NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR
MODERATOR: Welcome to the Foreign Press Center. I’m Alyson Grunder, the Director of the New York Foreign Press Center. We are very pleased to have Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Mike Hammer with us this afternoon, and I am going to turn the mike over right away to him because I know this is a very, very busy week for everyone. So thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Thank you very much, Alyson. Happy Friday. It doesn’t seem like you’re all that excited, but I am. It’s been a long week. I’m certainly delighted to be back in New York and here at our Foreign Press Center during the opening days of this 67th UN General Assembly. I’ve had the good fortune of coming up now four years in a row, and it’s really a fairly remarkable week, as you know, that happens. It’s very intense for diplomats, for journalists, for New York’s taxi drivers – (laughter) – for New Yorkers who have been really very gracious and offer us tremendous hospitality, with so many of us coming up from Washington, and of course, leaders from all around the world.
And we know that you have been very busy this week following and covering your leaders and your delegations, so we particularly appreciate that you took the time to come to our briefing today, and also to participate in the many briefings that the Foreign Press Center had for you and hosted this week.
I just wanted to just give a very brief recap. And I’m not going to go through everything because obviously there’s been a lot of activity, but just to give you some highlights, the Secretary, since arriving last Sunday and starting her meetings then, held 25 bilateral and trilateral meetings, and that is in addition to events that covered every region of the world. For example, you saw the UN Secretary General’s meeting on the Sahel. We had a Transatlantic Dinner with EU and NATO Foreign Ministers. We had a Central American Ministerial. We had an ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.
And even today, you still are seeing quite a bit of activity with the Ad Hoc Ministerial on Syria, in which the Secretary announced an additional $15 million in assistance to the opposition, bringing the total of our assistance to the opposition to $45 million. And she also announced an additional $30 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing the total of humanitarian assistance that we’ve provided to date to $130 million.
She also participated in key events on Feed the Future, gender equality, and UNAIDS. I hope you followed President Obama’s powerful speech on Tuesday highlighting the fundamental freedoms and universal rights we believe everyone should enjoy, including freedom of expression and religion.
Now, through the good work of the Foreign Press Center, we did manage to bring all our regional assistant secretaries here to brief you. I know the last briefing will be on Monday with Johnnie Carson, our Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. And we are particularly pleased that we also brought four language-capable spokespeople to be here and do interviews in Urdu, in Farsi, in Arabic, and Dari. So this was something that we wanted to make sure you would have access to.
I know that year round you work with our Foreign Press Center. You, I hope, are participating in many of the tours that we’re putting together on economic statecraft, which certainly take advantage of New York as a financial center. We also did a tour on LGBT issues, on refugee resettlement, as well as one related to the Administration’s travel and tourism initiative, where we’re working to increase the number of tourists who come to America, while ensuring, of course, America’s security. But this helps not only create jobs but promote a better understanding of what America is all about, our values, and our people.
I hope that you will continue to use the Foreign Press Center’s resources, our superhuman resources. You know Alyson has now been the Director for about a year. She hasn’t quit yet. She’s going strong. She leads a small and yet talented and energetic team. I hope they’re around somewhere, but I hope you’ll express our appreciation to them with Melissa Waheibi, Ariel Howard, who will have an addition, we hope, next year – (laughter) – Jonathan Wyett, and we also supplemented our staff here at the Foreign Press Center with a little help from some of our colleagues from Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C., Doris Robinson and Stephanie Kuck. And we had Holly Jensen from our International Media Engagement Office come up and also help facilitate a number of interviews.
So with that, I know you’re anxious to get this done and done quickly. The sooner we’re done, the quicker we move on to the fall reception, which maybe is why you are all here. (Laughter.) So let me just turn it over to you and entertain your questions. Go ahead.
MODERATOR: Wait, can you speak into the mike?
QUESTION: Good afternoon. Regarding the Venezuelan upcoming elections, there are several rumors that it will be a very close tie, very close results, and there are also rumors regarding riots. The U.S. Government has any particular plan to prevent human rights violations down there?
