Last week, President Barack Obama addressed the situation in Libya. The President said, "...Like all governments, the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, and to respect the rights of its people. It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities, and face the cost of continued violations of human rights. This is not simply a concern of the United States. The entire world is watching, and we will coordinate our assistance and accountability measures with the international community."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "...The government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly. Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed. We are working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government."
Today, Secretary Clinton departed for Geneva, Switzerland, where she will hold consultations on the situation in Libya and the broader Middle East and address the United Nations Human Rights Council. On Friday, February 25, the United States suspended embassy operations in Libya due to the security conditions in the country. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Janet Sanderson explained, "...Our Embassy is not closed. We have suspended operations. We still continue to reach out to the Libyans where appropriate, both directly and through third parties."
U.S. citizens affected by the situation in Libya can find the latest information here, and about current conditions in the broader Middle East and North Africa here. Information for U.S. citizens wishing to evacuate Libya can be found here.
Secretary Clinton discussed the events in the region during an online dialogue with Egyptian youth. More than 6,500 questions were submitted via Masrawy.com for the dialogue. As part of her conclusion to the discussion, Secretary Clinton said, "...I am very proud of what Egyptian young people have done. You have set such an extraordinary example of nonviolent, peaceful protest. We have a history of that in our own country. That's how African Americans got the right to vote because of Dr. Martin Luther King and what we believed in. We saw it in India, which became the world's largest democracy because of Gandhi and nonviolence. I have always believed that nonviolent protest, well-organized and disciplined as I saw in Egypt, will bring down dictators, will change laws, will change the future."
Secretary Clinton also spoke to young people from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She told the students, "...In the 20th century, people all around the world saw young African Americans of your ages stand up and speak out and claim their rights in our own country. And by doing so, they became leaders and change makers and history makers all at the same time. And in the 21st century, your generation, because of social media, because of the power to connect, have even more inherent power than your parents and grandparents did before. Because now you don't -- just can meet at lunch counter. You can meet globally. And you can pursue your goals with those whom you may never meet in person but who share your passion for justice and equality. So we are counting on you. We are counting on you to open even more doors and we are counting on you to give us your best ideas, your talents and skills, to make a difference not only here at home but around the world."
Assistant Secretary Ann Stock shared with us about the inspiring young people she met in Indonesia and Malaysia, and Ambassador David Killion told us about his visit to Jordan, where he met with women who are advancing freedom of expression through art. Assistant Secretary Eric Schwartz shared about his meetings with refugees in Liberia, and Rebecca Slocum previewed the United States-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) meetings taking place in El Salvador.
In Washington, Secretary Clinton met with Brazilian Foreign Minister Patriota. The Secretary also addressed the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran, and Under Secretary Robert Hormats looked at issues related to rising food prices around the globe.
Ambassador Robert Loftis participated in a discussion on stabilization and conflict prevention. Drawing upon personal experiences working in Basrah, Iraq, Foreign Service Officer Martina Strong addressed the role of diplomats assigned to serve as advisors to U.S. military commanders in the United States and overseas. Strong described these advisors as a key element of the “whole of government” approach that combines diplomacy, development, and defense. We saw examples of the "whole of government" approach in Afghanistan, where USAID development officers assisted an American business explore trade and investment opportunities and U.S. diplomats and military officers helped open a learning center in Kunar Province.
Ambassador Loftis also announced the launch of CivilianResponseCorps.gov, a website about and for the Civilian Response Corps -- the group of civilian federal employees from across the U.S. government who are specially trained and equipped to provide conflict prevention and stabilization assistance to countries in crisis or emerging from conflict. Lindsay Krasnoff of the State Department's Office of the Historian informed us of recently released, online resources about U.S. policy in Southeast Asia, 1946-1975.
As we prepare for the week ahead, our thoughts remain with the people of Christchurch, New Zealand, which was struck by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake on February 22, 2011. The U.S. Mission in New Zealand has established a dedicated email address for those both seeking information, or providing information, about the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizens: email@example.com. USAID deployed a DART team and the Los Angeles County Urban Search and Rescue Team to provide assistance in Christchurch. You can find more information on recovery efforts and learn about ways you can help on the embassy's website. As President Obama and Secretary Clinton said, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this terrible tragedy.