Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’
Secretary Clinton will be giving a speech on Middle East policy at 8 p.m. Friday evening at the Brookings Institution here in D.C. The speech will be part of the forum on “U.S.-Israeli Relations: Facing Hard Choices,” to be put on by the think tank’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
The State Department’s news release states that the fourm “will focus on the critical decisions that American and Israeli leaders will confront in the coming year to move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward, as well as deal with Iran’s nuclear challenge.”
Sadly, the Middle East peace process is deadlocked, though Clinton met with chief Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho yesterday to get “a perspective on the Israeli side of how to move forward,” according to State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.
It’ll be interesting to see what she says after this rough week for the peace process.
Secretary Clinton is in Kosovo today, and many people there love the Clintons. In the capital, Pristina, Clinton visited an 11-foot statue of her husband Bill, who as U.S. president backed the 1999 NATO air campaign that stopped a crackdown by Serbian forces on Kosovo’s ethnically Albanian majority. When he attended the unveiling of the statue last year, he was greeted with a giant cake bearing his portrait. And, both Hillary and Bill have been lauded on billboards in Pristina.
Update, 5:09 p.m.: At a “townterview” today, Clinton said the statue’s bronze hair reminds her of how Bill Clinton looked when she first met him, back in the 1970s:
I have to say it’s quite a statue. And my husband — it still looks like he has bronze-colored hair, which I like. Because when I met him — you know we’ve been married as of Monday 35 years — so when I met him when we were in law school, he had very brownish, reddish hair. And the statue reminds me of that, so of course I like the statue. Nobody should paint it white. Don’t paint it white. Keep it that color.
Secretary Clinton visits Kosovar clothing boutique named ‘Hillary’
Clinton: It’s ‘unacceptable’ that Pakistani elites aren’t paying more taxes
Secretary Clinton blasted Pakistan’s government today for not taxing its rich more, yet expecting developed countries to aid the country. She declared, “It is absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while the taxpayers of Europe, the United States, and other contributing countries are all chipping in to do our part.”
Clinton made the remarks at a news conference in Brussels with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton (seen above) in which they discussed flood-recovery efforts in Pakistan. Clinton mentioned that a stable Pakistan is essential to the fight against terrorism, which is when she started on her pet peeve: poor countries that don’t tax their elite. Here are her demands of the Pakistani government, which you can also listen to in the video below at link:
“We also believe that stability in Pakistan is essential to our shared fight against terrorism and to protect the security of the people of our country and friends and allies like those in Europe. Now, of course, the international community can only do so much. Pakistan itself must take immediate and substantial action to mobilize its own resources, and in particular to reform its economy.”
The most important step that Pakistan can take is to pass meaningful reforms that will expand its tax base. The government must require that the economically affluent and elite in Pakistan support the government and people of Pakistan. We have been very clear on that, and I am pleased that the government is responding. I know how difficult this is, but it is absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while the taxpayers of Europe, the United States, and other contributing countries are all chipping in to do our part. The government must also take steps to alleviate the crippling power shortages that stifle economic growth while making life difficult for the Pakistani people.
If U.S. President Barack Obama is having such a hard time repealing the Bush tax cuts on America’s rich, his administration is going to have an even harder time getting another country’s government to increase taxes on its rich (or begin collecting taxes from the rich in the first place). Clinton is certainly right that Pakistan’s elite should pay its fair share of taxes — the rich there pay laughably small amounts or none at all, Clinton pointed out last month. But, the United States has limited influence on the country’s government. Just two weeks ago, Pakistan closed the Torkham Gate crossing into Afghanistan after U.S. forces accidentally killed several Pakistani border guards. The crossing has since been reopened, but the multiday closure held up trucks that supply international forces in Afghanistan. So, who’s really in a position to be calling the shots?