And also, you guys still don’t have an ambassador there. And do you have a plan, or the appointment of a new ambassador is just waiting for a new government or for a new chapter in – even if the current president stays in power?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Okay. Thanks for your question. I know Roberta Jacobson, our Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, was here earlier. I hope I will repeat what I think she told you. But you know that our perspective is that the Venezuelan people have a right to select their leadership through elections characterized by transparency and fairness. Ensuring that the agreed rules regarding media coverage are respected will be important. And the hemisphere has determined that a free press is a central component of democracy.
So we are looking forward to hopefully seeing free and fair elections. It’s a fundamental principle of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. We want to ensure, again, the Venezuelan people have a right to express themselves. It’s important to have independent, credible electoral observer missions to witness impartiality and assess the electoral contest that will take place on October 7th.
I think on contingency plans, we got that question earlier. No, we’re not looking at that. This is an internal Venezuelan matter. We certainly hope that the elections will go forward peacefully and that people will be able, again, to express their views on who they would like to be the next president of Venezuela.
You’re right; we don’t currently have an ambassador in Venezuela. We have been hoping to get into a situation where we could exchange ambassadors, but I have no news for you on that today.
QUESTION: My question –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: I think they want to make sure you have a mike.
QUESTION: Have you discussed the issue with the American State Organization, as a member of the American State Organization?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: OAS, you mean?
QUESTION: Yes, I mean the observers and the – I mean, the general theme about the elections.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, I mean, I think there’s hemispheric urging under the OAS Democratic Charter that free and fair elections take place in any country in the hemisphere. And so there will be a lot of focus, a lot of attention, on the run-up to October 7th, on the actual day. And again, we are going to be certainly looking at how it’s conducted, but not only in the United States but the rest of Latin America, and frankly, the world.
All right, let me just --
MODERATOR: If I may remind people to introduce your name and your media organization before you ask a question.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Okay, yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Ana Baron from Clarin, Argentina. My question is about the meeting that Argentina had with Iran yesterday and the impact that it will have on U.S.-Argentinean relationship, mainly if these meetings will mean that Argentina – or if there is any concern in the United States that these meetings will lead Argentina into a less effort to stop nuclear programs in Iran. You know?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Sure. Well, we are always following very closely Iran’s efforts to try and gain friends around the world. As you know, Iran is quite isolated because of international concerns over its nuclear program. It has failed to meet its international obligations. It has failed to demonstrate that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
With regards to this particular meeting between Argentina and the Iranians, our position is clear in terms of the view on the AMIA bombing, and that remains unchanged. For the last 18 years, the international community has joined the Argentine Government and the victims of this horrific attack in seeking justice. We would certainly expect that Argentina would continue to abide, like any other country, by its international obligations and responsibilities, including the obligation to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions on Iran. And so we would expect Argentina to comply with UN Security Council resolution obligations.
So beyond that, really what we are focused on, and I think what you’ve seen this week, where there was a P-5+1 ministerial meeting on Iran that followed a political directors meeting, and we are interested, very clearly, in trying to find a diplomatic solution. We believe there is time, but time is not limitless. Our focus is in applying pressure on Iran to ensure that it makes the choice of finally abiding by its international obligations, and for that we clearly need the cooperation and effort of countries around the world.
Thank you. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Shameer Rasooldeen from Newsfirst, Sri Lanka. Mr. Hammer, the United States Government has been very keenly interested on the human rights record in many subcontinent nations like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and so on and so forth. My question to you is, Mr. Hammer: Has the United States Government been able to review its own human rights record in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Libya, for that matter, over the last few years or so?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: It’s a fair question. We certainly have a friendly and long relationship with Sri Lanka, and are working with the Sri Lankan Government in terms of urging them on the establishment of the Lessons Learned and the Reconciliation Commission and the plan of action and the need for an accelerated implementation of that process. But we do always look at ourselves in terms of human rights. And we do want to and intend to apply the highest standards and live by them.
So if there’s ever any question or issue that comes up, we investigate it, we follow up, and we are true to our word in terms of our efforts to ensure that we are also abiding by human rights standards and advancing them around the world.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow-up.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up question on that. In March, this – on the 11th of March 2012 in Afghanistan, nearly 16 civilians, Afghan civilians, were killed by American soldier. But has there been an instance in which the American Government has been able to prosecute those who have been involved in the human rights abuses in countries like Afghanistan for that matter?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, you probably know that in a number of incidents, when they occur, we have our ISAF forces come out and make the appropriate statements and follow up with investigations on the specifics. On that particular case, I’d refer you to the Pentagon. But each and every case that we become aware of is followed up with every mind to make sure that justice is done.
