Travel Diary: Secretary Clinton in Belgium

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
December 8, 2011
Secretary Clinton Before NATO Russia Meeting December 8, 2011

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Brussels, Belgium, for ministerial-level meetings of the North Atlantic Council, the NATO-Russia Council, and with ISAF partners to discuss Afghanistan on December 7-8, 2011. During a press availability in Brussels, Secretary Clinton said:

"...This year has been one of great change, and we see democratic transitions under way. We see -- for the United States, troops and diplomats deploying. But some things never change, including our commitment to this alliance, which has been the bedrock of our security for more than half a century. And the wide range of issues that we discussed jointly yesterday and today proves just how essential this relationship is.

"Let me give you a brief readout. We obviously discussed our plans for the Chicago summit. At the previous NATO summit in Lisbon, leaders adopted a new strategic concept to define NATO's approach to countering 21st century threats from ballistic missiles to cyber attacks. And in Chicago, appropriately enough, we will put meat on the bones of this strategic concept, including ways to pool our resources and spend smartly in an era of tight budgets. We will also continue to strengthen our ties with NATO's partners. Our partnership in Libya proved once again what we can accomplish together, and we want to build on that progress.

We also discussed Afghanistan. Coming off of the Bonn conference Monday and then the ISAF meeting today, we set a clear message that transitioning security to Afghan lead marks the beginning of a new phase of support - not the end of our commitment, nor the end of our efforts. And today, I encouraged our allies to better define NATO's enduring partnership with Afghanistan, including its post-2014 mission to support the Afghan national security forces and to provide a strong base on which Afghanistan can build a stable, peaceful future. We are hoping that allies will come to Chicago prepared to pledge long-term funding to sustain the Afghan national security forces.

"We also discussed the situation in the north of Kosovo. NATO's troops there, known as KFOR, have made notable progress in restoring peace. But in recent months, violence has returned and Serb hardliners have barricaded roads, pushing the region into a very dangerous position. We deplore violence against our KFOR troops and reiterated our insistence that freedom of movement must be restored for KFOR, for the European Union mission known as EULEX, E-U-L-E-X, and all other parties in the north.

"We met with Foreign Minister Lavrov at the NATO-Russia Council and reviewed the work we are doing together in Afghanistan on counter-piracy, on counter-narcotics, just to name a few of the areas. I announced that the United States will increase our support for the joint NATO-Russia Counter Narcotics Program, which will allow us to double the training resources we provide for law enforcement officers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. The fight against the drug trade is of crucial importance, first and foremost to the people of the region, but then to NATO allies and Russia as well.

"Now, of course, it's obvious to state that areas of disagreement remain between NATO and Russia and we maintain a candid dialogue on these tough issues in our Council. Today we discussed two in particular: First, missile defense. I made clear that we will proceed with deploying missile defenses to defend NATO territory, as the alliance agreed to in Lisbon. I also made clear our hope to find a common approach on missile defense and to build on practical steps that we have already agreed to, like the missile defense joint exercise planned for next spring.

"And second, we discussed the need to renew cooperation on conventional arms control. We have had a profound gap in knowledge and mutual confidence since the Russian Government unilaterally suspended implementation of its CFE Treaty obligations in 2007, and we need to close that gap."

You can read a full transcript of the press availability here.

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