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Senior US Diplomat Briefs RFE/RL

From RFE/RL’s Washington, DC office, Volker also discussed the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest with dozens of employees at RFE/RL’s broadcasting headquarters in Prague via teleconference. Volker, who has been nominated as the next U.S. Ambassador to NATO said the summit would focus primarily on NATO enlargement and the organization’s role in Afghanistan

After the briefing, which included a question and answer session, Volker conducted radio interviews with correspondents of RFE/RL’s Central Newsroom and Radio Free Afghanistan service. On the aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia to move closer to NATO, Volker said the U.S. supports their efforts: “There’s got to be a ‘yes’ from our side, saying, ‘We welcome the aspirations of George and Ukraine.'” While not committing to offering those nations a Membership Action Plan at the NATO Summit, Volker said, “If not [an Action Plan] in Bucharest, the directional aspect remains the same — they have indicated their desire to come closer and we want to help them.”

Radio Free Afghanistan asked Volker how NATO plans to win the hearts and minds of people in light of the civilian death toll from a recent NATO operation and ongoing violence. “First of all, NATO and the United States go to extraordinary efforts to prevent civilian casualties. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda deliberately kill civilians,” he said. “That’s an important distinction for the people of Afghanistan to understand, that we are there to try to protect and help them build a society — and the Taliban is trying to kill them.”

“Second… we need to do better [at reconstruction and development in Afghanistan]. We need greater resources put into this from the international community. But I’d also say that we need reconstruction and development to follow more closely behind military operations. We need to clear Al-Qaeda and Taliban from a given area, then quickly and nimbly support reconstruction and development in those areas so we can withstand Al-Qaeda and Taliban efforts to retake those areas.”

On Armenia’s crackdown on political opposition following last month’s disputed presidential election, Volker said, “We don’t believe that further crackdowns or further arrests are the right way to go. We think that what needs to be done is to move toward lifting the state of emergency, assuring freedom of the media, assuring the freedom of assembly, assuring the operation of political parties, so that Armenia can walk back from this political crisis.”

A transcript of the interview with Acting Assistant Secretary of State Volker can be found on the State Department website.