Remarks With U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
October 8, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. I’m very privileged to be here welcoming Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to the State Department, and I’m even more privileged to work with him and to form a partnership that gives full gusto to the meaning of the special relationship that Great Britain and the United States share. So it is important for us to be continuing – I think we – Philip mentioned to me we’ve probably met eight times already in the course of a few weeks of his being on this job, having shifted from being defense secretary.

And we share a lot in this effort. In the fight against ISIL, the British people have already borne a very heavy burden, and it’s a pain felt personally by everybody in the United States and Great Britain as well. We’ve both seen our hostages brutally murdered in barbaric acts that shock the conscience of the world, but the response of both of our countries is not to wilt; it is to fight, to push back against this barbarity. And we are doing so.

I want to thank Foreign Secretary Hammond for the commitment the United Kingdom has made to the international coalition that will degrade and defeat ISIL over the next months, in the period ahead. The Royal Air Force is now conducting airstrikes on ISIL positions in Iraq, and the United Kingdom has provided some of the strongest humanitarian support in Iraq – more than $36 million in water and shelter, food, and medicine to save the lives of innocent people.

And the United States and the United Kingdom are also standing together as we battle Ebola in West Africa. And we are monitoring particularly this situation, and we’re very grateful for the way that Great Britain has now ramped up its efforts in Sierra Leone, including deploying a civil-military task force, constructing more than 700 beds in Ebola treatment unites, and providing essential supplies and personnel.

President Obama has made it crystal clear that Ebola is an urgent global crisis that demands an urgent global response. The United States has intensified every aspect of our engagement, and that includes providing Ebola treatment units, recruiting first responders, and supplying a critical set of medical equipment.

Just 48 hours ago, President Obama convened another strategy meeting at the White House in order to discuss where we are and where we need to get to, and I want to discuss that in a moment. But in addition to that, I have been in daily contact with Rajiv Shah and – the USAID director, and Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom, and our Ebola Coordinator Ambassador Nancy Powell, in order to make sure that we are bringing all of our resources to this effort.

I’m here this morning to make an urgent plea to countries in the world to step up even further. While we are making progress, we are not where we can say that we need to be. And there is additional – there are additional needs that have to be met in order for the global community to be able to properly respond to this challenge, and to make sure that we protect people in all of our countries.

There are specific needs, and I want to emphasize those needs by showing a few slides, if I can. As you’ll see in the first slide to my left here, we need more countries to move resources of specific kinds. It is not just a question of sending people, though it is vital to send people. But we need Ebola treatment units. We need health care workers. We need medevac capacity. We need mobile laboratory and staff. We need nonmedical support: telecommunications, generators, incinerators, public communications capacity, training, construction. We also need large assistance of health system strengthening, of cash that countries could contribute, budget support, food, other humanitarian efforts, and we need ways of getting that equipment to people.

All of these things are frankly urgent in order to be able to quickly move to contain the spread of Ebola. We need airlines to continue to operate in West Africa and we need borders to remain open. And we need to strengthen the medevac capacity. We need countries to contribute more Ebola treatment centers, and we need other African countries with the capacity to send responders to join the effort. And we need to make sure that the health care workers who go are properly trained, properly equipped, and supported in order to prevent additional infections.

Now, as you can see in the next slide to my left here, this gives you a sense of who has contributed and what they have contributed. And the fact is that the United Kingdom and the United States, between them, have contributed $120 million to the United Nations response. There are smaller countries that have stepped up to the plate – some quite remarkably. Some smaller countries are contributing way above their per capita population compared to other countries.

But the fact is more countries can and must step up in order to make their contributions felt, and this chart tells the story. Those are not enough countries to make the difference to be able to deal with this crisis. And we need more nations – every nation has an ability to do something on this challenge. And the next chart will show the – as you see, we have a shortfall still of some $300 million. The United Nations has identified $1 billion in urgent needs, which is what are reflected in that pie chart. The World Bank has put in 22 percent. The U.S.A. has put in 11 percent. Private sector, 10 percent. Others – you can see the tally.

But this unfunded is a critical component of our ability to be able to meet this challenge, and we need people to step up now. Now is the time for action, not words. And frankly, there is not a moment to waste in this effort.

