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We see her with her counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Yussef bin Alawi bin Abdullah  and with Sultan Qaboos.

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Public Schedule for October 19, 2011

Public Schedule

Washington, DC
October 19, 2011

SECRETARY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON

Secretary Clinton is on foreign travel in Muscat, Oman.

11:00 a.m. LOCAL  Secretary Clinton holds bilateral meetings with Omani Sultan Qaboos Al Said, in Muscat, Oman.
(POOLED CAMERA SPRAY)

Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yussef bin Alawi bin Abdullah welcomes US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Muscat on October 19, 2011, as the latter paid a brief visit to Oman for talks with Sultan Qaboos on rising tensions with Iran over its alleged plot to kill a Saudi envoy, according to officials. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED MAHJOUB (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED MAHJOUB/AFP/Getty Images)

Into the setting sun, the motorcade carrying U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads towards the airport for her departure from Muscat on October 19, 2011. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has paid a brief visit to Oman for talks with Sultan Qaboos on rising tensions with Iran over its alleged plot to kill a Saudi envoy, officials said. A key Gulf ally, Oman helped secure since September 2010 the release of three US hikers jailed in Iran, two of them last month, earning gratitude from the United States. AFP PHOTO/Kevin Lamarque/POOL (Photo credit should read KEVIN LAMARQUE/AFP/Getty Images)

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Clinton arrives in Oman for talks with Sultan

(AFP) – 1 hour ago

MUSCAT — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived early Wednesday in Oman for talks with Sultan Qaboos about his reform efforts and TO share US concerns over neighboring Iran, a US official said.

Clinton will first thank Qaboos for helping to arrange for Iran’s release last month of US hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who had been held in Iran after being arrested near the Iraq-Iran border in 2009, the official said.

The pair had been arrested along with fellow US hiker Sarah Shourd, who left Iran in September last year after being granted bail on humanitarian and medical grounds.

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Town Hall with Omani Civil Society

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Bait al Zubair Museum
Muscat, Oman
January 12, 2011

MODERATOR: (In Arabic.) Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’m honored to be given the opportunity to welcome Secretary of State Madam Hillary Clinton this morning. Welcome to Oman, Your Excellency. We appreciate you taking the time to visit with us today. We understand you have a very busy, demanding schedule. So we truly are grateful for your audience this morning.

Civil society is the basis for a thriving, functioning society. It is not a substitute for, but rather an ideal complement to the state-backed structures of government and commercial institutions of the market. The civil society in Oman made up of different association, commissions, and nonprofits blur the boundaries between the government and private sectors at times working independently, but more often than not with an active support of either or both sectors contributing in its own unique way to enrich the community as a whole.

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos in his far-reaching vision set up the foundation for a strong civil society early on encouraging more participation and giving people the means to be active citizen beginning his reign in July, 1970 with these words: “My people, I will proceed as quickly as possible to transform your life into a prosperous one with a bright future. Every one of you must play his part towards this goal.”

The people of Oman took up His Majesty’s goal, and today the role played by various NGOs and nonprofits across the sultanate is vital in raising awareness about important issues, organizing relief programs, and providing services at the grassroots level. Civil society initiatives in Oman have been able to indirectly affect change in public policies by engaging and motivating people to work together towards the greater common good whether it being the field of cancer awareness, disabled welfare, environment concerns, or education. The list goes on.

Initiating and coordinating events and outreach programs that matter to the people is the driving force behind all the work that is carried out in the daily basis by dedicated individuals who volunteer their time and effort to affect the change they want to see in their communities. It is gratifying to see everyone, citizen and expatriates alike, working together. We have seen repeatedly that the determination of a dedicated few can achieve much. There are always challenges that are faced, especially when setting up unprecedented initiatives. But anyone who does this type of work will assure you volunteerism is its own reward.

I’m very grateful to be able to contribute in whatever small way I can to promote this growing nation. However, I remain aware of what a great privilege it is to be able to carry out the work we do, and I’m humbled by His Majesty’s vision and the overwhelming positive response received from different government institutions, members of the private sector, and the individual philanthropist, as well as the support we receive from regional and international affiliates who generously share their experiences and best practices with us. Together we can and we do make a difference.

Once again, thank you, Your Excellency. We appreciate you taking the time to address these important very relevant issues with members of the civil societies here in Oman. You are a renowned champion of human rights and civil society and have galvanized a global movement for women rights as the First Lady, the first female elected to the U.S. Senate, and now as the Secretary of State. We hope you will have a chance to visit some of the impressive sites we have in Oman during your short stay and enjoy some Omani hospitality before you return to your snowy winter weather in the States.

You need no introduction, Madam Secretary. Please take the platform.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you very much, Yuthar, and thank you for your leadership on behalf of civil society and, in particular, awareness of cancer and other health challenges. It is wonderful being here. I want to thank Ambassador and Mrs. Schmierer for helping to arrange this town hall meeting.

I want to also thank the Zubair family for inviting us into this really impressive complex, and I had a chance before coming into the room to see a traditional Omani home and become convinced that the use of wind is a probably more efficient way to cool than the use of air conditioning.

And I am so pleased to be here in Oman. This is my first visit. It is, unfortunately, going to be a short one. So it will whet my appetite, and I will particularly think of Oman as I return back to all that snow and cold weather.

But I, first and foremost, wish to underscore the point that because of His Majesty’s vision 40 years ago, Oman has made more progress than any other nation in the world in the last 40 years. According to the United Nations statistics, I am now in the country that has shown greater progress. And in addition to the improvements in the lives of the Omani people, Oman stands out as a nation that has achieved not only stability at home, but peace with your neighbors and the kind of human progress that is especially important. America values your country and the people of Oman as a friend and partner.

The free trade agreement that we signed in 2006 has brought our people even closer together and helped to create jobs and widen prosperity in both of our countries. We certainly see that agreement not only as an opportunity to open markets and exchange goods, but to exchange ideas about sustainable development and how to, as we connect with the global economy to ensure that we provide benefits to all of our people.

I know that human security is not just an absence of violence; it is the presence of opportunity. And Oman has shown that it is possible for a nation to focus on education, to empower women and girls, and to put people at the center of its development strategy. I was told in preparing for my visit that just 40 years ago the entire country had only three primary schools which educated fewer than 1,000 boys and no girls. And today, you have universal education, something that is still not obtained by every country in the region and beyond. You have women and men studying at the universities.

And it is apparent to me that when the UN Development Program ranked Oman as the world’s most improved country in human development since 1970, it was because not of the great infrastructure, the impressive modern airport, all of the physical manifestation of a country that has worked hard for 40 years, but because of the quality of the improvement in people’s lives.

I think that education remains a key to Oman’s future. That’s why we’re working together with the ministry of education and civil society to recruit talented students for exchange programs like the Fulbright Scholarship, Women in Science, and Leaders for Democracy Fellowship. The number of Omanis studying in America is on the rise, but I personally would like to see it grow even more.

We see a generation larger than any we have ever seen coming of age in the greater Middle East. And these young people are looking for opportunities and freedoms and greater voice in their societies. Yesterday in Sana’a, I had a town hall, and most of the people there were young people, students, young graduates of university, and we ended the town hall with a young woman and a young man who expressed their desire to make a contribution to their country, and how they can see your neighbor provide some of the same benefits that are provided here.

I think that the challenge facing countries in the 21st century is to recognize this high expectation. Young people today are connected globally, but focused locally. They want to see improvements in their own circumstances. And that’s where nongovernmental organizations come in, because as committed as governments can be – and certainly the government here of His Majesty is very committed as we have seen for the last 40 years – governments need partners. And some governments recognize that and embrace civil society, and some governments try to shut the door to citizens working to improve themselves and their communities.

We believe in the United States that nongovernmental organizations play a critical role in helping to empower citizens, articulate needs, push for education and healthcare, progress in human rights and the rule of law. And we know that there are many Omani groups, like the General Federation of Oman Trade Unions that protect the rights of people who work in Oman today – not only laborers, but graduates of universities.

I also want to acknowledge the efforts of Tawasul, the first independent think tank. And through its We Work project, it’s increasing the capacity of local organizations to engage in public discussion and to train female candidates for this year’s consultative council elections. And while I’m at it, I want to congratulate the all-female Omani teams who in recent years have won youth entrepreneurships contests across the Arab world.

