Press Availability in Paris, France

Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Chief of Mission Residence
Paris, France
November 5, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Well good evening, and thank you for being here. It’s a pleasure for me to be back in Paris on my way to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing. And in the meantime, I was able to have a number of important and constructive meetings here today, particularly with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France and also with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh of Jordan.

I want to express my appreciation to Minister Fabius for his generous welcome and for his hosting us here today in Paris, and I’m particularly pleased with the extent and breadth of the discussion that we were able to have.

I’m also able to welcome – though she isn’t here right now because she was presenting her credentials in Monaco today – but I want to welcome our new ambassador to France, Jane Hartley and just mention I know Jane. And whether it’s been as a top staffer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development or at the White House, in the private sector, she comes here with a huge understanding of our country and the values that we stand for, and also with a huge commitment to public service which has been enduring over a long period of time. And we’re delighted to have her in Paris, finally, to continue and to deepen the partnership with the oldest alliance that the United States has.

Foreign Minister Fabius and I covered a lot of ground in our discussion this afternoon, and we went through – particularly focused on, among other things, the nuclear negotiations with Iran, our shared fight against ISIL, the complications of Syria, the challenges of Syria, the Mideast peace process itself; as well as other subjects such as turning the tide on Ebola, the situation in Lebanon, and of course, the larger issues of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace; and particularly the challenge of Ukraine and the implementation of the Minsk agreement.

Nowhere is the mission of a Europe that is whole and free and at peace more clear at this particular moment than in the challenge of Ukraine. The United States and France remain deeply committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty, to its territorial integrity. And the parliamentary elections in Ukraine last month were a very bold and very clear statement about the choice for change that the people of Ukraine have made. They want an inclusive, accountable government, and they made it clear that they also want a future that was connected to Europe. They want a European future, as well as respect for their sovereignty and their right of choice.

As I discussed with President Poroshenko, who I talked to while I was flying here yesterday, we are concerned, obviously, about the lack of follow-through on some aspects of the Minsk agreement. And I particularly urged President Poroshenko to take the next step by naming a broadly inclusive governing coalition and articulating a concrete reform agenda in order to address the voters’ demands that they expressed in their election for a transparent, open government; a clean, modern judiciary; long-term energy security; and strengthening the investment climate, among other priorities.

We also talked about the need to continue to take the high road of adhering to the Minsk agreement, and not to fall into the possibility invited by measures taken by Russia to engage in a tit-for-tat process. I think President Poroshenko could not have been more clear about his determination to maintain that high moral ground, to continue to press for the implementation of Minsk, to continue to press for the ability of the people of Ukraine to determine their future, and he expressed his desire to honor the special law with respect to the separatist’s desires within Luhansk and Donetsk, but he wants to do so within the context of the process that had been agreed upon. It is essential to resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the country’s other challenges that they take transparent political steps to bring people to the political process in a way that resolves the conflict, not exacerbates it.

By contrast, unlawful voting in eastern Ukraine over the weekend is a blatant violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and the Minsk agreement. And President Obama has been clear, as have I during my conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov, that neither the United States nor the international community will recognize the results. The only legitimate local elections in Donetsk and Luhansk will be those that conform with Ukrainian law and with the Minsk agreement, and that is where the focus of Ukrainians, Russians, and the international community should be.

We also call on Russia and its proxies in eastern Ukraine to end the violence around Mariupol and the Donetsk airport and to enforce the ceasefire and to begin working in good faith on restoring Ukrainian control over the international air border. And the President and I have repeatedly said if the Minsk agreement is fully implemented, sanctions can be rolled back; and if it isn’t and violations continue, pressure will only increase. The choice is Russia’s.

So Foreign Minister Fabius and I also spent a good deal of time discussing the EU-coordinated P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. The United States and France remain in lockstep with our international partners on the importance of making certain that Iran does not have a pathway to a nuclear weapon. This is the policy of the international community, of everybody, and of the United Nations as expressed through a number of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

With the November 24th deadline rapidly approaching, I will travel to Oman later this week to meet with Foreign Minister Zarif and Cathy Ashton. A unified P5+1 has put on the table creative ideas to be able to achieve our objective, and now we will see if Iran is able to match the public words that they are prepared to prove to the world that they have a peaceful program, to match those words with the tough and the courageous decisions that need to be made by all of us. The time is now to make those decisions.

And during my meetings today with Foreign Minister Fabius and Foreign Minister Judeh, I also discussed the best way to coordinate international efforts against the ISIL threat. The size and strength of ISIL demands a broad-based coalition. The nature of their actions demands a broad-based coalition. And we are working intensively with our partners along five reinforcing lines of effort to shrink ISIL’s territory, cut off its financing, stop the flow of foreign fighters, expose the hypocrisy of its absurd religious claims, and provide humanitarian aid to the victims of its aggression.

