Travel Diary: Secretary Clinton Visits Malta

Posted by Richard M. Mills
October 19, 2011
Secretary Clinton Meets With Officials in Malta on October 18

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Malta on October 18 during a short and unannounced stop-over on the way to Tripoli. During the visit, the Secretary and her delegation held a bilateral meeting with Government of Malta officials, and met with U.S. Embassy Valletta staff. Secretary Clinton is only the second Secretary of State ever to visit Malta, with the last visit being when former Secretary of State James Baker accompanied former President George H. W. Bush to the Malta Summit, which officially brought the Cold War to an end in 1989.

Secretary Clinton landed at Malta International Airport early on the morning of Tuesday, October 18 where she was greeted by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tonio Borg and Embassy staff. Despite the arrival time, the Secretary had a tight schedule, starting with 9:45 a.m. meetings at the Prime Minister's office in the historic Auberge de Castille in Valletta. After signing the visitor's book, the Secretary and Prime Minister Laurence Gonzi held a tete-a-tete in the Prime Minister's private study. They later joined their delegations in the Cabinet Room for a bilateral meeting, which focused on what has been described by the media as the "valuable partnership" between the two countries. In a joint press statement delivered by Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Gonzi in the Auberge de Castille courtyard, Secretary Clinton thanked Malta for its "extraordinary" response to the Arab Awakening and its contribution to peace and security in the region. Secretary Clinton said that the United States appreciated Malta's leadership in the Mediterranean and its efforts to interdict prohibited Iranian cargo, to deny port access to ships carrying illegal cargos and to working as a partner in the enforcement of United Nations sanctions. Secretary Clinton also announced that President Barack Obama had selected "one of the U.S.'s most experienced diplomats" Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the Ambassador-designate to Malta.

Although the bilateral meeting was expected to have a duration of 40 minutes, the warm, sunny weather may have encouraged Secretary Clinton to accept Prime Minister Gonzi's invitation to walk to the Upper Barrakka Gardens, just outside the Auberge de Castille, where Secretary Clinton could witness the magnificent view overlooking Malta's historic Grand Harbor -- which saw the arrival of the SS Ohio in 1942 during the Second World War. The SS Ohio has a significant place in Malta's history as the only surviving ship of a convoy bringing much needed oil and supplies to the island, which averted an imminent surrender to the Axis forces.

Following her return from Libya, and prior to her onward journey, Secretary Clinton took the time to meet with the U.S. Embassy Valletta family. In brief remarks, she praised the embassy team for its extraordinary work in coordinating the evacuation of Embassy Tripoli, and hundreds of American citizens in Libya, to the safety of Malta. Secretary Clinton expressed admiration and gratitude to the American officers for their strong leadership and commitment to strengthening the bilateral relationship and acknowledged the valuable contribution of the locally-engaged staff to fulfilling the U.S. Mission's goals.

Secretary Clinton's visit was warmly received by the Maltese people, as reflected in the highly positive -- and abundant -- media coverage here. Despite the short notice to prepare for a high-level visit, U.S. Embassy Valletta quickly rallied, and with the assistance of the Secretary and her dynamic team, was able to advance mission goals by delivering some important messages on bilateral and multilateral issues to the Maltese government. We were also able to express gratitude for Malta's assistance to the humanitarian relief effort in Libya.

The Maltese people keenly await another visit in the future.

Editor's Note: Follow Secretary Clinton's travel here on state.gov.

Latest Stories

Pages