3:00 P.M. EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Okay, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for your patience. It’s my distinct pleasure to introduce our Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Mike Hammer, for our fall briefing.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Thank you very much, Susan. It’s great to be back at the Foreign Press Center. We’re trying to make this as regular an occurrence as we can and as we should, as we want to be able to serve you well and inform you on America’s foreign policy. And welcome, also, to those that might be at the New York Foreign Press Center where I briefed only a couple of weeks ago. And I will focus, obviously, the questions here. I may take one from New York.
But let me just begin by making a few remarks. As we get started, I wanted to mention that today is the International Day of the Girl, as recognized by the United Nations the first time. And you probably saw Secretary Clinton hosted an event yesterday with Archbishop Tutu to highlight the international efforts to raise the status of girls globally. The Secretary focused on two critical issues: preventing child marriage and investing in girls’ secondary education. But in light of the tragic and brutal attack that occurred in Pakistan, the Secretary joined Pakistan and other leaders in condemning the barbaric and cowardly attack on Malala, a fourteen-year-old girl who simply, like every other girl around the world, wants an education.
As the Secretary said yesterday in her remarks, we have seen that evidence shows that – and common sense would tell us that education can delay and even prevent child marriage. It can raise incomes and it certainly can improve health. We’ve seen studies that demonstrate that when women participate in economic and – the political and economic life of a country, that it promotes greater stability. I saw a short while ago the White House just released a statement as well on the International Day of the Girl making these very same points, as the Administration is committed to advancing the rights of women and girls, and it is a key core component of our focus of our diplomatic efforts and developments.
For those of you who may have caught our earlier briefing at the Department of State, I wanted to make sure you’re aware of two trip announcements that we made today, and I’m sure there’ll be some follow-up here as well. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will be traveling to Japan, Korea, China, Burma, and India. He leaves on this trip on October 13th. He will be in Tokyo on the 14th and 15th where he will meet with Foreign Minister Gemba, Defense Minister Morimoto, and other senior officials to discuss U.S.-Japan coordination on regional issues in East Asia, as well as global issues.
The Deputy Secretary will then continue on in his travel to Seoul to meet with senior South Korean officials and to participate in the U.S. Republic of Korea Strategic Dialogue. He will continue on to Beijing for meetings with senior government officials there to discuss a whole range of global, regional, and bilateral issues. From there he’ll proceed to Burma, where he’ll be there on October 17th and meet with President Thein Sein, as well as members of his government, and Aung San Suu Kyi. And then from there, he will proceed on to New Delhi, where he’ll be there October 18th to meet with senior Indian officials to discuss regional priorities and review the progress made and across the breadth of our strategic partnership, including measures to strengthen our bilateral economic engagement and deepen our security and defense cooperation.
In coordination with this trip, separate, we announced that our North Korea Policy Special Representative Glyn Davies will be traveling to Tokyo and Seoul and have a U.S.-Japan-Korea trilateral in Tokyo. And the dates for that are the 16th through the 20th. So a fair amount of activity as it relates to our engagement with Asia.
Let me just make a final point. Here you have our Foreign Press Center staff, working hard every day to give you access to the issues and newsmakers. I know a number of you have been joining our domestic tours, ranging on a wide range of issues including issues relating to the economy that is part of our economic statecraft, and we certainly welcome the opportunity for you to continue to participate and express your interest on some of the issues that we’re trying to promote.
I’d also like to recognize a few of our staff: Belinda Jackson-Farrier, who’s returned from maternity leave. I saw her earlier, there she is, so it’s good to have you back, and I trust the baby’s doing well. Stephanie Kuck, who’s joined the staff, she was in New York right off the get-go, helping us there, and is here now doing the East Asia and Pacific portfolio. And Devika Agarwal, who is our fall intern, and we always want to recognize our interns because it’s about the only benefit that they get, just getting a little publicity. And she’s an undergraduate majoring in political science at George Washington University.
