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Remarks at a United Nations Security Council Session on the Situation in Syria


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
United Nations
New York City
January 31, 2012

Thank you very much, Mr. President, and let me begin by thanking Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim and Secretary General el Araby for their thorough briefing.

The Arab League has demonstrated important leadership in this crisis.  And for many months, the people of the region and the world have watched in horror as the Assad regime executed a campaign of violence against its own citizens.  Civilians gunned down in the streets, women and children tortured and killed.  No one is safe, not even officials of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.  According to UN estimates, more than 5,400 civilians have already died, and that number is rising fast.

The regime also continues to arbitrarily detain Syrian citizens, such as the activists Yahia al-Shurbaji and Anas al-Shaghri, simply for demanding dignity and universal rights.  To date, the evidence is clear that Assad’s forces are initiating nearly all of the attacks that kill civilians, but as more citizens take up arms to resist the regime’s brutality, violence is increasingly likely to spiral out of control.  Already, the challenges ahead for the Syrian people are daunting – a crumbling economy, rising sectarian tensions, a cauldron of instability in the heart of the Middle East.

Now, fears about what follows Assad, especially among Syria’s minority communities, are understandable.  Indeed, it appears as though Assad and his cronies are working hard to pit Syria’s ethnic and religious groups against each other, risking greater sectarian violence and even descent into civil war.

So in response to this violent crackdown on peaceful dissent and protest, the Arab League launched an unprecedented diplomatic intervention, sending monitors into Syria’s beleaguered cities and towns and offering President Assad many chances to change course.  These observers were greeted by thousands of protestors eager to share their aspirations for their universal rights and also the stories of what had befallen them and their families.  But as the Arab League report makes clear if you read the entire report, the regime did not respect its pledges or the presence of the monitors, and instead responded with excessive and escalating violence.

Now, in the past few days, the regime’s security forces have intensified their assault, shelling civilian areas in Homs and other cities.  And this weekend, the Arab League suspended its monitoring mission, pointing to the regime’s intransigence and the mounting civilian casualties.

So why is the Arab League here before this Security Council?  Because they are seeking the support of the international community for a negotiated, peaceful political solution to this crisis and a responsible, democratic transition in Syria.  And we all have a choice:  Stand with the people of Syria and the region or become complicit in the continuing violence there.

The United States urges the Security Council to back the Arab League’s demand that the Syrian Government immediately stop all attacks against civilians and guarantee the freedom of peaceful demonstrations.   In accordance with the Arab League’s plan, Syria must also release all arbitrarily detained citizens, return its military and security forces to their barracks, allow full and unhindered access for monitors, humanitarian workers, and journalists.

And we urge the Security Council to back the Arab League’s call for an inclusive, Syrian-led political process to effectively address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria’s people, conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation, and extremism.

Now, I know that some members here may be concerned that the Security Council could be headed toward another Libya.  That is a false analogy.  Syria is a unique situation that requires its own approach, tailored to the specific circumstances occurring there.  And that is exactly what the Arab League has proposed – a path for a political transition that would preserve Syria’s unity and institutions.

Now, this may not be exactly the plan that any of us ourselves would have designed.  I know that many nations feel that way.  But it represents the best effects and efforts of Syria’s neighbors to chart a way forward, and it deserves a chance to work.

I think it would be a mistake to minimize or understate the magnitude of the challenge that Syrians face in trying to build the rule of law and civil society on the ruins of a brutal and failed dictatorship.  This will be hard.  The results are far from certain.  Success is far from guaranteed.  But the alternative – more of Assad’s brutal rule – is no alternative at all.

We all know that change is coming to Syria.  Despite its ruthless tactics, the Assad regime’s reign of terror will end and the people of Syria will have the chance to chart their own destiny. The question for us is:  How many more innocent civilians will die before this country is able to move forward toward the kind of future it deserves?  Unfortunately, it appears as though the longer this continues, the harder it will be to rebuild once President Assad and his regime is transitioned and something new and better takes its place.

Citizens inside and outside Syria have begun planning for a democratic transition, from the Syrian National Council to the courageous grassroots local councils across the country who are organizing under the most dangerous and difficult circumstances.  But every day that goes by, their task grows more difficult.

