U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently met with European High Representative Catherine Ashton to discuss a broad range of foreign policy issues. The partnership between the United States and the European Union is rooted in common values and aspirations and will continue to serve as a cornerstone for global peace, prosperity and security. Global challenges were the focus of discussion, with Syria at the top of the agenda.
The United States strongly condemns Syria's failure to protect diplomatic facilities in Damascus, including the American and French embassies and the U.S. Ambassador's residence. The United States, said Secretary Clinton, demands that the Syrian government meet its international responsibilities immediately to protect all diplomats and the property of all countries.
Despite promising dialogue and promises of change, the Syrian government has responded to the people's peaceful protests with more violence, more arrests, and more intimidation. These assaults must stop, said Secretary Clinton:
"We call on the regime immediately to halt its campaign of violence, pull its security forces back from Hama and other cities, and allow Syrian people to express their opinions freely so that a genuine transition to democracy can take place."
President Bashar Assad, said Secretary Clinton, has lost legitimacy. He is not indispensible, and the United States has absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power. The goal is to see that the will of the Syrian people for a democratic transformation occurs.
Another topic of discussion was the situation in Libya. An upcoming Contact Group meeting in Istanbul will include countries concerned about the safety of Libyan civilians and the need for Colonel Muammar Gadhafi to leave power. The Libyan people are moving ahead with plans for a post-Gadhafi future, organizing institutions and preparing the infrastructure. The United States is working with the United Nations, the EU, and others to coordinate post-conflict assistance to help a free Libya emerge from the dictator's shadow.
The United States and EU remain committed to supporting democratic transitions underway in Egypt and Tunisia. In the Balkans, the United States welcomes as a good first step the recent initial agreements between Kosovo and Serbia in the EU-facilitated dialogue, expects them to be faithfully implemented, and looks forward to additional agreements that will improve the daily lives of ordinary citizens. With regard to northern Kosovo, the United States believes real progress in establishing the rule of law is needed immediately. It is the only way to bring both countries closer to their goals of EU membership.