Remarks to the Participants of the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, DC
October 30, 2013

Date: 10/30/2013 Description: Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks to participants of the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists at the Department of State in Washington, DC on October 30, 2013.  - State Dept ImageSECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody. How you all doing? Good? Nice to be with you. Welcome. We’re really, really happy to have you here at the State Department and we’re delighted that you are taking part in this really critical program – historic program in many ways – the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists. I’m very grateful to our Assistant Secretary Evan Ryan for her leadership and for what the Education/Cultural Affairs Bureau does for us here.

This is just one of many programs, but this is a very important program because you are the connection in your countries to vast numbers of people and the information they get, what they learn about the world, what they shape as their own views and beliefs, will come through some of the information that you share with them, or the opinions you offer them. And all of that is critical in a world that is far more interconnected today; it’s almost become a cliche to talk about this interconnectedness. It has profound implications for all of us in – we see it every single day.

But it’s really amazing when you think about the revolution that the person this program is named after – Edward R. Murrow – initiated. He, like many of you, and you may not have chosen this consciously, but the fact that you are journalists suggests to me very much that you have come to this with a certain passion and a belief in this ability to impart information and to share with people what is happening in the world. Edward R. Murrow really defined that revolution.

I was born in 1943 in the middle of the war, and I can remember as I grew up in the early 1950s hearing a lot about Edward R. Murrow and listening to him still – because he was still reporting – but his vivid reporting of the war brought the blitz over London into the living rooms of Americans. And it allowed Americans to be able to listen to what our British friends and cousins were living through on a day-to-day basis. You could hear the air-raids, you could feel the burning buildings, and you could sense the terror that the people of London felt. And in a sense, that affected Americans ultimately in their willingness to heed their call to conscience and their need to defend democracy, ultimately, and their entry into the war.

It was unprecedented, that kind of real-time, instantaneous communication. And Edward R. Murrow became famous for his role in communicating information. There are more modern examples of that. We can all remember Wolf Blitzer and other people during the Iraq War reporting live. Nowadays you still see reporters instantaneously going to places and putting themselves at considerable risk. Every year we hear about reporters, journalists who are killed in one part of the world or another trying to cover the world’s events.

So at a time when we’re living in a world with far more information coming at people than people have any capacity to be able to completely process, what you say, how you say it, what you choose to report on, and what issues you make important, actually becomes even far more important in many ways, because it affects us. It affects the policymakers. It affects the choices that we face because, particularly in democracies, our people respond to that information. And that information winds up filtering its way back in to the political process. That’s what the value of it is.

In many ways, your job is not only defined by how you report the news, but what you choose to report, and how many of you sort of join together to agree that a particular issue or another has a special significance. An example of that, I might say to you, would be what is happening in Syria today. Syria is an unfolding human catastrophe. As you know at the United Nations we have great difficulty being able to get the UN Security Council to be able to agree on one action or another. I think that if more people were aware of the degree to which the situation in Syria is intolerable, that children are being singled out and bombed and killed, and that people are now being starved as a tactic of war, and that some people are having to try to find a stray cat or a stray dog in order to be able to eat and survive, and that whole parts of cities are being closed off and locked out from communication and humanitarian assistance. This is a human catastrophe of enormous proportion because there are 4 million displaced people inside of Syria and some 2 million-plus now outside, and it has profound impact on Jordan, on Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and can create an even greater convergence of violence as sectarian violence breaks out in even greater levels.

We all remember how people felt about the absence of a response to Rwanda. And it took us a long time to be able to summon the response that President Clinton finally took the effort on individually, without the Congress, to respond to Bosnia, Kosovo, the Balkans. And we know historically that there have been moments when there have been great lapses in the willingness of people to stand up for things – World War II and the Holocaust are an example of that. You, all of you, are the link to conscience and to freedom of information. And so it is critical, I think, as President Obama said in his address to the United Nations General Assembly a little while ago, societies that are based on democracy and a free flow of information tend to be more stable and they tend to be more prosperous and they tend to be more peaceful. So information and its flow is critically linked to that.