There’s so much I want to learn from you, and I’m looking forward to our discussion today to hear your ideas, your questions about what we can do as partners and friends to continue to provide greater opportunity, and some of the views that you have about what more can be done in your own country and in the larger region.

Coming from Yemen as I did yesterday and landing here in your country has certainly highlighted the challenges that exist within a very small geographic area. And we have to ask ourselves in addition to good leadership, which Oman has enjoyed for 40 years – and I will congratulate His Majesty on the 40 years of his leadership – what are the other ingredients that has made Oman so successful. Because if I could bottle it, I would take it to some other places near and far and try to persuade leaders and citizens alike to make the same decisions, to walk the same path, and to recognize that when we invest in the future of our young people, we are doing the most important work we are called to do here on earth to give our children a chance to fulfill their own God-given potential. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you, Your Excellency, for an informative and inspiring talk. Can you hear me? Everybody can hear?

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, before I open the floor for questions, I would like to tell you that around – we’ll have just not a lot of time. So please if you can keep your interjection as short as possible so that we have more time for everybody to speak and ask questions, or just make a short remark.

Please introduce yourself briefly before asking your question or making your comments. There is an interpreter on hand, so you can you address your remarks to Madam Clinton in both Arabic and English. I have an honor to ask the first question.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s the prerogative of the moderator. (Laughter.)

MODERATOR: Your Excellency, where are areas, in your opinion, given your recent tour of the region, where civil society can play a more active role?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I certainly believe that Yemen is an example of that. Now, Yemen does have a very active NGO community. Many thousands of NGOs have formed, but they don’t yet have the voice and the space that would enable them to contribute as much as possible to their nation’s future. So that’s one example. And in other countries in the region, civil society is really just taking off. It doesn’t have the 40-year history that you were referring to, Yuthar. And there are so many needs not only in this region, but around the world. I’ll just mention one, because I see it increasingly, and that’s how to help people with disabilities, because there are so many more people, young and old, who survive that didn’t survive 40 years ago who have disabilities of various sorts and societies have to work to try to find ways to empower such people. This is something I’ve worked on for many years in my own country, but I hear about it.

I’ll be in Qatar later, and we’ve been talking with the Qataris about their desire to do more for people with disabilities. So there’s a growing awareness of the need, and as we thankfully and hopefully see people living longer, it’s more likely that more of us will have some infirmity due to age if nothing else. And so working to try to encourage changes that support people with disabilities is an area that is just beginning to be paid a lot of attention in the region.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Your Excellency. Now, I will open questions to the floor. Anybody who would like to ask a question, please, so we can get the mike to you. Can you get the mike here in the front, please?

QUESTION: (Inaudible), and I’ve also had the honor of serving in the U.S. Embassy before, and I’m now working with a variety of NGOs. I would – actually I had a few questions, but they were on different topics. Since the topic going to be on civil society, I would like to draw on your comment and your question – and your comments regarding the use. They are connected globally, but focused locally, and how we have to help them identify the needs and organize them.

I would like to have this in mind and ask what is the essential component within the U.S. foreign policy to address these issues basing in mind the answer to the question that what made Oman successful is that mutual respect and none assumption. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s an excellent point. As I say, I wish I could bottle the ingredients that have worked so well to promote human development here in Oman. But in American foreign policy, I have asked my team in the State Department to put together a policy aimed at empowering and equipping young people around the world to meet the challenges that they confront. We are looking at a wide range of ways of trying to assist young people, particularly in developing less-developed countries.

Now, technology is a thing that can be both positive and negative. On the positive side, it does open all kinds of windows of information to people that can help equip young people with a vision about their own future, an access to information and even education, long distance if necessary, that can be of assistance.

So we are looking to see how we can better use access to information. For example, we are running contests in Africa and asking young people to design applications that will solve a problem in their community. And we’ve just given out some of the first awards and here are two examples. One is using cell phones for farmers to get information about the weather and prices that they never had access to before. They’re often in areas without electricity. So thanks to wireless technology, you now have small land-holding African farmers connected to the global marketplace. Another example: Using cell phones so that pregnant women can get access to information about how to have a better pregnancy – what to eat, what signs to look for in case of problems, and the like. So those are two examples about how technology has helped – and it’s young people doing it. It’s certainly not people my age doing it. It’s young people who are designing these applications.

Another is the educational exchange that I mentioned in the – in my remarks. The more we can exchange views and the more that people can visit each other’s culture, attend classes in another’s country – when I was in Dubai, I met with what are called the Clinton Scholars, and these are young Americans in a program named for my husband set up by the Government of Dubai to bring young American students for a semester – study Arabic, study Islam, meet people, go into people’s homes. We want to do more of that going in both directions because we think that is also a way to have the kind of people-to-people contacts that you can’t really accomplish just through technology.

And finally, we are working in the Obama Administration to promote entrepreneurship. We held our first President’s Entrepreneurship Summit last year and we focused on the Muslim world, in particular the Middle East, North Africa, but as far away as Malaysia and Indonesia. Because we want to have a conversation with governments about how to open up their economies so that more young people feel they can start businesses and can be entrepreneurs, whether it’s in internet businesses or more traditional businesses. And we’ve created, online, a network of entrepreneurs to provide assistance, answer questions, help with business plans. Because there is so much potential for economic opportunity, but it hasn’t been developed in many parts of the world.

So those are three of the ways we’re trying to open doors to young people around the world as part of our foreign policy.

MODERATOR: Thank you, excellent. Another question? Can we have the lady there? Sorry, I didn’t see her face on my – thank you.

QUESTION: Hello, I’m Wanna Handan. I’m working in ISAC. We’re a student-run organization globally and we’re working on some of the things that you just mentioned – exchange, which is our core program, where we send Omanis abroad and we receive internationals working here – here, sorry.

And my question to you is: How do you see the cooperation between youth, namely in ISAC, and the U.S. Embassy here to support your initiatives which you just mentioned?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would like to be sure that our embassies, our Ambassador and our teams here in Oman help support, with technical assistance and with small funding grants where appropriate, groups like what you’re describing, that are operating on the ground, in your own culture, based on your own assessment of what the needs are.

I mean, the last thing in the world I want is for me as Secretary of State or our Ambassador or anyone else from our country coming and saying, “Oh, here’s what we think Oman needs.” That’s not the kind of partnership and friendship we are seeking. What we want to do is to say, “Well, how do you think you can best provide more opportunities, empower young people, connect up to not only the global economy, but sort of the global information network?” And then to try to support what you do here locally.

It was very touching to me yesterday in Yemen. One of the young women who asked a question said that she had gotten a good education and then a chance to study in the United States, and then her goal is to come and live in Yemen and help her own people, she said. But sometimes, the people around her say, “Well, you went away for education, and so you’re bringing foreign ideas,” when what we want is to provide as much education as possible in order to help equip particularly young people to work within their own societies. And that is our goal and that’s why we want to find more ways of trying to help do that.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Okay. Another? Should we have – sorry, can we have somebody here in the front? I’m trying to sort of divide it. Please.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s always the hardest job – (laughter) —

MODERATOR: It is.

SECRETARY CLINTON: — is picking the hands.

MODERATOR: Wait till I finish, then I’ll have the hands. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, a very warm welcome to Oman. If you allow me to start with a critical part of the queries, I work for the Environment Society of Oman and the issue of the United States positioning on climate change since the failure of COP 15 and what has happened in – lately in Cancun does not bring great news to environmentalists.

Is there – we look upon EPA, for example, the Environment Protection Agency in the U.S. as one of the beautiful examples of how the federal agencies can work together in order to harness environmental concerns. But in terms of the U.S. position regarding climate change and issues of this nature post-Kyoto Protocol, what is it that we are looking at in this term? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for that, and thank you for your obvious interest and commitment to this issue.

Let me start by saying that President Obama and the Obama Administration are very committed to doing everything we can to deal with the threats posed by climate change. And although the President was unable to achieve the legislative solution that he sought through our Congress, that has not prevented his Administration from moving very forcefully in regulation and action through Executive Branch agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency, of course, being the principal one. So, the so-called EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, is proceeding with the authority it already has to regulate emissions. And I think that there – it remains controversial in our country for political and ideological reasons, but it is a very high priority.

Secondly, I have a slightly different and perhaps more positive view about both Copenhagen and Cancun. It is absolutely true the international community was unable to arrive at the overall comprehensive approach that many believed was necessary. But starting in Copenhagen, a very important step forward did occur, namely, that the developed countries such as the United States and the rapidly developing countries such as China and India, Brazil, agreed that there had to be a framework that would calculate and evaluate emissions, and that it had to be transparent so that the information was universally available on the internet so that the world could see how both the developed and the developing countries were dealing with climate change.

