Date :Friday, December 5th, 2014 | Time : 12:29 |ID: 13256 | Print

Bahrain : Press Availability with A/S Tom Malinowski and A/S Anne Patterson

SHAFAQNA – A/S Patterson (AP): I’m happy to be here with all of you and with my colleague, Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski.  We’re both pleased to be back in the Kingdom of Bahrain, a longstanding friend of the U.S., and we’ve been able to hold productive discussions that reinforced the strong strategic and economic partnership our two countries share.

I was just in Yemen and obviously there’s a great deal of uncertainty in many parts of the region, which greatly concerns all of us and reinforces the need for close cooperation among allies.  Especially during difficult times, it’s critical to keep the lines of communications open with our friends and partners, which is why I wanted to join Assistant Secretary Malinowski in Manama this week.

The United States and Bahrain share a deep interest in regional security, and today we’re working more closely than we ever have before countering common threats.

Bahrain is a key member of the international coalition that has joined together to oppose Da’esh and put an end to this criminal terrorist group.  While much of the media coverage of the coalition has focused on military strikes, Bahrain and the other GCC countries have been leaders of other lines of effort aimed at undermining Da’esh and other terrorist networks.

Last month, Bahrain’s hosted an international conference focused on countering terrorist financing;  And tomorrow Bahrain will host the tenth annual Manama Dialogue, which will provide a useful opportunity for governments to discuss anti-Da’esh measures and provide a crucial forum to discuss other regional issues.

Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and we clearly share important strategic objectives.  But increasingly our ties extend beyond our militaries and touch on shared economic and civil society interests, as well.

Over the past few days, Assistant Secretary Malinowski and I had the opportunity to hear directly from Bahrainis – both the government and civil society – about their impressions of Bahrain’s recent successful elections and other important events that have recently taken place in the Kingdom.

I would like to end by extending my appreciation to Ambassador Thomas Krajeski for his exemplary leadership of the U.S. Mission here in Bahrain and the important relationships and partnerships that he forged during his tenure.

Although Ambassador Krajeski’s time in Bahrain is coming to an end, he will soon be passing the mantle to William Roebuck, whom President Obama nominated last summer and the U.S. Senate confirmed in November.

We expect Ambassador-Designate Roebuck to arrive in Manama after just a few weeks.

A/S Malinowski: I’m very glad to be back in Bahrain.  As everyone knows, my last visit did not end in a way that served anyone well.  I’m very happy that we are now looking and moving forward.

The United States is grateful for Bahrain’s leadership and partnership in confronting our shared challenges in this region, from our longstanding security relationship to our current efforts against ISIL.  The turmoil in other parts of this region is one reason why we so greatly value and encourage Bahrain’s efforts to find strength and stability in diversity.  Perhaps the most important contribution Bahrain can make to the anti-Daesh coalition and the security of the region is to show that a multi-sectarian country can overcome differences through dialogue and democracy.

Assistant Secretary Patterson and I had a very constructive visit with government officials over the last two days, including His Majesty the King and the Crown Prince, and a broad cross-section of Bahrain’s political and civil society groups.

We think that the recent elections provide a real opportunity to move forward.  We hope that both the government and opposition will seize it.  We hope that this will be a time when everyone focuses on lowering tensions, continuing dialogue, avoiding actions that provoke mistrust, and building the confidence needed to resolve the country’s problems – including fully enfranchising the people who did not vote in the elections.  There are still serious issues that need to be resolved.  But everyone we met made clear to us that they remain committed to working toward these objectives together.

We all condemn violent acts directed at security forces or citizens of Bahrain. This includes intimidation directed against voters or election candidates.

But a key ingredient in building trust will be protection of universally recognized human rights.  The United States will always take the view that societies are strengthened, and extremism undermined, when there is freedom of expression, including for words that might make people uncomfortable or provoke serious disagreement.  We stressed over the last two days the importance of applying justice equally to everyone, no matter their sect or station in life, and of accountability for abuses.  We hope that the good work will continue to strengthen trust between the police and the communities they protect.  We met with new Ombudsman and the Special Investigative Unit, and hope that everyone will support their work.  We welcome the support the government has given for the National Institution for Human Rights, and hope it will take seriously the recommendations the Institute has made.  The reports produced by these national institutions are unique for this region, but reports must lead to results.

We think that progress in these areas will be good for Bahrain, and consistent with what the vast majority of this country want for Bahrain.

This is my second trip to Bahrain as Assistant Secretary, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  I have many friends here and I truly believe that the country has the capacity to overcome its recent difficulties and to succeed.  And that our partnership with the people and government of Bahrain can  and will continue to grow.

