Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met today with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. After their meeting, Secretary Clinton said:
"Good afternoon, everyone. And it is, as always, a delight to welcome High Representative Ashton back to the State Department for the continuing consultations that we have been engaged in ever since her appointment. I always look forward to these meetings and working closely with her and her team on the full range of shared challenges that confront the United States and the European Union. I think it goes without saying that this is such a consequential partnership that is rooted in our common values and aspirations as well as serving as a cornerstone for global peace and prosperity and security. Today, once again, we covered a lot of ground. Let me just touch on a few of the issues.
"First, Lady Ashton and I discussed events in Syria. The United States strongly condemns Syria's failure to protect diplomatic facilities in Damascus, including the American and French embassies and our ambassador's residence. As we have expressed directly to the Syrian Government today, we demand that they meet their international responsibilities immediately to protect all diplomats and the property of all countries. The Asad regime will not succeed in deflecting the world's attention from the real story unfolding in Syria. This is not about America or France or any other country; this is about the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for dignity, universal rights, and the rule of law.
"Despite promising dialogue and promises of change, the Syrian Government has responded to the people's peaceful protests with more violence, more arrests, and more intimidation. These assaults must stop. Neither the Syrian people nor the international community will accept half-measures or lofty speeches. We call on the regime immediately to halt its campaign of violence, pull its security forces back from Hama and other cities, and allow the Syrian people to express their opinions freely so that a genuine transition to democracy can take place.
"Let me also add that if anyone, including President Asad, thinks that the United States is secretly hoping the regime will emerge from this turmoil to continue its brutality and repression, they are wrong. President Asad is not indispensible, and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power. Our goal is to see that the will of the Syrian people for a democratic transformation occurs.
"Let me turn now to Libya, which again, Lady Ashton and I discussed in preparation for the upcoming Contact Group meeting in Istanbul. We will be joined there by a growing number of international partners reflecting deep and widespread concern about the safety of Libyan civilians and the clear need for Colonel Qadhafi to leave power. As momentum continues to build in Libya, the people are not waiting to plan their new post-Qadhafi future. They are laying the foundation, organizing the institutions, and preparing the infrastructure, and the international community will support these efforts. So the United States welcomes the EU's announcement that it is opening an office in Benghazi. Together, we will work with the UN and other partners to coordinate post-conflict assistance and help a free Libya emerge from the dictator's shadow.
"We also discussed our shared commitment to support the democratic transitions underway in Egypt and Tunisia. As I said at the Community of Democracies in Lithuania, established democracies have a responsibility to help those emerging find their footing. So we are working together to help Egyptians and Tunisians begin the slow, hard work of building sustainable democracies rooted in guaranteed human rights, accountable institutions, and the rule of law.
"And finally, although we talked about many other issues, let me just mention our shared desire to support the countries of the Western Balkans as they continue to build prosperous, peaceful, and democratic societies and move toward their rightful places as full members of the European and Euro-Atlantic community. The recent agreements between Kosovo and Serbia in the EU-facilitated dialogue are a positive and mutually beneficial step. But this is only the beginning. Now the agreements need to be implemented, and we need to see more progress, particularly in the north of Kosovo. We expect both sides to continue their hard work and come to practical agreements to improve the daily lives of all people, normalize relations, and bring both countries closer to achieving their EU aspirations.
"So as you can see, we had, as we always do, a lot to talk about, and of all these critical challenges, it is especially gratifying that the United States and the European Union are working hand in hand. And so again, let me thank the high representative, my friend and colleague, for her partnership and for the work that we will be doing in the future."
You can read the full transcript here.