Now, that was not accepted at COP 16 – or COP 15, but it was a principle that we found at Cancun provided the foundation for what was accepted by the conference. And there were some important commitments made in Cancun that yes, there had to be transparency and publicizing of what emission levels were, what regulatory and legislative actions countries were going to pursue. And very importantly, for developing countries, particularly poor countries, and especially island nations that are literally at threat of being overwhelmed by ocean level rise, there was a commitment to a financial package that would help such countries mitigate against that damage.

So we certainly were disappointed that we didn’t have the legislative framework that the President had sought, but we were satisfied that given the progress that was capable, we were putting, to use an American phrase, points on the board. Now, there’s much more to be done, and we look forward to COP 17 in South Africa where we can evaluate what has been accomplished, and take additional steps.

So I think that the glass may be half full or half empty, depending upon how one looks at it, but two years on, we’ve actually moved from rhetoric to a framework for action that is going to at least make something of a difference.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Any more questions? Somebody in the middle there, can you just get a mike? There are three people, actually. You have to choose now.

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

MODERATOR: Can you answer – a translator there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We have a translator right there.

MODERATOR: Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: You have to stop so the translator can translate as you go. (Laughter.) I always make that mistake; I get carried away.

MODERATOR: I didn’t want to disturb her.

INTERPRETER: Madam Secretary, basically, the question is that this is Amira Actalavi. She worked in academia and she’s very impressed by you being a female U.S. Secretary of State as well as a wife and a mother. And very recently, your daughter got married and —

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

INTERPRETER: What are the suggestions that you would put forth to tell women in this region – for every woman to believe how she can fulfill her own aspirations and rise up to the expectations?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think this is probably the most common question I’m asked everywhere in the world, whether it’s a country in Latin America or a country in Asia or Africa or here in the Middle East. I am very supportive, as you know, in educating girls and young women so that they can make the most responsible decisions for themselves, their families, and their societies. And I applaud what Oman has done to help equip your girls and women to make those decisions.

Secondly, I believe that women should be able within their societies to make decisions about the path of life that they choose. I’ve had women friends, now going back my entire adult life, who have made very different decisions. I’ve had women friends who married early, had their children, raised their family, and then went into the workforce. I’ve had women friends who did not marry till later in life and then had their children. I’ve had many women who have both worked and balanced that work with their family responsibilities.

And what I would always hope for is that societies would respect and support responsible decisions by women and men. For me, balancing family and work has been the approach that I have taken. But I always say, because I deeply believe, that the most important job any parent has, mother and father, is caring for the next generation – one’s children and then one’s grandchildren.

So at different points along a woman’s life, you may emphasize that more than at other times. So what we want is for societies to support women being able to go in and out of the workforce, because there’s a tremendous amount of talent in 50 percent of the population. So I would like to see more support for young mothers so that they can concentrate on being the best mothers to their young children as possible. I’d like to see opportunities for women to continue their education, even when they’re raising their family, and I’d like to see more opportunities for women to combine family responsibilities, particularly motherhood, with outside employment if that is what they choose or they need.

Because certainly, when we have these discussions among people like ourselves who are educated and very privileged, we forget that every day in every society, millions and millions of women have no choice. They leave their children alone, they leave their children in the care of others because they have to work either to contribute to the family income or because they are the only source of income. And I have met with many widows from Iraq, from Afghanistan. I’ve met with many refugee women. I’ve met with many women whose husbands are far from home or even in prison because of political activity of one sort or another, in addition to women who, from economic necessity, must work.

So a woman like me had a very clear choice, and I was fortunate to have a supportive family and a situation where I could be a law professor, I could be a lawyer, I could afford to have someone in my home helping to care for my daughter when I was at work. My husband was very involved. So I had a wonderful set of circumstances. That is not the case for many, many women in my own country, let alone around the world.

So if we believe that motherhood and caring for the next generation is an important priority for every society, then let’s be sure that we help support girls and women to be able to do that and to be given the tools that they need in life to be successful at doing that.

MODERATOR: Thank you. I think there’s another, Asma. Yeah, Asma, you can come.

QUESTION: As-Salāmu `Alaykum. My name is Asma Harusi. I’m an interpreter and a businesswoman. I was honored to have been sent to San Diego for – by the State Department with MEPI, which is an executive business training, San Diego – we had a lot of interaction with MENA region, which is the Middle East and North Africa. This was two years ago, but since then we’ve been told the funds have been stopped and because the funds were set up by the Bush Administration.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, actually we are very supportive of MEPI.

QUESTION: That was the MEET program, MEET program, and MENA region is the Middle East —

SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you know if that was the program, Richard?

STAFF: Yes, it’s for – to – for women and —

QUESTION: Yes – no, it was for men and women. We were both from Middle East and North Africa, but it was female and male.

MODERATOR: Okay. So what’s your question?

QUESTION: This was – the thing is, by doing so – which I thought it was very interactive with other – we had also the Israeli women, and we came to be very friendly, and we – I mean, I – as an Arab, focusing on all the politics coming up, Israelis are enemies, but having interacted with them, we have a lot in common.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: I would like to know, you, as your Administration, since you’ve been in the Administration for two years, what have you done for the Arab womens to interact with the Israelis?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s an excellent question, and the program that you’re referring to is one that we are very committed to. We’ve had some budget challenges that we inherited that we’re trying to work through, as you know. But the larger point you make is one that I’d like to focus on. What I have found in the work I’ve done over many years is that you cannot wipe away the history and the differences, but you can begin to create some awareness of common concerns that people have, no matter who they are and where they are.

I’ve seen this work in many different settings around the world and have been involved in it. And when I was First Lady, I helped to start a program called Vital Voices, and Melanne Verveer, who is here with me, ran it for a long time. She is now the first ever American ambassador for global women’s affairs. And part of what we’ve tried to do is to bring women from different backgrounds, whether it was in Ireland between the Protestants and the Catholics, or whether in the Middle East between Arabs and Israelis, or whether in Africa between different tribes, or in Latin America between insurgents and opposition. So we have tried to create these opportunities for people to sit at the same table and talk through their perspectives. And it is – I mean, it is really a common experience that people all of a sudden say, “I didn’t know you cared about that.”

And I’ll give you a quick example from outside the Middle East. When we were doing this work in Northern Ireland, I put together the first-ever meeting between leaders of Catholic women and leaders of Protestant women. They had never had any opportunity to sit down and visit with each other. And it was a little tense to start with because they all came with a preconception about what the other was like. And all of a sudden, they began to talk and a woman would say, “I worry every day when my husband goes to work that he may not come back alive.” And another woman would say, “I worry every night when my son goes out with his friends that he may not come back alive.” And all of a sudden, as women, as wives, as mothers, they began to realize that this violence was ripping apart both of their families and both of their communities. And women played a major role in pushing the politicians to find some solution. It was very clear that there just couldn’t be a divide when people on both sides were suffering in the same way.

Now, there is some – there’s a lot of work that we need to do in this world to try to create that awareness, because through that perhaps can come pressure on governments and leaders to make the necessary decisions that will lead to sustainable peace. I’m very committed to doing everything I can in the Middle East to bring Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Israelis, to lasting resolution of the ongoing conflict. And I think it can’t be done just at the top between leaders. I think it needs to also be between people, so I appreciate what you’ve said.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: How is Obama (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.

QUESTION: How is Obama (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: President Obama is doing well. (Laughter.) He’s doing very well.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Can we have another question from the gentleman? Where he is?

QUESTION: Thank you for being here. Will we see a joint ticket at the next election, Obama-Hillary – that’s one – and what will we see different?

And the second one, you said to support social society, civil society, giving money and information – you think this will be enough or more needed? Thanks.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am on President Obama’s team, and I’m working with him very hard. When I agreed to be his Secretary of State, many people were very surprised because I had run really hard against him, and he had run very hard against me. And I was trying to win and so was he, and he won and went on to be elected President and then asked me if I would be Secretary of State. And many people have asked me, “Well, how could you work with him and for him when you tried to beat him?” And I have a very simple answer: We both love our country, we both are committed to helping our people and trying to make a difference in the world so that our whole world is more peaceful and prosperous. So we are very committed to a lot of the same goals.