Clinton supports making peace with Taliban who meet clear conditions
Secretary Clinton said today that she and the U.S. government support reintegration and reconciliation with Taliban members who meet specific criteria. We are “willing to support what’s called reintegration — namely, people on the battlefield coming off and going back into their society — and reconciliation, which is a much more political process to work out terms of peace with people who [have] led the Taliban, but only on very clear conditions,” she told ABC’s Robin Roberts during an interview in Brussels, where she attended a NATO ministerial meeting.
Those “clear conditions” are:
* Renouncing violence and laying down arms.
* Renouncing al Qaeda.
* Abiding by Afghan laws and the Afghan Constitution.
Clinton was cautious with her remarks and said she’s unsure how many Taliban leaders would agree to these conditions. In fact she said, “I think it’s highly unlikely that the leadership of the Taliban that refused to turn over bin Laden in 2001 will ever reconcile. But stranger things have happened in the history of war, but it can only happen if they [are] willing to abide by the red lines that we and the Afghan government have established.”
Other the other hand, Clinton sounded somewhat optimistic about lower-level Taliban members who likely joined in the first place just to get a paycheck. “I am increasingly convinced that many of the lower-level Taliban, young men who frankly went to fight for the Taliban because they got paid more than they could make anywhere else — I believe that they are, in increasing numbers, laying down their arms and coming back into society.”
She also told Roberts, “What we are seeing is a move by the lower-level fighters, many of them, to leave the battlefield, which is all to the good because they are being convinced that this fight is no longer one they want to be part of.”
Anything about the Taliban joining peace talks or becoming part of the Afghan government will make most Americans nervous. Anyone can pay mere lip service to meeting the three “red line” conditions listed above; how do you tell whether someone isn’t surreptitiously supporting violence and al Qaeda on the side? I also wish Clinton had reiterated that no political reconciliation should come at the price of Afghanistan’s women — which is one of the scariest things about involving the Taliban in peace talks and the government. Back in July during her visit to Kabul, Clinton made it starkly clear that Afghan women can’t be marginalized in the reconciliation process, saying:
” I don’t think there is such a political solution that would be a lasting, sustainable one that would turn the clock back on women. That is a recipe for a return to the kind of Afghanistan — if not in the entire country, in significant parts of the country — that would once again be a breeding ground for terrorism. So we’ve got our red lines, and they are very clear: Any reconciliation process that the United States supports, recognizing that this is an Afghan-led process, must require that anyone who wishes to rejoin society and the political system must lay down their weapons and end violence, renounce al Qaeda, and be committed to the Constitution and laws of Afghanistan, which guarantee the rights of women.
Clinton to Ahmadinejad: ‘We reject any efforts to destabilize’ Lebanon
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was greeted with rose petals in Lebanon today, but Secretary Clinton has a message that the Iranian president might find less rosy:
The United States supports the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon. We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon.
Clinton made the remarks, reported by AFP, while in Kosovo. The U.S. government is concerned that Iran is trying to draw Lebanon closer into its orbit and that Iranian support for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon weakens Lebanese sovereignty.
Update, 2:05 p.m.: Here is Clinton’s complete remark on Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon:
With respect to President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon, the United States supports the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon. We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon. We are very committed to supporting the Lebanese Government as it deals with a number of challenges in its region. And we would hope that no visitor would do anything or say anything that would give cause to greater tension or instability in that country.
And I don’t know whether anything I might say would have any influence; I highly doubt it. But I believe that it’s a message that the world needs to convey to the Iranians because of the balance within Lebanon that needs to be maintained.
Secretary Clinton in the Balkans
Ready For Second Round of Talks
She said she is ready to help facilitate diplomatic negotiations for a Peace agreement between Netanyahu and Abbas in Pakistan. Godspeed, Hillary!
(CBS/AP) Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed Thursday to produce a framework for a permanent peace deal and to hold a second round of direct talks this month, a modest achievement reached amid deep skepticism about success at their first such session in two years.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet again on Sept. 14 and 15 in the Middle East, likely at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, with an eye toward forging the outline of a pact that could lead to a final agreement in a year’s time.
