Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

Meeting With Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

In Brazil, foreign policy, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, United States, Washington on March 16, 2009 at 7:44 pm

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Preview of President Barack Obama’s Meeting With Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.

Assistant Secretary to

Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs

On-The-Record Briefing
Washington, DC

MR. DUGUID: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We have with us this morning Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon, who has a few announcements that he wants to make, and then we’ll take a couple of your questions before we proceed to today’s briefing.


ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: Thank you very much, happy to be here. As many of you know, Brazilian President Lula will be arriving in Washington, D.C. this evening and meeting with President Bush – excuse me, with President Obama – (laughter) – with President Obama tomorrow at the White House.

This will be the first opportunity for the Brazilian president and President Obama to meet here in Washington, D.C. They have spoken by phone several times, both after the election of President Obama and especially following his Inauguration. This, from our point of view, is a great opportunity for the United States to build on an important relationship that we have with Brazil, a country which we have an important bilateral relationship with, an important regional relationship with, and an important global relationship.

And it is a relationship that has focused broadly not only on the diplomatic challenges that we face throughout the region and globally, but also focuses on issues such as energy partnership, the fight to promote social inclusion, and especially the – our ability to work together with an international organization in pursuit of broad goals of peace and development throughout the world.

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Secretary Clinton Responds to you!

In Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, news, Politics, Smart Power, travel itinerary, United States on March 13, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Secretary Clinton recently  traveled to the Middle East and Europe. During her travels, she received questions via text message. In response to those questions, when asked how she would describe the trip, Secretary Clinton said:


“I thought this trip was a very good start for the new policies and the new approaches of the Obama Administration. I particularly appreciated all the work that went into the announcement that I made at Sharm el-Sheikh that the United States would commit more than $900 million to the cause of humanitarian relief for the Palestinians and for the work that the Palestinian Authority is doing in the West Bank.

I also very much enjoyed visiting a program that is in a contest for State Department recognition, talking to women in Israel who are part of a micro-finance and entrepreneurial training program, and then going to Ramallah and the West Bank and visiting another State Department-supported program, the ACCESS program that teaches young Palestinians, as it does with young people in many countries, learning English and learning more about our culture. This is a program specifically aimed at young people who are not from well-to-do, affluent, already-educated families. I was just thrilled at their enthusiasm.

Those are the highlights of what was a very important trip and a good beginning for our efforts.”

Secretary Clinton responded to the other frequently asked questions  here.

Secretary’s 2009 International Women’s Awards Ceremony

In foreign policy, Global News, Human Rights, Humanitarian Aide, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, Politics, United States, Washington on March 11, 2009 at 8:39 pm

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SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is such an exciting occasion, and there were so many people who wanted to come today, but unfortunately, there is a limit to how many people we can let into this magnificent room. So there are people watching on closed-circuit TV all over this building, and beyond.

And it is my pleasure to welcome you to the State Department to celebrate International Women’s Day with a very special event and a very special guest. The event is the International Women of Courage Awards, and in a minute, you will meet these remarkable women and learn more about their lives and their work. And I am especially delighted to thank one person in particular whose presence here means a great deal to all of us – our First Lady, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)

Now, I know a little bit about the role that – (laughter) – Michelle Obama is filling now. And I have to say that in a very short time, she has, through her grace and her wisdom, become an inspiration to women and girls not only in the United States, but around the world. And it is so fitting that she would join us here at the State Department to celebrate the achievements of other extraordinary women, and to show her commitment to supporting women and girls around the globe.

She understands, as we all do here at the State Department, that the status of women and girls is a key indicator of whether or not progress is possible in a society. And so I am very grateful to her and to President Obama, who earlier today announced the creation of the White House Interagency Council on Women and Girls. That will – (applause). That office will help us collaborate across every department and agency in our government.

President Obama has also designated an ambassador-at-large to consolidate our work on women’s global issues here at the State Department. Now, this is a position that has never existed before, and I am very pleased that someone you all know, if you have ever worked on women’s issues – know and appreciate a longtime colleague and friend, Melanne Verveer, who’s been nominated to fill that post. (Applause.)

And I also want to thank Ambassador Susan Rice and our excellent U.S. delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which is in the middle of its annual meetings now, for the work that they are doing and for the engagement that they demonstrate.