And with respect to civil society, I would just underscore that it makes such a difference to harness the intelligence and the energy of people who are willing to work peacefully toward change. There are many places in the world today where people think they can bring about change through terrorism or violence, and to me, that is very negative and causes more suffering. And to support civil society, to support people who are operating on our common humanity, is what I look for.

I just have to say this one story, because I’m so touched by it. There’s a woman doctor in Somalia, who, through all of the conflict in Somalia, has taken care of thousands of people. She’s helped women deliver their babies, she has performed surgeries. She has two daughters who are doctors, she’s a widow, her son died in a car accident, so three women alone who run this hospital on the property of her family. And when they were attacked a few months ago by young boys carrying automatic weapons who were a part of one of the terrorist groups, Al-Shabaab, they came in and they were shooting x-ray machines, and they were breaking furniture and overturning what she had spent a lifetime building up to take care of people. And they confronted her with their weapons and they were trying to take her away. And she said, “No, you can kill me, but I’m not leaving. All these people depend on me. I am trying to heal people. What are you doing to help people?” I mean, it is such a powerful story. And thankfully, so far, they have left her alone. She’s now trying to rebuild her hospital and continue serving people.

But that’s civil society at its best in one of the worst of situations. It’s not the government doing it. It’s individuals. And when she was confronting these young men, women from – who had camped out on her property with their sick babies and their injured husbands and sons, they all came and surrounded her to say, “Please, think about what we can do together to build, not destroy.” And to me, that is at the core of civil society, and it has to be protected not just in places like Oman and the United States that are peaceful, but in the worst places that have so many challenges that have to be addressed.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I’m sorry we cannot take any more questions. I’m really sorry, I’m sorry. She has an appointment that she has to —

SECRETARY CLINTON: But let me suggest, Ambassador, if we could open a website on the Embassy, I will – if you email me your questions or text them, I will get around to trying to answer every question —

MODERATOR: That’s very kind of you. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: — because I feel so grateful that we’ve had this chance to have this discussion.

MODERATOR: It’s a short time. You need to come back again.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I will come back. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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Interview With Jill Dougherty of CNN

Interview

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Bait Al Zubair Museum
Muscat, Oman
January 12, 2011

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much. I know you have a very intense schedule, so thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Of course, Jill.

QUESTION: I want to start with Iran because it has been really a key issue here in this Gulf trip. And two years after the Administration began working on its engagement policy – granted there has been some success in the sanctions slowing down Iran’s nuclear program, but essentially, you haven’t really been successful and no closer to stopping their program. And in fact, you’re not even close to negotiations to get them to stop. And the question really seems to be: Is it time for something harder? Because we’ve heard that in this region, a lot of (inaudible) do want more interaction.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, I disagree with the notion that we haven’t made progress, because the facts are very different. We have made progress. In the last two years, we moved from a policy of condemning and standing alone and seeing nothing happen to rallying the international community to impose very tough sanctions which are making a difference. Just recently, the outgoing head of the Israeli intelligence agency made that point, that – and he was also publicly saying a combination of sanctions and covert actions have significantly slowed down the Iranian program.

We are also back to the so-called P-5+1 negotiations which were on hold for over a year. They will be meeting in Istanbul in just a little while. Now, this is a very long and challenging path that we have chosen to try to get the international community, get the sanctions, get the kind of support that we need to change the leadership (inaudible) Iran’s thinking about nuclear weapons. But we’ve made progress. Can we run up the flag and say oh, no, we’ve reached the conclusion we sought? Not yet, but we’re making progress.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about Iraq, a big subject on this trip. You have U.S. troops leaving, you have the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr coming back. Doesn’t this leave the field free for Iran?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. In fact, I think that there is a government now in Iraq that is embraced by the Iraqi people. The attitude toward that government and Iraq among its Arab neighbors is changing, so more and more people are seeking out relationships, seeking out trade agreements, opening up embassies.

Now Iraq, if left totally alone, if for some reason no one responds to what were unprecedented elections resulting in an inclusive government, that would be a great mistake. But what we see is Iraq increasingly asserting itself. Iran is a big neighbor. Iran is a big presence in this entire region. And obviously, next door to Iraq, it is as well. But we also see the other centers of power in the region beginning to step up and making sure that Iraq is part of the larger community. And that’s very important.

QUESTION: And are the Gulf states doing enough? That is part of your message.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they’ve got more to do, but they’re making progress. I’ll be speaking about that when I meet with them in Doha, and I’m encouraged.

QUESTION: And in Yemen, you were there, your first visit, very interesting place. The United States is putting hundreds of millions of dollars (inaudible) both within the military side and now more on the civilian side. But so far, a couple of problems. The Yemenis have not been able to capture al-Awlaki. They – also, we’ve had two failed attempts, terrorist attempts, emanating from Yemen. How long can the American people continue to support action in Yemen if these things continue to happen?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I hope that the American people understand that this is being done because, first and foremost, it’s in our national security interest. Walking away from Yemen, not supporting it in both the counterterrorism efforts and its broader development needs, would be basically ceding the ground to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. That would be a very tragic mistake, in my opinion. So as hard as it is, we are developing a very productive relationship with both the Government of Yemen on the counterterrorism front and with the people of Yemen on the development issues.

QUESTION: And do you believe that that could be a more dangerous place than Pakistan in terms of (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I think it’s hard to make those kinds of comparisons. I think that each in their own way pose threats. I mean, the epicenter of the al-Qaida affiliation network that exists is still in the frontier areas and the north of Pakistan, but there are threats emanating to the United States from Yemen as well.

QUESTION: On this trip, you’ve had some very interesting comments about extremists when you made that comparison between extremists in this region and extremists in the United States. You mentioned the man who unfortunately shot Congresswoman Giffords. Were you rushing to judgment on his motivations (inaudible) shooting people? And also, could you explain a little bit about what you meant by it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think from what we know – and of course, I’m reading the newspapers and watching TV like everyone else who was deeply affected by this tragedy. I knew that people all over the world would be expressing their sympathy, as they have been, on my trip. I happen to know the congresswoman. I think very highly of her. She’s an extraordinary person as well as a great public servant. And the loss of all of the people – the federal judge, the nine-year-old girl, and others – is just heartbreaking to me.

Based on what I know, this is a criminal defendant who was in some ways motivated by his own political views, who had a particular animus toward the congresswoman. And I think when you cross the line from expressing opinions that are of conflicting differences in our political environment into taking action that’s violent action, that’s a hallmark of extremism, whether it comes from the right, the left, from al-Qaida, from anarchists, whoever it is. That is a form of extremism. So yes, I think that when you’re a criminal who is in some way pursuing criminal activity connected to – however bizarre and poorly thought through – your political views, that’s a form of extremism.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one quick question? China – big speech on Friday. This new Congress, (inaudible)? Is this going to complicate relations with China and your job?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean, China is a very big presence in our world today and will become increasingly so in the future. Our challenge as American leaders is to chart a peaceful course with China, to look out for our interests, but to recognize that it is far better to have a positive, cooperative relationship with China than one based on hostility and antagonism. So how we stand our ground, stand up for American values and interests, and find areas of cooperation is exactly what we’re doing.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, thank you very much, Madam Secretary. Appreciate the time with you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Nice talking, Jill.

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This morning, Secretary Clinton addressed a group of Omanis during her visit to Beit Al-Zubair Museum in Muscat.  Here are some photos from the event.  She also met with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Bait Al-Baraka in Muscat.

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Some of us were concerned upon hearing that Mme. Secretary had taken a spill while boarding her plane following a rather late event last night in Yemen, but, as these photos attest, she is just fine. We see her here with Oman’s minister responsible for foreign affairs, Yusuf Bin Alawi bin Abdullah after her arrival in Muscat last night.  They are seated under a portrait of Sultan Qaboos.

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Background Briefing on the Secretary’s Upcoming Travel

Special Briefing

Office of the Spokesman
Senior State Department Officials
Via Conference Call
Washington, DC
January 7, 2011

OPERATOR: Welcome, and thank you for standing by. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. During the question-and-answer session, please press *1, make sure your phone is un-muted, and record your name when prompted. I would now like to turn this meeting over to Mark Toner. Thank you. You may begin.

MR. TONER: Thank you. Good morning, and thanks for joining us. As you know, the Secretary of State will head out tomorrow for a trip to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar. That will be from January 8th, tomorrow, through the 13th. She’ll also, in Qatar, participate in the Seventh Forum for the Future, which is a joint initiative of the countries of the broader Middle East and North African region and the industrialized countries of the G-8.

