Remarks With Syrian Opposition Coalition President Ahmad al-Jarba Before Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
May 8, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. I’m delighted to welcome President Ahmad Jarba of the Syrian Opposition Coalition. Before I fully welcome him – excuse me – I do want to say one word about another subject (inaudible). The images from Nigeria this week have captured the public’s attention about extremism in faraway places. And it has also helped to focus the world’s attention on Boko Haram, a concern that we have been focused on for some period of time. Our interagency team is hitting the ground in Nigeria now, and they are going to be working in concert with President Goodluck Jonathan’s government to do everything that we possibly can to return these girls to their families and their communities. We are also going to do everything possible to counter the menace of Boko Haram. The entire world should not only be condemning this outrage, but should be doing everything possible to help Nigeria in the days ahead.

Now we have, obviously, an important meeting today with the Syrian Opposition Coalition, and I’m very pleased to welcome to the Department someone who understands better than anybody the stakes and the struggle in Syria, and the fight against extremism. President Jarba and I have met many times. We’ve had difficult moments in this journey, but we are committed to do our part to support the moderate opposition in its efforts to provide a legitimate voice to the aspirations and hopes of the Syrian people. His coalition, the Syrian Opposition Coalition that he has built, is an inclusive and moderate institution committed to the Syrian people and to the protection of all people, all minorities, all rights within Syria. The Syrian Opposition Coalition has given voice to all Syrians who have been oppressed by the regime for decades.

We have taken several steps this week to demonstrate our growing partnership with the coalition, and I look forward today to continuing our dialogue on the full range of our shared concerns in Syria, including putting an end to the violence, countering the regime, easing the humanitarian crisis, and building towards a day when we will see a truly representative government that is responsive to the needs of the Syrian people.

The President is well aware of the steps that we have taken to be helpful, and he’s here in Washington for a first-time visit where he will be meeting not only today with me, but he’ll meet with folks at the White House, with members of Congress, and have an opportunity to describe to people precisely what is happening on the ground, what is not happening that he wishes were, and the way in which he believes there is a road forward.

So I welcome him to Washington, and I look forward to our discussions, our dialogue today. Thank you. Mr. President.

MR. JARBA: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Mr. Secretary. First of all, I would like to thank you, Mr. Secretary, our dear friend John Kerry, for giving us this time and for this kind hospitality. We always like to see our friend. We have met several times in the past, but this is the first time we meet in your capital, your dear capital. We would also like to thank the U.S. for its support for the struggle of the Syrian people, for freedom and democracy, and also to lift the injustice and fight oppression and dictatorship that Bashar al-Assad is engaging in. The Syrian people is looking for – to the superpower and country that plays a leading role in the world, and we look forward also to work with you now and in the future. And our goal is to establish a civil – pluralistic civil society – state that is just, and which all minorities and the – should live side by side with the majority.

And thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Mr. President, as I think you know, we’re not going to take questions at this time. We are going to go back to the room here where our delegations will meet, but thank you all very much. Appreciate it. Thank you.

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