United Nations: Briefings From the World's Regions

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
September 28, 2010
Looking at the UN From the U.S. Mission

Over the past week, a number of regionally-focused discussions and events took place in conjunction with the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Several U.S. officials provided press readouts summarizing developments in specific areas of the world.

Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, spoke about Secretary Clinton's bilateral meetings with African leaders and about international engagement on Somalia. Assistant Secretary Carson said, "yesterday afternoon, there was a major meeting on Somalia chaired by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. There were approximately four or five heads of state there, including the prime minister of Ethiopia, the president of Uganda -- President Museveni, and a number of the foreign ministers, including the foreign minister of France Kouchner, the foreign minister of Italy Frattini, the foreign minister of Great Britain, Mr. Hague, and we were represented at that meeting by our Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg.

"Mr. Steinberg pointed out to those there that we see the problem in Somalia as a national problem, a regional problem, and also a global problem. It is a problem that has metastasized over the last two decades, which has led to a situation where we now have international piracy, foreign fighters going into Somalia, and some groups in Somalia supporting remnants of the al-Qaida East Africa cell that was responsible for the destruction of our embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in August of 1998.

"It's a regional problem because of the large number of refugees that flow out of Somalia into neighboring Kenya, an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 move out every year from that country into Kenya, but refugees going into Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, and Djibouti as well; large amounts of illegal arms flowing, large amounts of illegal commerce. Somalia is a collapsed state with a weak government unable to project either power or stability or to provide services to its people." You can read the full text of Assistant Secretary Carson's remarks here.

Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell, of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, spoke about this week's summit with Pacific Island leaders, about ASEAN, and about President Obama's bilateral meetings. Assistant Secretary Campbell said, "I just came from the Secretary's summit with Pacific Island leaders. When we say Asia Pacific, sometimes there's too much focus on the A and not very much focus on the P, and the truth is that we have enormous strategic, moral, and political imperatives for stronger engagement in the Pacific. Many of these nations are longstanding American allies, support us in the United Nations, and we work closely with them on a range of important issues like climate change.

"I, along with Secretary Clinton, were in the bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Kan and Premier Wen Jiabao. We also had a chance to participate in the historic, first ever U.S.-ASEAN summit held in the United States last week. During that session, we talked about a range of issues, including how to institutionalize this relationship between the United States and ASEAN, critical issues of mutual interest including the upcoming American engagement in the East Asia summit. Secretary Clinton will represent the United States in Vietnam later in October.

"...I think what the week underscores is that the United States deeply appreciates and understands the strategic significance of what's playing out in the Asian Pacific region, and we are attempting to step up our game, not simply in terms of strategic and political issues, but also in economic and other matters as well." You can read the full text of Assistant Secretary Campbell's briefing here.

For this week's European and Eurasian events, Assistant Secretary Philip Gordon, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, delivered the briefing. Assistant Secretary Gordon said, "today started with the NATO-Russia Council meeting, and that was just the latest in a series of meetings with Russians and Europeans to discuss the transatlantic security agenda we have coming up. We have planned for November in Lisbon a NATO summit, a U.S-EU summit, and then in Kazakhstan in December an OSCE summit. So there's a big transatlantic security agenda.

"...Yesterday, the Secretary met with the EU-27 foreign ministers, also to do a full range of issues. They mostly focused on, again, Middle East peace, in which the Europeans are very much engaged, and we welcome and value their support, but also Pakistan, Iran, and the Balkans. Following that EU-27 meeting with the Secretary, she hosted a -- what we call the Transatlantic Dinner, which is the foreign ministers of the EU who stayed on, and then those of NATO, those who aren't in the EU, as well as the foreign ministers of Macedonia and Switzerland, plus the NATO Secretary General and High Representative Ashton.

"...And then this morning's meeting was the NATO-Russia Council ministerial. As you know, NATO allies, as they look toward the Lisbon summit, are preparing a new strategic concept. They also hope to see Russia at the summit level in Lisbon. The NATO Secretary General issued an invitation to President Medvedev last week. We see this as an opportunity. At the meeting this morning, the Secretary was able to give our view of NATO-Russia cooperation, which is that we don't see NATO -- we don't see Russia as an adversary; we see Russia as a partner." Assistant Secretary Gordon's full remarks are available here.

Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, provided a briefing on a range of Middle East issues. Assistant Secretary Feltman said, "...there's also been discussion on the need for the institution-building, capacity-building, bottom-up approach of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. For example, [Secretary Clinton] had breakfast with various Arab ministers and Salam Fayyad on Monday, where we talked about progress made towards the state-building exercise from the ground up, where Prime Minister Fayyad was able to highlight for Secretary Clinton and for the assembled Arab ministers some of the accomplishments that they have done on that essential part of getting to a Palestinian state.

"She also, of course, met with the Libyan Foreign Minister Mousa Kousa, and among other topics there she talked about the upcoming Arab summit. There's an extraordinary Arab summit on October 9th, and we believe it's important for the Arab League, the Arab leaders, to continue to support the negotiating process, as they have so far and within the Arab Peace Initiative.

"Of course, part of our efforts on peace is aimed at a comprehensive peace, not simply the two-state solution, so she met today with the Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. She reaffirmed U.S. support for Lebanon and its state institutions, Lebanon's unity, Lebanon's stability, as well as to the special tribunal for Lebanon. But she also assured President Suleiman that we are committed to coming up with a peace that will include peace between Lebanon and Syria that's to the benefit of both peoples." You can read the full transcript of his remarks here.

For the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Assistant Secretary Robert Blake briefed on general regional developments as well as on the Secretary's meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Krishna. Assistant Secretary Blake said, "Over the past year, we have held annual bilateral consultations with four of the five Central Asian countries, the fifth being Kyrgyzstan. And they've provided a good mechanism to engage constructively on some of the most difficult issues that we face....Our ability to engage these Central Asian countries has partly been facilitated by the improved cooperation with Russia since President Obama and Secretary Clinton reset U.S. relations with Russia last year.""In Kyrgyzstan, the United States has several priorities at the moment. First, the United States is focused on helping the Government of Kyrgyzstan to prepare for the October 10th parliamentary elections....Second, we want to help the government respond to the humanitarian needs of all those who were displaced by the June violence and provide shelter and help, mostly to the ethnic Uzbeks whose homes were destroyed in Osh and Jalalabad, so that these homes can be rebuilt before the onset of winter.""We also attach a great deal of importance to improving the security situation in Kyrgyzstan, and we have supported the OSCE's plan to deploy a police advisory group, which we think provides a very valuable opportunity to both train and mentor some of the police forces in Kyrgyzstan. The police advisory group also can bring a measure of reassurance to the ethnic Uzbeks who still live in some fear as the people who are responsible for the June violence have not been identified or brought to justice." Assistant Secretary Blake's remarks on Central Asia are available here; on the meeting between Secretary Clinton and Indian External Affairs Minister Krishna, here.

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