Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Joint Press Conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (Excerpts)

March 3, 2009

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Military

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SECRETARY CLINTON: The foreign minister and I also discussed Iran. We share Israel's concerns about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and its continued financing of terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. As we conduct our policy review and consider areas where we might be able to productively engage with Iran, we will stay in very close consultation with our friends here in Israel, with the neighbors of Iran in the region and beyond with those countries that understand what a threat Iran poses today, and what a greater threat it would pose were it ever to be successful in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

As I pledge again today, and as President Obama has said, we will do everything necessary to ensure Israel's security now and into the future.

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FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: The United States of America is the leader of the free world. It leads the battles which are needed against extremism, and represents the same values that are the basic values of the United States of America. And Israel, I would say, proud to be or to represent these values here in the Middle East. According to these values and the need to fight anti-Semitism, I would like to express not only the government appreciates them, but the people of Israel's appreciation to the standing that you took against the participation in Durban. This demonstrates the values of the United States of America. It was a symbolic decision, and I hope to see more states who are going to follow this decision. And I would like to thank you personally for this.

According to these values, there is an understanding between Israel and the United States of America that the division in the region is between extremists and moderates, and there's a need to act according to a dual strategy. On one hand, to confront terror, to act against extremism that is being represented here in the region by Iran, who poses these threats trying to pursue a weapon - a nuclear weapon and expresses its extreme ideology, which is not connected in any way to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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QUESTION: Andrea Mitchell from NBC. Foreign Minister, did you present Secretary Clinton a series of red lines, conditions that Israel would want to insist on before the United States engages with Iran - conditions such as a time limit on such talks and tougher sanctions before talks would begin?

Could we ask you also, Secretary Clinton, whether those red lines were presented to you? And could we also ask whether the Obama Administration has expressed a willingness, or is willing, to give up the deployment of missile defense in Eastern Europe if Russia is helpful in persuading Iran to back down on any nuclear ambitions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We had a very broad discussion about Iran, and we will continue those discussions. There is an understanding that we share about the threat that Iran poses. We intend to do all that we can to deter and to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. That is our stated policy. That is the goal of any tactic that we employ.

When we talk about engagement with Iran, do not be in any way confused. Our goal remains the same: to dissuade and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and continuing to fund terrorism. It happens to be a goal that is shared not only with Israel, but with many countries that view Iran through the same prism that we do. And as President Obama has said in his inaugural address, we will stretch out our hand to any country that unclenches its fist. But that is yet to be seen. Whatever we do will be done thoughtfully, in consultation with our friends and allies -
most particularly Israel.

With respect to Russia, we are at the beginning of our engagement with Russia on behalf of this new government. I had a chance to meet briefly yesterday at Sharm el-Sheikh with the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. I will be meeting with him at length in Geneva on Friday night. We have a very broad agenda also.

What we have said specifically in regard to missile defense in Europe is that it has always been intended to deter any missile that might come from Iran. That's been our stated position. That was the stated position previously and it remains our position. We have explained that to the Russians before. When I say we, I mean the American Government. And we continue to believe that we have to take all steps necessary to protect ourselves, our friends, our allies, from a potential aggressive action in the future from Iran.

But there's a broad agenda to discuss with the Russians, and we're going to be starting that on Friday.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Okay, thank you. I would like to add on the Iranian issue. I mean, it's not about red lines, but it's about sharing the same perspective about the nature of the threat and how to deal with it. But it is not less important to understand that Iran is not only the problem (inaudible). I mean, this is a global threat. And I'm sure that Secretary Clinton, coming from Egypt right now after hearing the perspective of other states in the region, including other Muslim and Arab states, understands today that they feel that Iran is (inaudible) enemy and not Israel anymore. And they feel that Iran tried to undermine their own regime. Iran works with radical elements within their own states, and Iran represents an ideology which is not (inaudible). It's not a conflict on borders or something; it's an extreme religious ideology that tries to deprive us from our rights. And it's not only about Israel living in peace in the region, but about the entire region. And nobody - really nobody wants to see Iran getting a nuclear weapon. So this is the basic understanding in the world.

Secondly, there is an understanding that time is of the essence. I mean, while we are talking here, Iran tries to continue and to pursue the weapon in order to express its horrific ideology. So there is an understanding that time is of the essence.

Clearly, there is another understanding that sanctions are effective, but they were not effective enough, because unfortunately, the need to have a consensus with the entire international community led to some compromises in the past about the nature of the sanctions. And the United States of America is the leader of the free world. According to the understanding that Iran is a threat and a problem to - a global problem and a global threat, is going to take all the necessary steps in order to address this threat, according to the interest not only of Israel, but the basic interest of the United States of America. And on this, it's a shared interest.

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