Today, we’re focusing on the International Women of Courage Awards. It’s a fairly new tradition here at the State Department, but it’s already become a cherished institution. For the past three years, our embassies have sent us stories of extraordinary women who work every day, often against great odds to advance the rights of all human beings to fulfill their God-given potential. Today, we recognize eight of those women. Each is one of a kind, but together they represent countless women and men who strive daily for justice and opportunity in every country and on every continent, usually without recognition or reward.

And I want to say a special word about someone who could not join us, who we honor today – Reem Al Numery, who was forced to marry her older cousin when she was just 12 years old. She is now fighting to obtain a divorce for herself and end child marriage in Yemen. She was not able to be here, but we honor her strength and we pledge our support to end child marriage everywhere, once and for all. (Applause.)

We also express our solidarity with women whose governments have forbidden them from joining us, especially Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been kept under house arrest in Burma for most of the past two decades, but continues to be a beacon of hope and strength to people around the world. Her example has been especially important to other women in Burma who have been imprisoned for their political beliefs, driven into exile, or subjected to sexual violence by the military.

Our honorees and the hundreds of millions of women they represent not only deserve our respect, they deserve our full support. When we talk about human rights, what I think of are faces like these. What I am committed to is doing everything in my power as Secretary of State to further the work on the ground in countries like those represented here to make changes in peoples’ lives. That doesn’t happen always in the halls of government. It happens day to day in the towns and cities, the villages and countryside where the work of human rights goes on.

We simply cannot solve the global problems confronting us, from a worldwide financial crisis to the risks of climate change to chronic hunger, disease, and poverty that sap the energies and talents of hundreds of millions of people when half the world’s population is left behind. The rights of women – really, of all people – are at the core of these challenges, and human rights will always be central to our foreign policy.

Earlier today I met with Foreign Minister Yang of China and conveyed to him, as I do in my meetings with all other leaders, that it is our view in the Obama Administration that every nation seeking to lead in the international community must not only live by, but help shape the global rules that will determine whether people do enjoy the rights to live freely and participate fully. The peace, prosperity and progress that we know are best served and best serve human beings come when there is freedom to speak out, to worship, to go to school, enjoy access to health care, live and work with dignity.

The United States is grounded in these ideals, and our foreign policy must be guided by them. Indeed, our own country must continually strive to live up to these ideals ourselves. Not only does smart power require us to demand more of ourselves when it comes to human rights, but to express those views to others and to actually assist those who are on the frontlines of human rights struggles everywhere.

It is important that we focus on human rights because I know what inspiration it has given to me over many years. The people I have met, they have constantly reminded me of how much work lies ahead if we are to be the world of peace, prosperity and progress that we all seek.

I’ve met a lot of people, particularly women, who have risked their lives – from women being oppressed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, to mothers seeking to end the violence in Northern Ireland, to citizens working for freedom of religion in Uzbekistan, and NGOs struggling to build civil society in Slovakia, to grassroots advocates working to end human trafficking in Asia and Africa, and local women in India and Bangladesh, Chile, Nicaragua, Vietnam and many other places who are leading movements for economic independence and empowerment.

These personal experiences have informed my work. And I will continue to fight for human rights as Secretary of State in traditional and especially non-traditional ways and venues.

All of you gathered here represent the kind of broad coalition that we need – business leaders, NGO leaders, ambassadors, experts, people from every corner of our government, citizens who are moved and touched by the stories of courage that we will be hearing some more of today.

And it is exciting that we have now in our own country someone who is standing up for the best of America, a woman who understands the multiple roles that women play during the course of our lives, and fulfills each one with grace. An example of leadership, service, and strength. It is my great pleasure and honor to introduce the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)
SOS Link

50th Anniversary of Tibetan Uprising

In Global News on March 11, 2009 at 5:21 pm

tibetYesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising. The United States respects the territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China and considers Tibet to be part of China. At the same time, we are deeply concerned by the human rights situation in Tibetan areas.

We described those concerns in our just-released Annual Country Report on human rights practices in China. We concluded that China’s Government has acted against global human rights standards by significantly increasing cultural and religious repression in Tibetan areas.

We urge China to reconsider its policies in Tibet that have created tensions due to their harmful impact on Tibetan religion, culture, and livelihoods. We believe that substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s representatives, consistent with the Dalai Lama’s commitment to disclaiming any intention to seek sovereignty or independence for Tibet, can lead to progress in bringing about solutions and can help achieve true and lasting stability in Tibet.

