Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Sovndal of Denmark gave these remarks on May 31, 2012 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Topics included Syria, climate change, and Afghanistan.
FOREIGN MINISTER SOVNDAL: Yes. Hello and welcome. First of all, I would like to welcome you to Copenhagen. It's been a pleasure. I'm very happy to be able to return hospitality and generosity you showed when I was in Washington just before Christmas. Thank you very much for that.
And it's a great pleasure to receive Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here in Copenhagen. One important thing for Secretary Clinton's visit here will be green growth and the potential for a green transition of our economies. I believe that Denmark has a lot to offer in that regard, and the importance of the United States is hard to overrate. This theme means a lot to both of us.
We had a very fruitful meeting where we discussed a wide range of shared policy priorities. I would like to briefly mention a few of the main items we discussed.
First of all, we had a very frank discussion about Afghanistan. Following up on the NATO Summit, which the United States successfully hosted in Chicago just a few weeks ago, I believe I speak on behalf of both of us when I say that there is a need of realism regarding the prospects for Afghanistan. Transition in Afghanistan is a bumpy road; that's no secret. But the transition is moving forward, and it will complete by the end of 2014. It is vital that we enable the Afghans to take over full responsibility for their security. I'm therefore very encouraged to note that we have already secured substantial long-term contribution for the Afghan National Security Force, and that was not least a result of the very close cooperation we had between our two countries leading up to Chicago.
We also had an excellent discussion regarding our mutual efforts to help stabilize the Horn of Africa, Libya, and the Sahel region. We agreed on strengthening the U.S.-Danish partnership to prevent and counter terrorism in East Africa. A key focus area will be to prevent the financing of terrorism. We also agreed on the need to strengthen respect for human rights and the rule of law in our effort to counter terrorism. We will launch a joint project focusing on states moving towards democratic governance, including the countries in North Africa. Moreover, we will also jointly provide support for an observation mission to monitor the upcoming elections in Libya. We stand committed to assisting the Libyans in their efforts towards securing a peaceful and democratic future for their elections.
Finally, we discussed the potential for stronger cooperation on promoting green growth. The backdrop of our discussion was the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, which is just a few weeks ahead. Later today, a strong bilateral green partnership will be kicked off here in Copenhagen. I hope this can also be a driver for an increased investment in trade.
Secretary of State, we must – we meet frequently in different locations around the world. I'm therefore very pleased to be able to receive you here in Copenhagen, so to say, on home ground. I very much appreciate our sincere, frank cooperation, and I hope you'll enjoy not only this visit, but don't be shy to come back here once again if you want.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Minister Sovndal, thank you so much for your warm welcome. It is indeed a pleasure to be back here in Copenhagen. This is my first stop on a trip that will take me to several European countries over the next week to underscore America's commitment to our transatlantic allies and our shared values. You are, after all, our partners of first resort. And together, we are facing the challenges of a complex, dangerous, and fast-moving world. And I'm particularly grateful for Denmark's leadership in the area of humanitarian and development assistance as well as the staunch contributions to our shared security.
The friendship between our two countries dates back more than two centuries and the bonds between our people have endured over that time. Our commitment to democracy, to human rights, to human dignity is core to all of us. And this morning I had the great privilege of speaking with a group of Danish young people about the kind of future that we hope awaits them.
We had a very productive lunch, talked through a range of issues as the minister has said, because after all we are working together on matters ranging from nuclear proliferation in Iran to global food security.
Regarding Afghanistan I thanked the foreign minister for the leadership of the Danish Government and the sacrifices made by the Danish people, in particular your extraordinary soldiers. Danish soldiers have fought valiantly alongside American and allied forces. And as we prepare for the transition in 2014, when the Afghans themselves will take full responsibility for their own security, Denmark has responded by generously committing to supporting the Afghan National Security Forces after the transition and calling on other nations to do the same through its Coalition of Committed Contributors initiative.