Ambassador Krajeski: We can now open it up for a few questions.  Please identify yourself and your organization and limit it to one question at a time.

Question: (Tammam Abu Safi, Al Ayam Newspaper)  I would like to hear your comments about the violent reaction of American police in Ferguson lately…[inaudible]..when a police officer shooting a small child with a toy weapon..[inaudible] your thoughts on that.

A/S TM: The American People have very strong concerns about those questions and I think it is important for me as an American diplomat to stress, that the United States is not perfect. When we talk to other governments, including here in Bahrain, about human rights we do not do so from a standpoint of moral superiority. We believe that we all have a duty to respect these rights and to hold each other to the very highest standards. We have an interest in Bahrain respecting human rights and you have an interest in the United States continually improving.  I think that ultimately the test for all of us, for every country that is committed to the rule of law, is not whether we have problems in our society but how we respond to those problems. With respect to the recent events in Ferguson, the United States has launched independent investigations of these events, including by our Federal government.  We have had a robust public debate, including, as we have seen in recent days, respecting the right of people throughout our country to demonstrate peacefully their feelings and their anger over what has happened. I think the things we ask of others are the things that we are trying to show as we respond to these very difficult problems.

QUESTION #2 (Reem Khalifa, AP and Al Wasat):  My name is Reem Khalifa; I represent the Associated Press and at this moment also I represent Al Wasat Newspaper.  I have one question:  are you satisfied with Bahrain’s progress on human rights since 2011?

A/S TM: Well, as I said in my opening statement, we believe that there has been progress but there’s still a ways to go.  And I think the election showed both sides of that.  Many, many people came out and voted their support for an agenda of moving forward and overcoming the difficulties of the last three years.  But there are still people who don’t fully, who need to be convinced to trust and have confidence in the process, and respect for human rights is going to be an important part of building that kind of trust, whether it is respect for freedom of expression, or freedom of assembly, the right to organize and to pursue their goals peacefully.  And so we hope that that will continue to happen.

QUESTION #3 (Faritsa Saeed, Reuters):  If any of you can give us a brief of the real outcomes of your meetings with the government and the opposition – the outcomes of your meetings?

A/S TM: The purpose of the meetings was to have an exchange of views and from our standpoint the message that we conveyed in the meetings, the message that A/S Patterson and I just delivered, we talked about the aspects of our partnership that are strong and that we wish to see become stronger. We also talked about the issues that still need to be worked on. And all I can say is that these were very, very good conversations and that there was healthy give and take and the government officials we met stressed a strong commitment to the principles of dialogue, reconciliation, lowering of tensions, and moving forward in the spirit with which the elections were held. But I would of course suggest that you speak to them about any further details on their side.

Question 4: (Raji, Gulf Daily News) [inaudible, FMS hold; threats against Americans, incident in Abu Dhabi]


A/S AP: On the holds, we had a very constructive discussion with members of the government on that issue. Obviously it’s an issue that we will take back to our colleagues and superiors in Washington, but the idea of this visit that we would move forward on the relationship as best we can and why we have a candid exchange of views. I think your second question is about the safety of U.S. citizens in the region? We are… certainly there have been some security incidences in recent days the both the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the last few days and we are concerned about those, but we have not issued any broad warnings, and we are of course concerned about the very dreadful killing of our citizens by Da’esh, but we have not issued any broad travel warnings about the Gulf. We are quite confident that countries like Bahrain can protect our citizens.

A/S TM: Let me just add that we will be looking at that issue in the days ahead. The elections were an important step, and this trip… it was important that this trip happened. But I would go back to my opening statement when I said that we think that this is an opportunity, and we would be looking to all sides to seize this opportunity in the days and weeks ahead by avoiding actions that provoke mistrust and by taking actions that build trust, and this will be of course up to the government and the people of Bahrain but we will be looking with anticipation.

QUESTION #5 (Mohannad, Daily Tribune) What about concerns by MPs and others that you ignored them on your last visit to Bahrain?

A/S TM: Well, as you know, that trip was unfortunately cut short before we had a chance to complete the vast majority of the meetings that we had planned. But as I think everyone in the Bahraini Government was aware we had planned to meet a very broad range of people representing all possible views in the Kingdom as we always try to do and as we did over the last two days. We want to hear from everybody. We want everyone who wants to tell us what they think to have a chance to share their views with us and we respect all of the views that we hear.

A/S Patterson: Let me say that I think we’ve tried to do everything possible, as Mr Malinowski says, to listen to a broad array of views on this trip: labor leaders, religious leaders, intellectuals, members of civil society, associations, like attorneys associations, authors of well-known books. So I was enormously impressed. We heard a very broad range of views and the broad commitment of this very wide section of Bahrainis to move forward in their society.

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