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Remarks With Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet After Their Meeting

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
March 27, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the State Department and a very warm welcome to my friend and colleague, the foreign minister of Estonia. We have been able to work closely together during my tenure, and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Tallinn several times. And I’m delighted to have you here so that we can continue the conversation that we started several years ago. And we have just finished a very comprehensive discussion.

Over the last 20 years, Estonia has grown from a newly independent democracy to an important and respected voice in the international community, and the friendship between our two countries has only grown stronger. We look to Estonia as an important ally, a leader in promoting stability across the Euro-Atlantic area, a partner we can count on from the battle space in Afghanistan to cyber space. We share a wide range of concerns that we stay in close touch with each other about.

First, we discussed our shared effort to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan. This has been an important partnership. In addition to providing military personnel, Estonia has given critical support for civilian, humanitarian, and democratic programs, and we will continue to work closely with Estonia as we move toward the Chicago summit. We are both committed to a smooth security, economic, and development transition. So Chicago will be the next stop in this ongoing effort. Despite these challenging economic times, it’s more important than ever that NATO allies and partners come to Chicago with concrete commitments to support Afghan security forces beyond 2014.

Just as Estonia has been a strong NATO ally in Afghanistan, the United States takes our responsibilities to NATO very seriously, particularly our Article 5 obligation for collective defense. That’s why we strongly support the extension of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission on a continuing basis with periodic reviews. A mission such as this underscores the importance of what Secretary General Rasmussen calls smart defense, sharing resources to maximize each partner’s contributions.

I also expressed our support to Urmas about Estonia’s work in helping countries build effective, free market, and democratic institutions. Estonia has maintained a strong assistance and development program in Eastern partnership countries, particularly Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. And in addition, Estonia is increasingly active in the world of e-government, electronic government. From Eastern Europe to Africa to Haiti, governments look to Estonia for guidance on how technology can make them more efficient and effective.

And on that note, I am pleased to announce that the United States and Estonia have agreed to co-chair a new initiative in the Community of Democracies that will use technology to help strengthen democratic institutions. This program that we call LEND, L-E-N-D, the Network for Leaders Engaged in New Democracies, is an online platform that will connect leaders from emerging democracies with former presidents, prime ministers, and others who have helped lead democratic transitions in their own countries. We are particularly focused on working together in Tunisia. When the network is activated later this year, it will help accelerate the exchange of ideas among leaders who have the experience to share, and we’re very excited to be co-chairing this initiative with Estonia.

So again, Foreign Minister, thank you for the great work that you do on behalf of your country, and thanks to Estonia for the great partnership we have.

Foreign minister Paet: Well, thank you very much for the very positive and nice comments. And I also would like to start with thanking – thanking you personally, Hillary, and the United States for friendship and support and cooperation we have done between U.S. and Estonia. And of course, we will continue.

Also for us, when we speak about upcoming NATO summit, it is absolutely important to get clear decisions how to move forward with Afghanistan. Estonia’s clear position here is that what concerns military commitment then, of course we, together with our allies, and also going to make next possible steps together with our allies, and what concerns development, humanitarian cooperation, then we’re also ready to continue our activities and our support after 2014 together with our partners and allies in Afghanistan.

It’s also important to get strong, positive message to countries which want to get NATO membership in foreseeable future, countries like Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. And of course, once more, to stress the strong security of transatlantic relations, but also strong security of Europe, including Article 5, it is also from our point of view absolutely important as one of the outcomes of Chicago summit.

We’re also very grateful for United States for their support to air police mission in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and also thank you for practical participation with your people and aircrafts. It’s also clear that step-by-step we should and we are ready to increase the host nation support and to make also for our partners it more convenient and positive to have concrete rotation periods in air policing in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.

Cyber defense for us also important area where we see good chances to develop cooperation with the United States, but also with other NATO countries. In Estonia we have center for cyber defense accredited by NATO, and here we also see that this center can be – or can give more added value also to NATO cyber security issues and developments already in foreseeable future.

