Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed her concern and said, “In certain areas of Somalia where access has been possible, including parts of Mogadishu, and in the refugee centers hosted by Ethiopia and Kenya, we are saving many Somali lives. However, al-Shabaab militants have deliberately blocked the delivery of food assistance in an area of south central Somalia which is under direct or indirect control of al-Shabaab. …It is particularly tragic that during the Holy Month of Ramadan, al-Shabaab is preventing assistance to the most vulnerable populations in Somalia, namely children, including infants and girls and women who are attempting to bring themselves and those children to safety and to the potential of being fed before more deaths occur. I call on al-Shabaab to allow assistance to be delivered in an absolutely unfettered way throughout the area that they currently control so that as many lives as possible can be saved.”
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs Don Yamamoto spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs on August 3, 2011. In his testimony he said, “Somalia is at the center of the crisis, but the crisis is affecting the entire Horn of Africa. Ethiopia has issued an appeal indicating 4.5 million Ethiopians need food assistance. In Kenya, the government and a consortium of NGOs have placed 10 districts in the north and east under alert for increased food insecurity and malnutrition. The crisis has hit hardest in Somalia, where failed or poor rains combined with conflict have left 3.7 million people in need of immediate, lifesaving assistance.
Hello, good afternoon, everyone. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Minister Baird here in his new capacity as the foreign minister. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with him briefly in the past, but today we had a chance to go over the very rich substantive agenda that our two countries are working on together, both bilaterally, regionally, and globally.
Before I get into that, however, I would like to comment on the famine situation in Somalia. As you may know, Dr. Jill Biden will be leading a delegation of high-level American officials, including AID Administrator Raj Shah and Assistant Secretary Eric Schwartz from the State Department, to Kenya to see firsthand over this weekend the situation, because as the situation in Somalia and East Africa so clearly illustrates, we all need to be responding to the very human tragedy that is unfolding.
The United States, through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, is working with the international community and governments in the Horn of Africa to address the short-term immediate needs in the region. But at the same time, we will continue to press our implementation of our Feed the Future initiative to mitigate the long-term effects of prolonged drought and food shortages in the future. I would like publicly to express our deep appreciation to Canada for the Canadian Government’s and the Canadian people’s strong partnership and extensive aid in the region.
In certain areas of Somalia where access has been possible, including parts of Mogadishu, and in the refugee centers hosted by Ethiopia and Kenya, we are saving many Somali lives. However, al-Shabaab militants have deliberately blocked the delivery of food assistance in an area of south central Somalia which is under direct or indirect control of al-Shabaab. And that also includes some areas of Mogadishu and its environs.
It is particularly tragic that during the Holy Month of Ramadan, al-Shabaab are preventing assistance to the most vulnerable populations in Somalia, namely children, including infants and girls and women who are attempting to bring themselves and those children to safety and to the potential of being fed before more deaths occur. I call on al-Shabaab to allow assistance to be delivered in an absolutely unfettered way throughout the area that they currently control so that as many lives as possible can be saved.
Now to my meeting with the minister – and I want to express, on behalf of myself and certainly our government, our appreciation for your friendship to the United States. We also are aware of how well known you are for your candor and your ability to cut to the heart of any issue. That was most welcome in our meeting today, and we were able to cover many of our shared goals and commitments.
We are bound together in so many obvious ways, of geography and commerce, culture, values, but it is worth noting that 300,000 people and $1.7 billion in goods and services cross our border every single day. So as close neighbors who work, trade, and interact with one another, we are seeking ways to create jobs for our own citizens, Canadians and Americans alike. Therefore, it’s critical that we ensure our border remains a safe, vibrant connector of people, trade, and energy. And today, the minister and I discussed other ways to expand trade and investment; for example, by reducing unnecessary regulations that get in the way of our businesses doing business.
We also discussed our joint efforts to expand security around the world. I am greatly appreciative of Canada’s contributions in Afghanistan, where Canadian soldiers have suffered some of the highest casualty rates of any coalition partner. And Canada continues to help the Afghan people take responsibility for their own security.
We also appreciate Canada’s contribution to enforcing UN Security Council Resolution 1973 in Libya. And I was very interested in hearing Minister Baird’s impressions from his recent trip to Benghazi.
We also talked about how Canada and the United States can expand our cooperation throughout the Western Hemisphere by leveraging our resources to support economic development, citizens’ safety, and good governance with our neighbors to the south.
