John Kerry – Secretary of State – Treaty Room – Washington, DC – January 21, 2015
SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Last month, when I met with High Representative Federica Mogherini, I invited her to come see me in Washington. She looked at me, kind of smirking, and said, “When’s John Kerry ever in Washington?” Well, I’m here, and we found a moment before we both leave this evening to go to meet in London again tomorrow, where we will be meeting with a small group of the more than 61 entities and countries that are engaged in the fight against ISIL – the coalition. And tomorrow, we’re going to have a meeting in London with a small group. I’ll say a word about that a little bit later.
But I’m very, very pleased to welcome my friend Federica here. I got to know her and meet her in her brief stint as the foreign minister of Italy, and now elevated to the position of high representative, she is working with us on almost every single issue that we’re engaged in in terms of foreign policy. And we’re very, very appreciative for the significant cooperative relationship that we have. When we get together, it’s probably a lot quicker to figure out the things we – that are not on the agenda than it is to get through everything that is on the agenda. It’s just a fact.
So today, we reviewed the alarming situation in Ukraine, where we are continuing to press Russia to live by the Minsk agreements which they signed onto, which they negotiated, which they said they would keep, and which is critical to our ability to be able to restore the full sovereignty and the calm and the stability necessary for a transformation. We also call on all sides to end the fighting and to implement the Minsk agreement. We’re particularly concerned by signs that the Russian-backed separatists are attacking a full-scale initiative against the city of Debaltseve, and in an attempt to obviously gain control of a very significant rail juncture. And that is in blatant violation of the Minsk agreement – the September 19th Minsk agreement ceasefire. It is also obviously – because there’s been about a 500-square-mile extension of the so-called line of control – an effort to try to broaden the amount of territory that is being held from the time that they signed an agreement and agreed to keep the line of control. So this is a very blatant land grab, and it is in direct contravention to the Minsk agreements which they signed up to.
And that is why the European community decided to hold the line with respect to the sanctions and continue to send a message that we will not stand for this kind of violation of the sovereign integrity of a nation. The OSCE reported yesterday that at least 30 Grad rockets hit Debaltseve, and it killed three civilians and wounded 12 people. And the OSCE observers said clearly they were personally able to observe the direction where – from which those rockets came, specifically from the separatist-controlled town of Horlivka. So I want to make it very clear that the United States continues to strongly support Ukraine’s territorial integrity. We condemn all actions that are aimed at undermining its sovereignty or at trying to gain one advantage or another after the ceasefire for the purpose of negotiating down the road. We will also do all that we can – and we talked about this today – to help Ukraine with respect to the serious economic challenge that it faces.
Now obviously, the issue of countering violent extremism was also very much on our agenda. Terrorists want to drive us apart, but in fact, their actions have had the opposite effect: They’re bringing us together. And they’re bringing us together with greater determination, with greater resolve to be able to get the job done, and that is precisely what we are going to talk about tomorrow in London with all of our partners. We’ll take stock of each of the lines of effort, and where we need to strengthen them, we will. And we will take stock of the progress that has been made and share that with you.
We also talked about the need to defeat terror networks such as Daesh and al-Qaida, and to do so without undermining the freedoms that violent extremists find so threatening. We need to move ahead on every single front – militarily, but also through law enforcement, through intelligence sharing, by attacking the root causes so that terrorist appeals fall flat and foreign recruits are no longer enticed to go to a place and wreak havoc on it. And this is a subject I intend to tackle a little bit when I speak in Davos later in the week.
This year will be an important one for international action on climate change. And I’m very pleased that the EU and the United States are increasingly aligned in pushing for meaningful commitments by states in advance of the December summit in Paris. We talked about this at great length when we met in Brussels for the U.S.-EU energy summit which we held a number of weeks ago, at which time we talked about our commitment to creating energy independence and to dealing with the problem of a sole source of supply from Russia that is passed through Ukraine. And we made some very strong plans, which the high representative assures me are being acted on in Europe today in order to create that independence.