We are glad that also bilateral cooperation, what concerns development cooperation, for example, in Belarus. It works, and we’re looking forward to continue with bilateral development cooperation work in Tunisia, for example, and also I’m glad that U.S. participates in our center for eastern partnership in Estonia, supporting and sharing our experience to civil servants from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, but also many other countries.

And with pleasure we join U.S. in organization called Leaders Engaged in New Democracies, or LEND. We see that there are many countries, including us, which are able and ready to share our experience to countries which want to change and which also want to share the values we are sharing.

So to sum up once more, thank you for friendship and cooperation and always glad to be also here in Washington and in the States. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.

MS. NULAND: We’ll take three questions today. We’ll start with CNN, Elise Labott.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. On Syria, what hopes do you have that President Assad will make good on his commitments to implement the Kofi Annan plan? And looking ahead towards Istanbul on Sunday, what do you expect to come out of this conference? And in particular, what are you looking for for the opposition to strengthen their message of how they see a post-Assad Syria? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Elise. As you just referenced, the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan and the Syrian National Council both said this morning that it is an important initial step that the Assad regime has written the United Nations to accept the Annan plan. Let me just pause here to say, however, that given Assad’s history of over-promising and under-delivering, that commitment must now be matched by immediate actions. We will judge Assad’s sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says. If he is ready to bring this dark chapter in Syria’s history to a close, he can prove it by immediately ordering regime forces to stop firing and begin withdrawing from populated areas. He can also allow international aid workers unfettered access to those in need, and he can release political prisoners, permit peaceful political activity, allow the international news media unobstructed access, and begin a legitimate political process that leads to a democratic transition.

Now, as the regime takes steps, which we have yet to see, but assuming it does so, then Kofi Annan has pledged to work with the opposition to take steps of its own so that the bloodshed ends, that there won’t be violence coming from opposition forces, that humanitarian aid will be permitted to come into areas where the opposition has been holding, that the true political dialogue will begin, and that all Syrians will be welcomed to participate in an inclusive process. Now that’s a lot to look forward to seeing implemented, but given the response that we have had, we are going to be working very urgently between now and Istanbul to translate into concrete steps what we expect to see. And I’m hoping that by the time I get to Istanbul on Sunday we will be in a position to acknowledge steps that the Assad regime and the opposition have both taken. We’re certainly urging that those occur.

Specifically with respect to the opposition, they must come forward with a unified position, a vision if you will, of the kind of Syria that they are working to build. They must be able to clearly demonstrate a commitment to including all Syrians and protecting the rights of all Syrians. And we are going to be pushing them very hard to present such a vision at Istanbul. So we have a lot of work to do between now and Sunday.

MS. NULAND: Next question, Neeme Raud, Estonian Public Broadcasting.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much. My question is about our big neighbor, Russia. Today in the news, we hear news about conversation Mr. President had with Russian President Medvedev. Russia has accused you last year, Mr. Putin personally, intruding into their internal affairs. U.S. Ambassador McFaul was not received very warmly in Russia. At UN, when the talk is about Syria, there is a talk about new Cold War even with Russia. What is the U.S.-Russian relationship at this moment of transition in Russia? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that we believe that it is a complex relationship. We’ve seen some positive, concrete accomplishments coming from the so-called reset. We are also engaged in a substantive bilateral dialogue that is quite comprehensive with many levels of the Russian Government and society. So we are committed to engagement with Russia.

Regarding the President’s comments in Seoul, he spoke to those himself and made clear that the issues we are dealing with concerning Russia are difficult and complex ones. Technical discussions have been ongoing with Russia over missile defense. That’s not a surprise to anyone. We have been consistent, both bilaterally and through NATO, in our invitation to the Russians to participate with us in missile defense. But this is going to take time. And whether or not there can be a breakthrough sometime in the future is yet to be determined, but we certainly look at this as a long-term engagement.