And I also want to congratulate Susan Stevenson because she will be moving on, actually. We’re sad to see her go from the Foreign Press Center, but she’s moving to an exciting position as our new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs in the Bureau of East Asia and the Pacific. And while you’ll certainly miss her here, now you have a friendly voice at the other end of the phone to address all those issues relating to the territorial disputes – (laughter) – so now you have a place to go.
So again, we’re very delighted to be able to entertain your questions, and I understand we’ll have our fall reception after this. So the longer this goes, the longer you’ll have to wait for the festivities. But of course, I’m very ready to, again, address any questions you might have.
MODERATOR: Just a reminder, before asking your question, please state your name and your media organization. Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yes, go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: John Zang with CTI TV of Taiwan. Mr. Secretary, talking about territorial disputes, the tension in the East China Sea is still running very high and remains dangerous. We know the United States is not going to be a mediator between Japan and China, but is there anything that the United States can actually do to calm down the situation, to find a way out of this current crisis? Because looking at both Japan and China, and Taiwan on a lesser extent, there is no – we don’t’ see any way out. So can you see better than we do? Thank you very much.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, I appreciate the question. As you know, this is an issue that we have repeatedly addressed from our podium and that has been discussed. Secretary Clinton, as you know, had meetings in the margins of UNGA with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang and then separately met in a trilateral basis with the Japanese and Korean foreign ministers. And it’s something that we have urged the parties to engage on, to resolve peacefully through dialogue. As you know, our positions are pretty clear, that we’ve urged for calmer emotions to prevail and to, again, try to work these disputes appropriately, in a peaceful way. And so there’s no change in our policies. It’s an issue that we’ve expressed our views very clearly to the governments involved. The United States is a Pacific nation so we have, certainly, national interests in maintaining peace and stability, respect for international law, freedom of navigation, and unimpeded lawful commerce throughout. So we will continue to express our views, but as you pointed out, we’re not looking for a mediation role.
Yes. Go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Uros Piper. I am correspondent of Serbian Tanjug News Agency. And my question is on Serbia and Kosovo. European Union is now calling for the respect of Kosovo’s territorial integrity. And Serbian Prime Minister Dacic was very negative on that. My question is: What is U.S. position of Serbia’s EU integration? Actually, do you think that Belgrade now or later, but before joining EU, has to accept and formally recognize Kosovo independence or not?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah. Well, thank you for your question. As you probably well know, the United States strongly supports a continuation of dialogue towards normalization of relations and the resolution of differences that allows both the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia to move forward on their respective European paths.
We – one second – the issue on – I have some notes here – that is prevalent is that neither we nor the EU expect Serbia to formally recognize Kosovo at this time. The United States strongly supports a continuation of this dialogue and a normalization of relations, as I said, and a resolution of differences that allows both Kosovo and Serbia to move forward on their respective European paths.
We encourage all countries in the region to take these progress reports seriously and to examine closely the recommended tasks in order to improve their candidacy – candidature for EU membership. The United States is committed to building a stable and prosperous Balkan region and to working closely with our European Union friends to help all countries in the region to achieve their European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
As far as any specifics on obviously European Union positions, we would refer you to them. So thank you.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Huma Imtiaz, Express News Pakistan. Just a quick question. We saw the Interior Minister of Pakistan coming last week to D.C., and before that the Foreign Minister was here. When the Interior Minister was here, there was a working group on counterterrorism and law enforcement. After the thaw in relations between both countries, can we expect more working groups to take place between both countries, and if you could tell us more about them – specifically, what groups would be meeting in the future?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Right. Well, as you know, we have a keen interest in working with Pakistan to address the many common challenges that we face. We feel that working together, we can address concerning issues of extremism and combating terrorism. And we’re always looking for a path forward where our interests meet to see how we can most effectively advance these common interests.
