Background Briefing on Secretary Kerry's Travel to Lima, Peru and Bogota, Colombia

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
Via Teleconference
December 11, 2014


MODERATOR: Hi, everyone. Thanks for getting on the call to our small but mighty band of travelers for this trip. We have on the phone with us a couple other senior State Department officials. This will all be on background attributable to senior State Department officials. There’s no embargo for you all. We will post the transcript after we’re wheels down tomorrow in Peru for other folks to report off of.

So I’ll give a few – just I’ll walk through the schedule and then I’m going to turn it over to [Senior State Department Official One], who all of you know very well, I think, to talk through the bilateral pieces of our trip, and then I’m going to turn it over to [Senior State Department Official Two], who’s [title withheld]. [Senior State Department Official Two] is down in Lima right now with our negotiating team, so we really appreciate [Senior State Department Official Two] hopping on the phone from there. So [Senior State Department Official Two will] give just a couple of opening remarks about the climate piece and then we will answer all of your very pressing questions. And again, all on background, though. I just wanted you to know who was on the call.

So we are wheels up very early tomorrow morning. Apologize for the hour we will all have to leave. Land in Lima and head basically almost right into the speech the Secretary will be giving on climate change, and I’ll let [Senior State Department Official Two] talk a little bit more about the details of that. But obviously, we already have a team on the ground there that’s been negotiating and working on this issue. You all know this is a very central focus for the Secretary; it’s one of his priorities. So very much looking forward to giving this speech and meeting with our team that’s there on the ground.

He will then have a bilateral meeting with French Foreign Minister Fabius, who is also in town for the conference. I imagine climate will certainly be one topic, but I can also imagine that many other issues, including the Iran negotiations, ISIL, other issues will be discussed in their meeting. As you know, they talk about a range of issues – Ukraine and others – whenever they meet.

Then we will have a meeting with the president of Peru, which I think [Senior State Department Official One] can talk a little bit more to the bilateral piece. Obviously, this is something we’re looking forward to. Then there will be a joint press availability with the two of them. And then we will depart Lima for Bogota, where we will stay overnight. I know that’s a very long day tomorrow, but we will all get through it together.

And then the next morning, we have a full day in Bogota, including meetings with the Colombian President Santos, a joint press availability with him as well, and possibly some other events that [Senior State Department Official One] can talk about a little bit more.

So with that, I will turn it over to senior State Department official number one to talk a little bit about the bilateral pieces.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks, [Moderator]. Good morning, everybody. We are very much looking forward to this trip by Secretary of State Kerry. These are obviously, both Peru and Colombia, two of our closest allies in the region. As you know, the Secretary has not been to Peru and I know that [Senior State Department Official Two] will talk more about the climate portion of this and the Secretary’s interaction with the COP conference. But that is obviously a very important part of this trip. But on the bilateral side, let me just say, sort of connecting those two seams, the COP conference is the largest international event that Peru has ever hosted. And so it’s a very big deal for them, but they are hosting a lot of international events in the past and the coming year. And in a way it sort of signals Peru’s engagement on the global scene, not just the regional scene. The Peruvian Government under President Humala has looked towards expanding its engagement with the world, especially as we look at its engagement in the Pacific Alliance. Both Colombia and Peru are members of the Pacific Alliance, a very robust economic partnership, very open, very much in line with what we are doing with partners throughout the world, and obviously a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership group of countries negotiating that agreement right now.

In our bilateral relationship, the Secretary will certainly discuss with President Humala issues such as counternarcotics cooperation. This Peruvian Government has been an extraordinary partner on counternarcotics, in fact exceeding its own eradication goals for coca, which were ambitious to start with. Peru is a country that has seen dramatic poverty reduction over the last decade. Since the time that I served there 12 years ago, they’ve seen poverty drop by more than half, and some of that poverty reduction has been in areas that used to be high coca production areas. So Peru really in some ways has models that work for reducing coca production and poverty simultaneously.

