Good afternoon, everyone. I am delighted to welcome a very well known figure here to the State Department and to have this opportunity to greet him as Foreign Minister. But before I turn to the issues that bring us together today, let me say a
few words about a subject that I know is on many people’s minds.
There are continuing questions about what exactly happened in Benghazi on that night
three weeks ago. And we will not rest until we answer those questions and until we track
down the terrorists who killed our people. Active efforts are also underway to determine
who was responsible and bring them to justice.
We have already formed an Accountability Review Board to examine this attack and to explore how we can prevent anything like this from happening in the future. The board is beginning its work this week under the leadership of Ambassador Thomas Pickering. The board’s mandate is to determine whether our security systems and procedures in Benghazi were appropriate in light of the threat environment, whether those systems and procedures were properly implemented, and any lessons that may be relevant to our work around the world.
The men and women who serve this country as diplomats deserve no less than a full and
accurate accounting, wherever that leads. And I am committed to seeking that for them
and for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.
No one wants to determine what happened that night in Benghazi more than the President and I do. No one is more committed to ensuring it doesn’t happen again. And nobody will hold this department more accountable than we hold ourselves, because we served with and we knew the four men we lost. They are not just names or profiles to us. They are our colleagues and our friends.
In our initial reviews over the past two weeks, we have worked closely with other agencies, and we have learned a number of things. We will continue to learn more in the days to come. We are committed to a process that is as transparent as possible while balancing the needs of the investigations underway. It will take time before we have a complete understanding of what actually did happen. But still, I am asking the board to move as quickly as possible without sacrificing diligence and accuracy.
In the interim, we will continue to provide as much accurate information as we can to the public and to the Congress. As I’ve been saying for four years, our diplomats and development experts are on the front lines, just like our troops. And the entire United States Government needs to work together to protect them. We will not retreat. We will keep leading, and we will stay engaged everywhere in the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and security are at stake. That is the best way to honor those whom we have lost.
Now let me say again what a pleasure it is to welcome Foreign Minister Idrisov here to
Washington in his new capacity. He served here for five years as Kazakhstan’s ambassador, so we already know him as a friend and partner. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Foreign Minister for Kazakhstan’s strong statements in support of the United States and the duty to protect diplomats following the Benghazi attack.
Today we discussed the many ways our nations are enhancing our cooperation through our Strategic Partnership Dialogue. As a critical link in the Northern Distribution Network,
Kazakhstan is part of our efforts to supply and support our troops in Afghanistan. And
Kazakhstan is looking forward to a future of greater regional cooperation and economic
integration after the security transition ends in 2014.
They have pledged to support the Afghan National Security Forces. They are focusing on infrastructure projects and training Afghan officials. Kazakhstan has also embraced the Vision for a New Silk Road that will strengthen the region’s economic ties, where goods and people can move freely throughout the region. I thanked the Minister for everything that Kazakhstan is doing to promote stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
We discussed Kazakhstan’s program of economic and democratic reforms at home. Kazakhstan is working to strengthen its institutions, including its newly elected parliament. And I assured the Foreign Minister that the United States will continue to support this path
toward becoming a modern democracy.
At the same time, I did express the importance of continuing to strengthen space for the
development of civil society. A strong civil society is essential to an effective democracy,
and we urge that all human rights be protected. In this regard, I did express concern over
a new religion law, and made the point that its implementation should not restrict the
right of people to worship peacefully.
Finally, we talked about our partnership on nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and
security. I thanked the Foreign Minister for Kazakhstan’s work with the IAEA to establish
an international nuclear fuel bank. And we discussed our shared commitment to seeing
Iran come into full compliance with its UN Security Council and Nonproliferation Treaty
Our nations have enjoyed more than 20 years of diplomatic relations. And as we enter this
third decade of partnership, I look forward to seeing new ways and new opportunities for
our countries to work together.
Thank you so much, Minister.