Today, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is in Riga, Latvia, the hundredth country she has visited as U.S. Secretary of State. In her present capacity, she has traveled more than 830,000 miles to date. Secretary Clinton told an audience of Latvian youths, "I'm very happy that my 100th country was Latvia, because I have such a great admiration and incredible sense of friendship and solidarity with your country, and so it's a perfect time to be here."
In Riga, Secretary Clinton also met with Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. Secretary Clinton and the Latvian officials discussed a range of issues, including our joint commitment to NATO missions and Latvia's recovery from economic crisis. During a press availability with the Foreign Minister, Secretary Clinton said:
"We had an excellent conversation about a range of issues. Let me say a quick word about Syria. Latvia and the United States have worked closely together to increase pressure on the Assad regime, to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian civilians, who are bearing the brunt of the regime's brutal assault, and to support the efforts of Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan to try to prepare the way for a democratic transition. We have also joined together in NATO in solidarity behind our NATO ally Turkey.
"In recent days, Kofi Annan has accelerated plans for a democratic transition. I will discuss these issues with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Saint Petersburg tomorrow. And then I look forward to participating in a meeting organized by Joint Special Envoy Annan in Geneva on Saturday.
"Turning to Afghanistan, I thanked the Foreign Minister for Latvia's contributions to our shared NATO mission there. Two hundred Latvian troops are fighting side by side with American and Afghan forces. About half of all the shipments in the Northern Distribution Network pass through the port of Riga, and this has been a crucial supply line for Afghanistan -- and at the moment the only supply line. And I want to applaud Latvia for making a significant financial commitment to help sustain the Afghan national security forces after 2014."
Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Rinkevics spoke about the crucial role of democracy and human rights in making Europe stronger and more prosperous. Secretary Clinton said, "Latvia stands as a success story that showcases the benefits of integration into European and transatlantic institutions. But this historic project in Europe is not complete, and we all need to redouble our efforts to extend stability, security, prosperity, and democracy to the entire continent. It's not always easy, but I want to thank Latvia for not only demonstrating by example and being a model to other countries in Europe, but calling for the release of political prisoners, calling to strengthen democracy in neighbors such as Belarus and Ukraine."
Secretary Clinton also participated in a street renaming ceremony in honor of former Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, whose Welles Declaration formalized the U.S. refusal to recognize the forced incorporation of the Baltic Republics into the Soviet Union. During the ceremony, Secretary Clinton said:
"...As World War II progressed, many argued that we should recognize Stalin's conquest of the Baltic States. But Welles didn't give in. He believed that the United States needed to stand firm on the principles of sovereignty and self-government for those nations under both Nazi and Soviet control. The Welles Declaration was more than just a symbolic show of support. From 1940 until the Soviet Union ended its occupation, the United States never recognized Soviet control of Latvia.
"Back at the State Department in Washington, we hang the flags of all the countries with which the United States has a diplomatic relationship. And for 51 years, as the hammer and sickle flew overhead here in Riga, we never took down the maroon and white stripes of the Latvian flag. Through the alliances of World War II, in the darkest hours of the Cold War, at countless bargaining tables where American and Soviet leaders struggled to solve problems, our commitment to the sovereignty of the Latvian people never wavered.
"Now that sovereignty and freedom are secure, Latvia once again is a fully recognized, independent nation in the eyes of the entire world. And Latvians are at the forefront of working toward a Europe that is whole, free, democratic, and at peace."
Marking the latest step in U.S.-Latvian cooperation in promoting democracy, human rights, and economic development, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Rinkevics today signed the U.S.-Latvian Agreement on Supporting Justice Sector Reform in Moldova. The Secretary and Foreign Minister also signed an agreement to renew the U.S.-Latvia Fulbright Academic Exchange Program, furthering cooperation between students and scholars, as well as educational, scientific, and research institutions of Latvia and the United States.
You can follow Secretary Clinton's travel on www.state.gov.