So if it’s by way of working groups or by discussions at various levels, as you know, the Secretary is very personally involved in working with our Pakistani counterparts to advance, again, interests that we feel are important for both countries. So we will be looking again for mechanisms. But the general principle is that I think there’s recognition on the part of both governments that these are problems that are best faced when we work together in a cooperative fashion and that it serves both country’s interest as the threat of terrorism, threat of extremism, leads to horrific casualties – not only for Pakistan, but obviously concerns for the United States, our partners and allies. And the only way to overcome these is by increasing our cooperation and making sure that we are in sync in these efforts. Thanks.
Yeah. Right here in – yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary. My name is Chi-Dong Lee. I am a Washington correspondent for South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. As the first term of the Obama Administration is drawing to a close, how do you assess the U.S. diplomacy on North Korea for the past four years? Do you – I’m wondering if you’d call it successful, and also if President Obama is reelected, do you think there could be some changes in approach toward Pyongyang? Thanks.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah. Well, I won’t get into any politics in terms of our election. We’ll wait to see the results of that on November 6th. But I would just say that certainly the Administration, both President Obama and Secretary Clinton – any members, have been deeply engaged in our refocusing on Asia, and in particular, addressing the core issues that are of concern to the U.S.-Korean alliance in dealing with North Korea and trying to achieve the denuclearization of the peninsula.
I think we have successfully worked with our partners, both bilaterally with the Government of Korea, but also multilaterally in terms of the Six-Party Talks, and also at the UN in advancing sanctions that put pressure on North Korea to try to move in the right path. Clearly, North Korea remains defiant. We want to ensure that it ceases its provocative acts, and we’re still looking for it to undertake its commitments and to move in the direction that I think we would all like to see in terms of its commitments under the framework agreement.
And so this is something that I think whichever Administration we see coming next will be very focused on the issues that relate to the U.S.-Korean alliance, which is one of our core alliances and one that we all recognize is critically important, again, to ensure peace and stability in Southeast Asia. So we’ll be working, again, very closely with our Korean partners. We’ve made significant achievements.
As you know, the Korean Free Trade Agreement was something that President Obama wanted to get done and was able to. I think that’s important for the economic interests of both countries. And there are a full range of issues where I think we work extremely well not only with our Korean partners, but other partners in Asia. And you have seen a real diplomatic, extensive effort and also reflected by the trips that you’re seeing next week to continue to work on these issues every day. Thank you.
Yes. Go ahead. You have an advantage if you sit close to the front, but I will – oh, I see some friends so we’ll go a little further back.
QUESTION: Okay. Irina Gelevska of Macedonian Television. Mr. Hammer, yesterday, European Commission have handed the fourth recommendation from Macedonia to open negotiations with European Union because – its dispute with Greece – this was made after the most positive progress report of the reforms there. Do you support such opening negotiations with European Union, a parallel with the talks with Greece? And can that apply to NATO, meaning Macedonia to get invitation for NATO and then settle the dispute with Greece during the ratification process?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah. There’s – certainly, we support the ongoing efforts of the UN and comments he’s made in terms of trying to promote a resolution between Macedonia and Greece on the ongoing name dispute. And we have an effort ongoing by Matthew Nimetz to settle this name issue, hopefully in the near term, and encourage any active engagement between Athens and Skopje.
As you know, Secretary Clinton spoke to this issue in Chicago at the NATO Atlantic – North Atlantic Council meeting. And we, the United States, would very much like this issue to be resolved and for Macedonia then to have the opportunity to join NATO at the earliest opportunity. So again, we continue to encourage the parties to resolve this and remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached.
Yeah, let me go to Lalit.
QUESTION: Thank you, and welcome to the Foreign Press Center.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Thanks. It’s good to be here.