Both Foreign Secretary Hammond and I also remain deeply committed on another issue, and that is the question of a Europe which is whole and free and at peace. Together with our partners in the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom are supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the Ukrainian Government’s efforts to implement important democratic reforms. We agree on the need for Russia to withdraw its forces immediately from Ukraine, to end its material support for separatists, and to meet its commitments under the Minsk ceasefire which they have agreed to, and to put in place the peace plan agreements.

Russia’s actions over the past months have challenged the most basic principles of our international system. Borders cannot and should not be redrawn at the barrel of a gun, and people have a right in their own country, within their sovereign borders, to determine their own future. So together with the G7, our European partners and other allies, we have made it clear that we are prepared to do even more to ensure that the international order prevails and that with one voice, we prove that we mean what we say and we say what we mean.

Finally, I want to mention that tomorrow morning, Foreign Secretary Hammond and I will travel to my hometown, Boston, to focus on an issue that animates President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron, both of whom – and which also demands all of our urgent attention, and that is our shared responsibility to confront climate change. I appreciate Foreign Secretary Hammond’s personal leadership on this issue. We can conclude a new international agreement that is ambitious, effective, and inclusive of all countries, particularly the largest greenhouse gas emitters, of which we are one. But we will also only get there in the end – even if one large emitter were to eliminate all of its emissions, that won’t do the job. We will only get there in the end if we make it clear that all countries must join in this effort and that inaction is not an option.

So Mr. Foreign Secretary, I’m delighted to welcome you here at this time of obvious significant global challenge. We greatly appreciate, as I said, your partnership, your leadership, and we look forward to continuing to work with you. Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Thank you. Thank you very much, John. It’s a great pleasure to be back here in Washington, this time in my new role as foreign secretary. When I came here many times as defense secretary, I was always clear that the U.S. is Britain’s most important military partner. As foreign secretary, I’m equally clear that the United States it the UK’s greatest foreign policy ally. And the range of issues that we’ve discussed today and that the Secretary has outlined reflects how closely we work together on a huge range of issues in foreign affairs.

That relationship is based on our shared history, our shared values, and our longstanding cooperation on a range of global issues, from fighting the threat of extremism, promoting stability in countries such as Libya, dealing with the challenge to the established order in Ukraine, addressing global crises like Ebola, and promoting an ambitious EU-U.S. free trade agreement.

I want to begin, if I may, by paying tribute to Secretary Kerry for his energy and resolve in dealing with some of the most challenging foreign policy issues the world has faced for a while. I’ve only been in this job for three months, but as John said, we’ve already met eight or so times. Every week, we seem to be in a different city somewhere discussing these challenging issues that we’re having to deal with. And I’ve observed him in action. I’ve seen his tireless commitment and inexhaustible enthusiasm, which is the personification of U.S. leadership on these many, many challenges that we have to deal with together around the world.

And our meeting today comes at a pivotal moment in addressing the situation in Iraq and Syria and responding to the atrocities that are being committed by ISIL – atrocities that have been visited upon UK and U.S. citizens, but are also being felt by ordinary Muslims in Iraq and Syria every day of every week. It is clear that tackling ISIL requires a strong military response from the international community, but that has to be combined with a clear diplomatic plan to support the new Iraqi Government’s inclusive program; to hamper ISIL’s access to funds, fighters, and resources; and a political strategy to combat the poisonous ideology that underpins ISIL; and counter those trying to spread sectarian violence and hatred across the region and beyond.

We now have those elements in place, and I am pleased that Britain is playing a key role in that response, leading efforts at the UN to cut off ISIL funding, a long-running counter-radicalization program at home, and now RAF combat jets and surveillance assets contributing to the military response. Britain will continue to work closely with coalition partners on further actions that we can take across the international community to ensure that we tackle ISIL not just through military action but through all those other strands of action which are essential to ensure our long-term success.

We have also, as Secretary Kerry has said, discussed the situation in Ukraine and the crucial importance of implementing the 12-point peace plan. Ukraine is a sovereign country; its people are entitled to make their decisions about their country’s future. There can be no Russian veto on Ukrainian democracy. And Ukraine’s President Poroshenko will need continuing international support to ensure stability within the country and to ensure that the Ukraine is able to go on making decisions about its own future. And we spent some time this morning discussing ways in which the UK and the U.S. can work with other partners, international partners particularly in the European Union, to continue to support President Poroshenko in those efforts.

