Latvian Foreign Minister Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shake hands during a Feb. 22 press conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pēteris Bičevskis, courtesy of the Embassy of Latvia)
The sky is the limit for Latvia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Feb. 22 after a meeting with Latvian Foreign Minister Ģirts Valdis Kristovksis.
The foreign minister met with Clinton as part of a four-day visit to Washington, D.C. During the meeting the two discussed matters of economic development and global security. Among issues addressed were Latvia’s membership in the NATO defense alliance and its continuing mission in Afghanistan, diversifying Latvia’s energy sources and the country’s support for democracy in neighboring Belarus.
Clinton, speaking during a press conference that was overshadowed by events in Libya and Bahrain, said Latvia is “a democracy that is demonstrating by its actions how it can build a better future for its own people.”
“The United States has maintained an unbroken friendship with Latvia throughout its modern history, when it was at war and under occupation and since it acquired its independence from the Soviet Union, and we have long admired the Latvian people’s resilience throughout very difficult times,” Clinton said, according to a transcript of the press conference distributed by the State Department.
She applauded Latvia’s involvement in NATO and said the U.S. remains committed to the security of Europe. Clinton also noted Latvia’s efforts to deal with its economic crisis.
“As we work together for global security, we especially commend the Latvian people for their achievements over the past 20 years as they continue their work toward their own better future,” Clinton said. “Gaining membership in NATO and the European Union took patience and persistence, and when those memberships came they were richly deserved. And after suffering devastating job losses during this last global recession, they have been undertaking stringent cost-cutting measures necessary to begin a sustainable recovery.”
While the meeting with Clinton may not have come with any firm commitments regarding the Latvian economy, Kristovskis told a reporter that he is convinced the U.S. will maintain interest in investing in the country. Latvia wants to learn about America’s experience with producing natural gas from shale deposits, the foreign minister said.
Kristovskis also said he expects that in the future more Latvian entrepreneurs will participate in the Northern Distribution Network, a U.S.-backed project to transport supplies to Afghanistan. One of the main ports involved in the plan is Rīga.
Clinton also noted that the U.S. looks forward to Latvia broadening its commitment to the rule of law by renewing a claims process to return communal property to the Jewish community. According to the Israel-based World Jewish Restitution Organization, in Latvia “well over 200 pre-war communal properties, other than cemeteries, have been identified as belonging to the Jewish community prior to World War II.”
“I believe that the sky is the limit for Latvia,” Clinton added. “We have a shared commitment to values, a view of what is in the best interest of our people.”
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