Clinton:We have a lot in common with Muslim World

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives a speech at the Dar al-Hekma college for women in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah on February 16.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives a speech at the Dar al-Hekma college for women in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah on Feb. 16.

The following interview with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was conducted February 16, 2010, by Michel Ghandour of Al Hurra at Dar Al Hekma College for women ,  Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, first, thank you for your time. You have made a great speech in Doha about the relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world. And you visited today the OIC headquarters in Jeddah. Why are you doing these gestures toward the Muslim world?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Because I think that it is very important that we follow up on and fulfill President Obama’s vision of a new beginning in our relations between the United States and the Muslim world.

We have a lot in common. There are so many human connections that we have. There are a lot of policies that we agree on. As you say, I visited the OIC today. We are going to work together, the United States and the OIC, to eradicate polio in places like Northern Nigeria or Pakistan and Afghanistan. We are going to work together on maternal and child mortality. There are so many ways that I think we can translate the vision of a new beginning into concrete specifics that will affect the lives of people.

QUESTION: On the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the Palestinian Authority is waiting for answers from the U.S. regarding the goals, the reference, and the time frame for any talks, direct or indirect talks, between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Do you have these answers for them?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We have been engaged in constant consultation with the Palestinians. I met with Saeb Erekat when I was in Doha. And they are getting all of the information that they have requested. And we hope that the next step will be moving toward negotiations.

QUESTION: But after this meeting, Saeb Erekat told us that he is awaiting these answers. And maybe David Hale will bring these answers to the Palestinian Authority this week.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think this week that there will be an exchange of information. I don’t know the exact date, but I know that it is going to happen soon.

QUESTION: And after that, do you expect to resume the negotiations between the two parties?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That is what I would hope to see, that the two parties would begin negotiations on the final status issues.

I think that it is time to get into discussions of the critical issues of borders and security and refugees in Jerusalem. And then the United States will play a facilitating role, and do everything we can to, you know, help create the two-state solution.

QUESTION: Can we expect that during this month?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know what the schedule will be. But that is our hope. As soon as possible.

QUESTION: Israel expressed its concerns regarding Syria delivering new range missiles to Hezbollah, and threatened that if Hezbollah fired these missiles, it will hit Syria and military and strategic positions and targets in Syria. How do you view the escalation of the tension, escalations in the region, especially between Syria and Israel?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would like to see Syria and Israel also engaged in peace negotiations to resolve their conflict. And I regret deeply that Syria is, if that’s the case, supplying weapons to Hezbollah. I don’t think that is useful for either Lebanon or Israel. And it reflects badly on Syria.

But of course, Israel is going to say they will defend themselves. Any country would do that. So we need to break that cycle. And Syria needs to focus on trying to resolve its differences, not exacerbate them, with Israel.

QUESTION: Are you worried about Iraq’s future, especially that the Sunni leaders are threatening that they will boycott the upcoming elections?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think the upcoming elections in Iraq are very important, and I hope no one boycotts, because we know that the last time there was a boycott, it didn’t work out very well. And it is not in the interest of any part of the population.

If I were living in Iraq, if I were running for office in Iraq, my slogan would be, “One people, one country, one Iraq, one future.” I think that, like it or not, people need to work together. They need to have a common view of their future. They need to participate in this election. We are going to do everything we can to make this election as effective as possible, as free and fair and legitimate as possible.

We have made clear that we don’t think it’s appropriate to disqualify people for no reason from running in the election. So we are hoping that, in the several weeks, there will be a decision made by every Iraqi to go to the polls and express him or herself. And then there will be a government forum that can continue to build a stable democracy that includes every Iraqi.

QUESTION: Finally, based on what you have said, Madam Secretary, that Iran is sliding toward a military dictatorship —

SECRETARY CLINTON: Michel, I am very worried about this. I mean, our observation is that the Revolutionary Guard get more and more powerful, and it seems as though the clerical and the political leadership gets less so. That is troubling.

It is especially troubling for the people of Iran. Because having the Revolutionary Guard have even greater control over security, and increasing control over the economy and the political situation in Iran is not good news. It is discouraging news. And it goes hand in hand with the repression that the people of Iran are suffering.

So, we are hopeful that the sanctions which we are working with the international community to design will effectively target the Revolutionary Guard and send a message that we still believe there is time for Iran to change its thinking, and its direction, and give up the idea of nuclear weapons, pursue peaceful nuclear power — which we have always said, in the Obama Administration, they are entitled to do — and begin the dialogue that President Obama called for from the very first day he took office.

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Madam Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Michel. US.State dept