The United States’ special Mideast envoy George Mitchell announced the agreement after several hours of talks between Netanyahu and Abbas at the State Department at which the two leaders pledged to work through the region’s deeply ingrained mutual hostility and suspicion to resolve the long-running conflict.
“I believe these two leaders — President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu — are committed to doing what it takes to achieve the right results,” Mitchell told reporters. He refused to discuss specifics of what the framework agreement would entail but said it would lay out the “fundamental compromises” needed for a final settlement.
Tellurian says: Take a break, Grab a cuppa coffee, make yourself a cocktail. Be your own best witness to the tremendous job Hillary Clinton is doing for you and our country- You will be asked to participate in a pop quiz in 6mos. Taking notes is allowed.
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March 1 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, arriving in Egypt late today, prepared to announce more than $900 million in aid to the Palestinians as she wades into the Middle East conflict that President Barack Obama has made an early diplomatic priority.
Clinton will join Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, other Arab leaders and European officials tomorrow at a conference to raise money for rebuilding the war-damaged Gaza Strip. A 22-day conflict between Israel and the militant Islamic Hamas movement devastated the coastal enclave.
None of the funds will go to Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel, State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the location for the conference on Gaza.
“Hamas is not getting any of this money,” Wood said. “We also want to make sure we are giving support to the” Palestinian Authority, he said.
About two-thirds of the money is going to the West Bank, Wood said. The West Bank is controlled by Hamas rival Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas is engaged with Israel in peace talks, which Hamas opposes.
The Obama administration is seeking to strengthen Abbas while shunning Hamas. About $200 million will provide direct support for Palestinian Authority expenses such as salaries, and $400 million is allotted for projects the authority identifies as priorities, Wood said.
The U.S. will give $300 million for humanitarian aid in Gaza, to be delivered through the United Nations and other non- profit organizations not linked with Hamas, Wood said.
In the wake of the conflict in Gaza, Obama is trying to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in a broader effort to stabilize the Middle East. Arab countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are seeking to broker accords to end conflicts such as the standoff between Israel and Syria.
“Not only do we want to address the needs, the very real needs, in the Gaza Strip, but we also want to move forward toward that comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace that President Obama talked about,” Jeffrey Feltman, acting assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, said in Washington before the trip.
The conference will be an opportunity for Clinton to meet many of her regional counterparts that she hasn’t met in Washington since taking office in January. Events will include a meeting on the sidelines for the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators, which includes the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.
Middle East special envoy George Mitchell will also attend the gathering in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Israel ended on Jan. 18 an air, land and sea assault on Gaza aimed at stopping rocket attacks on Israeli communities by militants in the Hamas-ruled enclave. Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel.
Clinton made no public comments during the flight from Washington or upon arrival. She told Voice of America radio earlier that she would make a significant aid pledge for Gaza that wouldn’t benefit Hamas, the U.S. government-funded news service said on its Web site.
Seventy-five countries and international organizations are attending the conference, which is being co-chaired by Egypt and Norway. Saudi Arabia has promised $1 billion in aid and the European Union, another $552 million.
The European contribution will go in part toward humanitarian aid and early recovery work such as removing rubble and unexploded ordinance and caring for traumatized children.
In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s budget for the West Bank and Gaza was $389 million, including $150 million to fund Palestinian Authority expenses such as salaries.
The World Bank today urged donor countries to channel funds for rebuilding Gaza through the Palestinian Authority and five local organizations with “proven capacity” to undertake projects. The groups aren’t linked to Hamas, which won 2006 parliamentary elections across Gaza and the West Bank and then ousted Abbas’s Fatah party from Gaza in 2007, dividing Palestinian governance.
The Bush administration declined to deal with Hamas. Clinton, in remarks to the Voice of America on Feb. 27, suggested President Obama will follow the same course by applying conditions for engagement with Hamas that Bush also required.
Recognition of Israel
While not rejecting a future Abbas-Hamas coalition government, Clinton said the Islamic group must “renounce violence, recognize Israel and abide by previous commitments” made by Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. Hamas has so far refused the three conditions.