A strong and sustainable energy policy is essential environmentally in order to deal with climate change, but it’s also essential in terms of security and it’s essential in terms of economies. So less dependence absolutely means less vulnerability, and that is good for Europe as well as the United States.
There are, of course, a lot of other issues, and we touched on some of them in the course of our conversations – particularly Libya we talked about, and we will continue to have that discussion. But there was the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; the Israel-Palestinian dispute; stabilizing Libya and finding ways to put support behind Bernardino Leon’s initiatives; the future of Bosnia, which the high representative has been very involved in personally in the last weeks. And the range of our dialogue and our ability to be able to coordinate actions is really a source of strength. It’s a source of strength on both sides of the Atlantic, and we appreciate the cooperation and the relationship very, very much.
I might add it’s pretty non-stop. There isn’t one of these meetings or one of these efforts where we aren’t working together in order to try to act to an increasingly complicated world, but nevertheless one where clarity of action and the unity of our communities – the United States, North America, others, with the European community – is essential to helping to provide support for rule of law and the direction to be able to deal with these issues.
I know to many people when you see Yemen or some other issue suddenly explode on television and otherwise, people wonder. But the fact is there is slow and steady progress in very difficult circumstances and a clarity of commitment, most importantly, that has not always been there. The GCC met even today in emergency, and many of those members will be in London tomorrow. So we’re seeing countries come together. We’re seeing countries ramp up their commitments, and as President Obama has said from the very beginning, this isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s steadily building in its capacity, and we are confident about the direction that we are moving in.
So with that, it’s my particular pleasure to introduce our good partner and my good friend, Federica Mogherini.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE MOGHERINI: Thank you, John. You’ve said it all. As my first trip as a minister was to Washington, my first trip, my visit as a high representative for the European Union outside of our immediate region is in Washington. In think that’s natural and that is exactly because we work every day on common challenges in a very united and common way.
The most difficult thing of this cooperation is actually to find you in Washington. I agree on that. As we are not only going to be in London tomorrow together, but also in Davos and then in Munich in a couple of weeks, it’s a common agenda we have. And I particularly would like to thank you for the first official bilateral meeting we had in Brussels in December and the Energy Council we had. I think that is one of the elements that shows how our cooperation is not only relevant for the rest of the world, but it’s also relevant for our respective population in – on both sides of the Atlantic.
The cooperation, the strong partnership between the European Union and U.S. is, I would say, in our DNA. It’s in our history and it’s our job to make sure that it’s in our future as well. And if I can judge from the way in which we work together, European Union, U.S., and all the member states together with the European Union and the U.S., I can say that I’m more than sure that this is going to stay. The unity of our action, the unity of our sharing information and views and messages and narratives is a large part of our strength.
Being it on the Ukrainian crisis, where from the very beginning – I was not in this position at the time, but still we were working together already, very much on that – is part of the reaction that is one of the most successful parts of our reaction. Our unity, the capacity to coordinate our responses, being it on the level of the support for the Ukrainian reform process, being it on the principles to which we stick when it comes to our sanctions policy, I take it – I take the opportunity again here to stress the fact that not only we developed our sanctions policy together, but we’re going to follow up our sanctions policy together in a coordinated way. We discussed that – we started to discuss that with the foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. This is a decision that, from the European Union side, will be discussed again and retaken again in March. Obviously, that is going to be a heads of state and government decision in March, and then later on in the year we have different sets of renewing decisions on the sanctions over the year. But I would like to stress it once again, as you very well know: Any kind of decision on sanctions is going to be based only on the full implementation of the Minsk agreement, and it is in the hands of the Russians now to fulfill their own commitments, as you said, and that is going to be the only basis on which the European Union is going to decide any further steps on sanctions.
