By Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State
Good morning, everyone. And I am very pleased to welcome the foreign minister here back to the State Department as we celebrate another important milestone in the long history of cooperation and friendship between our two countries.
Thanks to the diligent work of our negotiating teams and the personal commitment of President Basescu and President Obama, the foreign minister and I have just signed the U.S.-Romanian Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement. This represents a critical step in implementing the Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense in Europe.
The proliferation of ballistic missiles that are more lethal, more accurate, and can cover greater distances poses a growing threat to the people and security of both Europe and the United States. Our governments worked closely together to select Deveselu Air Base in Romania to host a ballistic missile defense system, and the agreement we have just signed will position Romania as a central player in NATO’s evolving missile defense capability.
Once the agreement is ratified, the United States will build, maintain, and operate in Romania the land-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, a system we have assiduously tested and have proven effective over the last decade, and which will help protect the entire continent and augment the security of the United States. With the support of the Romanian parliament and people, we anticipate deploying the completed system as part of the second phase of European missile defense in approximately four years.
This agreement reflects the commitment of the United States to our allies in NATO, and specifically to our Article 5 responsibilities for collective defense. On Sunday, we marked the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The day after those attacks, for the first time in its history, NATO invoked Article 5 for collective security. Ten years later, we still remember that commitment and solidarity, and how our allies did not hesitate to stand by our side in our time of need. With the agreement the foreign minister and I sign today, we again strengthen our resolve and our promise to protect each other in very concrete ways.
Romania has been a strong partner in NATO’s actions around the globe, from peacekeeping in Kosovo to enforcing the arms embargo of Libya, and we honor the commitment and sacrifice of the Romanian soldiers who served alongside American troops in Afghanistan.
Now there are many areas where Romania and the United States collaborate. Before this ceremony, the foreign minister and I had a wide ranging discussion covering the full depth and scope of our bilateral relationship, from promoting government transparency to creating free market opportunities worldwide, and I want to particularly to thank Romania for its work supporting emerging democracies as well. Drawing on the lessons of its own recent history, Romania has offered valuable guidance and expertise to countries that are working to build sustainable democratic governments and improve the lives of their citizens.
Finally, I congratulate the foreign minister and the president on achieving the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership between Romania and the United States. This declaration further solidifies our key regional cooperation and marks another milestone in our relationship.
Teodor, I look forward to continuing to build the bonds of friendship with the Romanian people and government, as we have done for more than 130 years. Neither of us were around at the beginning, but I hope we’re around for many years to come – (laughter) – as we see Romania assume even greater responsibilities on the world stage through the European institutions, the United Nations, and forums such as the Community of Democracies. And with this missile agreement, we are jointly building a safer, more secure future for us all.
Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER BACONSCHI: Thank you. Thank you, Secretary Clinton, dear Hillary, for the warm welcome, visit to the United States, just two days the entire world commemorated in deep sympathy with you American people the horrible terrorists attacks of 9/11. We stand by you, as we have always done.
The wind of change in the Arab world demonstrates that democracy is worth fighting for, and once gained it must be jealously protected. As a member of the free world and as a strategic partner of the United States, Romania is determined to participate in the effort towards global security. President Traian Basescu’s visit to Washington confirms this common approach to global security and a signature today of this agreement which is one of the focal points of this visit expresses our commitment most eloquently.
It also sets a new stage in our relation, confirming that our strategic partnership has broadened and deepened. The provisions of the agreement allow for the establishment of the territory – on the territory for Romania of elements of the U.S.-European phased adaptive approach to missile defense. This is an integral part of the effort to implement the decision NATO took last November in Lisbon.
In this context, the Romania air base at Deveselu represents an extremely valuable contribution to that NATO, and for the time being, bilateral program.
I’m also happy to hail the adoption of the Joint Declaration of the Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century, which was just issued. This is a concrete outstanding result of the meeting of our two presidents this morning.
It confirms our excellent long term and ever-developing partnership. It also sets the pillars of our relation, political dialogue, which is excellent, security, economy, people-to-people contacts, science and technology research, education, and culture. Indeed, substantive trust in the bilateral relation is an incentive for trade and investment – more American investments in the Romanian market, which is very much investment-oriented. It is so therefore our wish to pursue deeper and broader this kind of cooperation in any bilateral register, and we shouldn’t be afraid when we assist to this turbulent, contemporary world.