The future of Syria as a strong and unified nation depends on thwarting a cynical divide-and-conquer strategy.  It will take all Syrians working together – Alawis and Christians hand-in-hand with Sunni and Druze, side-by-side Arabs and  Kurds – to ensure that the new Syria is governed by the rule of law, respects and protects the universal rights of every citizen, regardless of ethnicity or sect, and takes on the widespread corruption that has marked the Assad regime.

For this to work, Syria’s minorities will have to join in shaping Syria’s future, and their rights and their voices will have to be heard, protected, and respected.  And let me say directly to them today:  We do hear your fears and we do honor your aspirations.  Do not let the current regime exploit them to extend this crisis.

And leaders of Syria’s business community, military, and other institutions will have to recognize that their futures lie with the state and not the regime.  Syria belongs to its 23 million citizens, not to one man or his family.  And change can still be accomplished without dismantling the state or producing new tyranny.

It is time for the international community to put aside our own differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria.  The alternative – spurning the Arab League, abandoning the Syrian people, emboldening the dictator – would compound this tragedy, and would mark a failure of our shared responsibility, and shake the credibility of the United Nations Security Council.

The United States stands ready to work with every member in this chamber to pass a resolution that supports the Arab League’s efforts, because those are the efforts that are well thought out, and focused on ending this crisis, upholds the rights of the Syrian people, and restores peace to Syria.

That is the goal of the Arab League, that should be the goal of this Council, to help the Syrian people realize the goal of the future that they seek.  Thank you.

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Of course there is an appearance at CGI!  This is in addition.  I am certain there is much more.

Image: 0081227254, License: Rights managed, Sept. 21, 2010 - New York, New York, U.S. - Former President BILL CLINTON and his wife Secretary of State HILLARY CLINTON attend the Clinton Global Initiative 2010 annual meeting held at the New York Sheraton Hotel.,


Secretary Clinton Co-chairs a Ministerial on the New Silk Road on September 22

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 21, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will co-chair, with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, the New Silk Road Ministerial on September 22, 2011, hosted by the German Mission in New York City.

The Secretary first laid out in a speech in Chennai, India, on July 20 her vision of a “New Silk Road” linking markets in South and Central Asia, with Afghanistan at its heart. This network would allow Afghanistan to attract new sources of foreign private-sector investment and connect to markets abroad, and it would promote regional growth based on Afghanistan’s economic potential. This meeting will include Afghanistan’s neighbors and near-neighbors and a small group of international partners.

Opening remarks by German Foreign Minister Westerwelle, Afghan Foreign Minister Rassoul, and Secretary Clinton will be pooled media coverage. Following the opening session, the ministers will continue to meet privately.

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There are many images available from today’s NATO Summit in Lisbon. I have used several in previous posts. This is a series that I find interesting and decided to share. The principals, as if they needed to be identified, are British PM David Cameron, U.S. President Barack Obama, and, of course, the star of the show, Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State upon whom AP has today bestowed a cabinet! (But that is another story – see caption).

It looks, at first blush, like Mme. Secretary has gotten herself into yet another diplomatic entanglement here!

From another camera angle, however, we see that this is not the case.

Things begin in a jovial fashion.

And then the business of nations commences. It looks a lot like mid-term exams.

I particularly like this one in the exam context. Cameron looks like he is wondering what the question means. Hillary is writing enough to fill two blue books at least, and Obama is trying to see her answer! “What’s she writing? Does she actually know all that?”

Well, to quote Chris Matthews at the end of her confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “I’ve never seen somebody know so much!” Yes, she does know!