QUESTION: Following up with your opening remarks, Under Secretary Burns’s visit to India, earlier this campaign season, one of the Romney campaign advisor told us that under this current Administration, there has been little bit of retreat in India-U.S. relationship. Is that your impression, as you have been involved with the relationship between the two countries, and if not, why not?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, again, I’m not going to get into politics or questions of that nature, but let me just comment more broadly that in my experience, you’ve seen a real bipartisan approach to our efforts to improve and strengthen our relationship with India. I saw that when I first worked in the White House in the Clinton Administration, had the very good fortune of traveling with President Clinton to India for a real incredible trip where we spent several days. And to start deepening that partnership, you saw the continuation of that effort through the Bush Administration and now into the Obama Administration. I had, then, also the good fortune of traveling with the President and First Lady Michelle Obama to India, and who will ever forget the wonderful scenes from the Diwali Festival and them dancing?
But to the broader point, the President, President Obama, has developed a terrific relationship with Prime Minister Singh. I think that’s reflected in the work that we do every day to strengthen that strategic partnership. Secretary Clinton just recently met with the Foreign Minister, as you know, up in New York. And our sense is that we continue to improve and strengthen that relationship. It serves both our interests together. We can tackle the many challenges that we face. It’s good for our people. We share common values in terms of democratic values. We want to see economic prosperity reach very important commercial deals that benefit both countries.
And so I would simply say that I think the trajectory has been an incredibly positive one over the last, certainly, 12 years, and I think it is likely to continue, again, because the United States recognizes the important role that India plays on the world stage, how significant and influential India can be in advancing, again, the issues of common concern. So that’s something that this Administration has certainly built on, strengthened, and one would look to want to continue. So thank you very much, Lalit.
Let me just go somewhere – all the way to the back, give the – somebody in the way back.
QUESTION: In the back. Okay. (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Oh, okay, even further back. I didn’t even see you. (Laughter.) That’s great.
QUESTION: Thank you. Sorry. Nur Ozkan Erbay, Turkish Sabah Daily. What is the current position of U.S. Administration on Syria? Are there any policy changes since the escalation rises, especially between two U.S. ally, Jordan and Turkey, in Syria --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- two U.S. allies in Syria? And second one: How do you assess the Russian position regarding this conflict? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah, no – thank you very much for your question. Clearly, we are in constant contact with Turkey on these issues. Let me just outline, I think, what you know is our policy. The President has been clear and we’ve been clear that Assad must go. We have a core policy of support for the opposition in trying to achieve a political transition that will allow the Syrian people to be able to live in peace and security. Clearly, we’re trying to bring an end to the violence.
Another core component, and as part of that support for the opposition, you heard Secretary Clinton announce an extra – an additional $15 million in support for the opposition while were at the ad hoc ministerial meeting and Friends of Syria up at the UN. And that brings our total to $45 million in assistance to the opposition, nonlethal aid.
Additionally, on the humanitarian front, she also made an announcement of an additional $30 million, bringing our total to 130 million of humanitarian assistance to address the plight of Syrian refugees, very much focused on helping the neighboring countries – in particular Turkey and Jordan – who have done an extraordinary job of receiving these Syrians who are fleeing the terror of the Assad regime and to provide them with much needed food and sustenance. And it’s something that, again, we’re in very close consultation with both Turkey, Jordan. And in fact, in her meeting with the Iraqi Vice President when we were in – at the UN, we also discussed the importance of maintaining open borders with Iraq and providing assistance to refugees.
So we’re calling on all the neighbors to continue to keep their borders open, to continue to provide the necessary support, working with UN agencies, working with those that can help care for these individuals, and again, to try to work towards what is our fourth sort of core objective here – is to be planning for the day after Assad goes. And that day will come, and that – and we’re working with countries in the region, our Arab partners, European countries, and countries all around the world that have a very keen interest and recognition that Assad has lost his legitimacy, that there is no future for him in Syria, and that what we need to do is work towards realizing the aspirations of the Syrian people.
With regards to your specific question on Russia, I think it’s pretty well known that we have been frustrated by its blocking and vetoing of UN resolutions that we think would help put more pressure on Assad. We will continue to work with likeminded countries in terms of advancing our core objectives. We continue to put considerable economic pressure on Syria. We work with partners in the region to try to prevent countries like Iran from arming the Syrian regime.