2009 International Women of Courage Award Recipient:

In Afghanistan, foreign policy, Global News, Human Rights, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, news, United Kingdom on March 10, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Mutabar Tadjibayeva: “They Can Never Break My Spirit”


About the Author: Ruth Bennett serves as the Public Affairs Advisor for the Office of International Women’s Issues. This entry is one in a series of profiles of the 2009 International Women of Courage Award recipients.

“They can break my body, but they can never break my spirit.”

Mutabar Tadjibayeva is one of the most vocal activists in Uzbekistan, a country in which human rights issues remain a serious concern. As Chair of her own NGO, the Fiery Hearts Club, Ms. Tadjibayeva has brought attention to human rights issues in the Ferghana Valley – one of the most sensitive regions of Central Asia – and helped people seek justice. She has monitored trials, published articles on child labor, reported on violations of women’s rights, and organized public campaigns. In August 2003, Ms. Tadjibayeva suffered serious head injuries and was hospitalized for more than a week after a demonstration she organized demanding the resignation of a corrupt local prosecutor was forcibly dispersed by police.

In October 2005, Ms. Tadjibayeva was arrested at her home as she was preparing to travel to Ireland for a human rights conference and charged with several counts of criminal activity based on her activism. Despite the threat of a long prison sentence, Ms. Tadjibayeva remained defiant and told the court, “I do not regret my activities and I will continue them regardless of the verdict.” In March 2006, she was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. Ms. Tadjibayeva’s health suffered as a result of poor prison conditions, and she was subjected to forced psychiatric treatment and long periods of solitary confinement.

In June 2008, Ms. Tadjibayeva was released from prison on medical grounds, though she remains under a three-year suspended sentence. Despite the suffering she’s endured, and at substantial risk to herself, Ms. Tadjibayeva has renewed her activism since her release and is in the process of trying to register the Fiery Hearts group with local authorities. She continues to criticize prison conditions during interviews with independent and international journalists. At the same time, she continues to seek constructive dialogue with authorities on human rights issues.

While Ms. Tadjibayeva has paid a tremendous personal price for her defense of others, she has shown no regrets for her continued activism. Her astonishing courage is a force for transparency, democracy, and good governance in Uzbekistan as well as a larger example of the power of an individual to take a stand and marshal international support for the cause of human rights. As she commented shortly after her release…”they can break my body, but they can never break my spirit.”

SOS Blog

Madame Secretary and Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Vygaudas Usackas

In foreign policy, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, NATO, Politics, Washington on March 9, 2009 at 4:51 pm

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At the Signing Ceremony After Their Meeting:

March 9, 2009
SECRETARY CLINTON: Welcome, and it’s a great pleasure to have the foreign minister along with his delegation from Lithuania here today. Some of you may remember that the minister was a shining star in the Washington, D.C., diplomatic ferment when he served as Lithuania’s ambassador to the United States. He served for five years, and there was a great regret when he left Washington, so it’s especially nice to have him back in his new capacity. I think he’s been foreign minister since December, if I’m not mistaken.


SECRETARY CLINTON: So he’s been a foreign minister longer than I have been.

During our discussions, the minister and I affirmed our shared commitment to the common principles and common purposes that unite our countries. It is no accident that Lithuania is one of our most dependable partners and allies. Both our countries share a determination to promote democracy, uphold the rule of law, encourage broad-based economic prosperity, and we are deeply committed to NATO’s pledge of collective security.

These principles provide the foundation for our efforts to address a growing array of economic, diplomatic, and security challenges. In order to succeed in these common efforts, we have to cooperate even more closely than we already have in the past.

The instruments of ratification we are exchanging today, which are called for by the 2005 protocols regarding extradition and mutual legal assistance between our two countries, are an example of that increased cooperation. This exchange is the first of the 27 similar sets of agreements that the United States will be undertaking with all EU member-countries. These protocols will enter into force shortly, when the related agreements between the United States and the European Union take effect.

Many of the law enforcement challenges our countries face today have little respect for borders. Networks of computer hackers, financial criminals, and violent extremists often hide behind international borders and use geography to gain impunity. These twin agreements between the United States and Lithuania give our police and our prosecutors the state-of-the-art tools they need to cooperate in bringing criminals to justice on both sides of the Atlantic.