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Well at the end of one of those weeks when the Secretary of State worked largely behind closed doors,   we have no public remarks or statements directly from Madame Secretary today.  She did begin today with a very early morning phone conversation with UK Foreign Minister William Hague.  In today’s press briefing,  P.J. Crowley highlighted the topics discussed. (I put Madame Secretary’s picture here instead of P.J.’s because she’s prettier.  I am sure P.J. would agree,)

Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 16, 2010
…  this morning, the Secretary had a conversation with Foreign Secretary Hague. The primary purpose of the call was to compare notes prior to Prime Minister Cameron’s visit to Washington next week. But she also used the opportunity of the call to thank the United Kingdom for its support of the new U.S.-EU agreement regarding the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program. And the two agreed on the importance of continuing our efforts to prevent terrorists from using our financial systems to launch attacks.They also talked about the situation with respect to Mr. Megrahi. Both the Secretary and the foreign minister agreed that in our mutual views, the release of Mr. Megrahi last year was a mistake. The Secretary just signaled to the foreign secretary ongoing congressional interest in this matter. And I think we’ll have more conversations with the British Government on this as we – as Congress continues to focus on the issue.

QUESTION: Where is the foreign minister right now? I don’t think he’s in London. He’s traveling, I believe. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there if you don’t know. Did they talk about the Iroquois case at all?

MR. CROWLEY: They did not.

QUESTION: So basically, that’s a dead letter as far as you’re concerned?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, from our standpoint, we’ve done what we can do. And it would appear to us at this point that the UK has made their final determination.

QUESTION: Okay. And on the BP thing, have you been invited – has anyone from State been invited to the hearings that Senator Kerry is going to be holding and —

MR. CROWLEY: At this point, no.

QUESTION: Do you expect to have someone at the hearings?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, that’s up to the chairman to decide who he wants to attend them – Kerry.

QUESTION: And what would – when you say that more conversations with the British are likely on this subject, what – why would more conversations be necessary after —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, the Secretary’s mindful that she has a request by the – a handful of senators to look into this matter if we haven’t decided what steps we will take. But clearly, the information that would need to be revealed by any follow-up action is resident within the UK Government and the Scottish Government. So, in anything that we do, we would need their cooperation. So she mentioned the issue, mentioned its importance not only to the Congress, to our government, but most importantly, to the families of the 103 victims. And I think we will be – continue to work with them to see how we can answer the questions that have been raised in recent days.

QUESTION: Did she specifically ask for cooperation from the British Government?

MR. CROWLEY: At this point, we have not made a specific ask of the British Government. The purpose of the —

QUESTION: Well, in general?

MR. CROWLEY: Right, but this was to alert the foreign secretary of the importance of the issue, and in fact, obviously, I think that’s already recognized within the UK. BP has put out statements in the last couple of days. So has the new government in the UK. Again, in the conversation, they agreed that in our joint view, this was a mistake. But we’re still evaluating how we can best work through the requests that the senators have made of us.

QUESTION: Did they indicate that the British Government might be amenable to cooperating if such an investigation is launched? And did the Secretary say that this was likely to come up when the prime minister visits next week?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the Secretary indicated that it might be appropriate for the British Government to communicate with Congress as well to make sure that they fully understand what transpired a year ago. That was something mentioned. Again, I’ll defer to the British Government to decide exactly what precise action they’ll take.

QUESTION: And how about the meeting next week? Is it likely – did she say that this might be on the agenda when the prime minister visits?

MR. CROWLEY: It was not that specific. I mean, the Secretary and the foreign secretary will also see each other in Kabul.

QUESTION: About how long was the call and how much of it was devoted to this —

MR. CROWLEY: It was 12 minutes. And the bulk of the call was devoted to specific issues related to the prime minister’s visit next week.

QUESTION: Which did not include the BP, so how much of a – what percentage of those 12 minutes were devoted to the BP issue?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) I can’t tell you. Seven minutes and 43 seconds. I can’t go —

QUESTION: Oh, so then most of it then.

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. I don’t know. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: P.J., what exactly does Congress want the Secretary to do, to find out?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t have the letter in front of me from the four senators. I think they want us to look into circumstances surrounding the decision by Scottish authorities a year ago. Obviously, there have been more than one correspondence. There are questions regarding the medical advice – who gave it, how was it considered, how did the Scottish authorities reach a judgment that on humanitarian grounds, based on an understanding that Mr. Megrahi had a relatively short time to live, that they would make this decision to release him on humanitarian grounds. That’s one area. And clearly, some questions have been raised about the fidelity of the medical information that entered into the Scottish authorities’ thinking.