And so again, this is a concerted international effort that we work on every day to try to, again, bring about the result that we all hope to see, which is a Syria without Assad and a Syria that has an opportunity to thrive democratically, economically, and that respects all ethnic groups and religious minorities. So we’ll be working on that, I’m sure, every day.
Yeah, I see Richard, a friendly face from the past.
QUESTION: Nice to see you, Mike. I’d like to talk about Keystone. Richard Latendresse, TVA, Canadian TV. The TransCanada pipeline has submitted its final route, or its changed route, five weeks ago. How close are we to a final approval to the XL Keystone pipeline?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Right. I think – I don’t have any sort of update on a projected timeline for a decision. I think that we’ve said that in terms of what needs to take place with the new proposed routing and an environmental impact study, that it would put us into sometime into the first quarter of 2013. Again, we’re going to go through a rigorous, transparent evaluation process before we make a decision, but I don’t have any new information to pass along regarding any changes in that timeline. So we’re still very much in that timeframe, so thank you.
Yes, we’ll come over here.
QUESTION: Fouad Arif, Washington bureau chief of the Moroccan News Agency. First of all, thank you for doing this. Today – earlier today, people demonstrated in Bamako, the capital of Mali, calling for the army to push north and have a more dynamic approach in order to liberate the northern part of the country. What message do you have to these people in Mali who are growing impatient by the day about the situation? And what can you tell us about U.S. efforts to help the ECOWAS intervention materialize on the ground? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: No, thank you for your question. We feel that we must maintain a comprehensive approach to the overlapping security, humanitarian, and governing – governance crisis across the Sahel region. In Mali, we must simultaneously support efforts to prepare for a well-planned, managed, resourced, and coordinated military response to dislodge extremists, to push for a political process to begin with non-extremist groups in the north, to maintain momentum for credible elections in Bamako by next April, and to ramp up a response to the humanitarian crisis.
I think, as you’ve heard us say, we support the appointment of a senior UN envoy empowered to lead a comprehensive African-led international effort on the Sahel, including efforts to deal with the crisis in Mali. We have also looked and worked with ECOWAS, and as you probably know, there are some discussions at the United Nations in terms of how we might be able to move forward in terms of preparing what might be an appropriate military response in accordance with international law.
So we’re very focused on this. We are concerned about extremist groups that operate in northern Mali. We recognize that this is an urgent issue, and working with the French, who have been very outspoken, and others in the region, and the African Union as well, who want to see this problem addressed. It’s something that we are certainly seized with. And as you may probably know, we have also, in terms of the humanitarian piece of it, provided more than $378 million in support to address the humanitarian needs.
So there’s a lot of work to be done. We need to – as the Secretary said – need to train security forces in Mali, again, help them dislodge the extremists, to protect human rights and defend the borders. So it is one of the issues that also was addressed during the UN General Assembly meetings. As you know, there was a robust diplomatic effort on many fronts, and this was one of the issues that was discussed with the Secretary General and others.
Yeah, let’s go, I guess – Tejinder. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Okay, next, we’ll go to New York, as I see they’re patiently waiting. At least there’s somebody up there. (Laughter.) Yeah, gotcha.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mike, for doing this. I have just two quick questions. One is about this visa fee hike that took place. And during my recent trip to the Silicon Valley, everybody’s talking about when is it going to be addressed. There is always a talk, so should we say that this is a closed chapter, or is there hope that this will be revisited?
And the second one is: London has asked British and – to – India to meet Narendra Modi, who’s the current Chief Minister of Gujarat and a strong contender for the prime ministership in – after the coming elections. Is there a shift in the U.S. policy towards Modi, or not yet? Thanks.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah. Well, with regards to your first question on visa fees, we know this is an urgent, important issue for the Indian side. In fact, it was one of the issues that Secretary Clinton discussed with Foreign Minister Krishna when we met with him a week ago Monday in New York. And so it’s an issue that we continue to work on. We know it’s one of the concern and something that needs to be worked out internally in our – in the U.S. Government, and again, we will continue to try to see if there’s a way to address it.