Obviously, we have a lot of other things on the agenda, and I would like to thank you on behalf of all Europeans for the support that – the message and the physical presence that we got after the attacks in Paris. I said here in Washington yesterday that it was a little bit as if it was our 9/11. We had other attacks on the European Union soil, but in this case, symbols of our culture, of our values – like the media freedom, the police, the Jewish community – were attacked, and the reaction of the European people, together with the rest of the world – first of all the Americans but also other countries, African countries, Asian countries – is that of unity against a phenomenon that attacks not only Europeans or Americans, but first of all attacks Arabs and Africans, as is the case with Boko Haram – or Asians, all over the world. That is not a fight between the West and Islam; this is a fight against terrorism that unites us all, Europeans, Americans, Arabs, Africans, Asians, everywhere. And the meeting tomorrow will be exactly that added value of a partnership – partnership that unites us all against a phenomenon that is brutally devastating societies all over, starting from the Arab countries. And I think the strength of our response is not only in our unity, but also on the fact that we know that we have to develop this partnership more and more every day and support each other in this fight.
We have plenty of other issues on the agenda, on which we work every day. You mentioned some of the most important regional ones for us in Europe, the ones around the Mediterranean, from Libya to the difficult situation in the Gulf – the news coming from Yemen in these last hours are extremely worrying and need all our efforts to move in the more positive direction – to the Palestinian-Israeli issue and the efforts we will discuss tomorrow in London not only to fight Daesh but also to find ways out of the war on Syria that is getting close to the fourth year now.
Looking closer to European borders, you mentioned the work we do together, we have done together, and we still continue to do together on the Balkans – not only on Bosnia where we have some positive steps going on, but also on the dialogue between Kosovo and Belgrade. That is something that we work very closely together, hand in hand.
Let me conclude by saying that yes, indeed, we have not only regional and crisis issues to manage together, but also big global challenges. This year, in particular, the climate change – I would say that never in history U.S. and EU has been – have been so much aligned on our efforts on climate change. And just on Monday, foreign ministers, even in a time when we have to face extremely serious crisis on our territory and around us, we adopted an action plan, a diplomatic action plan to reach the goals in view of Paris, all together. Imagine that the European Union together with the member states can count on some 90,000 diplomats and staff in our network in the world. If we coordinate that all together and partner with you, I believe that in December in Paris we can get to an historic result when it comes to climate change.
And this is not just for the future of our generations to come – my children, children’s children – but this is very much linked to security. You know that better than anyone else having been – having this been one of the issues on which you personally also connect to very much.
But this is also the year where we have the opportunity to work on the post-2015 development agenda, and here again I think we have a big opportunity to work hand in hand – European Union, United States – in the UN framework to make sure that we put an end on poverty.
When you mentioned the need to attack the root causes of terrorism, we know very well that we have to prevent conflicts and crisis that is more convenient, a little bit easier, even if it’s still difficult, but definitely more effective rather than facing the crises after they really become open.
So thank you for being in Washington while I’m here. We planned that very carefully and we found out that this was one of the last unique opportunities to find you in Washington. And looking forward to continue our work together, be it in Washington, in Brussels, around the world, because really, the complex world we have – the quantity and the quality of crises we have around us really can count only on our strong partnership to have some hopes of being solved.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks, Federica.
MODERATOR: The first question will be from Margaret Brennan, CBS News.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Would you update us on what your view is as to what’s happening on the ground in Yemen right now? It’s very unclear. And secondly, you speak quite frequently to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and in what appears to be a breach of protocol, as you know, Congress has requested that he come and speak to a joint session about the risks of a nuclear deal with Iran. Would doing so be helpful or harmful to negotiations, and what do you say to those on the Hill who argued quite forcefully today – some Democrats among them – that there need to be more sanctions on Iran?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me summarize what is a – and it’ll be fairly brief, because information is still coming in and it’s still in flux. The Houthis had, obviously, what you can only call violent objections to the refusal of the Hadi government to accept all of their demands with respect to the way forward, and particularly the peace and partnership agreement and its implementation. And so violence has been evident in many parts of Sana’a, and some of the institutions of government have broken down and are in trouble.
There is – there are a number of conversations that have been taking place today we are well aware of between the Houthi and the Hadi government. It’s my understanding the Hadi government is going to accept, if not all, most of the objections that the Houthis had.
