Secretary Clinton welcomed the release of Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi Saturday, after the Nobel Peace Prize laureate spent most of the past two decades under house arrest. Clinton also urged Burmese leaders to start an "inclusive dialogue" with Aung San Suu Kyi as part of the process of creating a more thriving and democratic Burma. Importantly, she also called on the Burmese regime to "immediately and unconditionally" free all 2,100 political prisoners in the country. Below is Clinton's complete statement:
Today I join with billions of people around the world to welcome the long-overdue release of Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.
Aung San Suu Kyi has endured enormous personal sacrifice in her peaceful struggle to bring democracy and human rights to Burma, including unjustified detention for most of the past twenty years. The Burmese regime has repeatedly rejected her offers to engage in dialogue and work together, trying instead to silence and isolate her. Through it all, Aung San Suu Kyi's commitment to the Burmese people has not wavered.
The United States calls on Burma's leaders to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi's release is unconditional so that she may travel, associate with her fellow citizens, express her views, and participate in political activities without restriction. They should also immediately and unconditionally release all of Burma's 2,100 political prisoners.
We urge Burma's leaders to break from their repressive policies and begin an inclusive dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic and ethnic leaders towards national reconciliation and a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future.
In the photo above, Aung San Suu Kyi smiles at the gate of her home soon after her release from house arrest.
Secretary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are in New York today to discuss Mideast peace. Not that they haven't been doing so anyway. Before the two met, Netanyahu told journalists that he and Clinton had been talking "quite intensively" by phone during the past few weeks.
During their talks today, Clinton is sure to bring up her disappointment about Israel's recent announcement of 1,300 new housing units in Arab East Jerusalem. Yesterday, when announcing $150 million in U.S. budget assistance to the Palestinian Authority, Clinton said, "The United States was deeply disappointed by the announcement of advanced planning for new housing units in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem. This announcement was counterproductive to our efforts to resume negotiations between the parties. We have long urged both parties to avoid actions which could undermine trust, including in Jerusalem."
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Activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) donned cow and chicken costumes yesterday to greet nearly vegetarian Bill Clinton when he was in Manila, Philippines, to give a speech titled, "Embracing Our Common Humanity." The brown cow held a sign urging people to "Be Like Bill: Grill Veggies, Not Meat," and the yellow chicken bore a sign declaring, "Chicks Love Slim Vegan Bill."
"Bill Clinton is promoting healthy living, and we commend him for leading by example," a PETA leader told Deutsche Presse-Agentur. (The former U.S. president lost 24 pounds for daughter Chelsea's July 31 wedding by adopting a plant-based diet.)
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In a videoconference with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad yesterday, Secretary Clinton announced the transfer of $150 million in U.S. direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority to help it build a viable Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution. Clinton said the latest infusion of money brings the United States' total direct budget assistance to $225 million for 2010 and overall U.S. support and investment to almost $600 million for 2010.
"This figure underscores the strong determination of the American people and this administration to stand with our Palestinian friends even during difficult economic times," the secretary of state said in announcing the transfer of funds.
The money -- whose use will be carefully monitored by the United States, the World Bank, and the IMF -- will go toward the important task of building a well-functioning Palestinian state. Clinton explained, "This new funding will help the Palestinian Authority pay down its debt, continue to deliver services and security to its people, and keep the progress going. It will support our work together to expand Palestinians' access to schools, clinics, and clean drinking water in both the West Bank and Gaza. And it will allow Prime Minister Fayyad's government to build and modernize courthouses and police stations, train judges and prosecutors, and launch new economic development initiatives."
This emphasis on building a viable Palestinian state accords with some of Elliott Abram's advice for President Obama, as detailed in his recent FP piece, "Build Up the West Bank." Abrams writes that instead of focusing on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, Obama should instead spend the rest of his term helping build a Palestinian state in the West Bank. He writes:
If you build it, they will sign. The only way to reassure Palestinians that a state is possible is to make one, and the only way to reassure Israelis that their security will be enhanced rather than diminished is for them to see it with their own eyes. That won't happen for either side at Camp David or Oslo or Annapolis -- only right there on the ground in the West Bank.
Here is a video of Clinton's and Fayyad's remarks:
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Today, Nov. 11, is the 35th anniversary of Angola's independence from Portugal in 1975. Secretary Clinton, who visited Angola last year, as seen in the photo above with Angolan Foreign Minister Assuncao dos Anjos, issued the following statement congratulating the African country:
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Angola on your 35th Independence Day this November 11.
I was honored to help launch a new phase in the bilateral relationship between Angola and the United States during my visit to your country last year. This summer, we took another step forward and signed a Memorandum of Understanding that formally recognizes Angola as a strategic partner for the United States in Africa. Through this dialogue, we will advance our cooperation on energy and security, strengthen institutional capacity, improve transportation systems, and build a brighter future for Angola. The United States is also committed to helping Angola continue the fight against HIV/AIDS and improve its health systems. I look forward to finding new ways to deepen our partnership as we continue our work together.
I wish all Angolans a wonderful holiday, with a peaceful and prosperous year to come.
(Random interesting factoid: When Clinton was in Angola in August 2009, dos Anjos described her visit as "the most sublime, most magnanimous moment" that "changes everything," according to the New York Times.)
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Secretary Clinton is back in D.C., and Madam Secretary is back in business! Thanks for bearing with me during my two-week hiatus while I was busy focusing on the print edition of Foreign Policy. It was tough not being able to blog about Clinton while she was doing so much amazing diplomacy overseas.
After a relatively light day in Washington yesterday (her first day back in town), Clinton today has a full plate of meetings on her schedule (an edited version is pasted below). Cheerful and non-jet-lagged-looking, she already videoconferenced this morning with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, as seen in the photo above. Expect more posts to come!
10:15 a.m. Clinton announces the transfer of budget-assistance funds to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad participates via videoconference.
11 a.m. Clinton meets with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House.
1 p.m. Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
3:30 p.m. Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radicova.
5 p.m. Clinton meets with Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
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I'm busy this week and next working on the next print issue of Foreign Policy, so posting will be light. Thanks for your patience.
Today, Oct. 26, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton turns 63 years young! Happy birthday!
Clinton was born Oct. 26, 1947, in Chicago to Dorothy Rodham and the late Hugh Rodham.
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Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.