We have, due to our strategic partnership, enough opportunities to put more substance in our economic exchanges and cultural mobility. I am confident that endorsement by President Obama of co-sponsored legislation modifying the criteria for the visa waiver program, shall trigger rapid inclusion of strong allies like Romania in this program, which is designed to help to encourage much more people-to-people contact between our nations.
So, dear Hillary, we are modestly making history today. I am very much impressed and honored to be here at the State Department, and I congratulate all those who have hard worked for this successful agreement between our two nations. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
MS. NULAND: We have time for two questions. The first goes to BBC, Kim Ghattas.
QUESTION: Good morning. Madam Secretary, I want to turn your attention to the Middle East, if possible. Beyond pleading with the Palestinians not to go to the UN with a bid for statehood, what are your envoys, Dennis Ross and David Hale, able to offer the Palestinians at this stage, either on behalf of the United States or on behalf of the Israelis, if they’ve had any interesting discussions with the Israelis, to try to convince the Palestinians not to go forward with their plans to go to the UN? And following up on that, has the United States considered that a veto at the UN Security Council or a no-vote at the General Assembly, under these circumstances, would be more damaging than an abstention?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, let’s look first at the big picture, because clearly you raise a number of important issues, all of which we are focused on intently. But we need an environment that is conducive to direct negotiations. We all know that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen at the UN, the next day is not going to result in the kind of changes that the United States wishes to see that will move us toward the two-state solution that we strongly support. The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations between the parties, and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, not in New York.
So instead we are redoubling our efforts with not only both sides, but with a broad cross-section of the international community, to create a sustainable platform for negotiations that can produce the two-state outcome that we seek within the framework that President Obama laid out in his speech last May.
So we are working very hard at all levels on this. I recently have spoken with President Abbas, with High Representative Cathy Ashton, with Quartet Representative Tony Blair. I’m sending David Hale and Dennis Ross back to the region in the next days to meet with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas.
And I think the issue is not simply that action in New York will not bring peace and stability, but it will create more distractions toward achieving that goal, which is certainly the commitment of the Obama Administration. And so we have to keep our eye on what the objective truly is. That’s the point we’re making to everyone. I’m not going to comment on what we see developing, because I think that is going to require even more diplomacy over the next week. But our hope is that we get the parties back into a frame of mind and a process where they will actually begin negotiating again.
QUESTION: But may I follow up on a veto versus an abstention?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, Kim, we’ve made our views known on that.
MS. NULAND: And last question, from (inaudible).
QUESTION: Good morning. I have a question for both of you, first is for the Secretary of State. The security cooperation between our countries – it’s at a high level right now, but many citizens are unhappy with the way in which visas are granted. You believe that there will be a solution to this problem in the near future?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I want to tell the people of Romania, I’m unhappy – (laughter) – about the way the visas – the visa system operates. And the foreign minister and I discussed at length our hope in the Obama Administration to bring about changes in the congressional laws which determine how the visa system is run and who qualifies for visa waiver. You are not the only country that I feel very strongly about trying to change the criteria. Our Polish friends feel exactly the same way.
So as the minister said, we are working in our Administration to present legislation that would create a change in criteria that would enable us to have greater interactions between Americans and Romanians. Until we get that change, because if I could sign a document I would but I have to go through the Congress, we’re going to be working closely with Romania to make sure that we provide whatever technical assistance is needed to try to improve the process in Romania, so we at least get as many people visas and we move closer toward the existing targets on visa waiver.
QUESTION: Thank you. Second is —
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. She has a question for the minister.
QUESTION: — for Mr. Baconschi. We speak today about a new stage in the relationship between Romania and the United States. But how these things can be reflected in our economy cooperation?
FOREIGN MINISTER BACONSCHI: Well, as you might know, the United States is already one of the most important foreign investors in our economy, and we are looking forward to increase the volume of these, including already decided new idea and plans to be created in Romania, which is supposed to generate something like 3,000 – well, jobs, new jobs. So we are very – because we have this very coherent political dialogue in energy security, in strategic affairs, in transatlantic files, and in the NATO framework, et cetera, we are supposed to send the right message to the business media here in the United States. We have enough political trust. We know each other very well, and we would like to see much more American enterprises invest in Romania. Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We would, too. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.