More than 60 countries have come forward with critical commitments and many others have expressed strong opposition to ISIL’s campaign of terror and of horror. The world is united against this threat, and President Obama’s strategy will succeed because doing it with allies and partners isn’t just smart, it is absolutely essential and it is the strong way to deal with this challenge. And I will continue to work to build support for the coalition at the APEC meeting in Beijing.

In my conversation with Foreign Minister Judeh, we also discussed the increasing tensions recently in areas across Jerusalem, and particularly surrounding the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. We condemn the terrorist attack in Jerusalem this morning that killed at least one person when a car was driven wantonly, purposefully into pedestrians. And the confrontation at the al-Aqsa Mosque is also of particular concern where reports of damage are deeply disturbing. Holy sites should not become the sites of tension, and concrete steps need to be taken now by all sides to de-escalate this situation.

We also note the importance of the special role of Jordan in the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, a role confirmed in the Jordan-Israel treaty of peace. And we obviously believe that peace between Israel and Jordan is central to stability in the region, and we are in touch with both sides on this matter and hope that all parties will draw back and reduce these tensions.

Finally, the United States is committed to intensify every aspect of our engagement in the challenge of Ebola, and we call on our international partners to join in doing the same. We are deeply appreciative of the contributions that so many have made. We’re deeply appreciative of the contributions France has made, and we appreciate the leadership that they are taking particularly with respect to Guinea.

I’ve been making phone calls each day to counterparts in order to try to encourage concrete steps from one country or another. Each country may choose to do something different. But the important point to make is that no one country is going to resolve this by itself. This needs to be a global initiative, a global effort. And we believe that already the steps that we are taking is having impact that can be measured. And literally, we are raising this issue in every single bilateral meeting that we are having.

So I am very proud that the people of the United States have contributed more than $360 million to the response effort; directly to the response, another billion-plus to the military deployment of our folks who are over there now putting themselves at risk in order to build the capacity to be able to help to deal with this. We are delivering support in some very unique ways that only the American military is able to provide.

But we know, as I said a moment ago, even that will not be able to do it on its own. Every country has a contribution to be able to make of people, of money, of humanitarian assistance, medical supplies, beds, airlift. There are countless ways to be able to help, and we hope that more yet will join in that initiative. Everything that we do literally depends on how we all coordinate together, and I want to thank our many partners in this effort for the tremendous contributions from as far away as China and in Asia, to those right in the epicenter in Africa who are helping to fight back.

With that, I’d be very happy to take any questions.

MS. HARF: Great. The first question is from Pam Dockins of Voice of America. And wait, the mike will be coming to you. We only have one mike.

SECRETARY KERRY: Excuse me? Oh, we only have one mike.

PARTICIPANT: (Off-mike.)


QUESTION: Clearly, the Iran nuclear talks were front and center for you today. Can the negotiations go past the November 24th deadline, and what is the likelihood of that happening? Additionally, is there a new urgency to reach an agreement before the new Republican majority in the Senate takes over? And then finally, also, how do you see last night’s election results impacting U.S. foreign policy and America’s standing with the rest of the world?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you. On the issue of the Iran nuclear talks, we are gearing up and targeting November 24th. We’re not talking about or thinking about going beyond that date. That’s a critical date. And we believe it is imperative for a lot of different reasons to get this done. Most people don’t understand why, if you’re simply trying to show that a program is peaceful, it would take so long. People want to know that the transparency and accountability necessary to get this done is on the table, and we ought to be able to reach agreement. So our press is to try to get this done. And I think that it gets more complicated if you can’t. It’s not impossible if you’re not able to, but I think let’s see what happens when we bear down as we are.

An enormous amount of work has gone into this. For months upon months, we’ve had expert teams sitting down, working through details, looking at all of the technical information that is necessary to be able to make a judgment about what the impact of a particular decision is. Some of it’s very complicated, and we’ve tried to reduce it to as simple and understandable a format as possible. And it’s been very constructive. The Iranian team has worked hard and seriously. The conversations have been civil and expert.

And my hope is that now is the moment for really political decisions to be made that make a judgment that we can show the world that countries with differing views, differing systems, but with a mutual interest of trying to prove a peaceful program can in fact do that and get the job done. So we’re very hopeful about that, and I have every intent of making myself available and doing everything necessary to try to do that. And I’m confident that Foreign Minister Zarif will likewise make himself available and continue to push forward.

On the subject of the elections, let me just say that it was 10 years ago this afternoon that I conceded in a race for the presidency. And I have nothing but the greatest respect for the American political electoral process. There are winners and there are losers. Sometimes it’s your friends; sometimes it’s yourself. What you learn, if you’re in the process, is nothing but respect for the voters and for the system.

Now, I’m out of politics now. I’m in a different role, and I’m not going to comment on the – any of the political aspects of it, except to say that America will remain joined together with a strong voice with respect to our foreign policy. Our values are our values, shared by all Americans, and they are at the core of American foreign policy and of what we try hard to enforce and stand up for and advocate about around the world. That will not change. Sometimes there’s a different view or another about a particular subject, but in our process, traditionally the United States of America has been strongest when partisanship is left at the water’s edge and we stand up for America’s interests. I’m confident that is what will continue to happen over the course of these next months.