When our founders of our Constitution and our country were writing the Constitution of our nation, there’s only one thing they gave a protection to, only one business, only one vocation. It was journalism. In the First Amendment, they decided that freedom of the press had to be sanctified, in essence. And so we have huge freedom in our country to write anything, say anything, and libel laws are very difficult in this country to be able to protect against, particularly if you’re in public life.

So I would just say to you very quickly that you have a huge role to play in defining where this planet of ours is going to go. We have enormous challenges – global climate change, trying to get people to act on the science that is warning us starkly about the impact of climate change. It’s very difficult. There are huge forces, money forces, interests, powerful interests, current energy companies that don’t want to give up their current method of providing energy, whether it’s coal or fossil fuel. So there are enormous choices for us and populations all around the world are being challenged by these things.

I was recently in Bali, Indonesia, and I met with fishermen there. And the fishermen were telling us about their struggles to try to keep fishing and be able to pull tuna out of the ocean with a depleting stock, because more and more people in more parts of the world are demanding more fish, more protein, too much money chasing too few fish, too little management, too little regulation, too little monitoring, too little oversight, and the result is in many parts of the world the fisheries are overfished and the ecosystem is being destroyed. How do you change that?

You have the power to be able to help change that by informing populations, by inculcating in populations a sense of responsibility for making choices about these kinds of issues. So I would just say to you that a free and open press, in our judgment, is a vital foundation of peace and prosperity, and we believe very deeply in your presence here today. This program is short, but we hope you will find that it is valuable and help you as you report on the front lines that you can have this sense of balance and sense of responsibility at the same time and be able to follow in Edward R. Murrow’s footsteps as pioneers in a global communications revolution that is taking place today.

I hope that this program will help you understand the awesome responsibilities as journalists that you have, and most importantly, the role that you can play in helping us to be able to make the right choices and help us to be able to bring the citizens of the world together in an effort to be able to deal with what is no longer just the issue of one country or one people, but frankly, the issues that bind all of us together and upon which all of our futures and survival will depend. That’s how important your role is, and we look forward to continuing to work with you as you play it out.

On that note, I would be delighted to take a number of questions. I think we’ve got some that are pre-arranged. As long as I have time, I’ll try to take a couple of extra if I can.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary for -- (audio break.)

QUESTION: -- Pacific Group – they’re seated behind me. We represent Southeast Asia, China, and Australia, and a couple of islands in the Pacific. We all know about President Obama’s pivot to Asia. Recently, you wrote about the need for the U.S. to forge a Pacific future in relation to some of the interests of the United States, including national security. What we want to know is what’s in it – (audio break.)

SECRETARY KERRY: -- and it’s in Asia’s interest for a number of different reasons. First of all, the United States, I think, has been a welcome and important guarantor of the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, in the region. We have been a stable – we have been a force for stability within that region. I think if you look at the aftermath of World War II, you had economies that had been wholly destroyed. Obviously, in the case of Japan, the United States didn’t, quote, “occupy” Japan. The United States empowered Japan and helped Japan write its constitution and helped Japan develop institutions and build capacity. And Japan today is a vital ally and a critical economic force in the world and a major force for good in many parts of the world. Prime Minister Abe is playing a very important role as a global citizen helping Japan to deal with humanitarian disasters, with security issues, with economic assistance, and so forth. So that’s what comes out of that kind of a relationship.

And if you look at the relationship, for instance, with Vietnam – I was a young soldier who fought in Vietnam -- in Navy. And we went from a period of war in the 1960s and ‘70s to ending an embargo, to opening a relationship, to beginning to help Vietnam with its own transformation. And one of our largest Fulbright programs – at one point, the largest in the world was in Vietnam. Many of the people engaged today in running the Government of Vietnam came out of that Fulbright program and came out of exchanges and the relationships with the United States. And Vietnam’s economy – which is taking off, soaring, amazing growth over these years – is an economy that has adopted free market principles and has engaged in competition and in foreign investment and building jobs for its people, improving the lifestyles. There’s greater stability. There’s much greater interconnectivity between all of the countries in the region.