We obviously have implemented a free trade agreement with Peru and it will be celebrating its sixth anniversary in February, and so they will be able to celebrate that. It’s a government under President Humala which has focused heavily on social inclusion and expanding the benefits of that free trade agreement and economic opening to more people in Peru. That’s a theme which is very much in line with our own objectives throughout the world. And so we have seen ourselves in sync with this Peruvian Government on a lot of issues.

So I think those are the main themes that we will focus on. as well as, let me just add, education and English language training, where we have seen a steady growth in the number of Peruvian students studying in the United States – an increase of 2.7 percent last year – as well as an increase in U.S. students studying in Peru, which went up about 10 percent. So all in all, an excellent partner in the region, and there’ll be lots to talk about on the bilateral side.

So let me leave it at that for the Peru stuff on the bilateral side, and let me just quickly talk about Colombia from a bilateral perspective, and then we can talk about – I’ll leave it to my colleague to talk about COP.

The Secretary has obviously been to Colombia before, last August. But a lot has happened in that country since then, and it’s an important time for him to touch base with President Santos on this trip. I think the most important part of this stop will really be the peace process that is taking place in Colombia, something the Secretary is very interested in and we as a government have expressed very strong support for. It’s a very tough time in that process. As you saw recently, there were – was a kidnapping by the FARC of a Colombian general and some soldiers from Colombia that caused President Santos to suspend the peace process briefly. And those talks began again just, I believe, yesterday in Havana, on December 9th. But there’s no doubt that they in some ways are coming to the toughest issues under discussion. And it seems like a very good opportunity both for the Secretary to reiterate our support for the peace process and to get a very good assessment from both President Santos and from the negotiating team, members of whom the Secretary will likely see in Bogota, as to how things are going and how we can be supportive.

In addition, of course, we have a free trade agreement with Colombia which we ratified under President Obama. And it’s a good time to talk about how that is going, ways that we can continue to collaborate on protection of labor rights and labor leaders, working together to ensure that Colombia’s accession to the OECD is moved ahead, as well as talking with the Colombians and the Peruvians about regional trends and regional issues. We have, as you know, coming up the Summit of the Americas in April of next year. We have a race for secretary general at the OAS, which will be in March of next year. Obviously, there is great concern over the situation in Venezuela, and both President Santos, especially because of his position geographically as a neighbor of Venezuela and his leadership role in the hemisphere, as well as Peruvian counterparts, are people that the Secretary values in terms of their views of how things are going in the region and how we can cooperate and collaborate with them on regional issues.

So those are, I think, the bilateral and regional issues that we’ll be highlighting in those stops. So let me stop there and turn it over to my colleague to talk about COP.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Hi. Good morning, everybody. I just wanted to give you a little bit of context for the Climate Conference of the Parties, a little bit of background on the history. This is the 20th climate conference under the UN Climate Convention, started back in 1992. President H.W. Bush signed the treaty back then and it was ratified by the Senate, and since then we’ve been having these annual meetings around this time of year to negotiate progress on climate change. This is the biggest meeting of the year; there are several smaller meetings that lead up to this.

Our negotiating team has been here for about a week and a half now. We’ve got three days to go. We have a couple of important objectives at this meeting. The first objective is that we are hoping that this outcome here gives direction to countries about how they should put forward their commitments to reduce emissions in a way that makes them clear and understandable for the world at large, which we think is very important to advancing ambition. Transparent commitments help the world understand, and that understanding provides helpful public pressure for greater ambition.

The second objective that we have is to get a draft elements for a negotiating text for Paris, which will be the meeting at the end of next year where we hope to agree on a new, ambitious global agreement on climate change. That second objective we have already drafted a fairly broadly inclusive elements paper, and we are now working on the first objective.

I want to talk a little bit about what the U.S. is doing to address climate change, because the purpose of these conferences is really to create an environment that encourages countries to do their utmost domestically to advance ambition. And so that domestic context is quite important for these conferences.