The Houthis have declared that Hadi is still the president, and at this moment we are waiting to have another conversation with President Hadi to make a determination from his point of view of exactly where things stand. Things are quiet in Yemen as of a little while ago. Our personnel are well-protected. We have strong and multiple security personnel there. We’ve been building that up over a period of time. And we drew down many of our personnel in the Embassy some time ago, so we have a very bare minimum of diplomatic personnel presence and a strong security presence. And we will watch this extremely closely. It’s the first thing I looked at this morning. I’ve had several intermittent briefings, and I’ll be leaving here – after my meeting with another foreign minister, I’ll be leaving here to go to the White House for a meeting at the White House on this subject. So that’s where it stands at the moment, and we are watching it moment to moment.
With respect to the prime minister and his visit here, look, we welcome the prime minister of Israel to come and speak in America anytime. And obviously, it’s a little unusual to learn of an invitation from the speaker’s office. That said, everybody knows that the subject of Iran is much on people’s minds. We have no difference in our goal with respect to our position. We may have – we do have some difference in tactics of how you achieve that goal. But we are determined that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon, and the key to our negotiations is to make certain that whatever is agreed upon will show people with clarity that that is, in fact, the case that the path to a nuclear weapon is not achievable and/or has been given up or both together, and that it can be verified. And that is obviously critical.
So I’m not going to say more about the negotiations at this time. With respect to more sanctions, our friends in Europe have made it very clear. Look, we have partners in this. We’re trying to convince our fellow – my former colleagues in Congress that the United States acting unilaterally is not always the best step to take. And in this case, we have a number of other serious partners – China, Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain – and we are all at this table negotiating together in an effort facilitated by the EU in an effort to be able to come to some agreement.
Now, the sanctions don’t exist simply because of the United States. And if all of our partners were to say, “Well, we don’t think you’re going the right way, we’re going to go do our own thing,” this can all fall apart, including the sanctions regime. You could lose the sanctions altogether. So deciding to act unilaterally is not exactly a strategy for success. We’ve been successful because we’ve kept everybody together, and everybody together has helped enforce these sanctions over a long period of time. And it’s very important to allow the Executive Branch of government, which in our Constitution has the right to be able to do this negotiation, to do it, and then there’s plenty of time for people to make judgments about how they feel about it.
So I think in Israel, one of the top intelligence – one of the top intelligence personnel within the Israeli intelligence field – I won’t name names, but this person was asked directly by a congressional delegation that visited there over the weekend what the effect of sanctions would be. And this person answered that it would be like throwing a grenade into the process. So we’re asking people to be responsible here, and then let’s have a good, responsible debate about what the best way to proceed is.
But we are committed, as we always have been, to prevent a nuclear weapon from being developed in Iran. And I might add the very same voices that are now raising their objections to not having sanctions or advocating sanctions at this point are the very same people who said that the interim agreement that we reached was a disaster, the very same people who said they objected to it because it was going to allow Iran to go ahead and build its program. Well guess what? It hasn’t. It’s done the opposite. A stockpile of enriched uranium at 20 percent has been reduced now into oxide and into a zero percentage. The work that was being done at the Arak plutonium nuclear reactor has been stopped cold. Nothing has progressed there. No new centrifuges have been introduced above the level that were there the day we signed the agreement. The fact is that we have daily access to an underground facility that we never had access to on that kind of a basis.
So there is enormous accountability already built in. And just yesterday, the UN issued a report saying that Iran had complied fully and there was no evidence of them moving in any way to break their agreement with respect to their nuclear program. So I think we’ve earned, frankly, a little credibility in this process. And I think we ought to be able to proceed on a careful basis to complete these negotiations without interference.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE MOGHERINI: Take another question?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. The next question is from —
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE MOGHERINI: I have just one word on Iran. As John rightly said, there’s a UN Security Council resolution that asks – or tasks the high representative of the European Union to facilitate the negotiations. The actors of the negotiations are the ones John Kerry reminded just a few minutes ago. My role is facilitating the dialogue.