I was just in Brunei, and also in Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, as well as in Bali, for a series of summits. And during those summits, there was huge interaction between all the Pacific countries – not just the United States, but Mexico, Chile, Peru – all of us engaged in a Pacific enterprise because we see huge economic benefit to all of our countries. And in those economic relationships as well as in the other relationships, we see stability and we see rules of the road being created. We see standards being adopted where there’s a uniformity of action so that businesses can know that if you’re going to invest in one country or another, the rules will be the same, that you’ll be treated fairly, that your investment will be safe. And creating those rules is what creates an international protocol by which everybody can begin to benefit from the stability and from the higher standards and rules of the road.

Now, when you say pivot to Asia, I want to make it clear: I don’t think this comes at the expense of pivoting away from somebody else. We tend to call it a rebalance, really, which is sort of rebalancing our focus. And the reason we’re rebalancing the focus is because we believe that the entire Asia Pacific is an area of enormous growth potential, that it can contribute much more significantly to solutions to problems, working together, all of us in concert, and that’s the value. So there are many other side values, individual rights, different protections that will be afforded to people, but we are much better off when we are working together.

The fastest area – growing area in the world today is both Africa and South Asia. And there’s a huge opportunity for that growth to benefit its citizens as long as people are reaching for the higher standards and we’re not having a race to the bottom. I think the United States engagement is one that encourages the race to the top and avoids – tries to spread the benefits of globalization to many more people in ways that are much fairer, and that helps build stability in all of those countries.

PARTICIPANT: (Off-mike.)


MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Our next question is from the European region. I believe we have – if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself.

QUESTION: Hello. I am Stela Jemna. I’m coming from Republic of Moldova and we have a question from some former Soviet Union countries. So our question is: Would you like to comment on Russian integration project, and on measures – I would say pressure – applied to some countries that have to choose between Russia and the West, or between custom union and (inaudible). Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Okay, good question. Look, we don’t think that it should be either/or. We would like to see Russia, obviously, encouraging countries to engage more broadly with everybody, and not have to pick a narrow group or create these smaller groups. The United States right now is engaged in trying to negotiate a very broad trade agreement with Europe, the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership, even as we are also trying to create a trade partnership in Asia called the TPP. And the reason for that is we want everybody to come up to a higher level.

Unfortunately, in the customs arrangement, it tends to not raise people to that higher level. It’s not as broadly interactive as we would like it to be, and so it tends to force people into this choosing one bloc or another. Choosing blocs at a lower standard does not improve your prospects for long-term integration into the global economy, and it does not strengthen the opportunities, it doesn’t increase the opportunities as much as a broader based economic arrangement which is more broadly accepted on a global basis.

So we would actually encourage our friends in Russia and other countries to be looking to the other standards and joining and really broadening their base of opportunities that comes with that higher standard. I think – I hope ultimately that will happen. I know Moldova, I know Ukraine – there’s a tension right now as to sort of whether there’s going to be a pull or a push and what’s going to happen. I think that’s unfortunate, and we would obviously like to see people be free to make their own choices, not have pressure, and as I say, have a broader based set of agreements where everybody benefits and you’re actually improving the economic opportunity on a much broader basis.

MODERATOR: Mr. Secretary, I know you have a meeting to attend, and so if you would be willing to take one more question --

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, absolutely.

MODERATOR: -- that would be great.


MODERATOR: I know we’re keeping you. The next question is from the Africa region, and it’s in the French language.


MODERATOR: I believe, if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Secretary Kerry, my name is Raoul Bell Mbog. I’m a journalist at Slate Afrique based in France. Maybe if you don’t mind, I will ask my question in French.


QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) In a lot of African countries, people are struggling for more democracy, for more good governance. And sometimes they get the inspiration from what’s going on in the United States or Europe, but democracy in a lot of African countries, as you know it maybe, (inaudible). Do you think that democracy is a universal concept, or is it something that should be tailored to each culture to each country?

