Remarks with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Arctic Council Ministerial Session

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Kiruna City Hall
Kiruna, Sweden
May 15, 2013

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

[Kiruna Declaration Signing takes place.]

FOREIGN MINISTER BILDT: And could I then – I think they are ready for the readout, for two or three questions, anyone here on Arctic Council issues. Then I think there is – that’s a microphone over there – and then I think there is a national leader opportunities of these four.

So please, if there is questions.

QUESTION: If I could ask Secretary Kerry and Minister Lavrov, you’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks and months working together on a variety of issues from Syria to the Arctic issues that you’ve discussed in the last two days. And yesterday, you had an American official from the Embassy in Moscow who was detained by the Russians and accused of espionage. Is that constructive to the kind of work, collaborative work, that you’re trying to do now? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: (Off mike.) Testing – one, two, three, four, five. So for all of you who didn’t hear that answer, I have nothing to add with respect to the situation regarding an Embassy official in Moscow.

And I’m grateful to my friend Sergey Lavrov, the Minister of Russia, for a very productive meeting yesterday in which we did the large business of our countries, which was facing first of all the challenge of Syria. We met at length. We both agreed that there is much work to be done. We understand what each of us has to do in the next days. We’re very optimistic that we can get that work done. We’ve both been in touch with the United Nations, with Ban Ki-moon, with other participants. Each of us has agreed to work very hard with respect to the flow of people that we are in touch with, the foreign ministers, the opposition, the Assad regime, others, in order to bring the parties to the table. And I think it’s fair to say that both of us are confident about the direction that we’re moving in and very, very hopeful that within in a short period of time the pieces will have come together fully so that the world, hopefully, will have an opportunity to be given an alternative to the violence and destruction that is taking place in Syria at this moment.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: Thank you. I can confirm that we had a very productive meeting yesterday. We did not discuss the incident to which you refer. Everything we should have to say – we, the Russian side – on that particular incident was stated yesterday by the spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry. I have nothing to add.

As to the substance of our cooperative meeting yesterday, I would share the assessments just presented by John. We have a very clear initiative on the table. The Russian-American proposal to convene a conference to start implementing the Geneva communique of June last year – it’s self explanatory and what we need now is to mobilize support for this initiative on the basis of what was, I believe, in Geneva and what was proposed by Washington and Moscow – to mobilize support first of all by all the Syrian groups, the regime and all opposition groups; and second by those outside actors who have influence on either one or the other Syrian group.

That’s what we discussed. That’s what we will be doing in our conference with all outside players and with the Syrian, but especially in the expectation of the two events, which the opposition is holding one, a meeting by National Coalition in Istanbul. And about the same time there is – there will be a meeting in (inaudible) convened by the internal opposition, in particular by the National Coordinating Committee. It is very important that the participants of both meetings express their clear support for the Russian-American initiative to start implementing the Geneva communique. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: If I could just add, I want to emphasize the degree to which we both believe Russia and the United States share a belief that is extremely constructive and positive that we are working together cooperatively in an effort to try to implement a peaceful resolution based on Geneva I, which recognizes the need for a transition government with full executive authority by mutual consent. That’s what we’re working towards, and I don't think it’s insignificant that at this moment in time we are finding this common ground and working closer together.

FOREIGN MINISTER BILDT: Next question over there.

QUESTION: Hello. Yelena Chernenko, Kommerserant Daily Newspaper. As far as I understand, your ministers, all of the requests from the countries to become observer members have been accepted today. The question is, does such a high number of observers not make the Arctic Council less effective and is there a limit of how many observers in the future there might be in the Council, or it can it grow forever, the number of observers? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER BILDT: That’s why we have also adopted (inaudible) the about the recent procedure earlier with some procedures, so there’s a very clear what observers are and what observers aren’t. That’s been the very purpose of that work that’s been done.

As to your question, I would say it demonstrates the broad international acceptance of the role of the Arctic Council, because by being observer, these organizations and states, they accept the principles and the sovereignty of the Arctic Council on Arctic issues. So I think it – as a matter of fact, it strengthens the position of the Arctic Council on the global scene. That is why this is, that we hope that the remaining issues that are indicated concerning (inaudible) is that that will be sorted out fairly quickly, and I trust that will be the case.

One there before we --

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what will be your priority when it comes to Arctic issues in the future?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think it’s premature for me, prior to assuming the chairmanship, with my Canadian friend standing to the left of me, to start laying out the agenda. But as I said in my statement, the Arctic is a precious treasure for all of the world. And the United States recognizes that we are one of the two major contributors to global emissions. More than 50 percent of the world’s emissions come from two countries, China and the United States. And then there are 17 to 20 major emitters, as we know, some of whom are standing here and others are not, who are responsible for well over 90 percent. So you have small nations who are hugely impacted by the long-time development practices of other nations.

President Obama has twice now this year at significant events embraced the importance of dealing with climate change, once in his Inaugural Address, and second time in his State of the Union message. And we are looking at every single option available to us to act responsibly. But no one nation can solve this. The United States of America today is below Kyoto levels in emissions. People don’t know that. The United States today is actually below the Waxman-Markey legislation mandates that didn’t pass. So we’re doing things – automobile efficiency, standards, efficiencies, building codes, fleet purchase, all kinds of things, but not enough. No one is doing enough.

The problem is that everything that we do or everything one other nation does is going to be wiped out by China or another nation if they continue with coal firepower at the rate that we are proceeding. So the warning signals are all there, and I can assure that when our chairmanship time comes around we will pick up on Leona’s appropriate concern for indigenous populations and we will build on that with respect to the needs for all of us to do things that recognize the global impact on the ecosystem of what is happening in the Arctic.

FOREIGN MINISTER BILDT: Thanks and just two final remarks from my side. First that I do wish, on the issue that was mentioned earlier, that spirit of cooperation, of true Arctic cooperation of these few days, will continue to inspire U.S. to leading members of the UN Security Council when you proceed on your – on the enormously important issue of Syria.

Secondly, let me just on behalf of all us thank the city of Kiruna for having the your neighbors occupy this beautiful city hall and thank also the people of Kiruna and for your understanding that we might have messed up your town for a couple of days, but I hope that you accept that we’ve come here for not only one but for a couple of valuable purposes. Thanks very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2013/ T06-03