Remarks With Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 8, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody, and it’s my great pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, the foreign minister of Algeria. And I’m really happy to welcome him and his entire delegation here. (Inaudible) happy to have you here.

Ramtane and I met last September to discuss regional security issues in Algiers a year ago, I guess, we met during our second annual Strategic Dialogue. So we’ve had a chance to be able to share thoughts and to find common ground, and I’m very, very appreciative for the relationship that we have. And I thank him very much for his hospitality when I was in Algiers. I had a chance to be able to play soccer with a bunch of young kids at a clinic. And I’m very happy that a lot of them were much too young to remember Landon Donovan’s extra-time goal for America that won the – (laughter). I won’t even repeat it. Diplomacy – (laughter) – diplomacy brings countries together and overcomes last-minute World Cup goals. (Laughter.) So thank God for that.

I am very, very grateful to Ramtane for his very generous hospitality, but most importantly, President Obama and our entire Administration are very grateful for the very significant cooperation that we have. It’s a difficult region. There are enormous challenges today. Partners need to work together effectively, and we have been doing so with Algeria, and we thank you for that.

The ties between the United States and Algeria are actually very, very long and longstanding. Many people are not aware that the city of St. Augustine, Florida was founded 450 years ago, and it was named in honor of a man who lived in what is now Algeria, the great scholar Augustine of Hippo. And ever since 1783, when Algeria became one of the very first nations to officially recognize the now-United States, the people of our two countries have actually had a great deal in common.

Those shared interests were reflected today throughout the Strategic Dialogue that has been taking place, and that included expert discussions on four critical sets of issues: energy and commerce; security collaboration; education and cultural exchanges; and the political cooperation. So I just want to offer very quickly a thought on each.

First, we are committed to strengthening the economic and energy ties between our two countries. And just last month, Assistant Secretaries Patterson and Rivkin of the State Department and Jadotte of the Commerce Department led a trade delegation to Algeria. And these delegations enabled top-level American firms to share insights with their Algerian counterparts and to be able to explore new ways of doing business together.

I should emphasize that we’ve been working very intensively with our partners in Algeria to identify and to remove barriers that impede increased trade and investment, including the trade and investment framework, the agreement – the trade and investment agreement council that was reached on February – I think February 17th. And today’s dialogue, Ramtane, contributed to the progress and moving in the right direction on that.

We also appreciate enormously Algeria’s leadership in the climate negotiations that are going to take place in the final meeting in Paris later this year. We’re particularly grateful for your partnership as the co-chair of this important process. And as you know, the United States just submitted its emission reduction target and we strongly encourage Algeria now to also join in putting forward its target. In order for this agreement to succeed – and it is vital for everybody that this agreement does succeed – we need to have everybody participate. And President Obama is deeply engaged, as I am, in crisscrossing the world in order to encourage people to come to Paris ready to make an agreement.

Second, security cooperation is a cornerstone of the U.S.-Algeria relationship. And as we were reminded tragically in Kenya last week, terrorist groups such as Daesh, al-Qaida, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram all pose a serious challenge to every single one of us. And that is why the United States welcomes Algeria’s plan to host an international summit this summer on the issue of de-radicalization, one of several follow-on events to the conference on Countering Violent Extremism that President Obama held here in Washington in February.

I’m grateful to Algeria for agreeing to share the lessons from its own battle against violent extremists, and we greatly appreciate Algeria’s engagement in the Global Counterterrorism Forum and its partnership with us in the leaders meeting in September on the margins of the UN General Assembly.

Our counterterrorism coordinator, who I see sitting here with Ambassador Patterson, Ambassador Kaidanow and Algerian Minister-Delegate Masaha (ph) will continue to work together closely on counterterrorism issues. And we’re going to deepen all the aspects of our security partnership with Algeria, and I look forward to building on our work to promote justice sector reform, the rule of law, and border security.

Third, it is vital for us to continue to strengthen people-to-people ties. The United States is committed to supporting Algeria with more English language learning opportunities, expanding our cultural exchanges, and making it easier for Algerian students to study in the United States. And every person in Algeria who wants to learn English should have the chance to do so. That’s what we believe and we’re going to work on making that a reality. And we’ll continue our efforts to promote citizen engagement with the government and a strong, active, and independent civil society, including through the Middle East Partnership Initiative.