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s a very good question. I believe that the values underneath democracy are a universal set of principles and values – freedom, freedom of choice, respect for human rights, people being able to choose their future. Now, you can have a parliamentarian form, you can have a republican form the way we do, et cetera. There are variations on that theme. But by and large, it is only in democracies that the full measure of universal rights and aspirations, I believe, are given full life.

And I think you can look around the world and see that. In some countries, women are second-class citizens or in many places, hardly full citizens of any kind, in some places property or chattel and very much limited in aspirations. In many places, you have no freedom to be able to speak out about what’s happening politically without winding up in jail, or in some cases being dead. We believe that it’s in democracies where those rights are protected where there’s universal accountability of all the people.

It doesn’t always function as the most – as the easiest. I mean, witness what we’re going through. We’re 300 years old plus, and we’re having, still, struggles to define the fullness of our own democracy. And that’s just the way it works. But it is far better for people to go to a park and be able to stand up on a soapbox and give a speech and know that they’re not going to jail because they did it, or that they may be dead at the end of the day, than the situation of many parts of the world today.

We believe that it is also that democracy that allows the fullness of entrepreneurial activity and innovation and freedom of thinking that meets the highest standards that people have been struggling to live going all the way back in time. And you can go back through the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, into the heart of the 1500s, 1600s, and the struggle through the Age of Reason, Age of Enlightenment, and all the things where these great tensions were being fought out in countries as they went through revolutions and counter revolutions and different efforts to respect the rights of people.

So while you can have maybe different forms of that, a constitutional monarchy or a constitutional democracy or different kinds of shape that it takes, the fundamental principles underlying democracy are at the center, I believe, of the embrace of fundamental universal human rights. And those human rights – all men are created equal; the right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; these kinds of things that define us as a country – I think are part of what attract people all over the world to the struggles that they’re engaged in today to try to live that fullness of rights. So while you can argue about the governance structure, you cannot argue, I think, ultimately, about the rights that are the foundation on which it is built.

And I think those are the things that bind people together, particularly in this new world that is so interconnected. Everybody’s connected. You go blog somewhere, you go Tweet – you’re in FaceTime, you talk to anybody anywhere in the world, instantaneous communication, nothing is a secret anymore.

There was an official in one country recently where a photo showed up on the internet, and it showed that person with a blank spot, a nice white lack of tan where their watch had been. And somebody said, wait a minute, that official obviously had a watch. They went back and found another picture, and they saw a watch, a very expensive watch, then they went back and found some more pictures. There was a different watch on each time. And they said, whoa, that official doesn’t earn enough to have bought all those watches, and that official basically was fired and found to be corrupt.

There’s a new policeman on the block; it’s all of you. It’s everybody out there. And so we’re living in a new world of accountability, and I think because of that, people are increasingly going to demand those universal rights that I talk about.

So anyway, thank you all very much. Good to be with you. Thank you. Appreciate it. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you so much. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you all for your questions as well.

We are very fortunate to have with us Jen Psaki, who is Secretary Kerry’s spokesperson. I’d say she has the second toughest job here, next to the Secretary, and she’s really graciously agreed to stay with us today to continue taking questions. So Jen, thank you for that.

MS. PSAKI: My pleasure.

MODERATOR: Our next question is from South Central Asia region. If you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself.

QUESTION: My name is Ramma Shahid. I’m from Pakistan. Good morning.

MS. PSAKI: Good morning. Let me first say that in addition to following the Secretary of State, who has 30 years of experience and works on these issues every day, I also am about a foot shorter than he is, so I hope that all of you can see me. It is a great pleasure to be here with all of you, and I just look forward to seeing all of you around the world too. As you know, we travel quite a bit, and I travel with the Secretary, so hopefully, you’ll come see us as we travel.

Oh, thank you. Modern technology. (Laughter.) Okay. Normally, I have a box I stand on in the briefing room, so my height is now no secret. But go ahead.


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: First of all, thank you for all the help U.S. provides for Central and South Asia, especially Pakistan. We appreciate it.