On the other hand, there are questions about BP and its contacts with the UK Government in a kind of – in an earlier timeframe regarding the negotiation of a prisoner transfer agreement between the UK and Libya. And I think the UK has been clear that these two issues were worked on separate tracks.

So, we are – the purpose of her mentioning it today was simply to highlight for the foreign secretary this is a very important issue to the American people and it is going to be something that we will be addressing for a period of time. As we have pledged, we will respond to the four senators, and like I say, we’re working through how – what is the best way to provide the perspective to the Senate that they’ve requested.

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?


QUESTION: Can I just ask one more on that? Is there any attempt or is the State Department looking into any type of pressure that it could put on Libya to reverse Libya’s original decision? Or actually, I should say to reverse the return of Mr. Megrahi to Libya. Is there anything that the U.S. could do – some are asking?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, again, this – I mean, in terms of pressure, obviously, we continue to express our concern and to state categorically that every day that Mr. Megrahi spends as a free man in Libya is an affront to the families and victims of Pan Am 103. That is how we believe and that’s – I think that’s a firmly held belief by the American people.

From a legal standpoint, this – his sentence was – the case was carried out and the sentence applied under a special Scottish tribunal. We respect the fact that this was a decision that the Scottish authorities had the authority to make. We regret that decision. As to whether we have any legal recourse, these are the kinds of things we’re looking into. It’s unclear that we do.

Personally, I think this call was much more about that letter from the senators and BP’s alleged involvement in the release of Al Megrahi.  We know Secretary Clinton is a woman of her word.  We LOVE that about her!  If she says she will do something, she will.  On the other hand sometimes she says she will not do something and then later she changes her mind.  We love that, too.

If she told the senators she would look into this matter, that was probably the central reason for this phone call.  She was not happy with that release last year and made it very clear to then FM David Miliband. I think she wanted to warn Hague that this is a BIG ISSUE here where BP has already earned demerits. If the Prime Minister and a delegation are visiting DC next week, Americans are sure to expect this issue addressed. Any press availability during this visit will be vulnerable to this topic. I think Secretary Clinton wanted him to know he had better come armed for this. Anyway, that is my two cents.

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As America’s top diplomat, she would have been the logical one to send in anyway, but when it comes to reining in Hamid Karzai, in fact whenever the situation calls for a special touch of charm, Hillary Clinton is the girl for the job. She possesses a superbly gifted intellect, has been blessed with exquisite beauty (which never hurts when dealing with men), and has the most extraordinary social skills. We know her I.Q. is high, but even though President Obama cited her intellect and her work ethic when choosing her for this job, it is her E.I. – her emotional intelligence, her ability to read people and appeal to their concerns that makes her so successful in efforts such as the Afghanistan initiative, billed as a charm offensive,  over the past week, a week that ended, by the way, with her receiving a visit from the incoming Foreign Minister of the U.K., William Jefferson Hague (yes, that IS his middle name!), whom she also welcomed warmly and impressed.  If you are going to launch a charm offensive, she is your girl!

Although the new governor of my state appears to think elementary school teaching is babysitting, the truth is that elementary school teachers need to know all subjects and also know how to present them clearly, integrally, and memorably. Secretary Clinton would be an excellent elementary school teacher.   This week she spoke at the 2010 CARE Conference and gave a brilliant speech explaining how assuring one relatively simple basic need, good nutrition, over the thousand days from conception to age two, can change the course of history for a country and for the world. It is remarkable when you think about that, and it is remarkable how she manages to take an issue like that and crystallize its importance. The lesson, if you watched the video, was indelible!

So here is Secretary Clinton’s amazing week in review. God bless her!

Monday: Hosting a dinner for Hamid Karzai.

Who could possibly resist that smile?

Tuesday: Afghanistan – U.S. Strategic Talks

Even if they were not recognized as such (but I believe they were), Tuesday was all day all about Afghanistan with officials from both governments meeting with their counterparts. The Secretary shared the podium with President Karzai several times during the day, and managed to squeeze in that impressive speech at the CARE Conference as well.

Wednesday: The day began with the lovely SOS addressing the 40th Washington Conference on the Americas wearing one of my all-time favorite jackets.

