Senior State Department Officials Previewing the First Portion of the Secretary's Trip to Qatar, India, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from June 21-26, 2013

Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
June 20, 2013

MODERATOR: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us this afternoon. Just as a reminder, this call is on background for attribution to Senior State Department Officials. As many of you know, we like to preview these trips. That is the purpose of this call. So our Senior State Department Officials will be talking through the stops up until the stop right before Amman. As we get into later portions of the trip, we’ll be previewing the later portions of the trip.

And with that, let me turn the call over.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you very much. I’m going to talk a little bit about the Secretary’s trip to India, which is going to be his first as Secretary of State. And as all of you know, he’s going for the first round of the Strategic Dialogue under the Kerry administration here.

I’d like to just start by extending our condolences to the people and to the Government of India for the terrible loss of life that has occurred as a result of the floods in northern India. The United States, of course, stands ready to help in any way that we can, if the Government of India thinks that would be useful. And our authorities are in close touch now with the appropriate Indian authorities.

The Secretary will be leading a very strong interagency delegation to the Strategic Dialogue that reflects the whole-of-government approach that we have and the very wide spectrum of government-to-government activity that we have. He will be joined by Secretary of Energy Moniz, Admiral Locklear of the Pacific Command, the Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Rand Beers, Mr. Holdren, who’s the President’s science advisor, the Administrator of NASA – many, many other people.

The Secretary, of course, has a long background in India. He was – visited there more than 20 years ago, leading the first U.S. congressional trade delegation. He led the effort in the Senate to secure U.S. congressional approval for the U.S.-India nuclear deal. And of course, he’s had many, many interactions over his long history. And of course, he’s also long supported permanent Indian membership in a reformed UN Security Council.

I’d like to just note that the Secretary did a very nice video greeting to the people of India that is now up on YouTube, so I encourage you all to take a quick look at that if you can.

In terms of the schedule, just very briefly, the Secretary will do a policy speech. He’ll have a dinner with the business community, both Indian and American. On the day of the Strategic Dialogue itself, there will be several hours of meetings, followed by a working lunch and a joint press availability. He’ll then do a youth event and a green innovation event. And then the next morning, he will have a meeting with the Higher Education Minister in India, and then inaugurate together our Higher Education Dialogue.

I expect the talks with the Indian Government to focus in a couple of areas. First, on the economic and trade side, of course, our trade has now passed $100 billion with India. And likewise, U.S. investment is quite strong there. The total stock there is about $25 billion and growing. And of course, U.S. investment – sorry, Indian investment in the United States also is quite substantial. But there are concerns on the part of the American business community about some obstacles to trade, so I’m sure those will be discussed – things like intellectual property protection, local content restrictions, continued restrictions on foreign direct investment, taxation problems. So we want to talk not only about those, but how we can continue to invigorate our trade and investment relationship.

Second, and very important, will be a conversation about clean energy and climate change. This is – clean energy has been probably the area of most substantial growth under the Obama Administration. Under what’s known as the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy, we have helped to mobilize about $2 billion in finance for various kinds of clean energies, primarily solar. And India has installed substantial – about 1,000 megawatts of solar power in the last two and a half years. About one-fifth of that has been from American financing.

A third area will be in the area of innovation, which is, I think, quite unique for the India-U.S. partnership. As I said, the Secretary will attend an exhibit and speak on a lot of the wonderful innovation that we’re doing through USAID, on low cost development solutions, on clean energy, and on science and technology.

A fourth area will be higher education. As I said, he will be chairing the Higher Education Dialogue with his Indian counterpart. There, there’s a huge need in India now to educate approximately 500 million young Indians over the next decade or so. So there’s a very important opportunity for American educational institutions to help out with that. The Indians, I think, are particularly interested in the community college model. So there will be a very active discussion about community college cooperation as well as technology-enabled learning – the so-called MOOCs, massive online – open online courses, as well as, of course, increasing the very active exchange program that we already have with India.

And then, of course, I’m sure there will be a good discussion on the range of important regional issues that the United States works with India on. First, of course, will be Afghanistan and the strong cooperation that we have with India on Afghanistan and, of course, the – India’s leadership in helping to promote the New Silk Road vision of regional integration. Secondly, I’m sure there will be a discussion about the opportunities for progress between India and Pakistan now that the new Nawaz Sharif government has taken office. And third, I think there will be a discussion about the very important role that India plays in Asia and the important role in the U.S. rebalance to Asia.