MODERATOR: Mike, I think we’ll go to Washington.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Oh, okay. All right. I think all these people are here, though. Okay. (Laughter.) Okay, we’ll go to Washington.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Mike, for doing this. I am Betty Lin of the World Journal. I’d like you to comment now on the biggest news in China today, that the former rising star of Chinese politics, Mr. Bo Xilai, has been expelled from the party and removed from the public office. I’d like to have you comment on that. Thanks.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, I appreciate the question, and you won’t be surprised that I’m not going to comment on it. It is, frankly, an internal matter for the Chinese Government, and so I won’t be addressing that. But thanks anyway, and have a good weekend, Betty.
MODERATOR: Back to New York, please.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Allright. Yeah. Sure. Jose?
QUESTION: Thank you, Mike. This is Jose Abad of Antena 3 television of Spain. Turkey, New Zealand, and Spain have expressed their interest in applying for a seat as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for 2015 and ’16. So I’d like to ask you how you see the chances of each country in getting one of those seats, and in which other maybe have the United States would have interest in seeing any of those countries with one of those two seats available. Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: All right. Well, being in New York, of course, you follow the UN very closely and know that the United States does not express its positions publicly with regards to these seats. Clearly, it’s important, and we understand that countries want to serve. And we look forward to working with those that are elected. We all want to uphold the finest traditions of the UN. But I really can’t get into any U.S. positions on who should be awarded and win these seats. Thank you.
QUESTION: Claus Mueller, M21 Editions, France. You emphasized earlier additional funding for Syria by the United States. Does this reflect increased involvement by the U.S. in the mess over there?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, I think what you have seen throughout is the United States has been quite engaged in trying to find a resolution to this crisis and to try to bring an end to the violence and to see the removal of President Assad so we could begin a political transition. And our focus has been on trying to find a diplomatic solution, and that involves supporting now the efforts of UN Special Envoy Brahimi.
But also it means that we are trying to work to support the opposition. And the announcement that you heard today is a key component of that effort. We are going to, obviously, be very mindful of the needs of the Syrian people as they escape the terror of the Syrian regime. So we want to be providing humanitarian assistance to neighboring countries. As I said, we’ve already provided 100 million; we’re going to provide 30 million additional in funding to the great work that is being done by Turkey and Jordan in responding to this humanitarian crisis.
But we’re also going to try to continue to apply pressure, working with our European partners, working with the Arab League, making sure that the Assad regime understands that it must go, that those around Assad realize that there is no future for them if they stay with Assad. And we have seen some cracks and we’ve seen him losing support.
So this is the focus of our effort. We – as you saw, the Secretary hosting this and working on this meeting with a number of countries. We will continue on this. But again, it’s very clear what needs to happen, and we are determined and convinced that his day will come.
Yes. Well, let’s go there and then all the way to the back.
QUESTION: Ezzat Ibrahim, Al Ahram newspaper. We know that we had a excellent briefing three days ago about Egypt. The meeting between President Morsi and Secretary Clinton met – tackled many issues in the mutual relationship, but I have a specific point (inaudible) and there is any plan for the visit of President Morsi to D.C. after elections?
And second, what the answers of Egyptians on the increasing cooperation between Israel and Egypt in the future? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Thank you very much. As you mentioned, the Secretary has met with President Morsi. We have a long-standing and close relationship between Egypt and the United States, and we’re building on that foundation by supporting Egypt’s transition to democracy and by working with its new government. We’re also working to meet the needs of the Egyptian people, particularly on the economic side, and we remain focused on working closely with President Morsi’s government to pursue these goals in the best possible way, and to set in on a set of principles that are important to us and important to Egypt.
We appreciate and see that President Morsi is committed to maintaining the peace treaty with Israel, and that’s very important for the region.
