Remarks With Russian President Vladimir Putin

John Kerry
Secretary of State
The Kremlin
Moscow, Russia
March 24, 2016

PRESIDENT PUTIN: (Via interpreter) Distinguished Secretary of State, dear colleagues, allow me to welcome all of you cordially to Moscow. We’re always glad to see you here. We’re always glad to have your visits, because they are always businesslike and give us a chance to move – to make headway on very important and serious matters.

But today, when I saw the footage of you going down the plane carrying your luggage, I was a bit frustrated and upset. On the one hand, it’s quite a democratic way of conduct, but on the other hand, I thought probably the situation in the United States is not that good and there is no one to assist the Secretary of State in carrying his luggage. I hear your economy is okay. I mean, there are no – there is no slowdown. Probably then I thought there was something in that case of your – in the briefcase of yours you couldn’t trust anyone else with. Probably you brought some money with you to haggle on key matters.

But in earnest, we are really glad to see you always. And now I’m (inaudible) as a rule we manage to find some common ground in order to move forward on important matters of bilateral and international agenda.

Welcome, Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mr. President, thank you. When we have a private moment, I’ll show you what’s in my briefcase. And I think you’ll be surprised – pleasantly.

Mr. President, let me begin by expressing the condolences of President Obama and the people of the United States for the loss of the aircraft the other day, for the crash. I believe a team from our National Transportation Safety Board is willing and ready and has traveled to try to be of assistance, and obviously, we’re prepared to be helpful in any way that we can.

Mr. President, let me begin – first of all, I want to thank you for making time. I know this has been a very busy day, and we’re very appreciative for the opportunity to have a serious conversation about serious issues. It’s fair to say, Mr. President, that the serious approach that we have been able to cooperate on has made a difference to the life of people in Syria and to the possibilities of making progress on peace. Most observers thought it was impossible to achieve a cessation of hostilities, and because of the cooperation, both political and military, which we have been able to achieve with some effort, this Sunday will mark one month of the cessation.

The people of Syria and the people of the region, as a result, have literally been able to taste and smell the possibilities of what it means to have a huge reduction in violence and to receive humanitarian assistance.

So Mr. President, I know you have ideas and you’ve already made a very critical decision with respect to the drawdown of your forces in Syria. And we obviously also have some ideas for how we can now most effectively make progress in Geneva and begin the very serious and difficult work of the transition.

And we also have some ideas, Mr. President, for how we could perhaps make faster, greater progress with respect to Ukraine. I know you’re very anxious to address other serious issues, so I look forward very much to the opportunity tonight to be able to find a way forward, and frankly, ultimately see if we can’t rebuild and strengthen the relationship between the United States and Russia by proving that we know how to solve some serious problems together, and building from there.

Thank you, sir.

PRESIDENT PUTIN: (Via interpreter) Honorable Secretary, we are aware that the groundwork we have on Syria has only been possible thanks to the position of the political – supreme political leadership of the United States, specifically the position of President Obama. And I really hope that your – today’s visit will help us reconcile positions on or help make progress on both Syria and Ukraine, as you said.