So I think that’s a summary of the key themes that will be discussed. Of course, there’s a gigantic range of things that our two countries do together, and I’d be glad to answer questions on any of that. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Excellent. We’re going to go to our second Senior State Department Official now.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The Secretary will be stopping in five cities in the Middle East during this trip. He will start in Doha, in Qatar. He’ll be there June 22nd and 23rd. There he – this is his second trip to Qatar as Secretary of State. There he will focus with Qatari officials on Syria, on the Middle East peace process, and on Afghanistan. We’re particularly grateful to Qatar for its leadership on Syria. It will be hosting the – another London 11 ministerial while the Secretary is in Doha, and that will be focused on ways in which the – that group, and beyond that, the international community, can support the Syrian Opposition Coalition, the – its Supreme Military Council, and the Assistance Coordination Unit in ways that make the opposition more cohesive, more representative and credible inside Syria, and therefore more prepared to proceed to a discussion of how to resolve the war in Syria with the regime.

He – the Secretary goes on – then goes to India, comes back to Jeddah, to Saudi Arabia, for a day trip, a day stop on June 25th. This is the Secretary’s second visit to Saudi Arabia, his first to Jeddah. The first one was to Riyadh. He will have conversations with the senior Saudi officials and focus again on the shared challenges we face in the region, again Syria. He’s likely to have a longer conversation about Iran and Middle East peace again. In the same way we appreciate Saudi Arabia’s leadership on Syria within the region and within the Arab League, and we continue to work with Saudi Arabia as with others in this group on how to support the Syrian opposition in ways that get them to a Geneva peace conference.

One of the other big issues with Saudi Arabia is to talk about how we can address our concerns over extremists inside Syria, the unacceptable intervention of foreign fighters from Iran and from Hezbollah. So we will be talking in greater detail there about that issue.

From Saudi Arabia, the Secretary goes to Kuwait. This will be his first visit to Kuwait as Secretary of State. He’ll be there June 25 and 26. And in Kuwait the focus is on reinforcing the strength of the U.S.-Kuwaiti relationship. Kuwait’s a strategic ally and partner in the Gulf. Kuwait also hosted the Syria donors conference on January 30th earlier this year and made a very large contribution. I should say that throughout his stops in the Gulf he will be talking with people – with leaders about how to support the humanitarian crisis in Syria as resulting – that is resulting from Syria as well.

Another issue that the Secretary will address with Kuwait is how pleased he is that Kuwait and Iraq have resolved so many of the issues that are left over from the Iraq-Iran War of almost 30 years ago. There have been considerable – there’s been dramatic progress on that very recently, and they’ll be talking about that.

From Kuwait, on June 26th the Secretary goes to Amman and while in Amman he, of course, will have a bilateral scheduled with senior Jordanian officials, where he’ll be talking again about strong bilateral and regional cooperation, and particularly talking about the Syrian crisis and the effect that that has in terms of the flow of refugees into Jordan, the effect that that has on Jordan’s stability and Jordan’s ability to cope with that number of refugees. As you know, the President recently announced considerable additional assistance for the neighbors to deal with the refugee situation, so that will be part of the discussion that the Secretary will have there.

And I’ll be happy to answer your questions as well.

MODERATOR: Great. With that, Operator, we’re ready to take some questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. If you’d like to ask a question, please press *1 on your touchtone phone. You will hear a tone indicating you have been placed in queue. You may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the # key. If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if anyone would like to ask a question, please press *1 at this time.

The first question is coming from Shaun Tandon with AFP. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Thanks for doing this. Wanted to ask a little bit more detail on the India leg, two things. First of all, you mentioned Afghanistan, what the message to India will be about 2014 and about the tentative attempts for dialogue with the Taliban, India obviously having some concerns and interests in the region.

Also wanted to see India – the election season is coming up – whether there is going to be any attempts to reach out to the BJP with Modi approaching – gaining in visibility.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you very much. With respect to Afghanistan, we have long appreciated the role that India has played, particularly on the economic front, to support this regional integration vision. India has a very substantial economic assistance program. It’s one of the largest investors through its – the Hajigak iron ore project, and of course, it’s been a very strong supporter of the Istanbul process to encourage regional support for regional integration that will help the economic transition in Afghanistan. So I think that will be a focus. Certainly, I expect the Secretary and External Affairs Minister Khurshid to talk about the reconciliation process. We’ve always sought to be very transparent with India about that. So I think that’s on your first question.

With respect to the opposition, the Strategic Dialogue itself is going to take up most of the day, so the only other bilat that the Secretary is going to have this time will be with Prime Minister Singh. So to answer your question, there will not be a meeting with Mr. Modi or other opposition people.