Clinton will travel next to Jerusalem and the Palestinian headquarters of Ramallah in the West Bank. There she’ll meet with current governing officials as well as Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Likud party leader asked to form the next Israeli government after elections last month.
Clinton will then shift to European issues as she heads to Brussels, where she will participate for the first time as the top U.S. diplomat in a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on March 5. They will be preparing for a summit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders in April that will mark the alliance’s 60th anniversary.
In Brussels, Clinton is scheduled to meet separately with European Union officials, before going on to Geneva to confer with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. She will also visit Turkish officials in Ankara.
Last Updated: March 1, 2009 17:22 EST
Remarks by Secretary Clinton and Special Envoy Mitchell After Their Meeting
We are looking forward to the results of the Israeli elections so that we can begin working with a new Israeli government. We are working with the Palestinian Authority under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad to support their efforts to continue the progress that they have made in providing security and meeting the needs of the Palestinian people.
| 03.02.2009 | 23:00 UTC
Steinmeier meets US secretary of state in Washington
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described Germany as one of Washington’s closest allies. Clinton made the statement following a meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Washington. This was the first face-to-face contact between the German government and the administration of US President Barack Obama. Clinton said she had thanked Steinmeier in particular for Germany’s commitment to efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. Germany has more than 3,000 troops in that country as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Steinmeier focused his comments to reporters on the need to establish a new trans-Atlantic agenda. Both Steinmeier and Clinton expressed concerns about the news that Iran had succeeded in launching its first domestically built satellite. Iranian state television said the satellite was designed for use for peaceful purposes only.
A personal statement from her Majesty Queen Noor:
“Hillary Clinton will be a strong, effective Secretary of State in the new Obama administration.”
I observed first hand her commitment to peace and justice during the presidency of Bill Clinton, when Jordan’s King Hussein, my late husband, and I worked closely with the Clintons in an attempt to achieve a Middle East peace. When they take office next year, I know that President-elect Obama and she quickly will begin looking for ways to bring security to Israel and justice to Palestinians, including four to six million Palestinian refugees.”
If this is not a sterling recommendation; I don’t know what is… Will this be enough to silence the fomenting mouths of the OBots for more than a day, if that? We shall see. I haven’t read the entire list of comments on the Huffington Post and before I do, I will venture an educated guess, it will be 50/50!
In the Senate, Mrs. Clinton has worked hard to protect other displaced populations, including those from Iraq and Darfur. Just two weeks ago, I was part of a delegation from Refugees International that met with Sen. Clinton to discuss the need for a comprehensive plan to deal with five million displaced Iraqis, one fifth of the country’s population. Nearly two million of the displaced Iraqis have sought refuge in Syria and Jordan, while the rest have fled their homes and violence within Iraq.
I know the utter despair and hopelessness of both Palestinian and Iraqi refugee families, having lived and worked with both communities over the past 30 years through the Noor al Hussein Foundation and other Jordanian institutions.
Sen. Clinton has introduced legislation to help displaced Iraqis. In the Obama administration she and her colleagues will have to come up with a comprehensive plan to help Iraqis return to a safe and secure Iraq as U.S. troops withdraw. This will be a challenge, but she understands that displaced Iraqis threaten the stability of Iraq, as well as the stability of the region, and potentially beyond.
During the campaign both Sen Clinton and President-elect Obama called for more aggressive U.S. action, including the possible use of force, to stop the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Their agreement on this point could open an opportunity for a diplomatic push to bring peace to Darfur, something the government of Sudan says it wants but has done little to promote. Any successful peace conference will be complex, requiring full participation by the government of Sudan, rebel movements, Sudanese civil society organizations, neighboring countries and economic stake holders, such as China. While the prospect of success is small, the cost of failure would be extremely high, particularly for the government of Sudan and the people of Darfur.
As Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton will face many challenges, but I know from personal experience that she is up to them all.