In conjunction with the similar agreements we are pursuing with all of the countries of the European Union, the agreements for which we are exchanging instruments of ratification today will help provide the Euro-Atlantic community with powerful tools to apprehend and prosecute individuals who might otherwise escape justice.

These agreements are only one small facet of the vibrant partnership the United States enjoys with the people and Government of Lithuania.

Now, I have been told that this year marks the 1,000th anniversary of Lithuania’s name. Now, we in the United States cannot claim such a lengthy history, but I am convinced that our strong relationship, cooperation, and shared values can last just as long. I look forward to working with the foreign minister as we go forward from today’s meeting working together as allies to create a stronger, safer, and more prosperous world.

FOREIGN MINISTER USACKAS: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. It’s great to be back in Washington this year, and it’s great to see you again, this time not as a senator but Secretary of State.


FOREIGN MINISTER USACKAS: Indeed, United States and Lithuania are bound by many ties, and we are members of NATO, we are – Lithuania is a member of the EU and enjoy very close transatlantic relationship. But most importantly, that we are bound by the human chain, human chain of the people who have been residing in United States for more than one hundred years. And I am coming here to Washington, D.C., straight from Chicago, where we had a celebration of millennium for Lithuania and where many people came to enjoy Lithuanian national music and dance.

I am here today to talk to Secretary Hillary Clinton about the challenges for the Euro-Atlantic community. We talked about energy security issues, which are very important both for Europe and for United States. We talked about our common neighborhood of NATO and the European Union, which stretches from Belarus to Georgia. And we also talked about, very important, a neighbor, Russia, with whom we have decided to re-launch – resume NATO-Russia Council only last week. We believe that NATO has an important agenda before the summit, and we look forward to working with United States so as to prepare NATO alliance for the challenges of the 21st century.

Lithuania is a trustworthy ally of United States. We’re present in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re going to be increasing our military presence in Afghanistan. And we are continuously sharing our experience of democracy building and free market with such countries as Ukraine and Georgia. We strongly – we are strongly committed to the future membership of Ukraine and Georgia. Those countries have a lot to learn from the examples and lessons learned of Central European countries. And I’m looking forward to working with Secretary of State and with her staff to advance our reforms and to share the best lessons learned with the countries I mentioned.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Minister. And if you will, join me now for the signing of the protocols.

(The Instruments of Ratification are signed.)


International Women of Courage Awards to be Announced by Hillary Clinton…

In economy, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, Middle East, news, Politics, Turkey, United States, Washington, Woman of the Year on March 9, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will announce this year’s recipients of the Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage. The awards ceremony will take place on March 11 at 4 p.m. in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the U.S. Department of State.

The annual Award for International Women of Courage recognizes women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights and women’s equality. This is the only Department of State award that pays tribute to outstanding women leaders worldwide. This year, the Secretary of State will pay tribute to honorees representing Afghanistan, Guatemala, Iraq, Malaysia, Niger, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

The Awards Ceremony will be pool press coverage for cameras and open for writers and still photographers.

Final access time for writers and stills: 3:30 p.m. from the 23rd Street entrance.

Media representatives may attend this event upon presentation of one of the following:

(1) A U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense or Foreign Press Center),(2) a media-issued photo identification card, or

(3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification card (driver’s license, passport). Press should allow adequate time to process through security and to be in the briefing room 10 minutes prior to the briefing.

Ruth Bennett
Office of International Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State
(202) 312-9867

Office of Press Relations, U.S. Department of State
(202) 647-2492

Hillary Clinton pledges multifaceted efforts to stabilize Pakistan

WASHINGTON: The United States will work with its NATO allies to forge a multifaceted strategy to stabilise Pakistan and Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged. “We will be working with our NATO allies and other partners to come up with a comprehensive strategy that integrates military and civilian assets in a way that can try to stabilise both Afghanistan and Pakistan from the mutual threat they face from Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” she told German ZDF-TV during her tour of Europe.

According to a transcript released by the State Department, Clinton claimed insurgent groups “are determined to destabilize those countries to gain and hold territory to serve as safe havens for terrorists who plan and plot against Europe and the United States”. She said the Obama administration is “focused on a policy review concerning Afghanistan and Pakistan because we think we have strategic interests there and threats emanate from there”.

Clinton also held talks with members of the 26-nation NATO alliance on formulating an effective way forward in Afghanistan. Before travelling to Europe, Clinton hosted the Pakistani and Afghan foreign ministers in Washington for tripartite consultations on fashioning a comprehensive policy, under the Obama administration, for the Pak-Afghan border regions.