Prime Minister Harper has long emphasized his intentions to expand Canada’s engagement in the Americas and the Caribbean, and Canada showed its extraordinary commitment to the people of Haiti in its great outpouring of relief following the earthquake. And there’s much we can do to make sure that our borders to the south are secure, and that means helping Central American countries strengthen their policing and rule of law and reducing corruption. This is – these are areas where Canada’s expertise can make a real difference.
So among the many things we discussed, those are some of the issues that we are working on, but our work continues. I am grateful for the minister’s strong commitment to our robust alliance and our unwavering friendship, and I look forward to continuing our work together.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD:Thank you very much, Madam Secretary, and thank you for the warm welcome here at the State Department. Our two countries continue to enjoy one of the closest friendships and the most prosperous partnerships in the world. Not only do we share a border; we also share people-to-people ties like no other countries on earth, and increasingly intertwined economies, which is why, under the leadership of President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, we remain focused not only on important bilateral issues, but also on global ones as well.
Secretary Clinton and I see eye to eye on the evolving situations in both Libya and in Syria. In Libya, we remain committed to the NTC and its vision for a free Libya in a post-Qadhafi era. In Syria, we stand united in condemning the actions of the Asad regime and backing calls of the Syrian people for true and meaningful reform.
Closer to home, we discussed the path forward on the shared border initiative. Our government recently received a strong mandate from Canadians to create jobs and to secure the global recovery. To that end, even stronger cooperation between Canada and the United States simply makes sense. We must speed up legitimate trade and travel between our two countries while also enhancing security and protecting our citizens’ privacy.
(Speaking in French.)
I would close by thanking Secretary Clinton for her tireless dedication and innovative approach to global diplomacy, and of problem-solving in the international scene. Canada and the United States share very similar core values in our international relations. I know we will continue to work together in a variety of areas to accomplish great things. We are and we will continue to be great partners. Thank you, merci beaucoup.
MR. TONER:We have time for two questions on each side today. The first one goes to Elise Labott of CNN.
QUESTION:Thank you. Madam Secretary, I’d like to ask you about Syria. You said and the President said months ago that if President Asad cannot lead a transition, he should get out of the way. You’ve said he’s lost legitimacy. If you look at the situation on the ground, particularly in Hama, it’s dire. There are tanks inside the country, and basically, nobody has heard from a lot of their people inside the country. I was wondering what more it’s going to have to take for the United States to call on President Asad to step down? What kind of levers can you push to stop the violence and get him out of the way? And what about the sanctions on the oil and gas sector that you had spoken about? What can the U.S. do to stop this tragedy? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON:Well, I think your description is all too accurate. We’ve seen the Asad regime continue and intensify its violent assault against its own people this week. Sometimes you lose sight of the incredible tragedy unfolding on the streets by just looking at the numbers which are so numbing, but the shooting death of a one-year-old recently by the Syrian regime’s tanks and troops is a very stark example of what is going on.
We think to date, the government is responsible for the deaths of more than 2,000 people of all ages, and the United States has worked very hard to corral and focus international opinion to take steps toward a unified response to the atrocities that are occurring. We stand fully behind the UN Security Council presidential statement, which was agreed to last evening, which condemns the widespread violation of human rights and the use of force against civilians by Syrian authorities. And we call, along with the UN Security Council, on the authorities to end all violence against affected towns, comply with their obligations under applicable international law, allow immediate and unfettered access for international humanitarian agencies and workers.
As I’ve said before and as others in our government have said, President Asad has lost his legitimacy to govern the Syrian people. We continue to support the Syrians themselves in their efforts to begin a peaceful and orderly transition to democracy. I met on Tuesday with a group of U.S.-based Syrian activists and members of the Syrian American community to express our solidarity and sympathy for all Syrian victims of the Asad regime’s abuses. The activists reaffirmed the internal opposition’s vision of a transitional plan for a Syria that will be representative, inclusive, and pluralistic, for a new united Syria with a government subject to the rule of law, and fully respectful of the equality of every Syrian irrespective of sect, ethnicity, or gender. And I encouraged the activists to work closely with their colleagues inside Syria to create such a unified vision.
So we are seized of the concerns posed by what is happening in Syria, and we know that it’s taken time to pull together a broader international coalition to speak out against what is happening in Syria, but we are committed to doing all we can to increase the pressure, including additional sanctions, but not just U.S. sanctions, because frankly, we don’t have a lot of business with Syria. We need to get Europeans and others. We need to get the Arab states. We need to get a much louder, more effective chorus of voices that are putting pressure on the Asad regime, and we’re working to obtain that.