Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton at the Department of State on May 17, 2011. Secretary Clinton and EU High Representative Ashton discussed a number of issues, including the United States and European Union's commitment to advancing democratic values and universal rights, efforts to protect civilians and implement the United Nations Security Council resolution in Libya, the continued violence in Syria, and preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Secretary Clinton said, "The United States and the European Union are partners working together on, I think, every global issue and regional challenge that you can imagine. We're doing the urgent, the important, and the long-term all at once, and we are united in a transatlantic community that is based on shared democratic values and limitless faith in human potential.
"As always, Cathy and I had a lot to talk about because there is so much happening around the world at a time when people are standing up for their rights and demanding a say in their own futures. And both the European Union and the United States are very committed to advancing democratic values and universal rights, and we know how important that is over the long term. But we also know that right now those rights are under threats from repression and reprisals.
"We expressed our serious concern about the continued violence in Syria. The Asad regime has responded to peaceful protests by launching a brutal crackdown that has killed, by our best estimate, nearly a thousand people already. They have embraced the worst tactics of their Iranian ally and they have refused to honor the legitimate aspirations of their own people in Syria.
"President Asad talks about reform, but his heavy-handed brutal crackdown shows his true intentions. In response to the continued violence, both the United States and the EU have imposed sanctions against senior Syrian officials. And today, we discussed additional steps that we can take to increase pressure and further isolate the Asad regime.
"Our message has been clear and consistent from the beginning: Stop the violence and the arrests, release all political prisoners and detainees, and begin to respond to the demands of the people by a process of credible and inclusive democratic change.
"The High Representative and I also discussed efforts to protect civilians in Libya. The United States continues to support our efforts to implement the United Nations Security Council resolution. We're working with the EU to support the Transitional National Council, and we welcome the EU's decision to open an office in Benghazi and the ongoing EU support for humanitarian assistance. And for our part, we are working with our Congress to redirect some of Qadhafi's seized assets toward immediate humanitarian needs.
"Across the region, we are looking at many of the same issues from the very same perspective, and we have discussed a number of ways that we can promote investment and trade that would bring benefits to the people of the Middle East and North Africa. We also discussed Iran and, in particular, the efforts of the E-3+3 to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We have been clear and united under Cathy Ashton's leadership since the Geneva and Istanbul meetings that Iran has to meet its international obligations and negotiate seriously on the nuclear issue.
"Lady Ashton is preparing a response to Iran's recent letter, but let me make clear that the burden remains on Iran to demonstrate it is prepared to end its stalling tactics, drop its unacceptable preconditions, and start addressing the international community's concerns.
"Now, we've also discussed matters in Europe, and both Cathy and I are concerned about the crackdown in Belarus, and I commend her for the strong statement she made over the weekend. The United States considers the post-December 19th trials to be politically motivated, and we call for an immediate, unconditional release of all political prisoners.
"I also raised concerns regarding the political deadlock in Bosnia and Herzegovina and any efforts that could undermine the Dayton Peace Accords and the stability of the country. We fully support the authority of the Office of the High Representative Inzko in Bosnia and Herzegovina and want to see the people there realize their hopes for necessary reforms, effective government, and a European future.
"Indeed, on all of these fronts, we have an indispensable relationship. And it's wonderful to have Cathy as a partner in dealing with all of these pressing matters. To further strengthen our partnership, we just signed a framework agreement to expand U.S. civilian participation in EU crisis management missions. American civilian experts already participate in EU missions in Kosovo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and we look forward to working side by side to help more people in more places."