On the second point, as you probably know, we don’t get into questions of visa matters on any particular individual. That said, we of course will evaluate any visa application based on its merits and in accordance with U.S. law, so I don’t have anything further on that specifically.
Yes, sir, with the glasses, I guess. Well, there are two with glasses, so – oh, I said I’d go to New York. I’m sorry. That’s right. Yes, yes, I saw you on the screen waving, jumping up and down. So go ahead. I’m sorry about that.
QUESTION: It’s okay. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Today – yes, today, not yesterday by Israeli time, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu announced a date of a new election in Israel. Should we expect any change in the U.S. foreign policy and maybe they – Israeli-American relation will – kind of the next issue for you and for Department of State?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, certainly, the question of elections in Israel is an internal Israeli matter, but as you well know, this Administration has an unbreakable bond with Israel and has worked very closely on ensuring Israel’s security. And we will continue to work with whomever is Prime Minister of Israel to advancing in many common interests, and that unbreakable bond will certainly remain, because it is one of our core relationships that we have, and one that we deeply appreciate and want to continue to coordinate very closely in, obviously, addressing key concerns, one of which, of course, that gets a lot of attention is the question of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. So we will continue to work with whichever Israeli government’s in the future, obviously, to address concerns such as that one. Thank you.
MODERATOR: We have time for just a few more questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Okay. Great. Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Ali Aslan, Zaman Newspaper, Turkey. Given the deteriorating security situation in Turkish-Syrian borders and humanitarian crisis, does your Administration move closer to the idea of creating a safe zone human corridor, a no-fly zone, in that northern part of Syria?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Right. Well, thank you for your question. We don’t have any evolution in our policy. I think our policies are pretty clear. Now, we have stood by Turkey as NATO did as a result of that horrific cross-border incident, and we condemned it and we stood by Turkey’s territorial sovereignty and borders, and as our – with our NATO partners. So we will always be in consultation with Turkey, as well as with many others, in terms of what is the best way forward.
I think that we recognize Turkey has been very moderate and restrained in responding to– at Syrian aggression, and we commend them for it. And we’ll, again, continue to not only work with Turkey but with the Friends of the Syrian People as we evolve and look to see how best to move our objectives forward. But I have no new policy announcements to make today.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up on Syria, please.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah. Well, sure. All right. But everybody else is going to get upset with you – (laughter) – but sure.
QUESTION: Sorry. Ercan Demir, from TRT Turkish Radio and Television, Washington correspondent. About the Syrian plane forced to land in Ankara, Esenboga, what is your assessment* and your comment on this? It’s a new era?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah. Well, first of all, we support Turkey’s action in this case. There is clearly an international concern about any shipments of military materiel in support of the Assad regime that, in turn, uses that to slaughter its people. We are reaching out to our Turkish colleagues to find out more information on exactly what was on that aircraft, and so I don’t have any further information to pass along that. So that’s it.
But let’s go now somewhere in the back over there, whoever gets the mike, I guess. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Hi. My name is George Maisashvili. I’m with Maestro TV Georgia. I have a question with – in light of this big monumental change in Georgia’s Government, is there a roadmap here at the State Department that U.S. can help the process of easing the tension between Russia and Georgia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, we obviously have applauded the Georgian people in their expression of – through elections and the way in which that was handled. And so we will work with Georgia’s leadership moving forward. Georgia is an important friend and partner of the United States. And again, we stand by Georgia’s territorial integrity. And on issues relating to Russia, I think our views are pretty well known, and we’ll continue to express them pretty directly. So there’s no, again, movement other than, of course, to emphasize that we are keen to continue to build and grow our relationship with Georgia, who’s been an important partner.
Here, let’s go – yeah, to a woman this time.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Heba Koudsy from Asarq al-Awsat newspaper. With all this debate about terror attack on the U.S. Consul in Benghazi and killing of Ambassador Stevens, this morning, there were another incident killing a Yemeni employee in Sana’a working for the U.S. Embassy. Do you still have concern about the safety measurement and all the security measurement in U.S. embassies in the Middle East? And do you think this is some kind of uprising of al-Qaida?