OPERATOR: And once again, ladies and gentlemen, if anyone would like to ask a question, please press *1 on your touchtone phone. The next question is coming from the line of Karen DeYoung with The Washington Post. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. I just wanted to ask a sort of logistical question. On the schedule, we’re spending several nights in Jordan and also visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah. Are those going to be day trips from Jordan, or how is that going to work?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Hi, Karen. It’s [Senior State Department Official Three] --


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: -- or Senior Administration Official Three. (Laughter.) I can answer your question.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: As you mentioned, the Secretary will be in Jordan. He’ll be staying in Jordan. There will be a – there is a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but we anticipate that we will be adding to the schedule over the coming days and even actually during the trip about what his meetings will be. But we will staying overnight, logistically for you, in Amman each of those nights.

OPERATOR: The next question is coming from Lesley Wroughton with Reuters. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, good afternoon. I was wondering, just coming back to India, there’s been a lot of focus (inaudible) from the business community and Congress at the moment. One of the issues is the generalized system of preferences, and there’s been some talk of kicking India out of their program. Was wondering if that was going to be raised with India or the U.S. wanted to talk about it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks for the question. To my knowledge, that is not on the agenda. But as I said earlier, we are – we do expect to have a discussion about how do we take the trade relationship forward, and we also do want to share the concerns of the business community about some of the trade and other problems that the U.S. business community is facing in India.

OPERATOR: Okay, the next questions is going to come from the line of Dave Lerman with Bloomberg. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks. Question on Doha. Does Kerry have any plans to meet with Hollande over this weekend? And also, will Ambassador Dobbins be going with him?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: You’re absolutely right that President Hollande will be in Doha at the same time, but there’s no – their schedules aren’t meshing at all, so – at least at this stage. So whether they see each other in passing, I don’t know, but there’s no meeting that’s been scheduled. Now, of course Foreign Minister Fabius will be at the Doha London 11 meeting, so he will see his French counterpart at that meeting.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: And in terms of Ambassador Dobbins, we are still working through the coordination of schedules, so certainly the purpose of his trip to Doha is to have a bilateral meeting, discuss a range of issues, including, of course, Afghanistan, including Syria, and as well as attending the London 11 meeting. And we’re still determining whether he’ll be a part of the bilateral discussion. But I don’t have any – we don’t have any update on that for you at this time.

OPERATOR: Deb Reichmann with the Associated Press is next. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. On the meetings that he’s having about the Middle East peace, Abbas and Netanyahu are waiting for the United States to propose some sort of new terms for restarting these talks. Where are we with that? And will this be a time for him to make that proposal?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Well, Deb, one logistical point for everybody is, as we get closer to the Middle East peace portion of this trip, as much as it’s on the minds of many of our partners and allies around the world, we will do a briefing that’s focused on that right before the Amman trip.

But let me just reiterate our top line here, which is the Secretary, as you know, has been working very hard on this issue. He’s very dedicated to it. He’s had visits, but also is in close contact with his counterparts. But this has always been up to the Israeli and Palestinian people and leaders to make the choices to come back to the negotiating table. This isn’t about a U.S. plan or an American plan. And that will be the focus of his trip as well.

And just as a reminder, the way that he left the last trip is to indicate that the time is now to make tough choices. And that will certainly be a part of the discussion as well.

OPERATOR: We have another question from Lesley Wroughton with Reuters. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. While we’re on the global (inaudible) here, on Doha I was wondering, who is he meeting in those talks? And what kinds of – I guess he’s with – is the discussion regarding the Taliban talks, what kinds of things would he like to see or would he be talking about to set up those talks?

Number two, on the London 11, would – could we expect some kind of concrete decisions on anything to do with Syria and the arming of the rebels and the opposition?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I wasn’t sure – did you – were you asking who’s in the London 11 as well, or do you want me to just go (inaudible)?

QUESTION: No, no. I just want to know, on Doha, in Doha, who is he going to meet with?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: In Doha, he will meet with senior Qatari officials. He’ll meet with the Emir, he’ll meet with the Deputy Emir, he’ll meet with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Those are the three bilateral meetings that he’ll have in Doha.

And then you asked if there will be – what the results will be from the London 11 meeting. It’s hard to anticipate that. I’ll be going for a senior officials meeting Friday night with my colleagues who – from all the London 11 countries and we’ll have a bigger discussion then about what might come out of that.

But the goal of the meeting is to be very concrete about the importance of all of assistance, every kind of assistance that’s coming from the London 11 countries, the importance of it being fully coordinated and go through only the Syrian Opposition Coalition, specifically the Supreme Military Council run by General Idris, and by – and through the Assistance Coordination Unit. So that is the fundamental goal of the discussion, and to be very concrete about that.