Finally, our political cooperation remains absolutely critical, especially in the face of the growing instability throughout the region. Here Algeria is playing an important, highly constructive role, and we’re grateful for that. I especially appreciate Ramtane’s mediation efforts in support of the inter-Malian peace agreement, a blueprint for restoring security, supporting economic development, and promoting good governance, as well as reconciliation and justice.

Going forward, we believe the parties must abide by their pledge to resolve peacefully their remaining differences and to work together to promote good governance and security for their people.

Algeria has also been a vital backer of UN-led efforts to reach a political solution in the embattled and deeply divided nation of Libya. The recent meeting of Libyan political parties and activists in Algiers was a very important milestone. It underscored not only Algeria’s leadership in the region, but also the commitment of the parties to dialogue as the only viable solution to this crisis. So the United States, I pledge to you, will continue to support this process, the goal of a stable and united Libya at peace with both its neighbors and itself.

Obviously, our delegations had a lot to talk about today, as you can tell from my comments. This dialogue could not be more timely. We value deeply our friendship and we believe strongly that an Algeria that is stable, that is increasingly prosperous and working in partnership with the international community is vital for the region and vital really for the world.

So I warmly welcome our guests today, particularly the new Algerian ambassador here in Washington, Madjid Bouguerra, and I thank them for a very productive and useful set of discussions today. We have to build off of these discussions. I’m confident that we will, and I look forward to visiting with all of you in Algiers sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Now it is my pleasure to recognize Foreign Minister Lamamra. (Applause.)

FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: Thank you very much, John. Thank you for reminding us of so many commonalities and including those fond memories that we keep of your not-too-distant stay in Algeria, though we would have loved to have you again in between. And I’m delighted that we had so many things to discuss, including between yourself and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is sending his greetings as well as his best wishes to you and through you to President Barack Obama.

I was of the view that we could set aside things, but I think that now it’s better for me also to take advantage of my speaking notes so that I would cover as much ground as you have so ably done. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, you should have told me ahead of time. I would have saved time. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: So it’s nice to be here again during this cherry blossom season. I would like to thank you, John, for your warm welcome and promising remarks. My team is pleased to be part of the third session of the Algeria-U.S. Strategic Dialogue and ready to engage with a positive spirit in a wide-ranging discussion about the implementation of what they have been working on during the day’s session.

Since its inception three years ago, the Algeria-U.S. Strategic Dialogue is having a tangible and positive impact in terms not only of its achievements, but more importantly with regard to the new spirit it had infused to our multidimensional cooperation. This forum has been, indeed, very instrumental in providing the needed holistic approach to our bilateral interactions, and I’m glad to see that we share the same desire and commitment to reinforce them in order to serve the best interests of our two countries. Our ambition is to enlarge the scope of this forum, thus making it an oriented action, policy and decision-making body. Algeria is satisfied indeed with the way this dialogue is evolving and with the results so far achieved.

Dear John, dear friends and colleagues, your visit, John, to Algeria last year was fruitful and it has opened many avenues for both countries to work closely together. In the political field, the two countries have developed strategic partnership that covers many areas. We can say today, safely, that the Algeria-American partnership is effective.

Let me add that Algeria is committed to deepen its political, security, economic and commercial relationship with the United States. Moreover, thanks to the trust, mutual respect and shared values that characterize our relations, Algeria and the United States have been able to maintain continued political dialogue and close consultations on international and regional issues of mutual interest.

On the issue of terrorism, the quality and effectiveness of our cooperation are a source of satisfaction. Indeed, Algeria and the U.S. are playing a leading role in shaping a coordinated global response to this multifaceted threat to the international peace and security. Both our countries are founding members of the Global Forum Against Terrorism. Last month, we hosted a meeting of the Working Group on the Sahel that Algeria co-chairs with Canada. In the months ahead, Algiers will, as you mentioned, host a high-level conference organized by the African Union on the issue of terrorism financing. While the fight against terrorism groups – against terrorist groups must continue to be waged vigorously, there is an urgent need for the international community, we believe, to adjust its preventive strategy in order to be in a better position to counter what we see as a shift in the modus operandi and the targets of these terrorist groups.

