Remarks With Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo After Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 30, 2013

The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

SECRETARY KERRY: What are we here? Good morning. I was just checking. (Laughter.) (In Spanish.)

I’m delighted to welcome Foreign Minister Garcia-Magallo here to Washington. Spain is an extraordinarily valued ally and a partner of the United States, and this year we mark the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida. And the minister will be traveling before long to Florida, to Texas, to California, to celebrate these anniversaries, and we look forward to building on that in the days ahead.

Over the very long and shared history, the United States and Spain have built a strong friendship, and it’s based on common values and on deep cultural ties. I can remember personally vividly visiting Spain as a young man, and I remember the image of a bull charging behind me in Pamplona. That is an image that is not easily forgotten quickly. (Laughter.) But I’d like to think that as our Spanish-American relationship has grown stronger over the years, some of us have also grown wiser. (Laughter.)

Today our countries are working side by side to promote security and prosperity on a global scale. So I was very, very happy to have an opportunity this morning to talk with the minister about the challenges of the Eurozone and the extraordinary measures that Spain and other countries have taken in order to respond to that challenge. I know what a challenge and what difficult choices they have had to make in order to get back on the economic track, and the United States supports President[1] Rajoy’s efforts to advance the fiscal and the financial reform. None of those choices are easy.

Our bilateral trade relationship continues to thrive, giving both of our economies a needed boost. Spain is one of the fastest-growing investors in the United States of America, and American companies now support some 70,000 jobs in Spain. The Foreign Minister and I both want to look for more ways to try to grow this economic partnership, and I want to say while I’m mentioning the issue of jobs and job growth in both countries, what a terrific job our Ambassador in Madrid, Alan Solomont, is doing. We appreciate it. And his counterpart here in Washington, [Ramon] Gil-Casares, they are both deeply engaged on this issue and we appreciate their efforts.

I also reiterated this morning the United States’ view that a strong European Union is critical in our overcoming the broader European economic challenges. A prosperous EU is good for American interests and obviously speaks for itself about its own citizens. And that’s why we talked today about and we are committed to move forward on the President’s initiative of the TTIP, the [Transatlantic] Trade and Investment Partnership, which the President announced in February.

Transatlantic trade already supports 13 million American and European jobs. We know that we can build on that. And we look forward with enthusiasm to Spain’s participation in that, and I am grateful to the minister for his commitment of support and effort for it.

Finally, in terms of security issues, I thanked the Foreign Minister for Spain’s continued support on a number of operations, from promoting a smooth security and economic transition in Afghanistan where the partnership is important; in supporting humanitarian efforts in Syria, which we talked about at some length; and also in combating piracy off of the coast of Somalia.

In addition to that, Spain has been an important ally in pressuring Iran to address international concerns about its nuclear program. And Spain’s contributions to help keep NATO strong and our military partnership and cooperation on promoting security for both of our countries is an important component of our relationship.

I especially want to thank the Foreign Minister for his government’s recent decision to allow the temporary basing of 500 American Marines at Moron. When an emergency arises, we obviously need to be able to respond at a moment’s notice, and these Marines are helping to make the United States, Spain, our allies, and our partners more secure. And we’re grateful for that help.

And before I finish, I just want to mention that I will be traveling to Russia next week, and the visit, in my judgment, is overdue. I look forward to that, and particularly given the range of issues that we need to discuss, from Syria to Iran to the upcoming G-8 summit in a little more than a month.

So once again, Foreign Minister, welcome. Thank you very, very much for your commitment to this partnership.

FOREIGN MINISTER GARCIA-MARGALLO: Thank you, Secretary of State. Good morning, all of you. I will switch now to my mother tongue language. I will go on in Spanish, I would have translation afterwards, and I am ready to answer any questions you wish to put a question to me from the American side.

(Via interpreter.) This has been a trip that has taken me through memory lane, as it were. It’s a return to the past. I remember in 1972, 1973 coming to Harvard University, and I remember my first political campaign. The Secretary and I were talking about the fact that we were supporting the same senator, and I have a photograph that was taken of me with Ted Kennedy, where we were remembering the famous phrase from the movie Casablanca: I hope this is going to be the beginning of a wonderful friendship. And I think that we do have a wonderful friendship. We don’t have any different friendship or friendship we have to start. We’re simply continuing on the work we’ve already done.

And in our bilateral relationships, as we were discussing with Secretary Kerry, in terms of security, we have worked together in Rota on the anti-missile bases. We have worked together on over-flights. We have worked together on an agreement to allow the U.S. Marines to use the base of Moron. Economically speaking, our exports have grown by 11 percent, in spite of the difficult challenges that we’ve had in these financial times. In fact, Spanish investment in the United States is now 11.1 percent of our total investments. The United States is the third destination worldwide for Spanish investment.

And I was also saying to Secretary Kerry that our purpose is to be the best ambassador of the United States within the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. With regard to global issues, we are working together in Afghanistan, in areas of interest to the United States, on Operation Atalanta in the Horn of Africa, in Lebanon, in Mali. And the basis of our political relationship is that we go in together and we come out together.

We reviewed the global scenario with the Secretary. We discussed the issue of Iran. We discussed Syria. We have shared opinions on that. And the value that Spain can add globally is especially evident in areas like Ibero-America, Middle East, and the Arab states.