When we negotiated the New START Treaty, we were engaging at the same time in consultations with Congress, of course with all elements of the United States Government, including the Defense Department, with our allies in NATO and elsewhere, because you can’t do something as serious as New START or missile defense without full buy-in from our government, bipartisan support in the Congress, and understanding and acceptance by our allies, particularly in NATO. So we will continue this effort. We may be somewhat surprising in our persistence and our perseverance in our engagement with Russia. It will continue with President-elect Putin, as it has with President Medvedev.

But let me hasten to say in the meantime we continue with the deployment of the Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense that was agreed to at the Lisbon summit. We expect to announce further progress at the Chicago summit. And as the President made clear to President Medvedev in Seoul, we do not see this missile defense system as a threat to Russia; we do not see it as undermining Russia’s nuclear deterrent. The interceptors are for defensive uses only. They have no offense capability. They carry no explosive warheads, but they are part of our Article 5 collective defense obligation. That is a clear, unmistakable message that we have sent to our allies and that we continue to reiterate.

So yes, we want to cooperate with Russia on missile defense. We think it is in everyone’s interest to do so. But we will continue the work we are doing with NATO and we will be looking to complete that process in the years ahead.

MS. NULAND: Last question, Andy Quinn, Reuters.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, if I could turn to Sudan, please. You’ve seen the statement out of the White House today urging restraint, but I was hoping I could get your analysis of what’s really going on there, and specifically how dangerous you feel it is. Are we on the brink of a new civil war? And what is the United States doing now to prevent a possible humanitarian catastrophe in Southern Kordofan? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andy, this is deeply distressing to us, because it was certainly our hope and expectation that with the independence of South Sudan, the newest nation in the world, there would be the opportunity to continue fulfilling the requirements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that included resolving border disputes, allocations of oil revenues and other contested matters between Sudan and South Sudan.

As you know, there has been almost continuing low-level violence in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and it is our goal to end the violence and to convince the parties to return to the negotiating table. We believed we were making progress on two contested matters. In fact, there was a summit between President Bashir and President Kiir scheduled for next week to finalize understandings on borders and national citizenship. We want to see that summit held. And we want to see both sides work together to end the violence. We think that the weight of responsibility rests with Khartoum, because the use of heavy weaponry, bombing runs by planes and the like are certainly evidence of disproportionate force on the part of the government in Khartoum.

At the same time, we want to see South Sudan and their allies or their partners across into Sudan similarly participate in ending the violence and working to resolve the outstanding issues. It is becoming a very serious humanitarian crisis. We have been reaching out to the government in Khartoum through international aid organizations. We stand ready on behalf of the United States to provide assistance to people fleeing the violence. It is compounded by the fact that the violence is making it possible for people to get into their fields, and there’s already adverse conditions because of drought that are compounded by the unfortunate violence.

So the bottom line is that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that the United States, Norway, and the United Kingdom helped to broker in 2005 ended a conflict that had cost more than 5 million lives. We have seen the ongoing violence and displacement in Darfur, and now we are looking at an upsurge in violence in two other parts of Sudan. So it is incumbent upon the leaders of both countries to resume negotiations, and the United States stands ready to assist in working out the contested issues.

The final thing I would say – because I’ve been following this closely and it’s been a painful problem to see the deterioration into conflict again – there is a win-win outcome here. South Sudan has oil. Sudan has the infrastructure and the transportation networks to get the oil to market. Because of the feeling on the part of the South Sudan Government that they were being treated unfairly by Sudan, they shut down their oil wells and the pipelines. So the economic condition in both countries is deteriorating. So I would call upon the leaders to look for a way to resolve these very hard feelings. You don’t make peace with your friends. There are decades of grievances that have to be overcome in order to work through these very challenging issues. But it is incumbent upon the leaders of both countries to attempt to do so.

Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you very much. Welcome to Estonia.

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Remarks With Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet After Their Meeting


Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
January 20, 2011
Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Good morning.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is a pleasure to welcome my colleague, Minister Paet, again to Washington. We have enjoyed many productive conversations, both in the United States as well as in Estonia and in many other locations as well.