Another question regarding Egypt. The $450 million of debt relief was denied by the Congress. What kind of leverage do you have with the current government ruling Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood? And do you think – how do you describe the demonstration against the U.S. Embassy in Egypt? Do you find the public – Egyptian public opinion is hostile or friendly? How do you describe the reaction of the Egyptian people towards the U.S.? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: I don’t know if there were three, four, or five questions there, so let me just start with the ones I can remember first and then work my way back.
In terms of Egypt and aid, we continue to work closely with Capitol Hill on ways to support a stable and democratic transition in Egypt. We believe that’s critically important in terms of meeting the goals and aspirations of the Egyptian people. We want to try to promote economic prosperity and stability in Egypt, and so that’s something that we will continue to work on.
I don’t have anything to pass along in terms of what the views of the Egyptian people are of the United States, but I would hope that they would see that we are very much interested and supportive of their efforts to bring about a more democratic Egypt, an Egypt which has more economic opportunity, that is tolerant of the various religious groupings, one in which people can aspire to realize their full potential, and where there’s protection of human rights. And so we work with President Morsi and his government to try to advance on what we see are many of the common objectives.
We appreciate his standing firm by the peace treaty with Israel, which ensures a level of important stability in the region. So, again, we will work through these issues, but I think the American position is clear, the Obama Administration’s position is clear: We have stood with and by the Egyptian people, and we want to, again, continue to be a good partner as we move forward to sort of promote, again, economic development and opportunity in Egypt as well protection of democratic ideals and human rights.
With regards to this tragic incident of one of our Yemeni employees, we are saddened and condemn this attack. We’re obviously investigating what transpired. We don’t know yet, since it just happened, why he was targeted. And so we will clearly be looking into that.
I want to just stress that we take every potential security situation into account as we carry out our daily work, recognizing that there are those elements, whether it’s al-Qaida or others affiliated with al-Qaida who want to do us harm. We have said repeatedly that we know that they are determined to go after not only American interests, but also the interests of our allies, and that we need to be working internationally together to counter this threat. And this Administration has been very aggressive in going after terrorists wherever they might be, and we will continue to do so.
So, again, we mourn the loss and express our condolences to the family of our Yemeni colleague. We will look into the circumstances of what happened there, and of course, we will be looking to always be taking whatever precautions we can against this potential threat.
MODERATOR: We have time for one last question.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Yeah. Because I think we have something to start soon, so don’t want to deprive you of any fun.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mike. I’m Ching-Yi Chang with Phoenix TV. Yesterday, our TV interviewed the Japan Vice Prime Minister, and he claims that there is no territorial dispute existing over Diaoyu Islands. So I just want to know what’s the U.S. Government position on this? Is there any dispute over that territory? And also, I would like to know, will Deputy Secretary Bill Burns dealing with the issue of the Diaoyu Islands during his trip to China and Japan? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, thank you for your question. I think you know our position on the Senkakus quite well. We don’t take a position on the sovereignty issue. I leave it to, again, the parties to try to sort out this issue directly and through dialogue, as we have repeatedly said.
I would imagine as part of the – Deputy Secretary Burns’s trip that these issues will come up. They inevitably come up in all our meetings because they’re issues of concern to the region, but they’re also issues of concern to the United States. But we continue to just urge the parties to engage in a diplomatic and peaceful way and to try to find a resolution to these disputes.
