Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Meetings and More Meetings... mixed in with some Human Rights

Today began, as scheduled, with a meeting between Dora Bakoyannis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic of Greece and the Secretary. Their talks were to be centered around bilateral relations, OSCE issues, the situation in the Middle East and the Caucasus, developments in the Balkans, relations with Turkey and the Cyprus issue according to the Embassy of Greece.

Here is their brief statement to the press:

Next, the Secretary gave The State Department's 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights, an annual speech given by the Secretary of State. Hillary really pressed on the fact that we must work on these issues here on American soil, first. And then extend ourselves to working on Human Right's abroad. She said:

"Our commitment to human rights is driven by our faith and our moral values, and by our belief that America must first be an exemplar of our own ideals."

Human Right's groups so far seem to be praising this years speech saying that these remarks follow a number of positive steps taken by the new Administration to begin to remedy the United States' own human rights violations, particularly regarding torture and detention. Preliminary improvements to these practices, which had seriously compromised the promotion of human rights abroad, provide a brighter context for this year's reports.

"Making the protection of human rights a top priority is completely consistent with the concept of 'smart power' Secretary of State Clinton has put forth," said Elisa Massimino, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First.

"The calculus is simple: Human rights violations contribute to instability, insecurity and lack of transparency and accountability that exacerbate crises and threaten US interests abroad, while human rights protections - including labor rights, just legal systems, and official accountability - advance economic growth and international security." Next was a meeting with with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. Watch the introduction here.

Questions have been raised about plans to field a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe. After the meeting, Sikorski told the press he did not know whether the missile plan, opposed by Russia, would go ahead. He said, "My genuine impression is that they have not thought about this yet. They really have not decided. They do have other big, several trillion dollar priorities... We think it is only natural that a new administration take stock of all kinds of programs, including this one."

Sirkorski previously met with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He said Obama had restored America's "moral" standing in the world and would put strong pressure on Europeans to contribute more troops to Afghanistan. "I expect him to say ... 'I am prepared to give you a bigger share of global leadership if you will give me resources to fix the war that you joined willingly and unanimously. The Europeans will have a harder nut to crack because we will have to think how we can come up to the challenge."

The next meeting with Amre Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League, seemed to be interesting. Although, I couldn't find any video or photos of their introduction... Moussa hopes that the United States will take on the role of "honest broker" in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Moussa has spoken openly about his distaste for President Bush saying, "What we need is a policy change." He also openly talked about Mideast envoy, George J. Mitchell. Calling him a hopeful change. "Mr. Mitchell is the personification of the honest broker," Moussa said in a public discussion at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. This meeting was followed by guess what? More meetings! The Secretary held a bilateral meeting with His Excellency Celso Amorim, Minister of Foreign Relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil (watch their meeting here) and one with Dr. Jaime Bermudez Merizalde, Minister of Foreign Relations of the Republic of Colombia (watch their meeting here). This evening the Secretary hosted a working dinner for His Excellency Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and for His Excellency Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

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