And I would say that on any potential sort of visits by President Morsi to Washington, again, I would have to defer at the moment. I don’t have any news for you on any particular plans for that. But we clearly want to have a very close and open channel of communication between our two governments, we want to support the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and we want to have a fruitful and constructive relationship with Egypt.
Thank you. Let’s go to the back, and then I’ll go to Sonia before – in Washington.
QUESTION: I work for the Slovenian press agency. I don’t know if you’re aware or not about the new initiative about the genocide prevention – focusing on prevention that was put out by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa. And if you are, what’s the U.S. view on that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, thank you very much for your question. We do, and are aware of the Prime Minister’s initiative. The Government of Slovenia has shared the details of the initiative on improving the UN genocide convention with us, the U.S. Government, and we are carefully studying the proposal.
The one thing I would note is President Obama and his Administration are very committed to deal with issues of genocide, and this past spring adopted a new comprehensive strategy with new tools to prevent and respond to atrocities. So we understand the real key and important nature of this work, and so we will give his proposal some thought and consideration and be back in touch with the Slovenes. Thank you very much.
Okay, Sonia, I said I’d come to you.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Mr. Hammer. How are you? Sonia Schott of Globovision. I know you already answered the question about Venezuela, so I am going to try to go the other way around. So I would like to know, from a U.S. perspective, what was – what can you comment about the meetings with the Colombian counterparts regarding the peace process in Colombia in which Venezuela is one of the mediators or facilitators?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Thank you, Sonia. And as we have said previously, we welcome and support the efforts by President Santos and the Colombian people to pursue a lasting peace and security that Colombia deserves. We certainly hope that the FARC will take this opportunity to end its decades of terrorism and narcotics trafficking. Yet, however, the United States is not a party to these negotiations, so we would just refer you to them for further information on how they’re going to pursue this. But clearly we support this process and hope that it produces the desired results, which is what Colombians have wanted for decades now, and that’s to live in peace and security and not fear the FARC.
Thank you very much, Sonia, and have a good weekend.
Yes, we’ll come here. Yes.
QUESTION: Hi. Paolo Mastrolilli of the Italian newspaper La Stampa. Thank you for doing this. The Italian Prime Minister during the General Assembly said for the first time that he is willing to keep serving as a prime minister after the election that most likely (inaudible) next April. I would like to know how important is for the strategic interest of the United States that a country like Italy keep going on the path of fiscal responsibility and structural reform in order to avoid the worsening of the situation in the Eurozone.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Right. Well, it won’t surprise you that I won’t comment specifically on Prime Minister Monti’s own plans for the future in terms of what he hopes to do in his political career.
But we would comment on the Eurozone. We welcome the progress that is being made with grappling with these tremendous challenges. We understand these issues can’t be resolved over night. Details have to be worked out. But it is encouraging that governments are working to reduce the financial market stresses and undertake long-term reforms and promote growth.
As you well know, what happens in Europe’s economy is important to the United States. Europe is our largest trading partner, and we are closely linked in so many ways. And we have a profound interest in Europe’s stability and growth. So whether it’s the reform efforts we’ve seen in Greece and Spain and Italy, all send us a clear signal that Europe is serious about dealing with this problem, and we know it’s not easy. And certainly, we want to be supportive, but it’s not for us to be prescribing how Europe should move forward. But we want to work closely with our European partners and encourage them, and certainly the signs that we’re seeing are encouraging. So that’s where we’re at.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. Andy Bettag from Fuji TV. It’s Japanese television. A big issue in Japan right now is disputes about territorial islands between Japan and China.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: So I’ve heard. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It’s been reported. I wonder if you could comment, please, on the U.S. position.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, yeah. No, I think that we had Assistant Secretary Campbell brief earlier today. The Secretary today met in a trilateral meeting with her Japanese and Korean counterparts. The issue of territorial disputes is one that was touched on. We are of the mind that we don’t take positions on these. These issues need to be resolved between the parties peacefully. Again, cooler heads should prevail. We believe that it’s in the best interest of the region, again, to look for ways to resolve these in a manner through dialogue. And I really don’t have anything further to add on the specifics of these territorial disputes. As you know, there are quite a few of them.