As you may know, the – this Administration is very committed to addressing climate change both at home and abroad. We came into this conference with the very strong position bolstered by the joint announcement with China that was widely reported where we launched our target to reduce our own emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. That target is very ambitious for the United States, but also achievable given the domestic authorities that Congress has given the President. The target is quite ambitious in a number of respects, but in particular it doubles the pace of our carbon pollution reduction and it’s consistent with a trajectory toward reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050, which is in line with the two-degree goal that a previous conference set.

China, for its part, in addition to announcing a peak year for its own carbon emissions of around 2030 with best efforts to peak before that – and this is a very important announcement from China – also announced a goal to increase their non-fossil fuel energy use to around 20 percent by 2020.

Also, because finance has been an important part of these conversations, just to talk quickly about the Green Climate Fund, which has been another success story in the lead up to and during this conference: The United States committed a $3 billion pledge to the GCF, and as of just yesterday, we have surpassed the initial $10 billion initial capitalization goal for the GCF, which is the most significant milestone on climate finance since the convention began 20 years ago. Over the period of five months, the GCF secured pledges from a wide range of both developed and developing countries, including countries like Mexico, Panama, and South Korea, who joined the U.S. in supporting this important effort.

The GCF – just for a little bit of context for all of you – is a critical component of the commitment that the President and developed countries made in Copenhagen in 2009 to mobilize climate finance. And this pledge is tangible proof that we are living up to that commitment and provides reassurance to developing countries.

I want to make clear that the GCF is distinct from the $100 billion mobilization goal that was agreed in Copenhagen. We are also making good progress toward that goal. That goal is much broader in nature. It includes all finance from all sources and includes private sector finance. The GCF is funded by public sector finance and is a multilateral institution. So it’s a very important component of this, but it’s a separate and distinct commitment. They are often confused.

So these early commitments from the U.S. and others have provided very strong momentum for these talks in Lima, and we are quite hopeful that they will encourage other countries, particularly major economies, to come back – come forward with ambitious targets, and we are starting to see that already. Minister Bishop from Australia announced Australia’s commitments just yesterday following their prime minister’s announcement in Australia.

So this is all part of a steady drumbeat of steps that’s being taken by this Administration over the past few years, including – you might be aware of the landmark proposed rule to cut emissions from the power sector 30 percent by 2030, and a proposed rule that is now getting public comment that would require new power plants to meet rigorous emissions standards as well. So this Administration is acting to implement the ambitious goals that we set in Copenhagen and to put in place steps to meet our ambitious 2025 goals. All of this is important to paving the way, as I mentioned at the top, to an ambitious and inclusive agreement at the COP in Paris next year that will engage all countries in action.

Over this last week here in Lima, countries have been working hard on a number of issues – in particular the two I mentioned at the top, but also including adaptation and resilience to the impacts of climate change, transparency provisions, and finance. And we have concluded an important review of our progress toward meeting our 2020 commitments, which was also in the media.

So these negotiations are not easy, to be quite honest. At this stage in the negotiations, these things really never are. But we are quite hopeful that countries will take advantage of the momentum that we came into this conference with and that we will achieve our objectives at the meeting. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Great, thanks. And Greg, could you remind folks how to ask a question?

OPERATOR: All right, ladies and gentlemen, if you’d like to ask a question, please press * then 1. Once again, if you’d like to ask a question, please press * then 1. One moment.

Your first question comes from the line of Matthew Lee from the Associated Press. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi there. I’m just curious: It’s unclear to me still if there’s going to be – what is going to be produced, if anything, in Lima. What is the result that the Secretary is hoping to achieve while he’s there at the climate meeting?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: So let me answer that question in two ways. The Secretary is coming here for both bilateral purposes, as [Senior State Department Official One]* can speak to, and to make a speech on climate change. I think this is going to demonstrate to the world yet again the U.S. commitment to addressing climate change. Secretary Kerry’s passion for this issue is well known, and I think his attendance here will be very well received by participants and the Peruvian hosts.