Just in that vein, just to give you a little bit more detail and granularity on the trip and speak to her agenda, we’re joined by two [senior State Department officials]. Just a reminder, the ground rules here are on background, so [the senior State Department officials] will henceforth be known as Senior Official Number One and Number Two – Senior State Department Official.

Without further ado, I’ll hand it over to Senior State Department Official Number One. [Senior State Department Official One], go ahead.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you very much, Mark, and thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to talk a little bit about the Secretary’s trip to the Gulf. We’re very pleased that she’s going back out. As you may recall, she was in Bahrain a month ago for the Manama Dialogue. Now she’s going to go out and showcase our emphasis on partnership with civil society. And I’ll let my colleague talk a little bit more about that.

But I think what’s important about the trip is, in addition to this opportunity to really get some bounce with this idea that civil society has a role, has a very important role to play in the region, she’s going to have an opportunity to build on the very good personal relations that she has with a number of these leaders in the UAE, in Oman, and in Qatar. And she’s going to have the opportunity to talk about key regional issues. This agenda, obviously, is very familiar to all of you listening. It includes Iraq, Iran, the Middle East peace process, Lebanon, Yemen.

And we have a very robust bilateral agenda (inaudible) visiting. These are countries that we have worked with very closely over the years, and we’re going to have the opportunity for the Secretary to talk about our commercial relationships, to talk about people-to-people relationships that are so important to highlight some of the things that are of interest to us and to our friends in the Gulf.

We’re very pleased, for instance, that she’s going out to Masdar in the UAE, the green town that you may have read about recently. She’s going to spend some time in Dubai, where I understand she’s never been.

In Oman, she’s going to help mark the 40th anniversary of the Sultan of Oman, who is a longtime friend of the United States and a valued partner who’s made enormous changes on the ground in his country in the past 40 years. And I know that she’s looking forward to that opportunity.

And of course, in Qatar, the showpiece of the centerpiece of the trip is the Forum for the Future. But we also have a longstanding relationship with the Qataris. We have a very robust dialogue on a variety of issues, including African issues such as Sudan and Yemen. And we’re looking forward to having some real exchanges there as well.

I think I’ll turn it over to [Senior State Department Official Two] to talk a bit more in detail about Forum for the Future and the overall theme of the visit.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: [Senior State Department Official One], thanks so much, and Mark, and thank you all for joining us. Typically, when the Secretary is traveling to our part of the world, she is doing a lot of business on these core relationships, on important regional security issues, on conflict resolution, and these are the Middle East issues that I know most of you folks end up writing about when you write about U.S. engagement in our region.

But we have a lot more going on across the region, and this trip is really an opportunity to showcase that these other dimensions of U.S. engagement in the Middle East and in the Gulf, particularly the emphasis that we’ve placed on building partnerships beyond the government-to-government level, reaching out to civil society, reaching out to the private sector, and treating – and really viewing them as essential partners in progress in the region, in developing and building a vision for the future of this region that’s dynamic, that’s prosperous, that’s progressive, that provides opportunity for young people. And this is a region where a majority of the population is under 25. So that’s really the key goal for everything that she’s doing on the trip.

The second element here that’s driving this travel comes out of the Secretary’s commitment to civil society. And those of you who were in Krakow and those who were not heard her in her address there at the Community of Democracies talk at length about civil society and the way she views this sector as an essential partner alongside governments in democracy and development, and laying out in Krakow her commitment and U.S. Government support for the work of civil society actors around the world.

So this trip is really meant to manifest that very concretely. In every stop she is going to have direct engagement with civil society actors who have been involved in all kinds of creative ways in activities to tackle social issues like child marriage or domestic violence, as well as to work on cutting-edge innovation, promoting business development, working with young people, working in education. And she’s going to be engaging at each stop with civil society actors on those questions.

And this culminates, of course, in her engagement at the Forum for the Future, where the three legs of the stool she talked about in Krakow – government, civil society, and business – all come together in this multilateral meeting to talk about how together they can work to advance political, economic, and social reform across the region.

And the Forum is something that I think really has gained steam over the last couple of years. It’s got strong support from a number of regional governments and there are a lot of concrete commitments from the G-8 states that have flowed out of the partnership represented by the Forum for the Future. So all of that will be highlighted at the Forum, and the Secretary will be participating at the Forum in a session that really symbolizes this engagement between government, business, and civil society. She’s going to be part of a conversation with a foreign minister from the region, a civil society representative, and a business representative. And so that will be her final day on the trip before we come home.

MR. TONER: Thank you both. With that, we’ll open it up to questions. And just a reminder, as Caroline will tell you as well, if you could just give your name and media affiliation. And we’ll open it up to questions now.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer session. If you’d like to ask a question, please press *1, make sure your phone is un-muted, and record your name and affiliation when prompted. To withdraw your request, you may press *2. Once again, if you have a question or a comment at this time, please press *1 and record your name and affiliation. One moment for our first question.

Our first question comes from Josh Rogin from Foreign Policy. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, good afternoon, and thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. I’m wondering if you could please give us the list of – I understand that the Secretary’s trip is focused on civil society and civic engagement, but could you please give us the list of senior officials in each of those three countries that Secretary Clinton will be meeting with and what the main agenda items might be? And also, I see that Secretary Clinton will meet this evening with Saudi King Abdullah and Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. Could you please also talk a little bit about the goals and the agenda for those two meetings? Thank you so much.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, let me first talk about the meetings this evening. The Secretary will be going up to New York to make a courtesy call on King Abdullah, who, as you know, has been in the United States for medical reasons over the last couple of months. This really is strictly a courtesy call. Obviously, the King’s health has been such that he hasn’t been able to receive many visitors up until now, so I think the Secretary is very pleased to have this opportunity.

We understand, and I frankly have not seen the latest schedule, that she’s tentatively scheduled also to see Hariri. We would obviously like to hear how things are going in Lebanon, particularly as we prepare for what we think will be the next round of events associated with the special tribunal on Lebanon.

With regard to the individuals that she’s going to meet in the region, pretty much who you would expect. In the UAE, obviously, she will meet Muhammad bin Zayed and his brother Abdul Aziz bin – excuse me, Abdallah bin Zayed. Muhammad bid Zayed is the Crown Prince of the UAE. Abdallah bin Zayed is the foreign minister of UAE.

She will travel to Dubai and have an opportunity to meet with the ruler of Dubai, Muhammad bin Rashid. In Oman, of course, she will meet with the Sultan of Oman and offer her congratulations on his 40th anniversary of his accession to the throne. And in Qatar, she will meet with Amir Hamad bin Khalifa, who is someone that she has met with most recently, I believe, in February.

In terms of the issues on her agenda in each place, obviously it’s going to be driven by the regional context. She’s going to want to talk about Iraq. We have a government now on the ground in Iraq, and all three of these countries have made public note of that. We obviously want to have them – we want to encourage them to be as supportive as possible to the new Iraqi Government. There have been some bumps in the road in those relationships in the past, as you’re well aware of. But I think that she will look forward to hearing from her interlocutors how they see things evolving in Iraq and how they might be able to assist the new Iraqi Government.

On the peace process, I think that it’s time once again for the Secretary to take stock on what is happening. We have had some visits both here and in the region. Senator Mitchell was just out recently. I think that she will want to have the opportunity with the three leaders, as well as any of the other foreign ministers that she has an opportunity to meet with around the fringes of the Forum – she’ll want to talk a bit about where the Arab Peace Initiative is certainly, and she’ll want to perhaps get a better sense of how the region sees the situation on the ground, both in terms of the Palestinian Authority but also in terms of the talks.

We continue to look for ways to engage on the peace process, as you are all well aware. The parties have indicated to us they want to continue contacts with us indirectly. And we are very eager to see progress made, but it’s an uphill battle and we look forward to talking to the rulers of the area to see how they can play a positive role.

On Iran, well, as you know, the Istanbul meeting is tentatively on the agenda for the near term. And certainly, given the very intense interest in the region in the Gulf, in Iran, the close proximity to Iran – I mean, I don’t need to tell any of you that – we particularly value our opportunities to talk with rulers in the Gulf about Iran, about Iran – what it’s doing, what it’s up to, what might be most effective to get it to a place at these talks at the P-5+1 talks in Istanbul, that would try and unknot this problem that we find ourselves in internationally with the Iranians and their nuclear ambitions.