QUESTION: Thank you. I.K. Cush. I’m with New African Magazine. I would like you to address two issues with regards to Syria. You said that the United States is committed to resolving this problem in Syria diplomatically, but at the same time you’re donating or – money to the Syrian opposition. Doesn’t that undermine whatever diplomatic approaches that you’re seeking there?
And in terms of supporting the opposition in Syria, which follows in the U.S.’s support of the opposition in Libya, is this a new approach that the United States Government is going to take with regards to internal conflicts and supporting opposition parties against governments that the U.S. deems to be authoritarian? That’s one. And the second --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: That seemed like two. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, no, no – it’s just one issue.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Oh, well yeah, it’s only one issue.
QUESTION: One issue, yeah.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Okay.
QUESTION: The second issue is Iran. The Non-Aligned Movement, a grouping of about 122 countries of – they’re supportive of Iran’s position in terms of its nuclear --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Are they really?
QUESTION: -- ambitions. And what I – well, the Iranian Foreign Minister read a statement in the United Nations General Assembly, I think it was today or yesterday, a statement from the Non-Aligned Movement which supported their position. But the question I’m asking is: Does the United States Government – does it take into consideration the views and perspectives of those 122 countries?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Thank you. In terms of our support – and frankly it’s not just the United States; it’s a number of countries who are trying to support the Syrian opposition – let’s take into account that Assad is systematically murdering his own people, that he’s carrying on just unbelievable, despicable offenses against them, and that what we’re trying to do is to stand by the Syrian people who want to live in peace, who want to have a say in their future, who want to have economic opportunity. And one of the ways in which we can assist is by working with those in Syria, those in the opposition who do have in mind a better future for the Syrian people. Assad has lost all legitimacy; it is quite clear that he must go. And so our efforts are very much focused, again, on trying to create the conditions that will allow, again, the Syrian people to have a say in their future and to live in peace.
With regards to Iran and the Non-Aligned Movement, what I would say is -- you seem to completely ignore that it is the international community, the P-5+1 and countless numbers of countries around the world, who have expressed extreme and deep concern about Iran’s nuclear program, specifically whether they pursuing nuclear weapons. It would not be hard for Iran to live up to its international obligations. After all, that is what is being called for by the United Nations in the resolutions that have been passed, and by many and many, many countries around the world. They could do so. Again, we accept that Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear energy. But it has failed to demonstrate that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, and that’s where the issue comes up.
So I think we need to be very clear that this is not a U.S.-Iran concern; this is actually an international concern. That’s why you’ve seen these crushing sanctions being implemented by countless countries on Iran to try to convince it to do what it should, which is live and abide by its international obligations.
All right. Yeah. Go along the back. Yeah.
QUESTION: My name is Mitra from Kayhan in London. The MEK – recently you’ve pardoned the MEK. Considering that they’ve killed Americans in the past and they’ve also killed Iranians, what were the reasons that you considered – you pardoned them?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Right. Well, I should be clear, we just issued a Media Note from Washington. I hope you’ll all be receiving copies. And there’s also a briefing – I believe that’s going on right now. But let me just clear and address your question.
With today’s actions, the State Department does not overlook or forget the MEK’s past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s in an attack on U.S. soil in 1992. The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regards to allegations of abuse committed against its own members. That said, the Secretary’s decision today took into account the MEK’s public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base. So that is the rationale for the delisting which occurred today.
MODERATOR: I think we have time for a couple more questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: All right. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is Shin Nakayama from Nikkei newspaper, a Japanese newspaper. I’d like to ask you the follow-up question on the territorial disputes.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Not surprised. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Prime Minister – Japanese Prime Minister Noda proposed in the General Assembly that more states should accept the compulsory jurisdiction of international court of law. I’d like to know what is the U.S. position on this idea of compulsory jurisdiction (inaudible) because U.S. hasn’t accepted the jurisdiction.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Right. I’m not going to address the specifics of that proposal, and you’ll, I’m sure, be disappointed if I just continue to repeat our standard position as we have been stressing for months now that peace and security in Northeast Asia and the waters of Asia are best managed by dialogue among the parties. That’s certainly our position. We have no intention of being involved in mediating these disputes, and really we leave it to the parties in accordance with international law to resolve these territorial disputes. Thank you.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Marta Torres from La Razon newspaper.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Buenas tardes.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Que tal?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Bien.
