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.