I particularly appreciate the leadership that Estonia showed in hosting the NATO ministerial meeting in Tallinn last April and at the recent NATO summit in Lisbon – the leadership and support that Estonia gave to the new strategic concept that calls for NATO to develop its defense capabilities against growing threats such as ballistic missiles and cyber attacks.

We have a strong and unwavering commitment to engagement between our nations. It’s built on mutual respect, common security concerns, shared democratic values, and a history of cooperation from air policing in the Baltic region to development assistance in Afghanistan. The close friendship between our nations goes back many years, but it is certainly rooted in today’s world in our admiration for Estonia’s remarkable success. Despite years of occupation and depression during much of the 20th century, the Estonian people never lost sight of the free, democratic, vibrant society they hope to build for themselves.

And in the short space of 20 years since they regained their independence, that’s exactly what they’ve done. Their growth as a wired-in nation of internet voters and cyber innovators, their commitment to good governance, the rule of law, and fiscal responsibility make Estonia one of the most successful models for emerging nationhood anywhere in the world.

Once again, the minister and I covered a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global challenges. We appreciate the cooperation in helping the people of Afghanistan rebuild. We discussed the foreign minister’s recent trip to Kabul and Helmand Province. Estonian civilian experts are working with Afghanis to build healthcare facilities and train police officers. Estonian soldiers are serving shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and our other NATO-ISAF allies. And I thank the Estonian Government and especially the Estonian people for showing their commitment to the ISAF mission with 400,000 Euros in development and humanitarian assistance this year.
Beyond Afghanistan, Estonians have expanded their role as champions of freedom, security, and humanitarian assistance and prosperity from Georgia and Moldova to Haiti and Gaza. We saw this most recently in Belarus, where Minister Paet announced Estonia will maintain its support for an open civil society and educational opportunities for students despite the hostile political environment.

Estonia is also working with their Baltic and Nordic neighbors to liberalize the electricity market in the region and to promote energy independence and security. Through the Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, they have laid the groundwork for NATO’s efforts to protect our alliance and our citizens from cyber attacks. And they adopted the euro as their currency this month to expand trade and attract investors.

Now I could go on and on about Estonia, and I have enjoyed already two visits as Secretary of State to Estonia. But what I am most excited about is how closely we are working together to meet the shared challenges of the 21st century. We are grateful, Minister, for such a dependable, creative and close ally, and we look forward to the work ahead.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you very much, and thank you for hosting us here in Washington, and always welcome back to Estonia. Always glad to host you, once again, in Tallinn or in other nice places in Estonia.

But, well, Estonia is also very happy about our very close, open, and strong partnership with United States. Yes, I just also returned from Afghanistan, and I may say that our people on the ground in Helmand Province, also in Kabul, are very happy about direct and very close cooperation with representatives of the United States there. Our very clear and principled position about our joint mission in Afghanistan is that NATO decided together to start the mission in Afghanistan, and the reasons why NATO started with this mission, the reasons were the same for all of our allies and for us as well.

And it also means that decisions about possible withdrawal or possible changes with our mission, we also should make together because also, the environment or circumstances, when and how we can decide it, it’s also the same for all of us. So that our very clear position is that these kind of decisions we have to make together among all allies.

2014 in Afghanistan, of course, is crucial, is important – a important year. We all hope that it will be possible for 2014, that security forces and Government of Afghanistan will take over the direct responsibilities for security and development. But at the same time, of course, most important thing is the situation in Afghanistan. I mean here that Afghanistan cannot be or create any risks for other countries, and it is the most important principle for very deep and principled changes for foreign missions in Afghanistan.

Yes, our important concern is also development of new democracies in Europe, and that’s why we’re going to open next week in Estonia East – European Union’s Eastern Partnership Training Center. And of course, also United States is very welcome to participate with grants or with professors in this project.