The objectives that we have in the conference in the negotiation component are twofold. One is to advance transparency so that all countries understand the ambition that’s embedded in the commitments that are put forward in 2015 and we hope will be finalized in Paris at the end of next year, and the second piece is the elements for the text that will be negotiated and agreed next year in Paris. On the second piece, as I mentioned, we are already well on our way toward that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you expect him to announce and make any – announce anything in his speech, or is it basically just going to restate his and the Administration’s passion for this issue?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t expect any new announcements in the speech.

QUESTION: Okay. All right, and then in Bogota is the message “get the peace process back, the peace talks back on track”? And do you all have anything nice to say about the Cuban role in this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Matt, I would say that the message is definitely not “get the peace process back on track,” in the sense that, number one, I think President Santos has already done that, right. He has sent his negotiators back to Havana. They had a two-day conversation with the FARC about the modalities of getting the peace process back on track last week, and to the best of my knowledge, they started those talks again yesterday. So there would be no point in the Secretary sort of chiding anybody on the peace process --

QUESTION: No, no, no, no. Well, I’m not suggesting you would chide them, but I mean, the way – things are going well right now --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Right.

QUESTION: -- according to you guys, okay. All right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Right. No, I mean, my – I think the Secretary’s going in complete support of the peace process and in support of the government’s position that that process has to be deliberate and serious and that the FARC, which committed at one point not to take any more – not to undertake any more kidnappings should be serious about that. And so having done what they did a couple of weeks ago by kidnapping a general, Santos felt he had to take a stand about that. That’s his decision. We didn’t comment on the rightness or wrongness of it. And now they’re back at the table, so that is good.

I do think that the Secretary will get a briefing and a – have a conversation both with Santos and with some of the negotiating team about how things are going and how we can be supportive in this – one of the hardest parts of the negotiation. And most importantly in some ways, as they get to the toughest part and hopefully move towards a conclusion, as you saw President Santos go to Europe earlier this year to talk about post-conflict implementation of the – of any kind of a deal, one of the things that he wants to talk to President Santos about is what they’re thinking of after a deal may be reached, because we’ve always known that implementation of any kind of a deal will take the support of the international community, just the way Plan Colombia took the support of the international community that really got us to the point of peace talks, right? So peace will involve the international community and the leadership of the United States just the way pursuit of the FARC did in these last 12 years.

On the role of the Cubans, I think we have been supportive of the peace process and supportive of the countries that the Colombian Government and the FARC have agreed will be the facilitators of that process. Those four countries are Norway, Cuba, and then in different roles, Venezuela and Chile, each picked by the government or the FARC. We, I think, obviously don’t necessarily know exactly what each of the countries is doing in support of the peace process, but to the extent that countries like Cuba are being helpful in moving those talks along or providing logistics, that is a good thing.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Great. Let’s go to the next question.

OPERATOR: Your next question comes from the line of Patricia Zengerle from Reuters. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Can you hear me?

MODERATOR: Yes, we can hear you.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. I had a couple of questions, a few questions. Should I ask them all at once?

MODERATOR: No, you can – I mean, we’ll keep your line open. Start – go ahead and start with your first one and then you can do the other ones after.

QUESTION: Okay. Getting back to the Colombia discussion and peace talks discussion, how do you feel about any peace agreement with the FARC if it would mean that leaders wanted for murder and drug trafficking could avoid jail terms?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think this is one of the toughest issues any country resolving civil conflict ever has to deal with, whether it is Colombia or the Northern Ireland conflict or any other part of the world that’s gone through peace talks – Vietnam when the war came to an end, et cetera. So I think in the end, I will give you the cliche about this being a Colombian decision, and we’ve already seen President Santos talk about a referendum on the ultimate deal. But there’s no doubt that this is something that Colombians and their leaders have to wrestle with, and it’s not for the U.S. to say whether or not we think that any particular resolution to that issue is wise or unwise.

Obviously, where there are people wanted in the United States for crimes, we will have an interest and may have a view on ultimate resolutions. But I do think we will always be keeping in mind the larger goal, which is to end the longest-running insurgency in Latin America of over 50 years. So that is the kind of dilemma and balance that we will be keeping in mind, as well as the Colombians and their interests that they pursue this. And we continue to obviously, as we have over the past 12 years, work really closely with the Colombians on a lot of these issues.