In this context, the recently-held White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism was timely. It was also very useful as it sought to consider the phenomenon of the radicalization especially among the youth in a multidimensional approach. Algeria expressed during that meeting its readiness to share the lessons it has learned the hard way from its own experience in dealing with this very sensitive problem, by organizing a very important international meeting devoted to de-radicalization.

We are of the view that to be successful in this endeavor, we must effectively combat Islamophobia throughout the world. The stigmatization of Muslims is not only unacceptable, but it further damages our collective efforts to countering the propaganda of violent extremism.

Our economic cooperation has reached, during the last months, an unprecedented dynamic in terms of exchange of high-level visits and the holding of business forums and trade missions. These interactions between our respective government representatives and business communities are of the utmost importance. I do believe that the visit of the Algerian minister of industry and mining to the United States last October and the holding last February in Algiers of the second session of Algeria-U.S. Council on Trade and Investment can be considered as a significant progress. I welcome in this regard the holding of this session, and I do hope that the council will be able to meet annually, as stipulated.

Algeria has endeavored to fulfill its obligations under this agreement, and particularly, those obligations relating to the setting of an open and predictable environment for trade and investment, the elimination of non-tariff barriers, and the protection of intellectual property rights. At the same time, Algeria expects that this agreement will effectively encourage investments that are generating wealth, job creation, and transfer of technology. The Algerian Government seeks to diversify the national economy, and it has consequently taken significant and concrete measures for setting up a friendly environment for national and foreign investments. As a matter of fact, we have already asked our international partners, including the U.S., obviously, to support us in this challenging process.

Ladies and gentlemen, in leading an international mediation effort for the resolution of the crisis in Mali – an action that you have mentioned, and I thank you for the kind words you have used in this respect to describe my own personal role in it – Algeria designed a solution that ensures the preservation of the unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of Mali and creates the necessary conditions for its national reconstruction and economic development. The recently-concluded Algiers Agreement represents the best compromise, which serves the interests of Mali while recognizing the legitimate claims and aspirations of the populations of the northern Mali regions.

Algeria is convinced that the restoration of a lasting peace in Mali will have a positive impact on the whole situation in the Sahel region, as well as on the global fight against terrorism. Algeria is committed to building an integrated, united and prosperous Maghreb beyond mere rhetoric. My country has demonstrated in deeds its act of solidarity whenever any one of our neighbors was in need of it. We lent our support, full support to Tunisia to successfully go through the democratic transition and take its responsibilities in the face of terrorism and instability. We are guided by the same spirit of solidarity with regard to the tragic situation prevailing in Libya. Algeria has constantly pleaded for a political solution as the only way to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of Libya. Any military intervention would further exacerbate the conflict and would more than likely annihilate the chances of a peaceful settlement based on national reconciliation. We are glad that Algeria and the U.S. share the same vision and stand by the same position.

In close coordination with the UN Secretary-General Special Representative Bernardino Leon, Algeria has already hosted the meeting of leaders of political parties and prominent Libyan personalities. We see this as a promising step in a process that needs to be supported by the international community as a whole.

On Syria, we believe that there can be no military solution to the conflict. We think also the time has come for the international community to engage all the political actors in an inclusive dialogue with the aim of finding a consensual solution to this destructive and senseless war.

Concerning the situation in the Middle East, Algeria supports the legitimate of the Palestinian people to a state with East Jerusalem, Al-Quds, as its capital. We urge the international community to live up to its obligations towards the peace process, which should resume without delay in order to achieve the just and lasting solution the Middle East is so desperately looking for. I certainly take this opportunity to salute your personal efforts, John, in these regards.

With respect to Western Sahara, Algeria continues to support the UN secretary general and his personal envoy, Chris Ross, in their efforts to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution which provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in accordance with the UN Charter and relevant resolutions.

Algeria strongly believes that there is no other alternative for the settlement of this conflict than the holding of a free and fair referendum of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.

Let me conclude, John, by expressing once again my sincere appreciation for you, to you, and for all your colleagues, bearing in mind that the outcomes of this third session of our strategic dialogue are so positive and so promising. I believe that these outcomes will give a real impetus to the already strong and mutually beneficial strategic partnership between our two countries. I very much look forward to receiving you again and again in Algiers. (Applause.)