This is all in support of energizing, reenergizing, the Syrian Opposition Coalition leadership to work to select its leadership, because they’ll be meeting the next day in Istanbul and possibly going on to Cairo to elect their leadership. You’ll recall that two weeks ago, they expanded their base quite considerably. So this newly expanded group has to elect their leadership. And that discussion – beyond the election of the leadership, their discussion, we hope will focus – and we’re pushing for it to focus on how – the parameters of its positions going to the Geneva conference on Syria, so it can discuss with the regime how to implement the June 30th 2012 Geneva communiqué, particularly the formation of the transitional governing body by mutual consent to which full executive powers would be transferred.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: And your last question, I believe, Lesley, was about how the discussion on reconciliation will be a part of this. Just to be clear, we expect that will be part of the discussion in the bilateral meeting as it’s, of course, of great interest to both parties, as are a number of other issues that our senior Administration official number two talked about. So that’s how we expect it to be discussed. As we’ve all talked about, this is a fluid situation. There have been steps forward this week, and we’re continuing to focus on it every day. So we’ll look forward to that and other topics being discussed on Friday – or Saturday, sorry.

OPERATOR: And we have another question from Shaun Tandon with AFP. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Thanks. Just one broad question and one practical one. The – you mentioned particularly in the Saudi leg that there will be a discussion of Iran. I was just wondering to what extent you expect the Secretary to be discussing developments politically, the election of President Rouhani in Iran, to what extent you expect that to factor into the discussions either in Doha or in Jeddah or elsewhere. And then just another practical thing, you mentioned the speech he’s going to give in Delhi. Is that on Sunday or is that on Monday, just for our planning purposes?


QUESTION: On Monday?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Oh, Sunday. Sorry. I’m getting all of my days confused. Thank God for senior Administration official number one. (Laughter.) It is on Sunday. It will be part of this first afternoon/evening of his visit – of the Secretary’s visit in India.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Your question about the conversation on Iran and Saudi Arabia, I would certainly expect that there will be a discussion of what each side thinks of the – how they assess the election of Rouhani. There is considerable interest, of course, in Saudi Arabia on the P-5+1 process. So there is likely to be discussion of how we see that going forward in any case. But there certainly will be a lot of interest in discussing with our Gulf colleagues how they view the election of Rouhani in Iran.

MODERATOR: Great. We’ll go to the next question.

OPERATOR: Okay. Lesley Wroughton, your line is open. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Sorry. I was going to follow it up before. Just wanting to know about on – in Jeddah whether the discussion is also going to include funding from within Saudi Arabia of some of the rebel groups in Syria.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I expect assistance issues to be discussed possibly – probably in every stop. There are various strains of assistance, humanitarian being one, military assistance being one, sort of technical assistance being one. But I expect that that discussion will also be quite expansive at the London 11 meeting.

OPERATOR: Okay. And we have no further questions.

MODERATOR: Let’s just take a moment just to see if anybody on the phone – if you’ve asked a question before, it’s okay. Try again. If anybody has a question while we have these officials here with us, and if not, we’ll end the call.

OPERATOR: Okay. Please press *1 if you would like to ask a question. We did get another question from the line of Michael Gordon with The New York Times. Please go ahead, sir.

QUESTION: Just a very quick one. On the Qatar meeting, you said that – the official said that the purpose is to be very concrete about the issues there. Basically does that mean who is going to give what by way of military assistance and weapons? Is that what you’re saying?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, it could be partly that. It could be – and one of the things that we’re really pressing very hard on is the humanitarian assistance aspect of this, particularly to press for paying up the commitments that were made in the Kuwait humanitarian conference, not least because the UN has made such a large appeal on the humanitarian side. It’s the largest appeal ever – $4.5 billion – for the Syria situation particularly because of the number of refugees and the number of displaced persons inside Syria. So the whole range of assistance issues is a big subject of the discussions.

QUESTION: Right, but on the military side, is that part of it since the President has made his decision on increasing military support so it makes sense to coordinate this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’m sure it will be part of it, yes.

OPERATOR: Another question from Karen DeYoung with The Washington Post. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. I have questions on two separate subjects. One, is there any possibility that the Secretary will meet with the Taliban? And the second is: In the 11 meeting or with the other Middle East states, will there be any discussion on refugee resettlement of Syrians?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: The first answer to your question is no. And we’ll turn over to --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I doubt that there will be any discussion of resettlement of Syrian refugees. There’s been – it’s been discussed in the past among humanitarian agencies, and the consideration so far is that the price tag is so high for doing that and the need is so urgent that it’s far better to spend the donations that – the contributions that have been received so far on the urgent needs of the refugees where – as they flow in and where they are now rather than try to spend very many more times than that on resettling refugees.

OPERATOR: Okay. And there are no further questions.

MODERATOR: All right. Well, thank you, everybody, for joining. As usual, we’ll have the transcript out to all of you as soon as it’s ready.

PRN: 2013/T09-01