Previewing Secretary Kerry's Travel to Germany and Belgium

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Via Teleconference
December 5, 2016

MODERATOR: Thank you, and thanks, both of you for joining us on a Friday afternoon. As you know, Secretary Kerry is going to be traveling to Berlin, Brussels, and Hamburg next week. And just to walk you through the schedule and to answer any questions you might have about his itinerary, we’ve got – for your reporting purposes, even though it will be on background, we’ve got [Senior State Department Official] who’s joined us.

And without further delay, over to you, [Senior State Department Official].

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you, [Moderator]. Thank you, friends. So, taking off on Sunday night, headed first to Berlin. This stop in Berlin is a bilateral visit hosted by Foreign Minister Steinmeier. As you know, Foreign Minister Steinmeier has been selected as the candidate for president of Germany. So he’s ending his tour as foreign minister around the same time as the Secretary is ending his tour, and the two of them have worked really hand in glove throughout their respective tenures on the full range of global issues. So it’s a chance for them to review the bidding including on all of the key global issues that they are running to the tape on, including Syria, Yemen, Libya, the full range of NATO issues.

And then, as you know, Germany is host of the OSCE. They’re the chairman-in-office this year, so Foreign Minister Steinmeier later in the week will be hosting the events in Hamburg, and they’ll be able to coordinate on that.

So we fly overnight on Sunday arriving Monday. The Secretary will first have a conversation with 22 young German transatlantic professionals. I think you know that we have outreach all around the world to young people who are interested in foreign affairs and involved. And in Germany, our network is extremely vibrant and active, so the Secretary will have a chance to talk to the next generation. He’ll then have – he will then be hosted by Foreign Minister Steinmeier for an awards ceremony. The Secretary will be receiving the Grand Cross First Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. This is the highest award that Germany can bestow on a non-head of state. Secretary Kerry will be honored for special achievements pertaining to the Federal Republic, including U.S.-German cooperation on climate change, on countering Daesh, on Ukraine, on Iran, et cetera. Previous Americans who have received this award include Wesley Clark and Lucius Clay, who was the U.S. general involved in the Berlin Airlift. Non-Americans include Jean-Claude Juncker, Ban Ki-moon. So there will be a ceremony to give the award and then a reception and then there’ll be a dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Steinmeier on Monday the 5th.

The next day, we will take off for Brussels for both EU and NATO events. We will start in Brussels at mid-day with a working lunch hosted by EU High Representative Mogherini. We will also, at the end of the lunch, the Secretary and EU High Rep Mogherini will sign the U.S.-EU Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, the ACSA, which will allow the U.S. to exchange rapid logistical support to EU military missions around the globe during crisis response and other missions. Essentially, this is a standing agreement so that if we are participating in an EU mission, or even if we’re not, we can quickly move military support and we have all of the standing logistical and financial arrangements to do that. It is the result of lots of hard work by the teams to routinize the way we do this because we’ve sort of been doing it on an ad hoc basis, mission to mission, heretofore.

We will then move out to Evere in Brussels for the annual end-of-calendar year foreign ministerial of NATO. This will be the Secretary’s last NATO meeting of his tenure. He will start, as he always does, with a sit-down with the NATO secretary-general to talk about the sessions ahead and organize their work. The first formal NAC session starts at 2:00 on Tuesday the 6th and it’ll be a NATO-EU cooperation meeting, so it’ll be the 28 NATO allies plus Sweden and Finland in attendance and EU High Representative Mogherini, and they will be talking about all the issues that we do together in the NATO-EU context from cyber to supporting European security to other missions around the globe.

The Secretary will also have some bilateral meetings which we’ll announce later in the – later that afternoon. And then at 5 o’clock is the second NAC session. This will be a NATO ministerial of just the NATO family, so the 28 allies plus Montenegro, who is now in observer status. And that’ll be on projecting stability – primarily, the alliance’s deterrence operations in the Baltics and Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, but there’ll also be some work on NATO’s contribution to the counter-ISIL coalition training in Iraq, the NATO mission to support migrant operations between Greece and Turkey, et cetera. And then there’ll be the traditional working dinner that night which is a very small format traditional dinner that we always do during NATO foreign ministerials.