And of course, we spoke about the appalling situation in West Africa where the spread of Ebola virus is a real cause for concern. Last week we held – I chaired a conference in London on defeating Ebola, and I said then that the disease is an unprecedented threat that knows no borders. We have to get ahead of this disease, but if we get ahead of it, if we rise to the challenge, we can contain it and beat it. We know how to do this. It is not complicated to do. It just requires a large focus of resource and effort to deliver it.

And Secretary Kerry and I discussed the increased measures that the U.S. is leading in Liberia and that the UK is leading in Sierra Leone. We now need, as the Secretary has said, the wider international community to step up to the plate and deliver that additional resource – not just money, but trained medical and clinical personnel to lead that effort on the ground. We all have to do more if we are going to prevent what is currently a crisis from becoming a catastrophe.

The UK has committed over $200 million to the program in Sierra Leone. We have military and civilian teams on the ground, a construction program to deliver 700 Ebola treatment beds. This morning, I joined a COBRA emergency committee meeting in London by video link from the British Embassy here, and we decided at that meeting to deploy the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus to Freetown with three Merlin helicopters embarked to provide a communication and transport capability on the ground. We’re also conducting trials in Sierra Leone of a new model of Ebola care unit, a primary care triaging system for those with early stage symptoms of Ebola.

It’s also important that we remember that our national security is dependent upon our economic security. We can’t have a strong defense without a strong economy underpinning it. Later this afternoon, I will be holding a discussion at the Atlantic Council here in Washington on the benefits of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States and the EU. The UK remains committed to this ambitious deal and will be a cheerleader for it within the European Union. If we achieve it, it will create the largest free trade zone in the world, bringing more jobs and more growth to both Europe and the United States, and setting the standards for trade deals for many years to come, allowing us to establish our international standards as the standards for trade patents in the coming decades.

And tomorrow, I look forward to our visit to Massachusetts to tour the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s wind blade testing facility in Charlestown. John and I agree that climate change represents a strategic threat to global prosperity and to global security. Innovation and investment in clean energy technology must be at the heart of our response and can help us turn a threat into an economic opportunity. The UK and the U.S. will work together to ensure the world responds to this threat before it is too late, including through the conclusion of an effective global climate deal at Paris at the end of next year.

So once again, John, I’m delighted to be here. Thank you again for your leadership on these multiple challenges that face us, and I very much look forward to working with you across all of these areas of activity to preserve and to strengthen this very special relationship. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much.

MS. PSAKI: The first question will be from Elise Labott of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. The U.S. intensified airstrikes overnight on Kobani. Has there been a decision now to save Kobani from falling? Because yesterday, your spokesman and other officials suggested that you had larger strategic priorities than saving Kobani or any particular city or town.

And I’d like to talk to you about the reluctance of Turkey. They have tanks at the border, soldiers at the ready, but this NATO ally has not done really much to save this town inches from its border. What did you ask the prime minister to do in recent conversations? The president has said that they won’t do more unless you act to get rid of Assad. Is this an excuse, and – or are you deferring to Turkey here? Have you not been partnering with the Kurds, who have been battling ISIS for a year and are decidedly secular, to save the city?

And Foreign Secretary, you spoke a lot about what you’re doing for the coalition, particularly in Iraq. But I’m wondering whether you see Britain furthering that action into Syria, or is there a kind of disagreement on whether the British should take part in airstrikes and what the goals are in Syria? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks. Thank you. Thanks, Elise. Well, we’re deeply concerned about the people of Kobani, who are battling against ISIL terrorists. And indeed, we have talked to the leaders of Turkey. I talked with Prime Minister Davutoglu, I think, twice yesterday and the day before. We have conducted additional strikes in the region. We conducted strikes both Monday and Tuesday and now. But as horrific as it is to watch in real time what’s happening in Kobani, it’s also important to remember that you have to step back and understand the strategic objective and where we have begun over the course of the last weeks.

We’re literally just coming out of the UN meeting at which we announced the coalition, literally have just been deploying the first efforts to liberate – as you know, a few weeks ago – Sinjar Mountain, the siege on Amirli, the Haditha Dam, the Mosul Dam, and we were very successful in those efforts. And the Iraqi forces within Iraq are standing up and have had some successes – some setbacks too – but some successes over the course of the last days.

But General Allen is literally only on his first trip right now in the region. He will be going to Turkey tomorrow. He is going to have long meetings through tomorrow and Friday in which we hope to determine exactly how Turkey will now enter this having resolved their hostage crisis. Clearly, on their border, this is of enormous concern to Turkey and they recognize that.

