Remarks With British Foreign Secretary William Hague After Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
June 12, 2013

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you very much. It’s a huge pleasure for me to welcome my friend and partner in so many efforts, the Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, William Hague.

The United States and the United Kingdom obviously share a now time-honored and time-defined relationship, and it’s grounded in so much – our history, our values, our traditions. It is, without question, an essential, if not the essential relationship, and based on a common agenda that we share, our mutual cooperation on so many global issues, from peace and stability in the Middle East, Afghanistan, proliferation, Libya, Egypt, you run the gamut; we have been able to work together in effective ways. We’re the closest of military allies, having served alongside each other in major campaigns over the last 20 years, six major campaigns in total, including right now in Afghanistan, where our troops are serving side-by-side. And we promote together a very vigorous and a capable NATO.

But it’s fair to say that this special relationship really touches many different issues. Let me just say that two days ago, our governments signed a memorandum of understanding for the Global Innovation Initiative. And this important initiative is going to support multilateral research emphasizing science, technology, engineering, and it will focus on issues such as climate change, which we have just discussed at length, and sustainable development. And this initiative will also further our higher education cooperation, which is a priority of both President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron. It will bolster collaborations between universities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

I also want to applaud Prime Minister Cameron and Foreign Secretary Hague for their important leadership in the lead-up to the G-8. The UK is helping to take a lead on an important initiative to prevent sexual violence in conflict areas around the world. We met in London on that as a prep leading up to the G-8, and the Foreign Secretary convened a very important gathering and I think there was some important progress made in our discussions there. And we stood together in April, the G-8 foreign ministers, to affirm what will lead into the meetings in Ireland, Northern Ireland.

Our relationship is also rooted in our very, very close economic cooperation. We are each each other’s largest investors. Almost one million people in the United States work for British companies, and almost one million people work for American companies in the UK. We are also both committed to making this economic relationship stronger. President Obama’s commitment to launch the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union is a significant way to make it stronger. And we look forward to the deliberations that will take place in a few days in the EU with respect to the mandate for those negotiations. We are convinced, both of us, that a successful conclusion to this agreement would have a profound, important impact boosting both of our economies and, in fact, the economies of Europe as a whole.

Together, our two countries also remain committed to a Syrian-led political solution to the crisis there. We are deeply concerned about the dire situation in Syria, including the involvement of Hezbollah, as well as Iran, across state lines in another country. So we are focusing our efforts now on doing all that we can to support the opposition as they work to change the balance on the ground. And together, we have provided tremendous humanitarian assistance in an effort to mitigate the human suffering that is taking place in Syria. We remain committed to the Geneva 2 conference. We both understand the complications with the situation on the ground and moving forward rapidly. But there will have to be a political solution, ultimately, to the situation on the ground, and that is the framework that will continue to be the outline, and we remain committed to it.

Throughout each of our careers, I think it’s fair to say that Foreign Secretary Hague and I have spoken candidly about the urgent need for a two-state solution in the Middle East. This is a top priority for President Obama, a top priority for Prime Minister Cameron, and we will continue to work towards it together.

With respect to Iran’s nuclear program, as President Obama said in Israel in March, Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. We appreciate the United Kingdom’s leadership in continuing to push for the EU efforts to adopt and implement strict EU sanctions on Iran. They are making a difference, and they are – the UK has also been critical in its leadership of the P-5+1 in those efforts.

So I am delighted to welcome, as you can see in all that I have just described, a vital partner, and in our case, I’m happy to say, a close friend. We’ve gotten to know each other better and better in this process, and I think we enjoy working together enormously. And I’m happy to welcome you here, William. Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you very much, John. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to be back here in Washington, D.C and with my great friend and colleague, who I’ve hugely enjoyed – come to enjoy working with already over the last four months, Secretary Kerry. The United States is the United Kingdom’s greatest ally in world affairs, and the range of issues that we have discussed today reflects that.