U.S. and Turkey Reaffirm Strong Partnership

hill-and-turkish-pm(Mar. 7) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan today reaffirmed the strong bonds of alliance, solidarity and strategic partnership between the Republic of Turkey and the United States, as well as the commitment of both countries to the principles of peace, democracy, freedom, and prosperity enshrined in the Shared Vision and Structured Dialogue document agreed to in July 2006

They reaffirmed their determination to diversify the broad based bilateral relations particularly between the Turkish and American people.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan today reaffirmed the strong bonds of alliance, solidarity and strategic partnership between the Republic of Turkey and the United States, as well as the commitment of both countries to the principles of peace, democracy, freedom, and prosperity enshrined in the Shared Vision and Structured Dialogue document agreed to in July 2006. hill-and-turkish-fm2

Turkey and the United States reiterated their determination to continue close cooperation and consultation on all issues of common concern. They pledge to contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East and in this context,

to support a permanent settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-state solution;

to enhance energy security and to expand the Southern corridor of natural gas and oil infrastructure

to enable Caspian basin and Iraqi energy producers to reach European and world markets;

to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the south Caucasus, including through U.S. support for the efforts of Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations and joint support for the efforts of the Minsk Group to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict;

to continue to cooperate in the Balkans;

to support strongly a comprehensive and mutually-acceptable settlement of the Cyprus question under the auspices of the UN and in this context ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots; and to enhance their cooperation in the fight against terrorism, particularly against their common enemies, the PKK and al-Qaeda.

The United States will continue its intelligence support for Turkish operations against the PKK and is reviewing ways to be more supportive. As members of the G-20, Turkey and the United States pledge continued cooperation to deal with the global economic crisis and efforts to increase and diversify bilateral economic relations with particular emphasis on trade, investment, scientific and technological cooperation.

Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Babacan discussed Turkey’s accession to the European Union as a member, a goal the United States continues to strongly support, as well as the Government of Turkey’s continued emphasis on reform process.

With their commitment to Transatlantic relations and as Allies in a strong NATO, they pledge continued cooperation in Afghanistan, including through continued Turkish contributions to Afghanistan. They reiterated their commitment to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq as well as reiterated their support for a democratic, pluralistic, unified and federal Iraq.

They also welcome Turkey’s deepening relations with the Government of Iraq as evidenced by high level visits as well as trilateral meetings to discuss cooperation against the PKK.

Turkey and the United States will strongly back the United Nations Security Council in its work to maintain global peace and security for the prevention and removal of threats to the international community and in this context will cooperate in dealing with issues including terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery in the region and beyond.

Finally, they reaffirmed their determination to diversify the broad based bilateral relations particularly between the Turkish and American people. In that context, the Secretary and Minister announced the establishment of “Young Turkey/Young America”: A New Relationship for a New Age.

This initiative will enable emerging young leaders in Turkey and the United States to develop initiatives that will positively impact people’s lives and invest in future ties between the leadership of our two countries.

Hillary shares a little ‘girl’ time with Turkish ladies..

In fabulous women, foreign policy, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, news, Politics, Smart Power, Turkey, United States on March 7, 2009 at 8:35 pm

ANKARA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a sideshow to diplomacy, lamented on Saturday her fashion sense, divulged when she fell in love and shared how she dealt with personal struggles.

Appearing on a popular Turkish television chat show, Hadi Gel Bizimle (Come and Join Us), Clinton tackled a few diplomatic questions but the main focus was on her personal life, such as when she “last” fell in love.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) talks with Turkish businesswoman Hayriye Ersoy (L) as she is flanked by Turkish talk show hosts Cigdem Anad (2nd R) and Aysun Kayaci (2nd L) after the taping of their talk show for Turkish broadcaster NTV in Ankara March 7, 2009.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) talks with Turkish businesswoman Hayriye Ersoy (L) as she is flanked by Turkish talk show hosts Cigdem Anad (2nd R) and Aysun Kayaci (2nd L) after the taping of their talk show for Turkish broadcaster NTV in Ankara March 7, 2009.

“It was so long ago, with my husband,” she told the studio audience, adding that she first met former President Bill Clinton in the spring of 1971 when they were at law school.