As we look toward the donors' summit in Tokyo in July, Denmark will continue to play a leading role in helping the Afghan people make progress in governance, on education, healthcare, and other indices of development. Denmark's commitment to new democracies extends far beyond Afghanistan and into the Middle East and North Africa, where it has pledged money in assistance and working to spark economic growth, especially in the private sector. And I expressed our gratitude for the leadership once again that Denmark is showing, because it is essential that democracies, especially these very young democracies, deliver tangible results for people.
We of course discussed Denmark's leadership on climate change and the environment. As an Arctic nation, Denmark knows very well how pressing these issues are. And as climate change progresses, its impact will affect the livelihoods of millions of people who are dependent on this region's natural resources. Denmark is a strong voice for taking aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and by leading the charge with your own domestic goal of cutting emissions by 40 percent by 2020. And I want to applaud Denmark's decision to join the Climate and Clean Air Coalition that will help us reduce the short-lived climate pollutants as well as CO2. That's an important complement to what is being done with respect to carbon emissions.
For our part, the United States has continued to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We've established new fuel efficiency standards that will be among the most aggressive in the world. We have invested more than $90 billion in clean energy and energy efficiency. We've more than doubled our installed capacity of wind and solar in four years. So I'm looking forward to this afternoon's Green Partnership for Growth event with the prime minister, and I applaud Denmark's leadership in creating the Global Green Growth Forum, an innovative platform that encourages leaders across governments, the private sector, and civil society to work together.
And finally, let me say a word about Syria. The world looked on last week at the massacre in Houla with horror, and those responsible must be held to account. We and the world have joined in condemning the brutality of the Assad regime. I spoke with Special Envoy Kofi Annan yesterday about his recent visit to Damascus. We are working with Denmark and others to make sure the international community speaks with a unified voice to increase pressure on Assad from both inside and outside. We have to peel away the regime's continued support within Syria while bolstering our assistance to the opposition and by isolating the regime diplomatically and economically.
So we have a lot of work ahead of us, Minister, and I want to conclude by thanking you again as well as the people of Denmark for your invaluable partnership and leadership. I look forward to our continuing coordination and collaboration, and it is a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity to be here once again. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We will now take a few questions. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, as you have stated, Denmark has played an important role in different missions around the world – in Iraq, Afghanistan, and recently in Libya. Right now, the situation in Syria is on top of the agenda. If – and that's my question – if an international coalition could – can be formed, could you then see Denmark take play in such a coalition?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we have to take stock of where we are and what is possible. I see Denmark as a contributor to any mission anywhere be it security, be it development, be it humanitarian, because the track record of Danish participation is exemplary. So of course, if there were such an international coalition to do anything to try to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, we would certainly reach out as broadly as possible and be consulting closely with the Danish Government.
Right now, we continue to support Kofi Annan and his efforts. And we do so fully aware that thus far Assad has not implemented any of the six points that are part of the Kofi Annan plan. But we also know that the UN observers have performed two important functions. In many of the areas where they are present, violence has gone down. And they serve as independent observers – the eyes of the world, if you will – in reporting back when terrible events like the recent massacres occur to try to cut through the clutter and disinformation coming from the Syrian Government.
We're also aware that there is still a fear among many elements of the Syrian society and the Syrian Government that as bad as the Assad regime is, it could get worse. And we therefore continue to call upon the business leadership, the religious leadership, the military leadership, those voices within the government that know what is going on is leading to the very outcome they fear most, which is a sectarian civil war, to stand up now and call a halt to further support for this regime.
So we're nowhere near putting together any kind of coalition other than to alleviate the suffering, which we are all contributing to, but we are working very hard to focus the efforts of those, who like Denmark and the United States, are appalled by what we see going on, to perhaps win over those who still support the regime inside and outside of Syria to see what options are available to us.
