Remarks Before Meeting With German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Berlin, Germany
October 22, 2015


SECRETARY KERRY: Well, (inaudible) danke, my friend. How are you? (Laughter.) You will hear that I have (inaudible) my voice (inaudible) too much talking (inaudible). Let me say to start with that I really appreciate the friendship and the leadership offered by Germany, by Chancellor Merkel, and by my friend Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is relentless in his own diplomacy. And I appreciate his cooperation enormously.

I listened carefully to what Frank just said, and I come directly from several hours of conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I would characterize that conversation as one that gave me a cautious measure of optimism that there may be some things that could be, in the next couple of days, put on the table which would have an impact, I hope, on the perceptions of everybody engaged that there is a way to defuse the situation and begin to find a way forward. I don’t want to be excessive in stating that, but I am cautiously encouraged that we discussed a number of different things that now need to be discussed with King Abdullah, with President Abbas, with others in the region.

But if parties want to try, and I believe they do want to move to a de-escalation, I think there is – there are a set of choices that are available. And I hope that that can happen because it is critical to create some space here in order to be able to obviously get to a place where we can deal with underlying critical issues that have been there for a long time. If anything, what is happening now is a urgent call to all with any responsibility – and there are many countries that bear responsibilities with respect to this region – to help to try to resolve these age-old differences in a frozen conflict.

So I’m not going to say more about that particular component right now except that I look forward to meeting with King Abdullah on Saturday and with President Abbas, and hope that the aspirations of the people will be felt in a way by everybody that we can seize this moment and pull back from the precipice, end the incitement, end the violence, and commence a road that people can really understand is a road that takes people somewhere.

With respect to Syria, I’m very appreciative of Frank’s efforts, and it’s important always that we exchange our views and exchange our thoughts about the possibilities. I will be meeting tomorrow with Foreign Minister Lavrov and with the foreign ministers of both Turkey and Saudi Arabia. And there are other players. This meeting is not meant to suggest that there are just four parties here; there aren’t. But there are some very specific issues that we want to discuss which then lead to a broader participation of very necessary countries, all of whom need to be at the table, and Germany is one of them, obviously, as a key player.

So my hope is that realities will mandate responsible choices. By that, I mean this: There is only one thing – happens to be a person – that stands in the way of unified principles on which we agree. We agree that Syria should be united – united. It should be secular. We agree that it should be pluralistic. We agree that the people of Syria should be able to choose their future leadership. We believe that it is essential for all countries to focus efforts against Daesh and any extremist element that is unwilling to be part of a peaceful democratic solution.

We agree on criticality of keeping together all of the institutions of the government and of engaging in a political process, because everybody has agreed there is no military solution, but engaging in a political process that brings about the implementation of the Geneva communique. We all agree on that. Iran agrees on that, Russia agrees on that, the United States agrees, Germany, Europe – all supporters of one group or another have agreed we need to have a solution. One thing stands in the way of being able to rapidly move to implement that, and it’s a person called Assad – Bashar al-Assad. So the issue is can we get to a political process during which time the future devolution and allocation of power in Syria is properly allocated by the people of Syria? And that’s what we’re working towards. So my hope is that these talks can begin a process that could open up a greater discussion.

I want to thank Germany for the particular role it has played together with our friends from France in helping to shepherd all of our thoughts and aspirations in the context of Ukraine. We are very hopeful that the Minsk, which it has proceeded further down the road of implementation in these past few months, will continue to be fully implemented. There are critical pieces of that. The OSCE still needs to be able to get access, the heavy weapons still need to be pulled back, the election laws need to be implemented. But for 50 days now, the ceasefire has held principally and progress is being made. And we are happy to be working closely with our friends from Germany and France in an effort to see that process also reduced and ultimately eliminated as one of the conflicts that is taking so much time and energy and effort from other endeavors.

So I’m happy to be here. We talk about and cooperate on so many different issues. The relationship with Germany has become really one of our very special friendships and alliances. We’re very grateful for the hospitality today and other days. I’m glad to – back in Berlin and very much look forward to the conversations we’re about to have.

So thank you all very, very much. (In German.)