Remarks With Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn Before Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
July 16, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. I’m very pleased to be here with Jean Asselborn, the foreign minister of Luxembourg, a good friend. We have worked together now for a year and a half on a lot of different issues. We’re very grateful to Luxembourg for its leadership, its work on the Children in Armed Conflict Working Group, also its important role played as a member of the UN Security Council. And over the course of time, we have really been locked together in efforts to be supportive of human rights, of individual rights. Also Luxembourg has been very, very focused on and helpful in terms of the situation in Ukraine, where we are continuing to struggle to try to calm things down and reduce the level of violence.

Luxembourg is also a strong supporter of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and we believe together that this is one of the most important economic lifts that we could provide to Europe and to ourselves. It’s important for all of us. It represents 40 percent of the global GDP. It’s a way to put our people to work. It’s a way to guarantee economic growth. And we will talk about that and other issues, including the Middle East peace process, and we look forward to your presidency. I think of the last five months --


SECRETARY KERRY: Six months, six months presidency of the EU. So that will be a very important moment also of leadership.

So we have a lot to talk about, and I look forward to it. And we actually are both very enthusiastic cyclists. (Laughter.) I’m looking for that moment when we can go out and enjoy --

FOREIGN MINISTER ASSELBORN: In Luxembourg. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: In Luxembourg, riding together, yeah.

FOREIGN MINISTER ASSELBORN: Thank you very much, Secretary of State John Kerry. I effectively want to place this visit in the context of the partnership, the transatlantic partnership, and mention maybe three points very briefly.

The first point – you started also with this – is Security Council. We have been member since 1st of January 2013 till the end of this year, and I really want to stress this very fruitful and effective cooperation, small Luxembourg, humble Luxembourg and the United States. On two points I can give an example. From Syria, maybe that you know that the 17th – the 14th of July now a resolution was accepted to allow and to guarantee better humanitarian assistance through or across the borders of Jordan, of Turkey, of Iraq for 1.5 million people who need humanitarian assistance, and it is no more the Syrian Government who gives the authorization, but it is the UN Security Council. And Luxembourg, Australia, and Jordan with U.S., we pushed it and it’s very (inaudible).

Also on the armed conflicts, children in armed conflicts, I want to thank you, John, because during your presidency in September the Security Council will be having discussion and you allowed us a slot on the children in armed conflict, and this is very important.

The second point, Iran and Arab world. We know in Europe and we know it in Luxembourg how important it is the Iran issue for the American – for America and also for Europe. We really want to prevent Iran from nuclear weapons and bring back Iran to a more constructive and positive way for cooperation in international community. I was in Tehran months ago. I will a little bit explain the situation there as I saw it, but you can see in the streets everywhere – in Isfahan or – in Isfahan or in Tehran – that Iran wants to play another role. And it’s a crucial moment now. I hope that the international community can do it.

The second point is if we find a solution and bring back Iran to more cooperative and more constructive dialogue, I think they could play also an important role in Iraq, and that could be very important.

On the Middle East peace process, I want to underline that your effort, John, was not useless. It was really a big effort that you have done since I think July 2013 till April 2014. But we can see that if there is a lift of talks, immediately violence is coming up, and I think that if we get this ceasefire – and if I say “we,” that’s international community and also Egypt. I think we have to support Egypt. We have to try to restart immediately these talks again and a serious effort has to be done. Also I can say it here for the Israeli Government really to bring this two-state solution to a – this two-state solution to bring it to conclusions.

The last point that you mentioned, John, this TTIP, this partnership, free trade agreement between you and Europe, it’s not easy. We have to know that it’s difficult, difficult negotiations. I think that there are redlines on both sides. We have to overcome these redlines, and we have to play with more transparency to the public opinion, be it here or be it in Europe. The NGOs in Europe are asking very important questions and we have to give responses. And we have really I think to try to explain – to better explain the interests and the challenges.


FOREIGN MINISTER ASSELBORN: If it is possible to come to conclusions, it would be, I think, in the end of 2015. And at this moment, as you mentioned it, Luxembourg will have the presidency in the European Union, so it will be interesting for us.

A last point. Seventy years ago in December of 2014 started the Battle of the Bulge. It was the most important battle in Europe; 20,000 people died. In Luxembourg, in the cemetery of Hamm, 5,000 of its soldiers are buried with General Patton also. And in December there will be – we will organize festivities, and it would be for us, really, a big – a great honor, a great honor if you, John, could be present there. I think it would be for all – for our history and for our friendship between Luxembourg and United States a very significant presence there and maybe (inaudible).

SECRETARY KERRY: What’s the date?

FOREIGN MINISTER ASSELBORN: It’s up to you to find it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is the concern about Gaza that you can speak about?

SECRETARY KERRY: I beg your pardon?

QUESTION: You specifically talked about the Middle East. What is your concern today especially about Gaza and that area?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, our concern is to have a legitimate ceasefire and see if we can find a way to stop the conflict and killing so we can get to the real issues that are underlying it. And we’re doing everything in our power; I’ve been in touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with the Egyptians, the foreign minister, with others in the region, and we’ll continue to dialogue on it. I’ll be seeing the President today, and we’ll talk about it later.

Thank you.