’t want to rule out the fact that she might get involved – and obviously not with Hamas directly, but that she might get involved in trying to mediate an initial de-escalation? You don’t want to rule that out, or is that something that is —

MS. NULAND: I think it completely depends on where the situation is in the – in four hours from now or six hours from now when she lands.

QUESTION: All right. And then the second one, which is logistical and may have been asked before, is that when she is in Egypt, when she goes to Cairo tomorrow, is she going to see anyone other than Morsi? Are there other people coming in to town, like the Turks? I mean, I know Ban Ki-moon is out there. Is she going to be seeing anyone other than the Egyptians in her short time in Cairo?

MS. NULAND: The current schedule that we have is the schedule that we announced, that she will, this evening, very late Jerusalem time, see Prime Minister Netanyahu; that she will early in the morning tomorrow see President Abbas in Ramallah; and then she’ll go to Cairo to see President Morsi. That’s all I have in terms of schedule. I don’t have anything else at the moment in terms of other meetings or other third-country representatives on this trip. But you know how these go. That could change, so stand by. If we have something to announce, we will.

Please.

QUESTION: How do you view the legal status of Gaza? Is it occupied? The Israelis are not there? Is it autonomous?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think our position on Gaza has changed. There’s nothing new there.

Please.

QUESTION: When you talk about improving conditions for addressing underlying issues, can you be any more clear about what issues you’re talking about?

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s the full range of issues, but obviously this goes to the underlying security of Israel and that the end of attacks from Gaza into Israel should be halted not simply temporarily, but in a sustained way. It goes to the condition of civilians in Gaza. And it goes to the ability of Israelis and Palestinians to get back to the table about a lasting settlement, which is obviously the long-term solution for this.

QUESTION: Victoria.

MS. NULAND: Please on this, Samir – Said.

QUESTION: There were reports that there are a couple dozen servicemen, American servicemen, in – actually in southern Israel that were hurriedly removed for safety. Do you know anything about that? Do you know anything about (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: I don’t. It sounds like something to ask the Pentagon. I don’t have anything on that.

Anything else on this subject?
QUESTION: Got one more logistical one that I forgot. Is she definitely coming directly back to Washington after Cairo or are you leaving open the possibility that she could make another stop, either in the region or in Europe, or, I don’t know, in Africa?
MS. NULAND: At the current moment, we have nothing after Cairo. If that changes, we’ll let you know.

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Travel to the Middle East

 

Press Statement

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

November 20, 2012

 


Secretary Clinton will depart today on travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Cairo, leaving from the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She will meet with regional leaders, starting with our Israeli partners, to consult on the situation in Gaza.

Her visits will build on American engagement with regional leaders over the past days – including intensive engagement by President Obama with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Morsi – to support de-escalation of violence and a durable outcome that ends the rocket attacks on Israeli cities and towns and restores a broader calm. As President Obama noted in his conversations with President Morsi, we commend Egypt’s efforts to de-escalate the situation and are hopeful that these efforts will be successful.

She will emphasize the United States’ interest in a peaceful outcome that protects and enhances Israel’s security and regional stability; that can lead to improved conditions for the civilian residents of Gaza; and that can reopen the path to fulfill the aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis for two states living in peace and security. She will continue to express U.S. concern for the loss of civilian life on both sides.

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