And let me say, as I said in Congress – meeting some congressmen yesterday, that in this role, I would invite everybody to give these negotiations – this diplomatic channel – a chance, especially when it comes to the end of the negotiations. It would be a waste – a shame, I would say – to avoid the last developments of this try to reach some results. I cannot guarantee, as any one of you cannot guarantee, the results. But already now the interim agreement is bringing some positive results.
I cannot predict what kind of effect it would have to include in this stage of negotiations new elements from one or the other side. So in my role of facilitator, I would invite to use these months we have ahead of us to try and reach the agreement on the ultimate goal that we all share, which is avoiding any possibility that Iran can develop the possibility of having a nuclear weapon. This is our target and our common target, and I would really invite everybody to do this last mile of effort that could bring some results.
MS. PSAKI: The next —
SECRETARY KERRY: Margaret, I’m sorry to hear about your knee.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Horrible.
QUESTION: I’ll be on the plane.
SECRETARY KERRY: But I know you’ll be ready to dance in the spring, right? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: She’s getting married, to be clear.
The next question will be from Philip Crowther from France 24.
QUESTION: Thank you. Philip Crowther with France 24. High Representative Mogherini, first of all, you’ve been accused by many of potentially being soft on Russia. How would you respond to that?
And on a completely different matter, we heard recently from President Obama talking about the potential lack of integration of Muslim communities in Europe. He mentioned that as one of the greatest dangers that Europe faces in terms of terror threats that might come. Would you agree with those words from President Obama, and should he have used those? And Mr. Secretary, I’d like to get your opinion on that as well if I can.
Finally, on Cuba, with high-level negotiations going on right now, how confident are you, Mr. Secretary, that this embargo can be lifted this year potentially, and of you maybe becoming the first Secretary of State in decades to visit Havana as early as this year? Thank you.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE MOGHERINI: On Russia, I spent half of my time in answering this question. I hope at a certain moment my answer will also be taken into consideration.
As I said before, we were united, we are united on three basic principles, which are also facts – acts that we do together: support to Ukraine on the reforms process, putting pressure – economic pressure on Russia in order to have Russia out of Ukrainian conflict and implement the Minsk agreement, and I’ve said several times, even in these last days and hours, that this is going to be the basis for any reconsideration of the sanctions from the European Council that is going to meet in March.
Third element: the political engagement, joint political engagement to make a diplomatic channel work. This is, first of all, in support of President Poroshenko’s efforts. He is the first one that initiated the process to talk to Putin and reached the Minsk agreements in this way. Because you can have the pressure on the economic level; the economic pressures work in economic terms, but then you need also to have a political channel to make sure that the changes, which are severe on the Russian economy, produce some result in a change of attitude on Russian policy. This is what we are discussing currently in Europe together, actually. We passed some time also today discussing this, what kind of strengthened diplomatic effort, political effort we can use together to make sure that the economic pressures brings not only economic results – in this case, negative economic results on the Russian economy, which has been declared by the Russian leadership, in a crisis situation – but how we make sure that there is a political channel that makes it translate into a political result, which is the end of the conflict in Ukraine.
This is the effort that we as politicians, as institutions have to be effective on, because the real point is that sanctions are an instrument, are not the end in itself. The end is finding a solution to the conflict. We know how this should be done. The point is the political will and the consistency on – of all sides. But I will stress in these days in particular, in these months, on the Russian side to implement the commitments they have subscribed. I hope this is – I’m sure this is not going to be the last time I’m going to answer this, but I will repeat the same things, and sooner or later they will be heard, I think.
So if this, if questioning what kind of political or diplomatic role we should have means being soft – but this is the point: We need to develop also the political chapter of our strategy. And this is an effort we’re doing altogether – united, united in Europe and in the international community.