The one thing I would ask for with this election is I hope that, now that the election is over, the 60 outstanding nominees who have been the prisoner of the political process for these past – over a year now will be able to be passed very, very quickly. Thirty-nine of them are already on the Senate calendar. And some of them, I might say – I happen to have it here with me right now, no accident – well, one of them has been waiting 477 days, 473 days to be passed. Another, 466 days; another, 460 days; another, 460 – 460, 460, 418, 418, 399 – excuse me, 382. And yes, 399.

So I mean, I could run through a long list here. These are professionals. These are career people. They got kids. They need to know where they’re going to school. They need to be able to go out and do their jobs. My hope is that with this election now, in the next days when Congress comes back, I really hope that they will get affirmed very quickly in a bloc form or otherwise, because I think they deserve it, and I think our country is stronger and better served when we have the full team on the playing field.

MS. HARF: Our final question is from Lara Jakes of the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Thanks. I wanted to ask you about the Mideast peace process, but wondering if you would mind clarifying something you just said about the Iran negotiations. You said we ought to be able to reach an agreement; it gets more complicated if you can’t, but it’s not impossible. So the question was: Do you see these negotiations going past November 24th? Are you saying it’s not impossible for them to go past November 24th?

SECRETARY KERRY: What I’m saying is we have no intention at this point of talking about an extension, and we’re not contemplating an extension. If we were inches away, and most of the logical, achievable, expectable – expected issues are dealt with, but you have some details you just got to fill in, could I see a – under those circumstances, perhaps. But it would depend entirely on what’s outstanding. If big issues are hanging out there that are really fundamental and pretty simple, no, I don’t. I think that under those circumstances, something’s wrong. And so we’re going to have to see. And I think if it becomes more complicated to manage in terms of externals, if it is prolonged for reasons that are harder to explain – that’s the point I’m making.

So we have no expectation of a continuation. We’re not – I’m not contemplating it. I want to get this done. I think they do. I think the team does. And we are driving towards the finish with a view to trying to get it done.

QUESTION: But it gets more complicated with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, it’s not a question – no, it has no – I don’t believe that changes either side. I honestly don’t. I believe that the same substantive issues would be there regardless of who is in control of the United States Senate. And remember, the United States Senate is still going to be subject to 60 votes to pass anything. So while it may be Republican or Democrat, it’s still subject to 60 votes. And as we have learned in the last few years, the minority has enormous power to stop things from happening, so this really is going to depend on other things. That is not what I am referring to. What is complicated is managing internal expectations in other places outside of us that may or may not have a profound impact on the longer term.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I go back to my original question about Mideast peace? I appreciate your indulgence. You met today with former Prime Minister Tony Blair; you expressed concerns about continued Israeli settlements after your meeting with Foreign Minister Fabius. And then you heard Foreign Minister Judeh call for a new round of Mideast peace talks.

At this point, how do players from the U.S., France, Britain, and Jordan convince Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table? Do you see this happening anytime within the next three to six months? And how harshly do you expect the international community to respond to the new settlements? Also, if you have any readout on your meeting with Mr. Blair, we’d appreciate it.

SECRETARY KERRY: So we got three more questions there as an add-on, right?

QUESTION: You know – (laughter) --

QUESTION: You see this (inaudible).

QUESTION: You read that whole list of numbers, so this is my payback. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m actually not – let me just say this, that Foreign Minister Judeh very effectively said that the only way to resolve these issues of the Middle East, whether it’s the Haram al-Sharif, the Mount – the Temple Mount, the issues of East Jerusalem, the issues of settlements, the issues – the only way to resolve them is through a negotiated settlement in the end.

As President Obama said very directly at the United Nations in his speech a few weeks ago, there is nothing sustainable about the status quo, and we’re seeing that unfold. It’s not sustainable. So we need to get back to those negotiations. But I am not going to speculate and I’m not going to get into any of the internals of what those expectations are or aren’t. I think it’s important to leave space here politically for the leaders to be able to make their decisions in the next days. We are in touch. I’m talking constantly with all of the leaders involved in this issue, both immediately and tangentially in the neighborhood, and we’re going to continue to be pressing forward.

Obviously, we’ve all been reading about the potential of issues going to the United Nations at some point in time, and individual countries have already engaged in their own initiatives – Sweden, Great Britain, and others may. But for the moment, I think my role is better defined by saying less rather than more with respect to what the expectations may or may not be and what we may or may not do.

Thank you all.

MS. HARF: Great, thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Appreciate it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all.

QUESTION: And their building activity?

SECRETARY KERRY: You know we’re opposed. We’ve said that very clearly.

QUESTION: Your meeting with Mr. Blair – is it on Mideast?

SECRETARY KERRY: Among other things.

MS. HARF: Thank you. Thank you, guys.

QUESTION: There’s no more misunderstanding with Mr. Netanyahu (inaudible)?

QUESTION: Only tonight?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, no. That’s not --

MS. HARF: Thank you.