I know that we are supposed to move on. What’s that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, I think we’ve dealt with the territorial disputes quite a bit in multiple briefings. But if there’s some other topic that people are really itching to ask about – yes, sir, all the way in the back. You, quick, and then you in the middle, and then we’re done. Two more we’ll venture. Yeah.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: No – well, he was --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Belinda can’t see you, but yeah. Great.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Haykaram Nahapetyan. I work with the Armenian Television. My question is: There were reports that the Embassy of United States to Turkey supports the reconstruction of Armenian historical monuments and settlements in the territory of modern Turkey, particularly town of Ani, which is right at the border of Republic of Armenia and border of the Republic of Turkey, is right now reconstruction is going there. So my question is whether these reports correspond to the reality and whether the U.S. Embassy really assist the reconstruction of the historical Armenian settlements, what’s the goal and the aim of the American party in this, whether you have any further plans continue the reconstruction of historical monuments in Turkey.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Right. On the specifics of that, I would probably need to refer you to Embassy Ankara. But what I would say is that, as you’re probably aware, our ambassadors have a Cultural Preservation Fund where they look in whatever country they’re serving to see if there’s some project, conservation project that’s well worth supporting in terms of cultural heritage, of whatever religion or whatever historical importance might be for any particular country or place. And so our ambassadors have the discretion of identifying what projects are worth supporting, because the United States feels that it’s critically important, again, to support cultural preservation, to ensure that we are respecting of all religions. And so this is something, again, on the specifics, that I would need to ensure that I don’t misinform you about that particular project. It could well be that that’s one that is being supported by our Ambassador and our Embassy in Ankara. So I would just refer to you to them.
And then I promised one last question over here. Yes.
QUESTION: Sabine Muscat with the Financial Times Deutschland. Thanks, Mike. The last question would be, I guess, summing up a little bit Secretary Clinton’s legacy. And I was wondering, if you had to describe – if you had to say three points that were – her three major accomplishments, how would you describe them? And perhaps on the lighter side, are you planning anything for her departure from the State Department? What kind of party have you planned or – (laughter).
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Thanks. Well, it’s always the last question – the one that – I think it’s a bit premature to be discussing Secretary Clinton’s legacy. She’s still working hard every day to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives. And knowing her, she will be working till the very last minute that she’s in the job, and so I don’t know that she’ll allow us to plan for any fancy farewells.
But let me just say that from the perspective of us in the State Department, we so much appreciate the effort that she has put into elevating diplomacy and development and putting it on the par with defense, and making the case that we need to be constantly looking to see how we can do better in terms of our development, in terms of our diplomacy, using 21st century statecraft and innovation to communicate our policies and engage people around the world, to doing the kind of diplomatic work that goes beyond just engaging government-to-government contacts, but rather to be engaging all elements of society, to be promoting interests, as we talked about early in this briefing, of advancing the rights of women and girls.
And so she has expanded the definition of what makes effective diplomacy through her vision of smart power and using all elements of American influence to advance our core interest and to exercise American leadership to address the many challenges that we face. So there’s a whole basket of issues that I think that whomever comes next will want to embrace that – recognize that, for example, with the State Department elevating the work that it does on promoting economic statecraft, that helps to promote American jobs and create economic opportunity with the countries that we’re working with around the globe; that there’s a very robust agenda that we will continue to pursue.
We also should recognize that she has put, together with President Obama, a very strong priority on our focus in Asia. And you’re seeing that the United States is extremely active diplomatically, recognizing that we are looking at an area, a region of the world that is going to be a driving economic factor, while at the same time we have made a real concerted effort to grow and strengthen our existing alliances, whether that is with NATO or, as we talked about, with Korea and Japan, and recognizing at the same time the emergence of powers like India, Brazil, our relationship with Mexico.
So there’s a wide scope of effort in terms of what the President and Secretary Clinton have been advancing in their foreign policy. But again, I will let you and everybody else, all the historians, sort of try to determine what is her legacy. But we feel extremely proud to have had and continue to have her as our Secretary of State, and she has led us in a very determined way to challenge ourselves, again, to continually do better, and to work with others around the world to, again, deal with the very core problems that we face, and in making the United States more secure, in advancing our interests. And I think the record will speak very loudly that she did extremely well.
But with that, let me just close and thank you, and I look forward to mingling a little bit afterwards. Thank you very much.
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