“We have been talking to each other and enjoying our life together ever since,” she said.

The appearance on the show, with four female interviewers, is part of Clinton’s strategy to reach out to ordinary people through public diplomacy efforts.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gestures during the taping of a talk show for Turkish broadcaster NTV in Ankara March 7, 2009.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gestures during the taping of a talk show for Turkish broadcaster NTV in Ankara March 7, 2009.

She appeared on a popular television show while in Indonesia last month on a tour of Asia. During her swing through Europe and the Middle East this week, she met students on the Israeli-occupied West Bank and held a town hall meeting in Brussels. Clinton returns to Washington on Sunday.

Asked what she missed most about private life, Clinton said it was shopping for herself and sitting around in pavement cafes, drinking coffee and “people-watching.”

“I sacrificed a lot of my privacy, which I regret,” she said, adding that the benefits of public service were huge.

“You can’t have everything, you have to make some choices and I am very excited that I get a chance to serve my country in working with President Obama,” she said.

But despite her love of shopping, Clinton said she did not have good fashion sense and often told her daughter Chelsea the “fashion gene” had skipped a generation when it came to the former first lady.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) waves with Turkish talk show hosts Mujde Ar (2nd L), Pinar Kur (L) and Cigdem Anad (R) as they are flanked by the audience after the taping of their talk show for Turkish broadcaster NTV in Ankara March 7, 2009.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) waves with Turkish talk show hosts Mujde Ar (2nd L), Pinar Kur (L) and Cigdem Anad (R) as they are flanked by the audience after the taping of their talk show for Turkish broadcaster NTV in Ankara March 7, 2009.

But she praised current U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama for her “fabulous” fashion sense and handling of the job.

“I was a first lady and I know how important that role is. I think Michelle Obama is doing a wonderful job and she is also balancing her responsibilities very well,” said Clinton.

“She has two young children and she has put their well-being first, because it is hard when your father is elected president and you are still a child.”

Interviewers delicately asked Clinton to explain how she had dealt with bitter personal experiences, without mentioning a scandal involving Bill Clinton.

“Oh, love! And forgiveness, and friendship, and family. You know, family, faith, friends are the core of my life and I don’t know anybody whose life is smooth sailing,” said Clinton.

“If you meet such a person, I want to know them. Because I’ve lived a long time and I have yet to meet that person.”

Clinton vows to bring Russia back in from the Nato cold…

In economy, foreign policy, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, Moscow, Politics, Putin, Russia, Smart Power, United States on March 6, 2009 at 7:06 am

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton talks after a Nato foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton talks after a Nato foreign ministers meeting in Brussels. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton talks after a Nato foreign ministers meeting in Brussels. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

The Obama administration moved today to resume high-level relations with Moscow when Hillary Clinton led a western push to revive contacts between Russia and Nato.

Making her European debut as secretary of state, Clinton told a meeting of Nato foreign ministers that Washington wanted “a fresh start” in relations with Moscow. She will have her first official negotiations with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva tomorrow.

“I don’t think you punish Russia by stopping conversation with them,” she said, adding that there could be benefits to the better relationship. “We not only can but must co-operate with Russia.”

But she added: “We pursue it with our eyes wide open.”

The meeting in Brussels agreed to reinstate the work of the Nato-Russia council, a consultative body that was frozen last year in protest at Moscow’s invasion and partition of Georgia.

The allies agreed that Russian and Nato defence and foreign ministers should resume meetings as soon as possible after Nato’s 60th birthday summit in France and Germany next month.

Diplomats said the accord and the talks in Geneva tomorrow could pave the way for the Obama administration to press ahead with a common agenda with Russia which would entail talks on nuclear arms control and on Russian co-operation with US policy on Afghanistan and Iran.
The new White House team are clearly hoping to bypass the prime minister and former president, Vladimir Putin, and focus its diplomacy on President Dmitry Medvedev.

For any big shifts in the Russian-American relationship, Moscow would insist on the shelving of the Pentagon’s missile shield project in Poland and the Czech Republic and a freeze in the prospects for Ukraine and Georgia joining Nato.

The US and Germany tabled a joint proposal for yesterday’s Nato meeting, leaving the contentious issue of Ukraine’s and Georgia’s membership chances open and urging greater co-operation with Russia “as equal partners in areas of common interest”. It went on: “These include: Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, counter-narcotics, non-proliferation, arms control and other issues.”