And I want to pay tribute to the energy and the resolve and the commitment that Secretary Kerry has brought to this role as Secretary of State. I’ve particularly welcomed his personal leadership on the Middle East peace process. He’s put an enormous amount of his time and energy into creating the foundations for a return to negotiations. And no single act would do more to unlock a more peaceful and stable Middle East than a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A two-state solution is the only way to end this conflict and achieve peace and security for both sides, but the window for a viable settlement is closing fast, and the regional environment is growing more difficult and more dangerous, as you know, all the time. The United States can count on the full and active support of the United Kingdom in getting both sides to the negotiating table bilaterally, through our relationships with Israelis and Palestinians, and using our role in the European Union as well.

We also discussed the meeting of the G-8 in Northern Ireland, as you’ve heard, where we hoped to make progress on the priorities of trade and tax and transparency set out by Prime Minister David Cameron. I also reiterated our commitment to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States and the EU. This is the biggest opportunity in a generation to power new jobs and growth in Europe and America and to provide an immense boost to the world economy. The United Kingdom is fully behind it.

We’ve also discussed our work together to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan. We’ve identified new areas in which the State Department and the Foreign Office can work together on climate change issues. And the British Government greatly looks forward to welcoming President Obama to the G-8. We see this as an important opportunity to discuss many matters in world affairs, but it’s also an important opportunity to discuss with world leaders, including President Putin, the most urgent crisis anywhere in the world today, the terrible and deepening conflict in Syria.

Syria has been a focus, of course, of our talks today. We’re both deeply concerned by what is happening to innocent people there. The regime appears to be preparing new assaults, endangering the lives and safety of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who are already in desperate need. And the scale of the regime’s repression and the human suffering that it has caused beggars belief. A campaign of murder and tyranny that they have waged for more than 800 days now is not only a moral outrage, it’s a grave threat to the wider region, it’s a danger to our own national security, and this includes the risks of growing radicalization, the involvement of Hezbollah and Iranian proxies, and credible reports of the use of chemical weapons.

So we agreed today that we cannot turn away from Syria and its people. The United Kingdom believes the situation demands a strong, coordinated, and determined approach by the UK, the U.S., and our allies in Europe and in the region.

I want to pay tribute to the governments and people of Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon for their extraordinary generosity in hosting the vast refugee population and the burden that they’re shouldering for the whole world because of their proximity to this appalling conflict. And we will all have to do more in the coming weeks to assist with the immense humanitarian effort that is necessary.

We agreed today, of course, that our priority remains to see a diplomatic process in Geneva that succeeds in reaching a negotiated end to the conflict. But we will have to be prepared to do more to save lives, to pressure the Assad regime to negotiate seriously, and to prevent the growth of extremism and terrorism if diplomatic efforts are going to succeed. So we have discussed that thoroughly, how to help the regime and opposition come to the negotiating table, as well as to protect civilian life.

And we should never forget that this conflict began when the Assad regime turned its tanks, helicopter gunships, and heavy weapons against peaceful protesters. We shouldn’t forget that 1.6 million people have become refugees and more than 4 million are internally displaced. These are innocent victims of war and repression, and they’ve been at the forefront of our minds in our discussions here in Washington today.

Thank you very much.

MS. PSAKI: The first question will be from Jill Dougherty of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Secretary Kerry – I have a question, actually, for both Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hague. After this catastrophic defeat for the opposition in Qusayr, do you still believe that they can win and do it without the weapons that they are asking for? That’s to both of you.

And then Secretary Kerry, these reports of NSA surveillance – are you hearing from allies concerned? Did you hear it from Secretary Hague today concerned about this? We’re hearing the Germans are disturbed. They’ll be talking with President Obama about it.

And then finally just a very quick one on the OIG. Are you concerned that these – that allegations of serious, perhaps even illegal behavior or conduct, are not being investigated because of any alleged undue influence by senior State Department officials?

Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. Let me take your three questions in order, beginning with the NSA leaks.