QUESTION: Jim Mannion from Agence France Presse. Madam Secretary, again on Syria, at this point with the Russians refusing a budge on Syria and with the country appearing to tip towards civil war, is it now a live option to move beyond the requirement of an explicit UN mandate to some sort of action outside of the UN? Is that something the U.S. is considering? Is that a possibility at this point?
SECRETARY CLINTON:Jim, we consider all contingencies at all time. I mean, we plan against everything in order to be prepared in the event that action is called for. But I can tell you that right now, we are focused on supporting Kofi Annan, reaching out both inside and outside of Syria, bringing together those who are most directly affected, particularly in the region. In the last several days, I've had numerous conversations – I will have many more over the next few days – with particular attention paid on – to the Russians. Because the Russians keep telling us they want to do everything they can to avoid a civil war because they believe that the violence would be catastrophic. They often, in their conversations with me, liken it to the equivalent of a very large Lebanese civil war, and they are just vociferous in their claim that they are providing a stabilizing influence.
I reject that. I think they are, in effect, propping up the regime at a time when we should be working on a political transition. So I look forward to working with Kofi Annan, with likeminded nations like Denmark and many others, and with the Russians to see if we can't get a way forward.
QUESTION: Oliver Skov with the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. The Danes are very curious and interested in the – in U.S. politics and the upcoming elections. (Laughter.) I was hoping you would comment on the upcoming elections and, on a more personal level, your own role after the elections in November.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am, as Secretary of State, out of politics. And that's a rule that we have in our system, that because I have international responsibilities, I cannot participate in the political process. So for the first time in my adult life, I will not be actively engaged in this election.
Clearly, I anticipate and expect the President to be reelected, and the policies that have been pursued in this Administration to continue. But the voters, as in any democracy, will have the final word on the outcome. But I'm looking forward to working as hard as I can until the end of my tenure as Secretary of State, and then will look forward to some time to collect myself and spend it doing just ordinary things that I very much am looking forward to again, like taking a walk without a lot of company – not that I don't love seeing you all – but just having the time to set my own schedule and pursue a lot of the interests that I have pursued my entire life, particularly on behalf of women and children.
QUESTION: No politics?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No politics.
MODERATOR: One final question. Brad.
QUESTION: Yes, Brad Klapper from Associated Press. Madam Secretary, there's been increasing talk in Israel, including yesterday from the defense minister, about unilateral action or interim solution in the West Bank in lieu of progress in the peace process. Would you encourage or discourage unilateral withdrawal by Israel from some land, even if it's not all the Palestinians seek? And what would the unilateral aspect of such a move mean for the chances of establishing a long-lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Brad, the United States believes there is no substitute for direct talks between the parties. It is the only route to achieving what has long been not only a Palestinian goal and an American goal, but an Israeli goal, which are two states living side by side in peace and security. We have discouraged unilateral action from both sides, and in fact, we think that this new coalition government in Israel provides the best opportunity in several years to reach such a negotiated agreement. In fact, when the coalition was formed, there were four pillars of agreement, and one of them was pursuing the two-state solution.
So we very much want to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to do that, and in fact, they have recently exchanged letters, from President Abbas to President – to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Prime Minister Netanyahu to President Abbas that have outlined the conditions for dialogue. And in recent weeks, I've called both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas urging them to take this opportunity, to use this new opening that has come about because of the broad coalition that now exists that has pledged itself to pursuing a negotiated resolution. And we're going to continue to urge them to do so.
We greatly appreciate the role that Jordan has played. King Abdullah of Jordan has been extraordinarily forceful in urging the parties to come to the negotiating table. I spoke with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh over the weekend about the status of the discussions. So we believe that there is an opportunity for direct negotiations, and we hope it was enhanced by the release of bodies today by the Israelis of Palestinians whom they had either killed or who had been suicide bombers going back many years as a sign of confidence building. But they need to get to the table and start dealing with all the very hard issues we know have to be resolved.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We're out of time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER SOVNDAL: Thank you.