Press Availability in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
October 10, 2013

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I know that President Obama was very disappointed to cancel his visit, especially given his personal connection and commitment to the region. But I also know that he believes very deeply in the importance of the relationship between the United States and Malaysia and also in the potential for a relationship in the years to come.

Today, our two nations are really working together in more areas than ever before, in economics, in climate, in connectivity, law enforcement, counterterrorism, counter-proliferation, maritime security, science, education – you name it, and we are doing it and doing it together. We’re very grateful for Malaysia’s leadership on every single one of these issues.

I had the occasion at a couple of the dinners in the last few days and at the ASEAN meeting as well as the APEC and similarly at the East Asia Summit to have long and good conversations with the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Najib. And I’m grateful for the discussions that we had, as well as with the Foreign Minister. And having just left Brunei and the first-ever summit that has taken place between the U.S. and ASEAN, I want to thank Malaysia for its leadership through every single one of those meetings on all of the topics of importance to us. So we’re very much looking forward to Malaysia’s chair of ASEAN, which will take place a year hence in 2015.

I’m also proud to say that the ties between our people are clearly getting stronger. Thanks to the close coordination between President Obama and Prime Minister Najib, today American Fulbright English teaching assistants are connecting to Malaysian students all over the country in Kuala Lumpur all the way to Kuantan. And I know firsthand the importance of that program, because I was lucky to have my daughter take part as a Fulbrighter, and I know how profound the impact of that program can be. In fact, all of those exchanges make a difference, and that’s why we’re deeply committed to them here in the region.

These critical connections are also behind our commitment in expanding our people-to-people initiatives like the Global Entrepreneurial Summit, which I will have the privilege of addressing tomorrow. I think it speaks to Malaysia’s important role in driving regional prosperity that it is holding and hosting the fourth global summit right here in Kuala Lumpur. And tomorrow, when I speak to them, I’m going to have a chance to talk to young people from around the world who are here in order to find ways to pursue their dreams and make their communities stronger and better.

On behalf of President Obama, the United States is really proud to be part of that effort. But we’re convinced that we can do even more to help young leaders be able to achieve their goals. In order for their success – excuse me – and the success of other entrepreneurs, both in the United States and Malaysia, to be as far reaching as possible, it’s imperative that we support open trade and open investment wherever we can.

Today, the United States and Malaysia have a very strong economic relationship. We are Malaysia’s fourth-largest trading partner and we are the largest foreign investor in Malaysian industries. But we believe we can do more. And the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we think is the instrument to help get us there. Prime Minister Najib and I had a very productive meeting with the TPP leaders in Bali earlier this week. And I really look forward to working with our partners in Malaysia in order to finalize that agreement by the end of the year.

We recognize there are always hurdles in each country, but as U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Froman has said, we are prepared to be both flexible and creative in order to help countries be able to meet both the timing and the goals.

So on behalf of President Obama, I want to thank Malaysia for its very committed partnership. I want to thank them for their friendship. And I look forward to continuing what has already been a very productive trip to the region with a dynamic set of meetings tomorrow morning. With that, I’m happy to take a couple questions.

MS. PSAKI: Anne.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. On Egypt, having taken this step on aid, what leverage does the United States still have to encourage the result you want there, a transition to – a return to civilian rule, given that neither the previous elected government nor the current interim military government seem to listen to you so far? What hope do you have that the result will be different?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I disagree with the premise of that. We’ve had a series of constant conversations regarding the roadmap, the road forward for Egypt. And we will continue to have those conversations. And I think the interim government understands very well our commitment to the success of this government, which we want to see achieve. And by no means is this a withdrawal from our relationship or severing of our serious commitment to helping the government meet those goals.

Obviously, we want to make sure that the roadmap results in a constitution that recognizes universal human rights, that respects minorities, that brings people to the table in an inclusive way, and we’re convinced that – and ultimately results in free and fair elections. In our conversations with the Egyptians, they insist to us that that is exactly the roadmap that they are on, that that is what they intend to achieve. And what we’re doing is holding back a certain element of the aid which we don’t believe is relevant to the immediate needs of this government in terms of the roadmap or in terms of their security.

