I have just finished a trip to Belgium for the annual Brussels Forum which brings together policy makers, civil society groups and opinion leaders for discussion on transatlantic issues. This gathering allowed me to meet with key leaders on the international stage and discuss two issues at the forefront of my foreign policy priorities, the growing threat from Iran and the ongoing crisis related to food security.
I appeared on a panel discussion entitled the "Nuclear Threat from Iran" which included Amb. Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent Representative to the European Union and European Atomic Energy Community, Russian Federation; Dr. Wang Jisi, Dean, School of International Studies, Beijing University; Brig. Gen. (ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Israel; Ruprecht Polenz, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, German Parliament. This was a great opportunity to debate these issues and hear from different voices in the international community. While I supported the Obama Administration's diplomatic efforts with Iran, the regime has not responded in kind. I made the case that the Iranian government has clearly not honored its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency and that the time has come to implement a strong and effective sanctions package. I was encouraged that there was support among the audience of European leaders for the pressure track against Iran.
Afghanistan was another pressing matter on the agenda. I met with Peter Mackay the Canadian Minister of Defense and thanked him for Canada's troop commitment to Afghanistan and our joint efforts to confront the Taliban across the country.
While in Brussels, I also met individually with President Boris Tadic of Serbia, President Ivo Josipovic from Croatia, and Montenegrin Foreign Minister Milan Rocen. While we have seen remarkable progress in the Balkans in recent years, challenges remain, especially in regard to the deteriorating political environment in Bosnia. My Brussels Forum Co-Chair Senator George Voinovich of Ohio has made the point that we need to remain focused on consolidating regional peace and stability as well as the democratic process in the countries of the Balkans. I valued my exchanges with these important leaders and look forward to monitoring developments in the region.
I had the opportunity to meet briefly with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who underlined the threat from Iran during his speech to the Forum, and with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who appeared on a panel regarding NATO's future.
First thing this morning, I appeared on a panel regarding food security. I have been a strong proponent of global food security and appreciated the opportunity to discuss these critical issues with experts from the U.S. and Europe. With more than 1 billion people hungry in the world, we must and can do more to develop the capabilities of small farmers around the world to grow their own food and bring it to market. This is also a critical national security issue - instability associated with hunger is a solvable problem, and we need to do more to confront this challenge at the front end. The Global Food Security Act, which I have cosponsored with Senator Lugar, addresses these issues and is pending in the Senate. During the panel, I shared thoughts on our legislation and developed a deeper understanding of the growing food security challenges we face.
I have departed Brussels for Vienna where I will meet with officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency to discuss its efforts to curb the Iranian nuclear program and combat nuclear proliferation around the world. While there, I will also visit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. These meetings come at a key time when we face an array of nuclear nonproliferation issues in the Senate as well as a new nuclear arms agreement with Russia.
Today is our final day in Brussels. We are on the way to the airport, ready to fly back home. It has been a rewarding weekend, full of dialogue and insight, and I am happy that I led this delegation. A side benefit: I have gotten to know some of my fellow Senators better, including John McCain, who sat across from me on the flight over here.
I and a couple of other Members were briefed this morning by Richard Holbrooke, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the emerging results of the Administration's 60 day review of U.S. Policy towards these two nations. While the results are not final -- the President has yet to sign off on them -- Holbrooke painted a sobering picture for us. I urged the Administration to communicate to the American people in a clear fashion our goals and objectives and our ultimate exit strategy. Any strategy for success must have the sustained support of the American people.
I hope you have enjoyed this series of updates from my trip to the Brussels Forum. I look forward to updating you in the future via blogging on my efforts to better serve the people of Pennsylvania.
It has been a full second day at the Brussels Forum, where I am leading a U.S. Congressional delegation this weekend. We started at 745 in the morning with a pair of early bird sessions and didn't stop until late this evening. A highlight in the morning was an engrossing talk by Bob Zoellick, the President of the World Bank, on the current global recession and strategies for getting out of it. I was pleased when he saluted the Global Food Security Act, legislation Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana and I introduced late last year to overhaul U.S. food assistance to developing nations so that we can give the farmers in these nations the tools they need to become self-sufficient on agriculture. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing on this issue on Tuesday morning.
I was a panelist for one of the late evening sessions, which focused on how the United States and our allies can handle the threats posed by adversaries in the Middle East. While I strongly support the new U.S. approach of diplomatic engagement, demonstrated powerfully by President Obama's stirring New Years greeting to the Iranian people, I emphasized in my remarks that we must always remember diplomacy is only a means, not an end. The challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program and the continuing acts of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas and Hezbollah require both skillful diplomacy and a coherent strategy of incentives and deterrents, including sanctions. And we can never neglect our closest friend and ally in the region -- the state of Israel.
I was concerned when I heard the news of the hazardous materials accident at Wind Gap. Initial reports indicate the spill was well-contained and there are no serious injuries. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Wind Gap and I have asked my staff to keep me updated.
Will check in a final time tomorrow before I leave!
We landed in Brussels yesterday morning after an overnight flight. Unfortunately, I didn't sleep at all on the flight, so I had to operate off caffeine and adrenaline for the whole day. We are lucky -- it is a gorgeous spring day in Brussels, a city better known for its overcast skies. Too bad I won't get to enjoy it -- the Brussels Forum has a packed schedule, with little time for rest.
I agreed to co-chair the U.S. delegation to this weekend gathering because it is essential to hear from our friends, allies, and even rivals if you want a constructive U.S. foreign policy. I am glad I came. There are many key international figures here, including the World Bank President Bob Zoellick, Georgian President Saakashvili, and U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dick Holbrooke. The seminars that line up back-to- back on the schedule are incredibly informative, but I have also found the informal discussions over coffee to be just as valuable. It is important to remember we don't always have all the answers and we should strive to listen to what others have to say.
I delivered opening remarks yesterday to kick off the Forum. I emphasized the three central challenges confronting the international community today: the worldwide global recession, the deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan and western Pakistan, and the growing threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon. I emphasized that, in meeting these challenges, we must forge unity if we are to succeed.
Time to head off to my next seminar -- a discussion with Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and the European Union's foreign policy envoy, Javier Solana. I will check back in later.
To learn more about Brussels Forum 2009, click here.