The charm offensive then moved to the White House for a joint press availability with Presidents Obama and Karzai. Can you see in this face, especially around the eyes, what I mean by her high E.I.?

As part of her lesson plan for President Karzai, she sent him on two field trips:
1. With Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Walter Reade to meet our warriors wounded in fighting the Taliban he said he might join.
2. With With General Stanley McChrystal to the Afghanistan section of Arlington National Cemetery.

Thursday: Secretary Clinton and President Karzai held a moderated conversation at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

As a reward for responding positively to her efforts, Secretary Clinton treated President Karzai to another field trip, this time to the beautiful botanical gardens at Dumbarton Oaks, prior to his departure.

Friday: In the aftermath of the defeat of the Labour Party in the U.K. election earlier in the week, both Gordon Brown and David Miliband tendered their resignations. Miliband’s successor, William Hague, paid a visit to the State Department on Friday, and the Secretary greeted him warmly looking just beautiful in a pink pantsuit and pink pearls. Looking gorgeous never hurts!

She appears to have impressed him very favorably according to his own words on PBS Newshour last night.

Huge week, well done, Madame Secretary! Beautifully done by a true beauty!

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With Hillary on a brief vacation beginning last Wednesday in Bermuda, there has not been much to post here. These dry news times routinely generate memory photo albums on Hillary blogs, so here are a few cute ones. Here’s Hillary with her good friend British Foreign Minister David Miliband back in March at the NATO conference.

With HBO famously making a movie called “A Special Relationship” about the bilateral friendship between President Bill Clinton and then British PM, Tony Blair, the relationship between Hillary and Miliband appeared from the outset to reaffirm the special alliance between the U.S. and the U.K. despite a rather bumpy start when the Obama team decided to redecorate the White House by returning a bust of Winston Churchill to the Brits. Things got bumpier still when current PM, Gordon Brown, et famille visited the new First Family. But Hillary came through to save the day forming a firm and, by all indications cordial friendship with Miliband…cordial, that is until this happened:

David Miliband calls Hillary Clinton to voice anger over Guantánamo inmates’ transfer to Bermuda By Toby Harnden in Washington Published: 6:34PM BST 12 Jun 2009.

Ooohhhh, noes! Hillary! How could you! Actually, Hillary and David have met since then, and we have not seen frost on the friendship. We have to remember that this was not a decision made within the State Department and although Hillary was certainly consulted, the decision was not hers to make.

Now the choice of Bermuda as a vacation spot is interesting! The Clintons only had a few days there making a quick getaway in advance of Hurricane Bill (I know! You can’t make this stuff up!) closing the airport (and we haven’t heard a whisper since of where they might be). But Bill did play some golf on the course where the Uighurs are groundskeepers, and Hillary has a penchant for making statements just by her presence. Maybe they DIDN’T go there to celebrate the 30th anniversary of …um… the beginning of Chelsea (or maybe they DID!), but if there was a second good reason for Bermuda, I can see a reflection of Hillary’s decision to stay at the Taj Mahal in Mumbai in this choice. “It’s fine! You can still vacation here. See?” She probably promised David she would gladly make this gesture despite:

Release of Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, Washington, DC, August 20, 2009

When that statement was released, she was already in Bermuda.

Over the weekend, and in total Hillary-blackout, the rage over Al-Megrahi grew legs:

FBI boss Robert Mueller rips Scots who released Lockerbie bomber: “Comfort to terrorists” by Christina Boyle, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER, Sunday, August 23rd 2009, 2:18 AM

So what is the take-away from all this? I think it’s like when Scott Beckett hits Derek Jeter so next inning Andy Pettitte hits Big Papi – no harm meant just a little payback…and a compulsory warning.

One thing, though: You appoint and confirm Secretaries of State and Foreign Ministers to maintain diplomatic relations. Before any further moves of this kind are considered, the administrations would do well to consult and heed the advice of their top diplomats who seem to have a special enough relationship to get us past this bumpy patch.

Meanwhile, Quadaffi, the guy who gave Al-Megrahi the hero’s welcome in Libya, is planning to pitch a tent here in New Jersey – not far from me! I told you, you can’t make this stuff up! Stay tuned.

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