How important is economic stability in Pakistan for peace in the region? That’s my question for you.

MS. PSAKI: It’s a great question. Thank you. First, as you know, but many of you may also have read, that Prime Minister Sharif was here just last week for an incredibly important visit. The Secretary also has a long history with Pakistan. He’s worked with leaders and officials in the country for decades, really throughout his career. And as one of his priorities, continuing to develop that relationship which he feels, the President feels, has great potential, is a big priority.

So how important is it? Vitally important. It’s important to the United States, it’s important to the region that Pakistan continue to become a secure, economically vibrant and stable democracy. As you know, Pakistan – the United States is Pakistan’s largest trading partner. That’s a relationship that is vitally important, that economic relationship, but we also work together on security issues, on counterterrorism issues, on a range of issues. And while we were just there a few months ago, I know the Secretary is hopeful to go back at some time in the near future and follow up on the discussion that they had just last week with the President.

And the other issues that we continue to work on are, of course, energy, good governance, education. And just to kind of sum it up here, this is a relationship that, with the Secretary of State coming in, who has felt that our relationship is a priority, with new leadership in Pakistan, it’s one that we hope to continue to develop and work on closely in the months and years ahead.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question.

QUESTION: Yes. My name is Thorbjorn Thordarson from Iceland. I’m asking this question on behalf of Europe. Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden supposedly harmed the reputation of the United States and were accused of aiding its enemies. Given the latest revelations of the U.S.’s wiretapping of state leaders and EU institutions, hasn’t the Government of the United States done more harm to itself with these measures, and at the same time, aided its enemies?

MS. PSAKI: Thank you for your question, and I think this is a really important one for many people in the audience today. This is an issue that has obviously raised – been raised as a public discussion point with the leaks of information, the classified leaks of information, that have happened over the past couple of months.

But what is important here is that the President of the United States is undergoing a review – we have both an internal and an external review – of our intel-gathering programs. That’s something the Secretary is participating in. And in addition to that, as the chief diplomat of the United States, Secretary – the Secretary is – and the State Department, as the chief diplomats, I should say, representing the U.S. Government, the role we can play is working with governments, whether it’s from Iceland or Germany or France or Spain or wherever it may be, who have concerns to work together to alleviate those.

These are programs, many of them that have been around for a long time, that many other countries do. But addressing these concerns, working together to not only alleviate them, but to strengthen our intel relationships, is a big focus of ours right now. And that’s something the Secretary has spoken not only with the President and the National Security team about, but he’s eager to continue to discuss with our partners around the world. Because the most important thing here is that this doesn’t interrupt all of the great work we do work together on, which includes, for the EU, TTIP and moving forward on trade negotiations, it includes cooperation on counterterrorism with a range of countries, it includes addressing global crises like Syria, moving forward on possibly a diplomatic path with Iran.

So it would be a mistake in our view to let it interrupt that, and I just want to communicate to all of you that the United States Government, the Secretary of State, the President are open and eager to engage in these conversations and work to alleviate concerns that any countries have, and we’re undergoing that as we speak.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question from China.

QUESTION: Good morning, everyone. I’m Fei Ching Loo from Malaysia.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And I’m from a Chinese group. We have friends from China and Singapore --

MS. PSAKI: Great.

QUESTION: -- and this is my question: Is President Obama absence from ASEAN summit and APEC a setback from his Asia Pacific policy? Does he have any plan to visit the region, especially ASEAN, by end of this year?

MS. PSAKI: Thank you for your question. We had a great trip, which you know about, but many people in this room may not – a two-week trip, actually, to Asia. It’s our longest trip we’ve done to date since the Secretary came into office, and not his first trip to Asia this year either.

It was – I would encourage all of you to read a speech that the Secretary gave last week at CAP, the Center for American Progress, where he talked about exactly – he answered exactly this question, which is there’s no question that the fact that the President couldn’t travel and attend these summits – attend APEC, attend ASEAN – that was in the air. It was something that people were aware of. And while the Secretary of State is an incredibly important pedestal and has a large microphone, the President’s attendance was certainly missed.