Now with respect to security, with respect to the Sinai, with respect to the peace process, and with respect to the security needs of the region, we are continuing to provide assistance because it’s in our interest as well as theirs and our friends in the region to do so. In addition, we’re going to continue to provide spare and replacement parts and related services for some of the programs that we think are important to continuing military education and training, because that’s important to our interests. And they are grateful and, I think, understand that.

In addition, we’re going to continue to support areas that directly benefit the Egyptian people – education, private sector development. We will be engaged in that. And we will continue to make certain that the roadmap remains a primary goal for the interim government, because I believe they do want to continue the relationship in a positive way with the United States. Now, we will not be providing direct cash assistance to the budget of the government at this moment in time, and we’re reserving delivery with respect to any key large systems like the Apache or M1A1 tanks and a few things like that.

So I think that on the contrary, we’re going to continue. We want this government to succeed, but we want it also to be the kind of government that Americans will feel comfortable supporting and being engaged in.

QUESTION: How long do you think that suspension will last? And also, could I just ask you very quickly to comment on the kidnapping of the Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan?

SECRETARY KERRY: Sure. I think this recalibration of assistance is really geared to try to leverage the outcomes that citizens in American care about enormously, that Egyptians care about equally – more importantly, that the Egyptian people want for their country. And so as we see this roadmap evolve and actually be met, which the Egyptian Government has said, we expect the renewal of certain of those systems as it is deemed by the President of the United States to be relevant to that particular moment and to the relationship. So this will be on a basis of performance, and it’ll be on the basis of what evolves over the course of the roadmap in the next months.

With respect to Libya, I spoke this afternoon with Ambassador Deborah Jones and we’ve been, obviously, in touch with Washington regarding this. It is clearly a situation that is still evolving. The Libyan Prime Minister, to our understanding, has been released. It is our understanding that there has been no statement yet issued as to the who, what, why, and how. And so we’re staying in very close touch, obviously. Our embassy personnel are secure. We’re confident about our abilities to keep them in that security. But as the situation evolves over the next hours and days, we will obviously share more with you. But it is an evolving situation.

One of the things that it really underscores is something that we’ve been really focused on in these last months, which is building capacity in Libya. And we’ve had a number of meetings and discussions about this over the course of the last months. It’s something we and others, our friends and allies involved in Libya – the French, the British, Italians, and others – are all unified in trying to address. And we have hopes that we can continue to do that probably with greater speed and with greater success, but that is a very major focus that this really underscores the events of the last 24 hours.


QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary Kerry. Is this on? South Africa and Brazil both had nuclear weapons programs, and today they’re both enriching uranium. Iran has said that its right to peaceful enrichment is non-negotiable in the upcoming talks. Can you assure Iran’s new government, which says it wants a deal within a year but is facing strong opposition from domestic hardliners at home, that it too will be allowed to enrich like South Africa and Brazil once it comes clean on all illicit activities?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, obviously the question of enrichment is at the center of the negotiations themselves, and I’m not about to negotiate here in Kuala Lumpur today in answer to your question. But we have made it clear to Iran that they can have a peaceful nuclear program as they meet the requirements of the international community as expressed in the additional protocols and in the resolutions that have been passed by the UN Security Council.

Now, there is a negotiation coming up in the next few days. We’ve had private discussions; I’ve personally had private discussion with the Foreign Minister, and I think it’s best to keep those discussions private and personal at this point in time. But Iran knows what it needs to do in order to be able to have a peaceful program, and we’re prepared to negotiate a resolution and believe, as President Obama has said many times, that a negotiated, peaceful resolution is by far his preference. So we will negotiate, but we’re not going to negotiate publicly in the next days.

MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all. Have a good evening. Thanks.

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PRN: 2013/T15-17