QUESTION: Asi. I would like to follow up on the question about Syria and the standards of the United States. I would like to know if there is something the Syrian rebels can do for United States to change its position.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: It’s position with regards to –
QUESTION: To them and the assisting them on the ground, if there is something they can do.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, certainly as the United States, we don’t believe that introducing more arms into this conflict is necessarily the way to move forward. What we are trying to work with the Syrian opposition is for them to become unified, to be coherent in their approach, to develop a very clear plan forward for a political transition so that they can better serve the Syrian people.
So we are really working with them, and today we had, I believe it was nine groups represented, different Syrian opposition groupings. And so we are in constant contact with them, trying to encourage them and to support them, again, with nonlethal means so that they’re able to communicate amongst each other, so that they’re able to coordinate, to develop the policies that are tolerant of all ethnic and religious groups, because again, the key here is the day after Assad falls, and we want to make sure that this – these groupings in the opposition are in a position to move Syria forward in the way that the Syrian people deserve. So really that is the focus of our efforts.
I think we probably have time for one more question. I’m seeing some repeats, but I don’t want to disadvantage – you, and then over here.
Jose, lo siento, no? Okay. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mike.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Hi.
QUESTION: I’m sorry for the late entry, though.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: No, that’s quite all right. I hope we didn’t answer your question already. But now I can say I did and then –
QUESTION: Anjali Sharma. I represent Statesman and Indian Express in India. India, U.S., and Afghanistan had a trilateral meeting earlier this week, and I’m wondering: Does the gas pipeline issue come – came up during the meeting?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah. I must say, again –
QUESTION: I’m sorry if it’s (inaudible).
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: No. It didn’t – I don’t know if it came up when Bob Blake briefed here in one of the other briefings. I don’t know the particulars on that.
QUESTION: I actually missed that, because Foreign Secretary was briefing at the same time.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Right. And I did note that at the very beginning of our briefing. We know that so many of you have been out covering your respective leaders and foreign ministers, but maybe we can endeavor to try to get you an answer after the briefing to see if that issue came up. I don’t want to leave you hanging, so to speak.
Okay, sir. Yes.
QUESTION: Thomas Gorguissian of Al Tahrir, Egypt. Regarding the emerging democracies, as we can – if we can call them as you used to call them, Arab Spring countries, whether it’s Libya or Egypt or Tunis, definitely in the last few months we can see that the freedoms of women and minorities and in the same time creative people in civil societies are in danger. And I know it’s a concern now with the security issue. How you are going to handle this issue of – this human rights issues of freedoms in these new realities?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah. No, it’s a fair question. I think what you’ve seen, though, during Secretary Clinton’s tenure is a great focus on promoting women’s rights, human rights, and working on these issues that you point out are of great concern to the people not only in the Middle East, but around the world. And we see that the aspirations of the people throughout the Middle East is that they want to have a say in their future. So they want to have democratic opportunity, they want to have human rights and their dignity respected in terms of press freedoms and freedom of expression.
And this is something that we are working on every day. We don’t just look at concerns relating to security. We work on security issues. We work on human rights issues. We work on how we can advance democratic principles, values, and ideas. We look on the economic piece in the case of Egypt, which I mentioned before. It’s important and critical to the wellbeing of the people of Egypt that they have economic opportunity.
And so our policy is comprehensive. We work on all these issues every day, understanding that the only way that one can hope to assist the Egyptian people and others in the region to realize the kind of future that they would like to have is by working on all these issues and by working with those governments to hold them to account, to encourage them to take the necessary steps, because ultimately it is the people who are yearning for this, and they must be mindful and respectful of that, or else they will face similar circumstances as their predecessors who ruled the countries in authoritarian ways that led to their downfall.
In any case, I think we’ve got something a lot more exciting than this briefing coming up. I do very much appreciate you taking the opportunity to join us this Friday afternoon, and I hope if I’m invited back and if I’m around to come back next year. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Assistant Secretary Hammer. And please join us on the second floor for our FPC Fall Reception.