By Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State, Presidential Palace, Vilnius, Lithuania, July 1, 2011
MODERATOR: (In progress) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. First, statements by the President and Secretary of State. Later, two questions. I advise the President of Lithuania to begin (inaudible).
PRESIDENT GRYBAUSKAITE: (Via translator) In the international stage and also in bilateral relations we have many mutual points of contacts, and our interests were in the progress of our conversation. Firstly, (inaudible) security, military security, and also the neighborhood, democratization processes, and opportunities to help those countries who need our help.
It is in the framework of NATO and the European Union and also in direct relations with the United Nations, Lithuania sees energy security as of primary urgency. I am very pleased that our nuclear energy projects has attracted interest of — to foreign companies, including an American company, and Lithuanian Government will be now assessing the bids. I am happy that the project has attracted international interest.
We also discussed the wish of the neighboring countries to build a nuclear power plant around Lithuania. We need to ensure their nuclear safety, not only Lithuania, but also beyond this border. And I heard the Secretary’s support in this respect. We also spoke about military security and the challenges that face us in the global space, firstly in the near neighborhood, and also in the far neighborhood. We also discussed cooperation and the benefits that both of our countries have when our people travel and have close personal contacts, and we discussed people-to-people contacts.
So, there was a range of issues that we discussed. And I am delighted that the Secretary of State expressed the support and understanding of the United States on all the issues that we discussed.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Madam President, and it is a great honor for me to be once again in Lithuania, an example to the world of what democracy can deliver for people, and also a strong ally and partner.
We did have a broad-ranging discussion, and I appreciate greatly the cooperation that exists between the United States and Lithuania. Lithuania is making a major contribution in Afghanistan, where it trains police and helicopter pilots, and leads a provincial reconstruction team in Ghor Province.
Lithuania also takes seriously its responsibilities as a NATO ally, and so do we. So that is why we are working together, not only to advance security and democracy, but most importantly to emphasize the core mission of NATO: our solemn commitment to each other under Article V of the Washington Treaty to collective self-defense.
We also discussed Lithuania’s efforts to achieve a secure, sustainable, and safe supply of energy. We strongly support Lithuania’s energy independence strategy, which includes regional development of nuclear power, liquefied natural gas, unconventional oil and gas, as well as gas and electricity links between the Baltic States and the rest of the European Union. By focusing on regional cooperation and energy security, Lithuania is strengthening its own independence, but also the independence and security of its neighbors. And we are especially pleased to see United States companies being considered to take part in these important projects.
2011 is a banner year for Lithuania on the world stage. As chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Lithuania has been instrumental in raising awareness of the very difficult situation in Belarus. Together, we demand that Belarus release political prisoners and embark on a path of democratic reform, because it seems very sad for the people of Belarus that they stand in such stark contrast to their neighbors. And it reminds us that building a whole and free Europe is still an unfinished task.
We look to Lithuania for its leadership as host of the OSCE ministerial conference in December. All of us are inspired by the progress we have seen over the last 20 years in Lithuania. But we know that there is still more to be done, and we appreciate greatly all of the steps that Lithuania is taking.
I am especially pleased to be here for the Community of Democracies, and to have this opportunity to strengthen our bonds as fellow democracies. And I greatly appreciated the President’s co-hosting of the forum yesterday on women and democracy. So, for me it is a personal pleasure to be here in Lithuania and to see the great progress that is being made on behalf of the people of this country. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Now, (inaudible) questions. One question from American journalist and one question from Lithuanian journalist. Question for American journalist , Mr. Schmidt, AFP Agency.
QUESTION: Good morning. The State Department said earlier this week that the opposition meeting in Damascus signaled a step in the right direction for the Syrian regime. Then yesterday we saw troops sweep into new villages in the northwest and protests erupting in Aleppo. So, what, Madam Secretary, is your assessment of this situation? Was allowing this opposition meeting a real move toward (inaudible) change, or just a sham? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Christophe, it doesn’t appear that there is a coherent and consistent message coming from Syria. We know what they have to do. They must begin a genuine transition to democracy. And allowing one meeting of the opposition in Damascus is not sufficient action toward achieving that goal. So I am disheartened by the recent reports of continued violence on the borders and in Aleppo, where demonstrators have been beaten, attacked with knives by government-organized groups and security forces.
It is absolutely clear that the Syrian Government is running out of time. There isn’t any question about that. They are either going to allow a serious political process that will include peaceful protest to take place throughout Syria and engage in a productive dialogue with members of the opposition and civil society, or they are going to continue to see increasingly organized resistance. We regret the loss of life, and we regret the violence. But this choice is up to the Syrian Government. And right now we are looking for action, not words, and we haven’t seen enough of that.
MODERATOR: And question for Lithuanian journalist, (inaudible).
QUESTION: (Via translator) I would like to pose two questions, one to Madam Hillary, and then perhaps to the Lithuanian President. Firstly, why is it that the United States (inaudible) supports the nuclear power plant that is soon to be built in Belarus? This question is of great concern to Lithuania.
And the second question is with respect to the events in (inaudible) today. We are now speaking about democracy, human rights. And in this context in Lithuania we still have some accusations that have not been dispersed. Only several kilometers off from (inaudible) there was a secret CIA imprisonment facility where human rights might have been violated. Does the United States think that the transparency should exist in this sphere as well? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say, with respect to the proposed plant in Belarus, we have made clear that even though Belarus, like any country, has a right to explore civil nuclear power as an energy option, we have deep concerns about safety and security. Any plant would have to operate under the full IAEA safeguards. The plant would have to be initiated and established in a transparent, commercial process.
And so, any support that you have heard from us is abstract, because it is contingent on all of the conditions that I have just mentioned. And we understand — the President has made very clear — Lithuanian concerns about the location of the plant, in addition to the safety, the security, the maintenance operation, and all the other issues that we also have raised. Part of what we hope to see are guarantees about safety and security, and we certainly encourage that there be consultations about any location issues that could be considered problematic for Lithuania. I think we are a long way from that, but if Belarus were to pursue this idea of a plant, we would expect the international community to demand the highest standards of transparency, safety, and security.
With respect to your second question, I cannot comment on that. And I think it is clear that in the Obama Administration there has been a very transparent process that we have followed with respect to the problems that we all face because of the global terrorist threat.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.