And then on Wednesday the 7th, the last meeting at NATO headquarters will be the NUC, the NATO-Ukraine commission, with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin reviewing all the security and political support that allies give to Ukraine and the Minsk agreements, as well as we expect that Foreign Minister Klimkin will give a report on the reform program in Ukraine.

We then take off at mid-day on Wednesday headed to Hamburg where, as I said before, Foreign Minister Steinmeier, as chairman-in-office of the OSCE this year, will host the traditional OSCE ministerial of 57 allies and partners coming together in Hamburg. The Secretary, before starting the formal ministerial events, will have a couple of side meetings. He will do what we call a C5+1 with the foreign ministers of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. We have traditionally done this on the margins of the OSCE because they are all in attendance at that forum. He’ll then give some support to a youth group from around the OSCE which is doing peer-to-peer work on countering violent extremism, one of the programs that we support from the OSCE and from our bilateral platforms. He will then attend – and in that evening there is the traditional reception and dinner for OSCE foreign ministers.

The next morning, the Secretary will start his day on Thursday, December 8th with a meeting with civil society leaders from around the OSCE. I know you’re both veterans and you’ll recall that in parallel with the ministerial meeting there is also a large gathering of civil society supporters – those who support tolerance, democracy, free media, LGBT rights, all of those things in the 57 OSCE countries. So he’ll meet – the Secretary will meet with some of the civil society leaders from some of the countries that we work with, as he always does on the margins of this ministerial. And then at 10:00, starts the formal ministerial of all the 57 ministers, and the Secretary will make an intervention on all the work that the OSCE is doing in its three traditional baskets, and particularly to review the deployments that the OSCE has in support of the Minsk agreements in eastern and other parts of Ukraine.

And that’s what I have for you on this part of the program. And onward travel will be discussed later; it’s still being worked out.

MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Do you guys have any questions?

OPERATOR: Thank you. And to queue up for questions, you may press * followed by 1 at this time. Once again, for your questions, you may queue up by pressing * and then 1.

First question is from Nicolas Revise with AFP. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Thank you, [Senior State Department Official], for doing this. A very simple question: Is it kind of a farewell tour for Secretary Kerry, during which he will try to reassure the European partners about the strength of transatlantic ties, given the context of what the incoming administration has said?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thanks, Nicolas. Well, as I said, it is the Secretary’s last set of NATO meetings and last OSCE foreign ministerial. So I think he will want to reflect on the work that we’ve done together in those two organizations during his tenure, which has been very rich and diverse. Knowing our boss as you do, he is bound and determined, as the President is, to run through the tape. So I am confident that he will be continuing to press on them on all the issues that we’re continuing to work, whether it is supporting the OSCE’s deployments in missions around the space, and particularly in Ukraine; or whether it is discussing ongoing efforts to bring a political solution in Syria or his own work in Yemen and Libya, et cetera. I think he’ll be continuing to try to get the most out of those meetings in terms of operational diplomacy.

But yes, I would expect him to give messages, as he’s been giving bilaterally throughout this period, that the U.S.’s interests and commitments with Europe are strong, are abiding, cross party lines, and enjoy broad bipartisan support in the United States.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Once again, if there’s questions, you may press * followed by 1 at this time. *1, please.

All right. Allowing a few moments here, I’m showing no additional comments at this time. Please continue.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we exhausted them, [Moderator]. What do you think?

MODERATOR: (Laughter.) Sounds like it.

OPERATOR: A follow-up, if you’d like?

MODERATOR: All right. Going once, going twice.

OPERATOR: And Nicolas Revise is back in the queue. Please go ahead.


QUESTION: Yeah, since I’m alone, just a quick question about Ukraine. Do you expect any movement on the Normandy format and on the Minsk agreement during his meeting at NATO?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I would expect that Foreign Ministers Ayrault and Steinmeier will want a report both in the NATO format and in the OSCE format on the ministerial that they just had in the Normandy configuration and talk about onward work. But mostly this will be – it’ll be a status report and a little bit of a look forward, I would guess. But that’ll be led by the Normandy powers. And obviously, we, the United States, strongly supports the work that they’re trying to do.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Great. Okay, thanks.


MODERATOR: Okay, great, everybody. Well, thanks to both of you for joining us. Thanks, [Senior State Department Official], also for doing this, and have a great trip next week. I unfortunately won’t be a part of it, but have a great weekend as well.