Despite the resumption of dialogue with Moscow, ministers stressed that western leaders would use the Nato-Russia vehicle to speak frankly.

“We want to engage with Russia, to state very clearly the areas where there are common interests and those areas of disagreement,” said the foreign secretary, David Miliband, whose speeches last year following the Georgia war were highly critical of Moscow.

“Russia is a global player. Not talking to them is not an option,” said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Nato secretary-general.

In the first big foreign policy speech from the Obama administration, in Munich last month, the vice-president, Joe Biden, said the White House wanted to “press the reset button” in relations with Moscow after years of dangerous drift.

Yesterday’s agreement represented a first step in the policy shift. The talks in Geneva will then prepare the ground for the first meeting between Obama and Medvedev in London at the beginning of next month.

The agreement today was held up for several hours by Lithuania, which strongly opposed the resumption of dialogue with the Kremlin.

France and Germany, keen to develop close links with Moscow, threatened in turn to cancel scheduled meetings last night between Nato and Ukraine and Georgia if “the opening with Russia” was not given a green light, diplomats said.

“We had a vigorous discussion on Russia,” said Clinton. “I thought it was absolutely invigorating.”

Clinton Assures Europe of Ties Before Mending inks With Russia

Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, left center, shares a word with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, second right, during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Thursday March 5, 2009. Relations with Russia and Afghanistan will be the key items on the agenda. (AP Photo/Francois Lenoir, Pool) (Francois Lenoir - AP)

Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, left center, shares a word with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, second right, during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Thursday March 5, 2009. Relations with Russia and Afghanistan will be the key items on the agenda. (AP Photo/Francois Lenoir, Pool) (Francois Lenoir - AP)

March 6 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to reassure Europeans that U.S. overtures to Russia won’t weaken trans-Atlantic links, as she spoke in Brussels before heading to a meeting with her Russian counterpart.

“Our engagement with Russia in no way undermines our support for countries like Georgia or the Baltics or the Balkans or anywhere else in Europe,” Clinton told aspiring leaders in a town hall-style forum at the European Parliament today that was also Web cast to 31 countries. Those nations have a right “to be independent, free, make their own decisions and chart their own course without undue interference from Russia.”

The exchange was part of Clinton’s drive to connect U.S. diplomacy with the next generation and improve America’s image abroad during her first round of foreign visits. She’ll meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later today in Geneva, where she plans to pursue the Obama administration’s determination to solidify partnerships on key issues, even with occasional adversaries.

On this week’s swing through the Middle East and Europe, Clinton, 61, has met with young people or women’s groups at almost every stop.

Clinton to attend key Nato talks

In foreign policy, Middle East, Moscow, NATO, news, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on March 5, 2009 at 3:50 am

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is participating in her first meeting with her Nato counterparts since the Obama administration took office.

This is an opportunity for Mrs Clinton to introduce herself as the alliance prepares for a crucial summit in France and Germany at the start of next month.

This is an opportunity for Mrs Clinton to introduce herself as the alliance prepares for a crucial summit in France and Germany at the start of next month.

Relations with Russia and Afghanistan will be the key items on the agenda for the gathering in Brussels.

This is an opportunity for Mrs Clinton to introduce herself as the alliance prepares for a crucial summit in France and Germany at the start of next month.

Nato remains the central pillar of the trans-Atlantic relationship.

But as its 60th birthday summit approaches, it is facing a critical military and political challenge in Afghanistan, where failure could call into question Nato’s whole credibility.

As the new Obama administration conducts its own Afghan policy review, the secretary of state will be eager to hear the opinions of her Nato counterparts.

But US foreign policy is now very much a team game and US Vice-President Joe Biden will be in Brussels next Tuesday for a more detailed exchange of views on Afghanistan.

Crucial role

It is Russia, though. that will dominate much of Thursday’s discussions.

Nato foreign ministers are expected to give a green light to the resumption of high-level ties with Moscow, curtailed after the Russian invasion of Georgia.

Nato will, nonetheless, be trying to show that more normal business with Russia does not mean that the alliance is abandoning countries like Georgia and Ukraine. Their foreign ministers will be here too.

But Moscow can no longer be ignored. Russia can play a crucial role in opening up new supply routes into Afghanistan. And these may prove invaluable as the US puts in more troops and the security of existing supply lines through Pakistan becomes more uncertain.