Our view, and the Secretary’s view, is that this is a perception issue in terms of whether the United States prioritizes Asia, whether we prioritize other regions, and that’s a perception we want to avoid because of how vital our relationship with Asia is, not just through the rebalance, but our economic relationship that’s been growing over decades, our strategic relationship, and we don’t want that perception out there. And what the Secretary talked about is how we can never – the United States can never allow us to get to the point where we are shutting down the government, where we are coming close to a default again because of the message it sends to the world, regardless of all the good work we’re doing over the medium and long term on all of those issues I mentioned. But that’s not a message we want to send, not just because we don’t want Asia to incorrectly think that it’s not an enormous strategic priority, but also because there’s – when there’s an absence of U.S. leadership and a U.S. role, that doesn’t serve us, and we don’t think it serves the rest of the world.

So that’s a message he’s sending loud and clear back here in the United States, and I think he will continue to over the months ahead as we work to avoid a shutdown or coming to the brink of a default in the future.

MODERATOR: Our next question’s from the Middle East.

QUESTION: Good morning.

MS. PSAKI: Good morning.

QUESTION: My name is Vivianne Khawly from Lebanon. I represent the Middle East and North Africa. My question is: What role can the Arab media play to change American policy toward the Middle East?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a great question, and honestly, I’d love to hear your input on what you – what role you think the Arab media can play. It is one that I know we at the State Department feel is vitally important to communicate through, and to – whether that’s through the Secretary of State or whether that’s through the President or other senior officials. And there have been a range of issues that have received global attention that are – that live in the Middle East, where Arab media is so prevalent, as you know, whether that’s Syria or Egypt or Iran. And communicating what our positions actually are, clarifying incorrect information, is something that we work very hard to do.

I – there’s an old saying that is more in politics than it is in diplomacy, but the best antidote to misinformation is accurate information, and that’s one of the ways we approach. But there’s no question that continuing to engage and increase our engagement with the Arab media is a large priority. But I’d love – I don’t know if you have a moment to give your input on what you think we can do better or what can the United States do better to communicate what we’re doing and what we’re working on and the – how important our relationships are in that region of the world.

So now, I’m turning it back on you. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. Can I answer in Arabic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Yes. We do believe that we do our job professionally. We – you know that Lebanon or the other Arab countries in the Middle East, we – there is complete dividedness among us, people who are with the opposition, people who are with the governments. As you know, we are going through the Arab Spring – what is called the Arab Spring, so we have these two parts – with the opposition, with the government – and each has his – its own opinion. The media is the same way. It’s divided.

So we are interested that – to know what is the position of the American side. You see us from the outside. You have the authority – you’re a superpower – to deal with our situation. So that’s why it is – so we know that our media is good to a certain extent, because we see things from inside. However, we need to know, what do you have to help us, to help these countries to deal with the crisis in our countries?

MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you. I appreciate that you allowed me to put you on the spot. The media, all of you, have such an important role to play in communicating information out there to the public who watches you and listens to you and reads what you do. And what I can say about what the United States’ role is or what our views are, come to one of our briefings. You can tweet me a question on Twitter – it’s @StateDeptSpox, S-p-o-x – if you have questions about our policies.

We have a number of ways that we want to engage, we hope to engage. We want to do better at engaging with all of you in the months ahead, and that is – sometimes it’s a challenge to us too, because it is how do you reach the right people, how do you reach people to explain what our positions are? Today is a great opportunity to do that, and I know this is an amazing program that’s been put together. But really, what I would say is share your ideas over the next couple of days. We are open to engaging in any way that makes sense for all of you, whether that’s through social media, whether that’s through calls, whether that’s through video conferences, because we want to communicate what our positions are and what roles we can play as the United States. And we know how valuable the role that you all play is in that effort.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next is from the Africa region.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Robert Mugabe from Rwanda.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Robert.