The Gulf states obviously have a vested interest in this. And over the years, we’ve had very good and very robust discussions with them. I think that also in her meetings, she’ll want to take stock where we are on the sanctions regime. Obviously, given the countries in the region and their commercial interests, this is of particular interest to them.

Lebanon – I’ve already touched briefly on some of the issues that are emanating out of Lebanon. I have to say that Assistant Secretary Feltman is probably one of the world’s experts on Lebanon; regretfully, he is not here. But we are certainly watching very closely about what is happening on the ground in Lebanon with particular interest to – with regard to the special tribunal and some of the political discussions that are underway.

A full menu of regional issues, and then, as I said earlier, there’s also a number of bilateral issues on the agenda. So she’s going to have her work cut out for her and an awful lot of talking points.

OPERATOR: Does that conclude your question or comment?

QUESTION: Yes, thank you so much.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question or comment comes from Jill Dougherty from CNN. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Yes, hello. I wonder if you could give us some background on our off-the-record stuff.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’m sorry, I’m not in a position to say anything.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question or comment comes from Jay Solomon from Wall Street Journal. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for taking the call. Do you think – you talked about how much focus there’ll be on civil society and democracy. Is Egypt and the serious allegations of fraud and rigging of the last vote – is this likely to be something Clinton raises publicly while she’s in the region? And if not, why wouldn’t she be raising it considering how much focus there’ll be on the democracy front at these events?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Jay, thanks. This is [Senior State Department Official Two]. Look, obviously, there are significant concerns about the conduct of the Egyptian elections that we’ve already, I think, made our views pretty clear on. This – the nature of the trip and the Forum itself is, yes, to discuss democracy and civil society and also economic and social reforms, all of which are designed to advance human development and improve the lives of people of the region. And the role of civil society in political processes like elections is an important component of that.

At the Forum, there are going to be gathered delegates from civil society all across the region, from Morocco to Afghanistan, and they face a variety of different operating environments. Some of them face some challenges in operating, and a group of them will be meeting – a representative group of them will be meeting with the Secretary at the Forum. I’m sure that they will have some specific issues that they want to raise with her.

And I think that she wants to be there and wants to engage with them both publicly and in these more intimate meetings to have the opportunity to hear directly from them about the work that they’re trying to do about some of the challenges that they face and about what we can do to help them do their work.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question or comment comes from Kim Ghattas from BBC. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you both for taking the call. I’m struck by the fact that you’re emphasizing how much the Secretary will engage with civil society, the importance of partnering with civil society. I mean, she has done that on almost every trip over the last two years, including the trips that she’s taken to the Middle East. I’m wondering what is perhaps new about what’s on the agenda or how she is going to engage with civil society.

And [Senior State Department Official Two], you just said that economic and social reforms help advance human developments in the Arab world, so I was wondering what you had to say about the unrest that we’re seeing in Tunisia and today in Algeria. I’m struck by the fact that there’s been very little comment coming out of the State Department about what’s happening there.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. Kim, thanks. I think on the question of what’s different, you’re right. The Secretary makes a point of meeting with civil society groups on all her overseas trips, and that itself is flowing out of this issue that’s very close to her heart, that’s part of her political resume, and it’s something she feels very strongly about.

So it’s not a change. I think the point I’m making is simply that it’s the organizing principle for this trip rather than an element added on. And I think that the schedule, the engagements that she’s going to be having both with civil society actors in smaller meetings but also in her public engagements and in her government meetings – a lot of the emphasis is going to be on how governments and civil society can partner on behalf of progress for people in the region.

And there are a number of specific examples. There are some that have been built with a U.S. role, and there are others that have sort of developed organically. But I think that there is – that’s really the organizing principle for the whole trip and for her participation in the Forum.

On the country-specific questions, let me turn it over to [Senior State Department Official One].

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, we’re certainly watching what’s happening both in Tunisia and Algeria with a great deal of interest. We did call in the Tunisian ambassador yesterday and expressed our concern about both what is happening with regard to the demonstrations and encouraged the Tunisian Government to ensure that civil liberties are protected, including the freedom to peacefully assemble.

We also raised the issue of Tunisian – what looks like Tunisian Government interference with the internet, most notably Facebook accounts. Frankly speaking, we’re quite concerned about this and we’re looking at the best and most effective way to respond and to get the result we want.

In Algeria – this is something I actually watched with a great deal of personal interest having served there as ambassador for three years – it’s frankly too soon to tell exactly what is happening here. There have been, as you are well aware, price increases as well as an acute housing shortage, which have not been well-managed by the government. And as a result, people are taking to the streets. We understand that there was some additional demonstration and rioting today. We don’t know the extent of it. But we’re also looking there about what’s the most effective and immediate thing to say and do.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question or comment comes from Mina AlOraibi from Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. I have a couple of questions. First is regarding Iraq. What do you expect from the three countries in terms of the Secretary’s talks on Iraq? What sorts of support? Will she be discussing the upcoming Arab summit to be held in Baghdad in March?

And my second question is about the Forum for the Future. I mean, this is the seventh Forum. What would you say is the biggest outcome so far of these meetings beyond having the opportunity to sit and network or talk for the day and a half that people are there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, this is [Senior State Department Official One]. Let me take the Iraq question and then I’ll hand it over to [Senior State Department Official Two].

Listen; on Iraq, what we’re really hoping to do is elicit more expressions of support for the Iraqi Government. We do now have a government on the ground in Iraq after a very long and somewhat tortuous process. It is important for the region to step up and provide them support. It is important for Iraq, frankly, to be reintegrated back in the region. That’s not only in our interest and the Iraqis’ interest, but we think it’s in the interest of the countries of the area. We’re going to urge, I think, countries that have not already opened embassies to open embassies in Baghdad. That’s certainly a strong signal of support by a government for the newly formed government.

I mean, we’re not looking exactly for financial support or anything like that. What we’re looking for are the types of public statements and public gestures, including the attendance, obviously, at the Arab summit. That will demonstrate that Iraq is back. We understand that there are reservations in certain corners of the Gulf. We certainly appreciate that. But we think that those barriers can be broken down over a period of time as the countries of the Gulf continue to reengage.

[Senior State Department Official Two]?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Thanks, [Senior State Department Official One]. And then Mina, on the Forum, yeah, I mean, this initiative, as you probably know, was generated when the U.S. held the chairmanship of the G-8 states in 2004. And the idea was to help bring governments in the region and civil society in the region, which was at a much more nascent stage at that time, into dialogue about the challenges of reform.

And I think what we see today is a significant evolution of civil society and of that conversation. There were five civil society representatives at the first Forum for the Future in 2004, and there are going to be 50 civil society delegates out of hundreds, literally, who were involved in the Forum process over the course of this year. Fifty were selected to participate in the Forum itself.

And the civil society role has really grown and expanded over that period of time, so that this year, the civil society groups and this civil society part of the process is something that the United States has supported actively with our own funding through the MEPI program, the Middle East Partnership Initiative. The civil society groups organize for themselves three workshops – one political, one social, and one economic issue over the course of the year. And then they also – and developed recommendations at those workshops that they wanted to bring to the governments in Doha. And then they also held seven national seminars in countries around the region to bring the results of their workshops to a much broader array of NGOs.

So as the civil society landscape in the region has blossomed, I think their contributions to the Forum process have blossomed as well, and we see that very – a number of the governments over the course of this year, in preparation for the Forum, have remarked how constructive, how mature the civil society participation and contribution has become.

In terms of even more concrete outcomes, I think you can see several major outputs from the Forum process over the years. One of the biggest is the Foundation For The Future, which is based in Jordan and which is an independent NGO that supports civil society development throughout the BMENA region. It’s supported by a bunch of governments, both regional governments and Western governments, including just over $22 million from the United States over the years.

And then just in the last year on an initiative from civil society, the Forum conducted a study and decided to establish a Gender Institute, a BMENA Gender Institute, which Morocco has offered to host and which has pledges of support from the United States – Secretary Clinton announced at last year’s Forum – and from the United Arab Emirates and also from the Foundation for the Future.

So those are two institutions that have been created out of this government-civil society dialogue. There are also from the G-8 states tens of millions of dollars, maybe even hundreds of millions – I haven’t added it all up – from the various G-8 states in commitments to literacy and education, to civil society and good governance, to private sector development and women’s empowerment, that have come directly out of initiatives brought forward at the Forum. All of the facts and figures on that have been compiled by this year’s G-8 chair, the Canadians, and they’re going to be distributing all of that information in Doha.