On the integration of minorities in Europe, this is a debate, I think, that within member states in Europe, in – I would say in the global community is – has been going on for decades and probably is going on for decades. I would say that there are different models, different histories, and different traditions. What we have to get right in this moment is the fact that we need to work together. You know that very well. Victims of the attack in Paris were not only called Louis or Charb or Anne; there was an Ahmed that was killed by other people that were having names of the same roots, which means that this is a common fight. I would not go on the line of saying that this is minorities against majorities, also because we have different minorities, in Europe as in the United States. We are living in complex societies, and this is our richness. Our strength is the fact that we are different, but we are united and we live together.
And I think that this is the core point. We would be wrong if we were to look at that as an issue of minorities-majorities. This has nothing to do with that. These are violent acts that were targeting people, persons, regardless of their names, ethnic background, minorities, majorities, whatever. And there is no link, I would stress, between minorities, majorities, and violence. A terrorist act is a terrorist act, and we should not go into that kind of discussion about how we manage, or at least manage the majorities or minorities. There is no kind of roots in that.
And if I can just mention one single thing on Cuba, let me just say full support from our side to the policy that U.S. Administration is carrying on. I will meet myself the foreign minister of Cuba next week in Costa Rica at the CELAC summit, the Caribbean-Latin American summit. And we stay at U.S. side in seeing what kind of positive developments can come, but I just wanted to stress full support from European Union side to – especially the announcement that was done yesterday, the President and the efforts that John personally has been doing. I remember a couple of phone calls on this issue over the last weeks.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me just begin quickly on the integration issue. When I was – I entered college in 1962. And in 1963, ’4, ’5, we were deeply embroiled in this country, and we – college students in the Civil Rights Movement. And we were deeply impacted by that and have always been, I think, as a generation, much more sensitive to this question of minority and rights and integration and so forth. We’ve made unbelievable progress in our nation, unbelievable progress in the years since then. But it would be completely disingenuous not to say to you that we still have some distance to travel. We’re not finished. We’re still – you heard the President last night talk about voting rights. So what was won in 1965 still has to be fully embraced and implemented here, and other things that are linked to that. We’ve seen our own struggles in some communities and great debates about race in America in the last year.
So it would be dishonest of me – and I’m not involved in domestic politics right now, so I’m not going to go into it in depth, except to say that therefore, I think I can say with honesty that there is a challenge in many other parts of the world. And Federica is absolutely correct; this particular incident of violence wasn’t a specific targeting that grew out of that, but we all can do work in many parts of the world that I have seen where one minority or another or another is not able to share fully in the full integration in whatever country they happen to be living. So the world has a road to travel on that, and that’s why we continue to put such a high premium here on the issue of human rights and democracy, and to continue to push, because I think we’ve learned through our own experience the difference that it can make to the strengthening of the quality of our democracy, to our society, and people benefit when we live by that high moral standard.
With respect to Cuba, let me emphasize what we are doing with respect to Cuba is not a reward for anything. It is a reflection of the fact that for more than 50 years we’ve had a policy that isn’t working, hasn’t made the difference. And as the President said, if you’re digging a hole, at a certain period of time when you realize you’re not getting out of there, you’ve got to stop digging. So our hope is that the policy of normalization will put us in a stronger position to advance our interests and our values that I just talked about and to empower the people of Cuba ultimately.
And we have migration talks with Cubans on a regular basis. That is what Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson has gone down to engage in. But also on the second day we will engage in discussions about the diplomatic normalization process. And there’s certain things we have to negotiate as a matter of course. We have to negotiate lifting travel restrictions on diplomats. We have to negotiate lifting the caps on the numbers of diplomatic personnel. We have to have unimpeded shipments to our mission in order to be able to function correctly. We need free access to the mission by Cubans, just as we will provide free access to the Cuban mission here in Washington by Americans or by anybody who comes.
So that’s what you have to do in creating a diplomatic relationship, and the process of doing that requires mutual consent. So we have to work that through. I’m prepared, at the right time, to meet somewhere with my counterpart, the foreign minister. We’ve talked on the phone a number of times. We’ll meet as appropriate. And when it is timely, when it is appropriate, I look forward to traveling to Cuba in order to formally open an embassy and begin to move forward. But we have some things to accomplish before that is on us.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very, very much.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of State