QUESTION: But where are they?

SECRETARY KERRY: These things have to be done in a thoughtful and careful way so everybody understands who is doing what and what the implications are of their doing it and where you go as a result. And I am absolutely confident that tomorrow, the discussions will take place directly with Ambassador McGurk and General Allen and CENTCOM. General Lloyd Austin is very much involved in directing those strikes now and in doing what he can within the framework of the current structure. But this is a structure that is evolving on a daily basis, and notwithstanding the crisis in Kobani, the original targets of our efforts have been the command and control centers, the infrastructure. We’re trying to deprive the – ISIL of the overall ability to wage this, not just in Kobani but throughout Syria and into Iraq. So I think you will see over the next hours, days the fullness of that strategy evolving and decisions being made about the Turks and others as to exactly what role they’re going to play.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: And following on from that, you asked about the UK’s position. We have – we were asked by the Iraqi Government to provide support in Iraq. We obtained parliamentary approval for that support and we’re already in action in Iraq. We absolutely have not ruled out playing a role in Syria. We will require further parliamentary approval if we decide that that is the right thing for us to do, but as Secretary Kerry said, this is a coalition. There are many players in it and many different tasks to be carried out. There’s some division of labor here, specialization of roles. And just as we wait to see exactly how Turkey will make its contribution to the coalition, so the UK is still considering whether the right way for us to make a contribution – the way in which we can most usefully add value to the coalition – is to extend our military permissions to operations in Syria. If we conclude that is the right thing to do, we’ll ask the British parliament for approval of that decision.

MS. PSAKI: The second question is from Peter Foster at Telegraph.

QUESTION: Thank you. My first question relates to Kobani and Syria. The French president has indicated he supports Turkish calls for a buffer zone. Do either have – either of you have any comment on that, and have any sense of what form a buffer zone might take and what purpose it might serve?

And just to follow up on British role – military role in the Iraq-Syria situation, the foreign secretary has indicated that Britain would be receptive to American requests if there was a specific military role that Britain could play. This question to Secretary Kerry: Do you see a useful role that Britain could play militarily in Syria? I think particularly if, say, Kobani, where our Brimstone missile could have a role in – it’s a very low-caliber missile. It could have a role in these very closed urban environments. Do you see America seeing a role for Britain in Syria?

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: May I answer that question first? We are at the stage of exploring – as the Secretary said, this is very new territory. I mean, we’re only in the first week or two of the coalition’s existence and operation. The idea of a buffer zone is one that has been floated. We’d have to explore with other allies and partners what is meant by a buffer zone, how such a concept would work, but I certainly wouldn’t want to rule it out at this stage.

In terms of the UK’s potential military contribution in Syria, we would see this as a military question: Is there a militarily useful role that UK assets could play? And Secretary Kerry may want to say something about that, but I think this is a question for the military people. General Allen has his role; CENTCOM will be in the lead on this. If CENTCOM commanders see a specific role for UK military assets, I’m sure that they will not be slow in requesting them.

SECRETARY KERRY: Look, in broad, generic terms, can Great Britain be useful? Absolutely, in so many different ways. But this is, as Philip has just said, a specific determination that has to be made with respect to a very specific mission, and it’s up to General Austin, our CENTCOM commander, to make that decision. And he will do so with the appropriate consultation with his counterparts and with the President with respect to the overall mission. But in – there’s no question that we are very happy to have our friend and ally Great Britain as part of this, and there’s all kinds of things that we can do together in this endeavor.

QUESTION: And the buffer zone, Secretary?

SECRETARY KERRY: The buffer zone – as Philip said, the buffer zone is an idea that’s been out there. It’s worth examining. It’s worth looking at very, very closely. There are a million-plus refugees who have crossed the border. There were another 180,000 or so driven out in the last few days from Kobani. This should not be a problem that is thrust onto Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, where they bear an incredible burden with respect to their societies. And if Syrian citizens can return to Syria and be protected in an area across the border, there’s a lot that would commend that. But at the same time, you’d have to guarantee safety, guarantee there wouldn’t be attacks by the government, other kinds of things would have to happen. So it needs a thorough examination. We’re all in favor of looking at this very closely, and that will clearly be one of the things that General Allen will be having discussions on and, subsequently, the active line authority commanders will have discussions on over the course of the next days.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all.