The answer is no, I think the Secretary and I both understand the very delicate but vital balance between privacy and the protection of people in our country. And the Secretary made a very fine statement on the floor of the parliament in which, at the beginning of the week, he made clear the British Government’s position with respect to this. And I’ll just say for us, as you’re hearing now more and more, the members of Congress understand that Congress passed on this, voted for it several times, and the judiciary branch of our country has reviewed this and been engaged in this. This is a three-branch of government effort to keep America safe, and in fact, it has not read emails or looked at or listened to conversations, the exception of where a court may have made some decision which was predicated on appropriate evidence.

The United States of America has been hugely protected over the course of these last years by the valiant efforts of our law enforcement community, our international law enforcement efforts, the FBI, our agencies, the Homeland Security, all of whom have coordinated in remarkable ways to prevent some very terrible events from taking place. And I think they have done so in a remarkable balance of the values of our nation with respect to privacy, freedom, and the Constitution. And I think over time, this will withstand scrutiny and people will understand that.

That said, on the OIG I’ll just say very quickly all employees of this Department are held to the highest standards of behavior, and now and always. And I welcome the OIG who was asked – I’m a former prosecutor. I can tell you as a former prosecutor I take very seriously a investigative process, and I am confident that the OIG’s process where he has invited outsiders to come and review whatever took place a year ago will be reviewed. And I welcome that, I think the Department welcomes that, because we do want the highest standards applied.

And finally with respect to Syria, your question on Syria is specifically about whether or not --

QUESTION: About specifically with, after Qusayr --

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, I got it, whether or not they’re going to be able to win and so forth. Yeah.

QUESTION: Whether you have confidence.

SECRETARY KERRY: Look, I think that nobody wins in Syria the way things are going; the people lose, and Syria as a country loses. And what we have been pushing for, all of us involved in this effort, is a political solution that ends the violence, saves Syria, stops the killing and destruction of an entire nation. And that’s what we’re pushing for. So it’s not a question to me whether or not the opposition can, quote, “win.” It’s a question of whether or not we can get to this political solution.

And the political solution that the Russians have agreed to contemplates a transition government. The implementation of Geneva 1 is the goal of Geneva 2, and that is a transition government with full executive authority which gives the Syrian people as a whole, everybody in Syria, the chance to have a new beginning where they choose their future leadership. Now, that’s the goal. And we have said that we will do everything we can and we’re able to do to help the opposition be able to achieve that goal and to reach a point where that can be implemented. And that’s what we’re trying to do. And I think that there’s a unanimity about the importance of trying to find a way to peace, not a way to war. Now, the Assad regime is making that very difficult.

We will be – as everybody knows and has written about, we’re meeting to talk about the various balances in this issue right now. And I have nothing to announce about that at this point, but clearly, the choice of weapons that he has engaged in across the board challenge anybody’s values and standards of human behavior. And we’re going to have to make judgments for ourselves about how we can help the opposition to be able to deal with that.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: On that, I want to support what Secretary Kerry has said. He’s spoken quite rightly, as I often have, of there only being a political solution in the end in Syria. Whatever happens, however long it goes on for, in the end there has to be a political solution. There isn’t a solution for either side of only military conquest. The Syria that would be left at the end of that is not a Syria that would be able to function at all. And so there has to be a political solution. That is why I particularly pay tribute to Secretary Kerry’s efforts to create a new process in Geneva, building on what we agreed last year at Geneva, a transitional government with full executive powers, formed by mutual consent.

But what the regime is doing at the moment, and what you’ve seen over the last couple of weeks in the military action, supported in this case by Hezbollah, is making a political solution more difficult. It may be designed to make a political solution more difficult. And so our efforts in Syria have been to try to save lives, to prevent radicalization, to send a message to the regime that in the end there does have to be a political solution. That’s why the United Kingdom has sent practical support to the opposition, to the national coalition, why we send so much humanitarian support. This is what our diplomatic effort is working towards. And so I think Secretary Kerry are in complete agreement about this. I also don’t have any new announcement that we’re making today about this. But we are determined that we will address this issue together and do our utmost to create the conditions for a political solution in Syria.