Energy security is crucial and I’m glad that the United States has clear and strong interest, but concerns increasing the level of energy security in Europe, also in our region, to have new connections with other European countries, to have also alternatives – what concerns the resources of energy – is it nuclear energy or new possibilities to get gas, for example – so that all of this is and describes, again, the clear interest also of ours but also the clear interest of the United States.

And to sum up, then, for Estonia, it is absolutely crucial to see that the European Union – that Europe has a very strong relationship with the United States in all issues. Also, we’d like to see that in – for – in foreseeable future, we can witness new developments in European Union and NATO relationship, which is also crucial for developments of security and also other areas in Europe.

So that in this sense, I am happy, once again, to be here. I am happy to host our American friends in Estonia. And let’s move together with all the challenges and issues we still face in today’s world. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, my friend.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you.

MR. TONER: We have time for just one question on each side. First is Elise Labott, CNN.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi, Elise.

QUESTION: Hi, Madam Secretary. Thank you. I’d like to start with the minister. Secretary Clinton spoke about your efforts in the cyber world, and we know that Estonia is a real leader in cyber security, especially since your attack several years ago. I was wondering, in the wake of WikiLeaks, what the Estonians can help the U.S. with in terms of developing an – as architecture to fend off cyber attacks?

And Madam Secretary, on the Middle East, in Lebanon, we saw that the Saudis, the Turks, and the Qataris have all abandoned efforts to help get the Lebanese Government to be stable, and some kind of mediation – they have abandoned their mediation efforts. Considering that the U.S. was relying very heavily on the Saudis and their influence, what now is the U.S. prepared to do to help these mediation efforts?

And on the Palestinian question, yesterday, a very substantial list of former officials and foreign policy heavyweights sent a letter to the Administration asking them to let this resolution at the UN on the illegality of settlements go ahead. What is the U.S. prepared to do to acknowledge the illegitimacy of settlements while not poking into Israel? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you for the question. Also today, we discussed at least two very concrete issues that concerns our cooperation in cyber defense and in cyber issues. First, as you know, we have in Estonia NATO’s Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence and also the United States is going to participate directly in the work of this center with the specialists, with experts. And this kind of joint cooperation inside the NATO among all of our allies and, of course, also U.S. plays important role here. It is important to develop new possibilities, how to avoid possible new cyber attacks.

Second issue is, for example, with Belarus where electronic mail there or what has relationship with internet and free internet, free electronic mail plays crucial role. Here again, our experts of United States, of Estonia should work together, also maybe with some other countries to find the ways how to assist, how to support the free mail, free electronic mail there, internet mail in Belarus and maybe in some other countries where, unfortunately, we see problems with free world and freedom of press.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Elise, with respect to Lebanon, the United States supports the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon and believes that, ultimately, any decision will have to be made by the Lebanese people. Any mediation effort engaged in by anyone outside of Lebanon itself should be aimed at supporting the people of Lebanon and making decisions that will lead to stability and security, justice, and a commitment to bringing those who committed the murders of Prime Minister Hariri and 22 others to account. I think that over the next days you’ll see a lot of activity within Lebanon itself, and we stand ready, as do many others in the region and beyond, to be of assistance. We strongly support the ongoing work of the tribunal and believe that it is in the long-term interest of Lebanon to end impunity for political killing.

With respect to activities concerning the Israeli and Palestinian efforts that we and others support, there is a Quartet meeting of envoys going on in Jerusalem in the next day to discuss the way forward. We continue to believe strongly that the only way that there will be a resolution of the conflict and a two-state solution that will result in an independent, viable Palestinian state and security for Israel is through a negotiated settlement. Therefore, we don’t see action in the United Nations or any other forum as being helpful in bringing about that desired outcome. Our position on settlements remains as it has been. I clearly spoke out about that on many occasions, and will continue to do so. But, ultimately, the Palestinian and Israeli people have to make a decision about whether they can engage in negotiations that will result in compromise on both sides to obtain what we believe will be not just two states living side by side in peace and security, but a much better future for the children of both Israelis and Palestinians.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re working to keep the focus where we think it needs to be, and that’s not in New York.