QUESTION: Okay. And would the U.S. be okay with FARC leaders entering congress? And what about waiving attempts to extradite rebels who are wanted here for drug trafficking?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Ultimately, Patricia, I think, again, the issue of political participation is one that’s going to be decided at the peace talks.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That is for them – for Colombians to decide. And truly, the issue of political participation in particular, I think, has to be one for Colombians to decide. Again, the issue of political participation for former combatants is perhaps one of the most key issues in any peace talks, whether, again, Salvador, Guatemala, et cetera. Bringing people off the battlefield and into the political process is, in fact, the key issue in some ways in peace talks.

QUESTION: Yes.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: When you talk about waiving extradition, I think that’s an issue which is going to be very, very complicated and has not been dealt with yet in the conversations at the peace talks. And I don’t really want to preempt a conversation that may take place in the future between the FARC and the Colombians and then subsequently with the United States.

QUESTION: Okay. That makes sense. And then on Peru – hold on, I’m sorry. I have these notes from all my colleagues all over the region. On Peru, what is – are there any plans for Secretary Kerry to have any meetings with anyone from India ahead of President Obama’s next trip there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: [Moderator], I think that’s yours. I --

MODERATOR: India?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MODERATOR: On this trip?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MODERATOR: Not anything I know that’s on the schedule, no, uh-huh.

QUESTION: Okay.

MODERATOR: Yeah, no. Not that I’ve heard.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Pretty tight schedule.

MODERATOR: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. And then getting to the bilateral meeting, is – President Humala said in July that he wanted to intercept light aircraft suspected of smuggling cocaine, and they had abandoned a similar policy in 2001 when the Peruvians shot down a plane that had missionaries and I think a U.S. citizen and – was killed. Would the United States accept resumption of such a policy, or only nonlethal tactics? And then is – are there any comments on the U.S. view of cocaine production in Peru?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think – President Humala has expressed a great deal of frustration with a number of aircraft overflying Peru that are suspected of ferrying drugs. We share that frustration and we share his goal of trying to cut that number of transit, of flights. We want to work with the Peruvian Government to try and reduce that number and reduce the trafficking. And we are going to continue to look for ways to do that with the Peruvians in ways that will be safe and that will not violate either our law on the provision of information to the Peruvians or international norms about protection of civil aviation. And so that is a conversation that we are continuing to have with the Peruvians. Under Secretary Sherman had that conversation with the Peruvians when she was in the country a couple of months ago, and we expect to continue to work with them to look for ways to cut that trafficking in ways that preserve the safety of civil aviation.

You were talking about production of coca. I confess to you I haven’t looked at the numbers recently, but I do know that the success in Peru over the years of manual eradication has been fairly dramatic at different periods. President Humala has been very, very committed to eradication in a way that quite honestly his predecessors weren’t always, and they surpassed their own goals in eradication. So we look forward to continuing to work with them on that as eradication, when paired with interdiction and strong alternative development programs, has clearly been seen to be very effective in reducing cultivation in important areas in Peru.

QUESTION: Okay. Just to get back to the issue of the flights, when you say work with the Peruvian Government to try and reduce the number and we’re going to look for ways to do that that will be safe and won’t violate either our law – that sounds like – to me it sounds like you don’t really like the idea of interceptions. Is that not the case, or --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We have made clear that we have concerns with policies that include shoot-down. So we will continue looking for ways to help them stem the flow of narcotics, that preserve the safety of civil aviation. So that means looking for ways to interdict drugs that doesn’t necessarily include that particular mechanism.

MODERATOR: Greg, is there another reporter still on, or did they drop?

OPERATOR: They’re still on. If you do have a question, please press * then 1.

MODERATOR: Otherwise, we might be good to go.

OPERATOR: And there are no further questions.

MODERATOR: Great. Well, thank you, everyone. It’s going to be a short trip, but I think a good one, and again, this is all on background, senior State Department officials, no need for any embargoes. So we will see you all bright and early tomorrow morning.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you.