On the NSA and intelligence matters, that’s not been the focus of our discussions today. We’ve noted recent controversies, and the Secretary was very kind about my speech in the House of Commons on Monday. The intelligence sharing relationship between the UK and the U.S. is unique in the world. It is the strongest in the world. And it contributes massively to the national security of both countries. I think that’s something that the citizens of our countries should have confidence in, and in particular have confidence in that that relationship is based on a framework of law in both countries, law that is vigorously upheld. And so I repeat what I said in the House of Commons on Monday about the importance of that. And it’s a relationship we must never endanger, because it has saved many lives over recent decades in countering terrorism and in contributing to the security of all our citizens.

MODERATOR: The second question is Tom Whipple, The Times.1

QUESTION: Thank you. I’ve got one question for both of you on Syria, if you don’t mind. But first of all, Foreign Secretary, to pick you up on the NSA story, I mean, you have made it clear in Parliament you don’t think British intelligence is breaking the law using information gathered by whatever means by U.S. intelligence. I’m not sure you that you’ve addressed what safeguards there are protecting British people from U.S. intelligence using these kinds of wholesale trawling of phone records and online activity we’ve been hearing about directly on innocent people in the UK.

And on Syria, we have heard what you’ve been saying about Syria for 800 days now. Have you discussed what military help you can give Syria’s rebels? And have you agreed on anything?

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Well, on the first point, the UK and the U.S. are very close partners on cyber security, on intelligence sharing. There couldn’t be two more trusted partners in the world than the United Kingdom and the United States. And I think that should give some level of assurance to the citizens of our countries. I pointed out in the House of Commons on Monday the legal protections that are there. And of course, I’ve made very clear that any information received by the United Kingdom is subject to all the laws of the United Kingdom. And so that remains the answer. That is the situation.

But no two countries in the world work more closely to protect the privacy of their citizens than the United Kingdom and the United States. There may be threats from elsewhere, of course, and there are, from criminal networks, sometimes from other states. It’s the UK and the U.S. that work together in trying to deal with that. So it’s not the United States we should be looking at when we’re worried about those things.

On the question about Syria, we’ve discussed many things about Syria, but I think we’ve dealt with this point earlier where we are restating today our determination that the UK, the U.S., our other allies in Europe and across the region, will work closely on this. Secretary Kerry has done a great deal in recent weeks to pull together a group of foreign ministers. We’ve met several times, including in Istanbul and in Amman recently, to coordinate our actions and our diplomacy and our support for the national coalition. We will continue to do that, and we may well have to intensify that in various ways over the coming weeks and months in order to make it more likely that we can achieve a political solution in Syria. So we’ve discussed all the ramifications of that today, but I can’t go into any more detail than that at the moment.

SECRETARY KERRY: Which part of it do you want me to answer?

QUESTION: Sorry. About Syria. We’ve heard you say similar things for 800 days about Syria.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, not me. I haven’t been in office for 800 days.

QUESTION: Officials like yourself, sir. Can you say – can you give us a sense, any sense at all, what you’ve been talking about in terms of the kind of help you may be offering the Syrian rebels, and why you aren’t able to say anything more than you’re saying at the moment, which you’re staying pretty tight-lipped about what you’ve been discussing in terms of this help you can give the rebels? At some point, it’s going to be too late for that, isn’t it? Do you think we’ve reached that point?

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not going to make judgments about the points, where we are or aren’t. I’ll just say to you that as I said to you, we are determined to do everything that we can in order to help the opposition to be able to reach – to save Syria. And that stands. That’s exactly what we’re going to do. I have nothing new to announce today. When and if I do, you’ll hear about it. But at this moment, we are in consideration, as everybody knows – it’s been written about this week. People are talking about what further options might be exercised here. And we certainly had some discussion about that, obviously. But we don’t have anything to announce at this moment.

Thank you, all. Appreciate it.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks very much.

1Questioner was misidentified. It was Dominic Waghorn, Sky News.

PRN: 2013/0722