MR. TONER: The second question, (inaudible), Estonia media.

QUESTION: Hello, and thank you for allowing to ask a question. Madam Secretary, was Estonia’s big neighbor Russia mentioned today during the talks and how can Estonia contribute to the success of the reset policy the U.S. has with Russia? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Yes, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a discussion with any Estonian without Russia coming up, and that’s only understandable because of history and geography. But I appreciate the support that Estonia has given to our reset efforts, its strong and vocal support of the START Treaty which the United States Senate ratified before the end of last year and which we hope and expect the Duma to ratify very shortly.

We have a long agenda with the Russians that we are pursuing with the support of our allies and friends in NATO and in the EU. Of course, we recognize that it’s imperative for Russia to work with and cooperate on many issues from energy to diminishing the threat of any ongoing problem whether it be cyber or anything else. And we’re very forthright in raising that with both the Russians and our friends in Estonia and in Europe.

Ultimately, we believe that a more regularized, normal relationship with Russia is in the best interest of Eastern Europe, of the Baltics; that’s why we’re pleased to see a NATO-Russia summit in Lisbon. But there are many continuing challenges that have to be addressed, and we are clear-eyed and realistic about those.

Did you want to add anything?

FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: I also wondered that it’s interesting that with Americans when we meet, there are no meeting without speaking about Russians. (Laughter.) So in this instance, it’s the same. But yes, I, of course, can confirm also from our side that NATO-Russia, EU-Russia relations, if we manage to improve them to make them more pragmatic and practical, of course, it’s possible and positive. And we also are happy that also from U.S. the START agreement has been ratified. I hope that the Russians will do it in the foreseeable future, so that all these kind of steps to make Europe, to make world more stable – also what concerns security, of course – it’s also our clear interest. I agree that there are challenges there in Russia still which have their relationship also with internal developments in Russia, internal developments of rule of law and democracy in Russia.

But generally, I hope that it will be possible, step by step move closer to normal and every day’s normal relationship between NATO and Russia, between EU and Russia because it’s also our clear interest.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you.

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Remarks With Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet After Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tallinn, Estonia
April 22, 2010

FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: (In Estonian.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, and I am delighted to be back in Tallinn. I want to thank the foreign minister for his hospitality and his warm welcome. It was certainly a touch-and-go decision as we watched with great concern from the other side of the Atlantic the disruption caused by the volcanic ash clouds. And we know that thousands of people here in Europe are still stranded, including many Americans, and trying to get home. Families have been separated, businesses have suffered significant losses, and I really commend everyone in Europe who has been working to get the stranded travelers home as quickly and efficiently as possible – including, I understand, your own president, who was traveling for days – to get back for this important meeting.
When I visited Estonia in 1994, this nation was emerging from Soviet occupation and just beginning to build the economic institutions and the civil society needed for a functioning, vibrant democracy. When I came back in 2004, only 10 years later, Estonia was a proud new member of NATO and of the EU. And today, Estonia is not only a trusted and valued ally to the United States, but it is a model for countries, particularly new democracies, the world over.
I want to thank the Estonian Government for hosting this meeting of the NATO foreign ministers, as well as our non-NATO partners. And to the Estonian people, thank you once again for putting up with thousands of visitors who have descended here on Tallinn. Some came by every mode of transportation, so we’re all happy to be with you.
Today, the foreign minister, as he said, discussed the importance with me of our partnership, both bilaterally and through NATO. We continue working together on many areas of common concern and shared responsibility. We especially appreciate Estonia’s role in Afghanistan. And we also commend Estonia for working through humanitarian assistance, not only in Afghanistan but in other countries such as Georgia and Moldova.
And thank you again, foreign minister, for your support for disaster relief in Haiti and the outpouring of private donations from the Estonian people is evidence of this country’s generous spirit and commitment to helping others in need.
We discussed our very deep concern about security in Europe, and I feel strongly that we are allies in NATO and the principal purpose of NATO is collective security as embodied in Article 5. Estonia has contributed to global security and peacekeeping operations, and the idea of mutual security really will be at the heart of our discussions over the next two days. But let me be clear. Our commitment to Estonia and our other allies is a bedrock principle for the United States and we will never waver from it.
We believe that there continues to be the importance of the open door for NATO to welcome new members because Estonia’s experience is a testament to the value that new members bring to NATO.
I also want to commend Estonia for being known in many circles as E-stonia, the most connected nation in the world, and thank you for providing valuable technology training from Mongolia to Afghanistan. We think that there’s a lot that Estonia can do to help other countries realize the benefits of technology.
So again, thank you for this warm welcome. And I look forward to our discussions and I appreciate greatly the opportunity to be back in Tallinn and wish that I could have kept my original schedule, which included meeting with many Estonians, including young people. But I hope I’ll have another excuse to do that in the future.
FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you very much. And by the way, there are some young Estonians also in this audience. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Including the foreign minister.
FOREIGN MINISTER PAET: Thank you.
MODERATOR: (In Estonian.) Please just say your question from these microphones.
QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Minister. Good morning, Madam Secretary. Madam Secretary, a question to you about recent allegations that Syria is looking to supply long-range missiles, SCUD missiles, to Hezbollah. In the past, as you know, Iran has supplied this kind of technology to Syria, and I’m wondering whether the United States has any evidence or reason to believe that Iran might be again playing a role of transferring missile technology, SCUD technology, to Syria.
And the second question is: In light of this pattern of provocative behavior by Syria – you know, there are some critics who are saying that it calls into question our policy of engagement with Damascus. A congressman yesterday on the Hill said that the Syrians, quote, spit right into our faces. So I wonder, in light of the events of the last couple of weeks, these reports, whether you believe that engagement policy still makes sense and why. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say we have expressed directly to the Syrian Government, including calling in the representative of their embassy in Washington to express in the strongest possible terms, our concerns about these stories that do suggest there has been some transfer of weapons technology into Syria with the potential purpose of then later transferring it to Hezbollah inside Lebanon.
I think that the larger question as to what the United States will do with respect to Syria is one we’ve spent a lot of time considering and debating inside the Administration. Where we are as of today is that we believe it is important to continue the process to return an ambassador. This is not some kind of reward for the Syrians and the actions that they take, which are deeply disturbing not only to the United States and not just to Israel but to others in the region and beyond. But it’s a tool. It’s a tool that we believe can give us extra leverage, added insight, analysis, information with respect to Syria’s actions and intentions.
We would like to have a more balanced and positive relationship with Syria, as do other of its neighbors from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. We would like to see Syria play a more constructive role and engage in an effort to resolve its outstanding conflict with Israel. We would like to see Syria refrain from interfering in and potentially destabilizing the Government of Lebanon. So we have a long list of areas that we have discussed with the Syrians, and we intend to continue pushing our concerns. And we think having an ambassador there adds to the ability to convey that message strongly, and hopefully influence behavior in Syria.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is to the National Broadcasting (inaudible).