MR. TONER: I think we have time for just a couple more questions.

OPERATOR: Okay, our next question or comment comes from Camille Elhassani from Al Jazeera. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Yes, hi. Thank you for doing this call. I wondered if you could give us a more detailed schedule of the Secretary’s activities, like which days she’ll be in which country.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Mark, are we in a position to do that or not? [Senior Administration Official One.]

MR. TONER: Sorry, I had my mute button on. I think you’ve talked broadly about who she’s meeting with and the purpose of those meetings, but I’d refrain from getting into too much detail.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: All right, well, as I said, she is going to be going to the UAE, to Oman, and to Qatar. She will be meeting the prime minister of – the Crown Prince, rather, of the UAE, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and the Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi. She will travel to Dubai and meet with Mohammed bin Rashid, the ruler of Dubai. In Oman, obviously, she will meet with Sultan Qaboos to mark his 40th anniversary. And then in Qatar, she will meet the Amir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa. So her meetings with these individuals obviously are subject to change in terms of the schedule, but those are sort of the top of the – the top of each visit.

OPERATOR: Does that conclude the question or comment? Our next question or comment comes from Lachlan Carmichael from AFP News Agency. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Yes, thanks for doing this. I wanted to pick up where you mentioned the taking stock of sanctions on Iran. Do you need more work from the Emiratis, the Qataris, and Omanis to stop smuggling? How bad is the smuggling? How much is getting through to Iran?

And the second question is: Much has been made about how – from the U.S. Administration about how the WikiLeaks revelation showed that the Gulf Arabs were in your side. But isn’t the reality different, that they are nervous about Iran and therefore tend to play along with their needs? And that’s the question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, let me address the issue of sanctions. Obviously, this is going to be one of the focuses of the Secretary’s discussions with the leaders in the region. Sanctions are an important part of our Iran policy, in fact, of the international community’s approach to Iran. As we try and find ways to influence Tehran’s behavior, to try and get them to the table with some serious discussions about what they’re doing with their nuclear material and how they can live up to the responsibilities of a nuclear power, we want to make sure that we have as many tools in our kit bag as possible. And sanctions is one of them. I mean, sanctions, frankly speaking, we understand do hit hard countries that have had economic and commercial relations with the country being sanctioned. These countries in the case of the UAE, they’re right across the water. Bandar Abbas is 150 miles from Dubai. So undoubtedly this regime is going to have an impact on these countries.

And so we appreciate the opportunity to talk frankly about what is working, what is not working, how we can help them better adhere to the UN sanctions. There may be areas in which we can provide technical assistance. We may be able to provide training. I’m speculating here, frankly. But we are willing to put pretty much anything on the table in terms of helping these countries meet their UN obligations to enforce sanctions against Iran.

In terms of the amount, I mean, we’ve seen all sorts of reports in the press and elsewhere, and I’m not an Iran expert, so I can’t tell you what works, what doesn’t work. I mean, we hear anecdotal evidence that the sanctions are beginning to bite in Tehran and Iran in general. Again, I’m not in a position at this point to assess that. But certainly one of the things I think the Secretary would welcome the opportunity hearing from those in the business community when she’s out there is how the sanctions are affecting them and what they see and hear. So she’ll have a good dialogue in each country.

On Iran in general, because this is an issue of great concern to the states of the Gulf and to these particular countries in general, we have had previous conversations and they’re going to continue. They’ve been very frank and open. So in terms of assessing what’s working, what’s not working, how much is getting through, how much is not getting through, I really can’t give you that. What I can tell you is we’re going to talk about it, and we certainly welcome input from the other side. So we’ll look forward to having those conversations – the Secretary will.

In terms of WikiLeaks, you can read anything that you want into the release of those alleged cables. So I’m not going to sort of engage on that. The fact of the matter is that both publicly and privately the countries of this region have expressed concern about the direction in which Iran is going. They’ve expressed concern about the impact of what is happening with the Iran nuclear program on their countries and on their future. And those are concerns that we and others in the international community share. And so that’s going be high on the Secretary’s agenda.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Great. I think there’s time for just one more question.

OPERATOR: Okay, thank you. Our next question or comment comes from Hisham Melhem from Al Arabiya Television. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you for doing this. Again, I hate to beat a dead horse, but I have to go back to civil society. I mean, this is the seventh Forum, and you’re talking about reviving on the civil society, or the civil society in the Arab world is blossoming. I think that’s the word that was used. At the same time, you see that civil society is under tremendous assault from the various governments in the region, including governments that are friendly towards the United States, governments that receives support – financial and material and military from the United States from Egypt to Yemen to Tunisia, Jordan.

And when you add to that the sectarian violence that we’ve seen against the Christian communities in both Iraq and in Egypt, it seems to me that all of this focus on civil society, the states that are involved, the governing structures that are involved, including those that depend on U.S. support, are not listening to us. And I think I don’t have to tell you this, but this also carries with it a certain element of not only moral responsibility, but political responsibility, because those forces, especially the extreme religious elements, are using this to mobilize support against the United States because they are accusing the United States of supporting these governments that are not listening to their own people.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Hisham, that’s the question?

QUESTION: It’s a comment and it’s a question, because I’m sure you are frustrated, like most of us who are – who would like to see civil society truly blossoming, but it’s not blossoming, in part – mainly, probably – because of the actions, the repressive actions, of these governments. And many of them depend on U.S. support, and one would argue that those people who do not wish the United States well in the Middle East, the extremist religious elements in particular, are using this relationship between the United States and these various governments to put also the blame on the United States. So – and I think it’s incumbent on the United States to take a tougher – maybe a tougher position against these governments.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Hisham, thanks for the question and for the comment, and I understand where you’re coming from.

QUESTION: Is this [Senior State Department Official Two]?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yes, this is [Senior State Department Official Two].

QUESTION: That’s why – you know where I come from. Thanks. (Laughter.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Hisham, look, I think the Secretary’s been quite frank about her concern on freedom of association issues globally and a backlash against civil society, and that’s precisely why she raised that issue in Krakow and made that her priority and a focal point in her remarks there because she sees this as a significant challenge to democracy and to the growth of democracy globally. And the Middle East, I don’t think, presents an exception to that broader, very unfortunate global trend.

She discussed in Krakow some specific cases and countries, including Egypt, where she saw steps taken against civil society that were of concern to her. And I think the fundamental point that drove the creation of the Forum for the Future and this G-8/BMENA partnership is the fundamental point that she’s going to be carrying with her when she goes out there, which is that this is a region that is facing tremendous challenge, rising demand from a wired and motivated young generation that’s very aware of the world around them and of the trends in other regions. They want to be a part of that, and they’re putting increasing demands on government to create more opportunities for them and to help them create opportunities for themselves. They want to play a role.

There is also – as you noted, there are those in the region who are ready to put forward a narrative that says there is no hope, there is no opportunity, and are putting forward a sort of dark vision for the future of the region. But there are those in the region, including many very brave and dynamic civil society leaders and including many government leaders and business leaders, who are putting forward a dynamic and positive vision of the future. And what we want to do is support that.

And I think the Secretary’s call throughout her trip and at the Forum is going to be that in order to take on the challenge of integrating this rising young generation and all the potential that it represents, in order for us to succeed at this – and the stakes are quite large, as I think you pointed out – we, government, business, and civil society need to work together in partnership, not to view each other as competitors or as adversaries, but to work together in partnership to solve problems, to hold each other accountable for commitments, and to create real opportunities, meaningful opportunities, politically, socially, and economically for the people of the region.

So that’s very much the message she’s carrying. That’s why she’s going. And that’s what all the work that we’re going to be highlighting during the trip by actors on the ground, that’s what it’s directed toward.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. TONER: Thank you. And thanks especially to both of our senior State Department officials for joining us today and for walking us through the trip and providing a level of detail that I think will help journalists who are traveling as well as reporting from here on it. And this concludes the call. A reminder again that all these comments were on background, again, as senior State Department officials. Happy Friday and have a good morning.

OPERATOR: That concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for your participation. You may disconnect at this time.