QUESTION: Hey. Actually, my question is about the conflict in DRC --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- affecting the whole region. I would love to know U.S. strategy on DRC conflict, about M23 and DRC talks that has failed in Kampala, the new erupting conflict now going on. And I understand on a very brief information that Secretary Kerry has called President Paul Kagame. I would love to know, what did they talk about?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah. And what’s exactly your approach? Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: You sound like one of our journalists in the briefing room. (Laughter.)

This is a really important question, and one I think doesn’t receive nearly enough attention, which is these talks which are ongoing. There’s no question it’s difficult, given the violence on the ground and given the challenge of keeping both sides at the table. What we are communicating, what the Secretary has communicated, is that it is important to stay at the table. And the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework agreement that’s being discussed at the Kampala talks is the best opportunity in decades to bring stability to the region.

As you may know, we have – the Secretary asked one of his closest friends in the Senate, former Senator Russ Feingold, who has a tremendous reputation here in the United States, to serve as the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, and he’s been on the ground – he was on the ground for weeks, and I think he’s – he’ll probably return soon to kind of play a role as an observer in these talks.

But it is something that we believe is vitally important – that both sides need to stay at the table, that concluding them in a manner that does not grant amnesty to the worst offenders, utilizing the framework peace process to focus on resolving, really, the root crises is something that the Secretary is communicating closely there, that our Envoy, Russ Feingold, is communicating, and it’s something we’re watching closely, and we’re hopeful that progress can be made.

QUESTION: So you want the amnesty to be given to M23 leaders?

MS. PSAKI: No, that does not – does not --


MS. PSAKI: -- grant amnesty to the worst offenders, correct.

QUESTION: Yes. What did Secretary Kerry talk about with Kagame on the phone?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific readout of that call. I know they spoke, but I haven’t talked to him about that specifically, so – but look, the Secretary believes that it’s important these talks move forward, that both sides stay at the table despite the violence, despite the challenges, and I’m sure that was a part of what we – he communicated.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from the Western Hemisphere.

QUESTION: Good morning.

MS. PSAKI: Good morning.

QUESTION: I represent the journalists from Western Hemisphere. My name is Johann Habanera*.

MS. PSAKI: Great.

QUESTION: Our question is related to our region. And given the context of political tension, security, and changing economies, what is the United States position, the State Department opinion, on the new presence of influence of Chinese economic interests and some Arabic interests in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you for your question. One, let me say that our view is that our relationship with the Western Hemisphere, with the region economically, strategically, is uniquely special. I mean, we’re intertwined both through geographic proximity, but more important, through common interests and shared values, and that’s something that – the Secretary’s been to the hemisphere, I believe twice now, but is eager to go back. And so that’s something we’ll look to in the months ahead.

Look, China has – no question they are and they continue to be a rising economic global power. We welcome China as a peaceful, stable, prosperous economic entity that – as long as they play a responsible role in global affairs, and that includes in their investment in the Western Hemisphere. Now, investment and engagement that helps grow the economies in the Western Hemisphere is a positive. We recognize that. We want to play a role. We see China wanting to play a role as an important trading partner with Latin American countries, and that’s something that we think is only natural.

So we work with China and have a broad relationship with China on a range of issues. We agree on some, we disagree on others, as is true with many countries. But we think it’s natural they want to play an important strategic role as a trading partner with Latin American countries, and what our focus is on is playing the most effective role we can and continuing to increase and improve that over time as well.

MODERATOR: Jen, thank you so much for joining us.

MS. PSAKI: It’s my pleasure.

MODERATOR: As you can tell, I think this was your first press briefing of the day, right? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: First of the day.


MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you, everyone, for being here, for engaging with us, for being here for the Secretary, for staying even after he left and I was here. And again, I hope that you will share your ideas, your thoughts. Such a primary focus of ours is engaging with all of you and figuring out how we can do a better job of that. Follow me on Twitter. Ask me questions. And thank you. It was great to be here this morning. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Thank you, Jen. Thank you. Thank you again, Jen, so much. And thank you all for your questions.

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PRN: 2013/1325