QUESTION: Question to you. Are you concerned about Russia’s growing influence in its near border, suggestions about the future of Manas Air Base (inaudible)? Yesterday, we had heard about the deal between Ukraine and Russia about the Sevastopol marine base?
And also, will you try to pressure France not to (inaudible) Russia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: First with respect to the bases, we have been given assurance by the new leadership in Kyrgyzstan that the United States will retain access to the Manas Air Base. We’ve also discussed this with the Russians because, as you may know, the Russians have agreed to permit us to transport assistance and troops across their air space and across their territory for Afghanistan. And the immediate destination of a lot of this material is the Manas Air Base so it would not make sense that they would give us the go-ahead to cross their territory and not support the continued use by the United States of the Manas Air Base. So as of today, we see no problem with our continuing access to and utilization of that base in Kyrgyzstan.
With respect to the Ukrainian decision, I think it’s clear – and the foreign minister and I discussed this upstairs – that Ukraine is trying to have a balanced approach to its foreign policy. It’s first – the president – the new president’s first visit was to Brussels, evidencing a real interest in moving toward Europe and even EU membership eventually. The president has told President Obama that he very much wants to improve and deepen relations with the United States. But at the same time, he has made it clear that he’s going to continue to work with Russia. I think, given Ukraine’s history and Ukraine’s geographic position, that balancing act is a hard one but it makes sense to us that’s what he’s trying to do and to keep a foot, if you will, in both sides of his country.
I think your underlying question is our view about Russia’s actions toward its neighbors. And we’ve been very clear that we believe that there is no sphere of influence, that there is no veto power that Russia or any country has over any country in Europe or in this region concerning membership in organizations like NATO or the EU. I’m heartened to see Europe moving more to take steps that will empower it in its dealings with Russia, including moving toward more energy security, another issue that the foreign minister and I discussed.
Look, this is a balancing act. And even as young as the foreign minister is with his recent birthday, he’s old enough to remember Soviet occupation. This is a very live sense of the historical reality in the hearts and minds of the people of Estonia, so we are very conscious of that and we recognize the need to build up our relationships and support actions of independence such as moving toward energy security as a way of sending a very clear message that we want to live in a peaceful, stable world with our Russian friends but we’re going to be committed to the defense of our NATO allies.
FOREIGN MINISER PAET: (In Estonian.)
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Washington Post next please.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Secretary Clinton, sorry, could I just first clarify one tiny point on Mark’s question when you mention the transfer of weapons into Syria, the SCUDS. Was that from Iran?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I just said that we have expressed our concern about that.
QUESTION: Okay. I – the recent Nuclear Posture Review singled out Iran and North Korea as countries of concern because of proliferation. On Iran, the NPR tried to encourage Iran to comply with its obligations by saying that countries that were in compliance wouldn’t be facing a nuclear attack from the U.S., but today the leader, Khamenei, lashed out at the NPR and talked about this being an atomic threat against the Iranian people. So I’m just wondering, did the NPR sort of backfire in what it was attempting to do vis-à-vis Iran.
And on North Korea, second question, could you confirm reports that a torpedo from a North Korean submarine sank that South Korean navy ship? And if so, what fears do you have of any possible conflict?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mary Beth, as for the first point on Iran, the NPR is a statement of American nuclear policy. And our nuclear policy as set forth in the NPR makes very clear that we will maintain our nuclear deterrent. We are interested in pursuing the three pillars of cooperation and commitment set forth in the Nonproliferation Treaty, including disarmament – as evidenced by our recent agreement with Russia over the mutual reduction of our nuclear stockpiles; of nonproliferation, which we take very seriously, particularly the threat of nuclear proliferation from rogue regimes and terrorist networks; and the peaceful use of civil nuclear energy.
And it is very clear that any country which is actually complying with its nonproliferation obligations under the NPT would not be building secret concealed facilities, would not be enriching uranium above a certain level, would not have refused a good-faith offer by Russia, France, and the United States to assist in the use of enriched uranium for their Tehran research reactor.
So the actions of Iran speak louder than the words, and the recent statements are of a theme that we hear frequently from Iranian leaders. There’s a very simple way out of this. Iran needs to fully comply with its obligations under the NPT. Iran needs to respond to the frequent concerns articulated by the IAEA, by the United Nations Security Council. Iran needs to become what it professes to be, a country interested only in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. And there are just too many questions that have unsatisfactory answers for us to conclude that it is. So we will certainly continue to raise concerns about Iran’s nuclear program because we think those concerns are well-founded.
With respect to North Korea, I have no comment on the question that you asked. We remain concerned about North Korean actions and provocations. We want to see a return to the Six-Party Talks that we think should lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
But both North Korea and Iran, as mentioned in our Nuclear Posture Review, raise concerns for the United States, for our NATO allies, and for other countries who see the dangers of proliferation.
MODERATOR: (In Estonian.)

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