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Remarks With Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah After Their Meeting

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 21, 2009

Date: 04/21/2009 Description: Remarks by Secretary Clinton and Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah after their meeting. State Dept Photo SECRETARY CLINTON: It is a treat for me to see the minister again. We met in Sharm el-Sheikh during the donors’ conference on Gaza. And I’m very pleased that he could be here for a bilateral visit. There are a number of important issues that we discussed. And the relationship between Oman and the United States is a positive one, and we intend to build on the relationship and broaden it so that we can do even more together, not only between ourselves, but on behalf of regional and global issues.
Thank you, Your Excellency.
MINISTER BIN ALAWI: Thank you. Thank you. (Inaudible), as the Secretary has said, we – our relations are strong enough based on very important principles to continue on this. We have discussion, of course, for – regional issue and we hope to keep this contact going on as we go forward.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you all very much.
MINISTER BIN ALAWI: Thank you.

Remarks With Libyan National Security Adviser Dr. Mutassim Qadhafi Before Their Meeting

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 21, 2009

Date: 04/21/2009 Description: Remarks by Secretary Clinton and Libyan National Security Adviser Dr. Mutassim Qadhafi before their meeting. State Dept Photo  SECRETARY CLINTON: I am very pleased to welcome Minister Qadhafi here to the State Department. We deeply value the relationship between the United States and Libya. We have many opportunities to deepen and broaden our cooperation. And I’m very much looking forward to building on this relationship. So, Mr. Minister, welcome so much here.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR QADHAFI: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. We’re delighted you’re here.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR QADHAFI: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.

Remarks With Jordanian King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein Before Their Meeting

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
April 21, 2009

Date: 04/21/2009 Description: Remarks by Secretary Clinton and Jordanian King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein before their meeting. State Dept Photo SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, His Majesty is no stranger either to the State Department or to Washington. He has been a partner, an ally and a friend of the United States on behalf of his country and on behalf of the search for peace that would result from a two-state solution in the Middle East. And I am deeply honored and greatly delighted to welcome His Majesty back to the State Department for the series of important meetings.
KING ABDULLAH: Mrs. Clinton, thank you very much. It’s a great honor for me to be back here in Washington. We’ve had some very fruitful discussions this morning with President Obama. I’m here at the State Department now to go over the priorities that Jordan and Arab countries need to put in front of themselves on how to bring Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiation table, and hopefully open a new chapter of peace and stability in the Middle East and move the peace process forward.
So it is a great honor to be here, and I look forward to working with you, Mrs. Clinton, and working as hard as we can to finally bring peace and stability to the Middle East.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, sir. Thank you. Thank you.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, did you raise human rights with the Libyan national security advisor?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We will have a chance to answer questions after my later meeting in the afternoon with President Sirleaf.

 

Remarks With Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf After Their Meeting

Press Availability

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 21, 2009

Date: 04/21/2009 Description: Remarks by Secretary Clinton and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after their meeting.  State Dept Photo  SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. President Sirleaf is someone whom I admire and have a great deal of admiration and affection for. I think her leadership has been exemplary and extraordinary and she has made an enormous contribution already to her country. The relationship between Liberia and the United States, as you know, goes back to the very founding of Liberia. And President Obama and I are very committed to the future of Liberia and to President Sirleaf’s continuing leadership.
She and I have just concluded a productive meeting in which we discussed a number of matters of mutual importance to the people of both our countries. I reiterated our strong commitment to the partnership and friendship that exists between us.
This is a time of both great challenge and opportunity in Liberia. Fourteen years of civil war ended in 2003, and a democratically elected government has been in place since 2006. Reconstruction and development are underway. President Sirleaf and her administration have worked tirelessly over the past three years to ensure that Liberia’s reforms, reconstruction, and development take root and are lasting successes. She and her team are committed to upholding democracy, combating corruption, and responding to the needs of people who were ravaged by war. And so Liberia has become a shining example of a transition successfully accomplished from conflict to post-conflict and democracy.
I especially congratulate President Sirleaf and her government on its successful conclusion last week of negotiations to eliminate approximately $1.2 billion in outstanding private sector debt. The United States is proud to have contributed to this effort through the World Bank’s Debt Reduction Facility.
Since 2007, the United States has given more than $211 million to clear Liberia’s arrears to the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank. And we have canceled more than $390 million in bilateral debt claims. And we intend to go beyond the terms of the Paris Debt relief arrangement and cancel 100 percent of Liberia’s remaining debts to us by the time Liberia reaches its completion point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative.
We are proud to have played a key role in the debt elimination, which as the President just told me, will enable the children of Liberia not to be carrying a debt on their backs they had absolutely nothing to do in creating. We continue to offer strong support for the transformation of Liberia and in the last three years, we’ve committed over $1 billion in bilateral assistance to the country.
Our comprehensive assistance program includes helping Liberians reinvigorate their economy, encouraging private sector growth, improving the delivery of basic services such as health and education, rebuilding vital infrastructure, enhancing governance, extending the rule of law using natural resources in a sustainable manner, and ensuring peace and security. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is working with Liberia to develop a threshold program that will eventually lead to Liberia’s eligibility for additional assistance focused on poverty reduction, sustained economic growth and governance.
It is a great honor and personal privilege for me to welcome President Sirleaf to the State Department. I’m grateful for both her leadership and her friendship, and I’m particularly grateful for how she has never lost sight of her primary mission – to enable the people of her country to live their lives in peace and security, to have a chance to develop to the best of their abilities and raise their children to have even brighter futures. She has also continued to care about women and girls, which means a great deal to me. So it is a real pleasure to have her here, and thank you so much, President Sirleaf.
PRESIDENT SIRLEAF: Secretary Clinton, I am privileged to be here. I want to thank you personally for your tireless effort in advocating for the rights of women, advocating the education of girls, for the inspiring leadership that you have provided, as we try to wrestle with African development issues.
As you know, Liberia is recovering from 14 years of conflict, a period before that, in which there was neglect and little effort made to use our country’s resources for the development of the people. As a result, this – when we took over, we faced a collapsed economy, destroyed infrastructure, many young people who only knew war and want.
But we’re glad today that we have the opportunity to rebuild. We formulated our poverty reduction strategy, attempting to get our security sector reformed and functioning one again, rebuilding our economy. We always say Liberia is not a poor country; it’s just a country that’s been poorly managed. And so with our natural resources, we can open the economy, mineral, forestry, fishery, agriculture. We can then put our people back to work. We’re trying to open our – get – fix our infrastructure, get the roads built and the schools rebuilt and the clinics and the hospitals. One of the greatest joy I have is to see our children in their uniforms once again with their book bags on their back, you know, skipping as they go to school – created other problems, not enough schools, not enough teachers, not enough teaching material. But at least that process has started.
I want to thank the United States Government. The bipartisan support that we have received that have provided us the assistance that enable us today to say we’re well on the road from being a failed state, as characterized a couple of years ago, to what we hope will be a transformation into a post-conflict success story. I can just ask that we will continue to get the support from you, from President Obama, from this Administration, and from the Congress to enable us to achieve that objective. We know that we have to have primary responsibility for our development that we have to be accountable to our people in the proper use of our resources that you have to get a return on the investment that you make in our peace, in our development, and that we have to get the results that we all seek.
I can only say to you on behalf of the Liberian people that where we are today, we are well committed to achieving those goals, and want to thank all that you’ve done to get us to this point of progress. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Madame President.
MR. WOOD: We have time for a couple questions, first one from Sue Pleming of Reuters.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, two questions. First question: When do you plan to visit Africa and go to Liberia? Then the second question is also on the African continent, on your meeting today with the Liberian national security adviser. What emerged from that meeting and did you raise the – the Libyan – sorry, Libyans – and did you raise the issue of human rights concerns, particularly the case of Fathi El-Jahmi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: As to the first question, that is exactly what President Sirleaf asked me, and I assured her I would get both to Africa and to Liberia as soon as my schedule permits. As to the second question, we did raise human rights issues and specifically the case you referenced with the security adviser today.
MR. WOOD: The next question will be from Viola Gienger of Bloomberg News.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you favor a timeline for the Middle East peace process that reportedly has been suggested by King Abdullah?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we had very productive discussions with King Abdullah, both in the Oval Office and then over lunch here at the State Department. And let me say three things.
We are in total agreement that we support a two-state solution; that we have to do more to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together in a negotiation that will benefit both the Palestinian and the Israeli people; and that we have to enlist the neighbors in the region in support of those efforts. And we are fortunate to have a leader like King Abdullah, who is willing to speak out so forcefully on behalf of the two-state solution and will do what he can to bring the parties together.
MR. WOOD: Thank you all very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
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