(In English.) So to end my introduction, I would like to say that that is a very good momentum to re-launch our bilateral relations. I am traveling, as the Secretary said, to Miami to commemorate the fifth century anniversary of Ponce de Leon. We will come back in November. We will visit Texas and California as well, and Miami, and then I think that we will be even closer than we are today. Thank you very much.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you. We’ll take two questions. The first will be from Paul Eckert of Reuters.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, why was yesterday’s acknowledgement by the Arab League, in the person of Qatar’s Prime Minister, that a peace deal in the Middle East is going to require land swaps? Why is that so significant to you, given that it was already sort of baked into the Clinton parameters of the year 2000?

And on Benghazi, do you have anything to say about these assertions from – that some employees in this building are being prevented from testifying in Congress? This assertion has been made by the lawyers of the some of these employees.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, with respect to the meeting yesterday with the Arab ministers, let me make a number of things very, very clear. First of all, whatever was baked into the Clinton parameters was said by President Clinton, not by the Arab League. And we are now years beyond – 10 years-plus beyond the original statement of the Arab initiative. I think everybody would agree that when the Arab initiative was first set forth, it never received the full focus and full attention and recognition for the importance of the initiative that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was undertaking.

And so now since then, there have been changes on the ground. There’s been a significant, obviously, amount of disagreement between different countries, conflict in Israel, disappointment in the Oslo process, in other processes – Prime Minister Olmert, others. So there’s a confusion, frankly, in a lot of people’s minds.

When I have been in Israel in recent days, a lot of people have asked me: What are the Arabs going to do? What is the Arab attitude towards peace at this point in time? And so the Arab community – and I think they should be thanked for this – saw fit to come here to the United States as a delegation of the Arab League to make it clear that they are re-launching the Arab Peace Initiative.

And many people haven’t focused on what it does. Let me be very specific about what it does. Number one, if the Palestinians and Israelis reach a final status agreement between them, then the Arab community, 22 Arab countries and 57 Muslim countries that have signed up as members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, all of them have agreed, number one, that they would consider the conflict ended; number two, that they would establish the normalization of relations with Israel; number three, that they would enter into peace agreements with Israel; and number four, that they would provide security for all states in the region. In other words, they are offering a security arrangement for that region.

This is literally a statement by the Arab world that they are prepared to make peace providing the Palestinians and Israelis reach a final status agreement. I don’t think you can underestimate the – I don’t underestimate the significance of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, [United] Arab Emirates, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, and others coming to the table and saying, “We are prepared to make peace now in 2013,” but one more thing: Unlike the agreement, the proposal that was put forward originally which only talked about ’67 lines, nothing else, yesterday they stated that they are prepared to accept ’67 borders with adjustments to reflect mutually agreed-upon land swaps, recognizing some of the changes that have taken place.

That is a very big step forward. In fact, Israeli Justice Minister Livni said, quote, “It sends a message to the Israeli public that this is not just about us and the Palestinians.” It’s bigger than that. And I think, therefore, that it’s significant. We have a lot of homework to do, a lot of tough hurdles to get over, but each step forward is the way you get there. And the old saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Well, President Obama began that step when he went to Israel, offered a vision for peace. He instructed me to continue that work. We’re taking more steps. Yesterday was another step. And we’re going to continue to march forward and try to bring people to the table despite the difficulties and the disappointments of the past.

On Benghazi, look, there’s an enormous amount of misinformation out there. The simple fact is that when I testified before the Congress, what, a couple weeks ago now, I said very clearly to the chairman of the House – both House committees that we would work with them as closely as possible, put every question to us, whatever it is you need, and I would assign somebody to be responsible to work with them to answer those questions. My Chief of Staff, David Wade, was in touch with them forthwith, has been in touch with them, and we’re prepared to work openly and accountably to answer any of those questions.

So we have to demythologize this issue, and certainly depoliticize it. The American people deserve answers. I’m determined that this will be an accountable and open State Department, as it has been in the past, and we will continue to do that, and we will provide answers.

MS. PSAKI: The next question will be from Pablo Pardo from El Mundo.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. You have mentioned that the United States strongly supports the economic policy of Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy. I would like to know – I mean, in the last few weeks in some European countries, particularly among them Spain, there’s more emphasis in fostering economic growth and, let’s say, a little bit less in upfront fiscal consolidation. This has been traditionally the U.S. position or the U.S. recommendation to Europe, but it’s also kind of – I mean, not wildly supported by everybody in the European Union, namely Germany and maybe the European Commission. I would like to know your views about this, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the United States is not going to micromanage or offer advice from afar to any European government publicly with respect to the choices that it’s making. We respect each country in the Eurozone to make its choices according to its economy and its needs and its people, and we respect – what we respect is that it’s been a very difficult time with very real significant challenges. And I respect the way that the President – the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have been working to advance their agenda. I think the Foreign Minister has been a particular advocate for important steps within the entire European community.

But it’s really not up to the United States to be doing anything except encouraging and supporting and trying to help provide a framework which can help Europe to come out of this. And we think that the TTIP is one of the – is an important contributor to that framework, and we’ll continue to work in other ways and provide our advice privately in ways that it ought to be. Each government needs to make its own decisions, and we respect that.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.

SECRETARY KERRY: Is that it? Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you very much. Thank you, sir.

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[1] Prime Minister

PRN: 2013/0486