Remarks With Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel
Secretary of State
PRIME MINISTER MICHEL: Well, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would want to thank Secretary Kerry and the United States for their visit today in Brussels. It’s very important support for us. We are facing in Belgium and in Europe very difficult moments with these terrorist attacks. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to talk with President Obama. We have arrested Salah Abdeslam and a few days later we are facing this terrible – this tragedy, the terrorist attacks in the airport of Brussels and in the center of Brussels in the subway.
We have had the opportunity this morning with John Kerry to discuss the fight against terrorism, how it’s possible to do better, how it’s possible to work together in order to be more efficient. It’s also important to look at this issue on the local level, and I can say Belgium is trying to do our best efforts in order to play a positive role, in order to have a stronger Europe in the fight against terrorism, in the fight against radicalism.
I want to express also my condolence for the American victim. We know that we are facing a situation with more than 14 nationalities. The victims of this – of these attacks in Brussels – (in French.)
It’s very important for us to receive today your support. We want to cooperate with you. We want to do our best with you in order to face these very sensitive issues.
I give you the floor.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. And good afternoon. And I want to begin by thanking Prime Minister Michel for his remarks, and especially for his leadership in this challenging moment. And I’m pleased to be here also with my friend and counterpart, Didier Reynders, the foreign minister of Belgium.
On behalf of President Obama and all of the American people, I offer our deepest condolences to the people of Belgium and to all of the families of all those individuals who have suffered an inconceivable loss in the last few days.
The United States, I want you to know, is praying and grieving with you for the loved ones of those who have been very cruelly taken from us, including Americans, and for the many who were injured in these despicable attacks.
As I told Foreign Minister Reynders on Tuesday when we talked by telephone, the United States stands firmly with Belgium and with the nations of Europe in the face of this tragedy. We join you in thanking the very brave first responders who rushed to the scene on a moment’s notice in order to care for the wounded and to save lives. And we will continue to provide any assistance necessary in investigating these heinous acts of terrorism and bringing those responsible to justice.
In America, we remember very clearly how, in the days after 9/11, Belgians and other Europeans came together around, in this city, around the events of the World Trade Center. And you showed your solidarity with us, with the victims in New York, in Washington, and Pennsylvania. And then voices all across Europe declared, “Je suis Americain.” So now, we declare, “Je suis Bruxellois; ik ben Brussel.”
Those whose lives were torn apart this week were not combatants in any kind of conflict; they posed no threat; they wished no one any harm. They were simply going about their lives – airport and subway workers; a Peruvian mother of twins who was training to be a chef; an American personal trainer flying home for Easter; an Indian employee of a high tech firm; Mormon missionaries; public servants, teachers, tourists.
Contrast these good people – innocent people – with the twisted killers who planted the bombs – terrorists whose sole aim was to kill and maim and sow fear. There, in the sharpest relief possible, you see in that the difference between life and death, between decency and evil, and between civilization and those who revel in destruction.
We – all of us representing countless nationalities – have a message for those who inspired or carried out the attacks here or in Paris, or in Ankara, in Tunis, San Bernardino, or elsewhere: We will not be intimidated. We will not be deterred. And we will come back with greater resolve, with greater strength, and we will not rest until we have eliminated your nihilistic beliefs and cowardice from the face of this Earth.
Daesh has claimed responsibilities for these attacks. But there is not a government on Earth that supports the terrorists of Daesh – not one. In fact, a coalition of 66 nations, including Belgium, stands united against them. And the very reason that Daesh is resorting to actions outside of the Middle East is that its fantasy of a caliphate is collapsing before their eyes; its territory is shrinking every day; its leaders are being decimated; its revenue sources are dwindling; and its fighters are fleeing.
So, as we have said many times – President Obama, myself, and others – our mission to defeat and destroy Daesh is not going to be accomplished overnight; it’s going to take some time and patience and persistence. It will require resources and commitment and cooperation across many cultures and beliefs, and the recognition that this is, in fact, truly a global challenge.
But I am absolutely confident that we will be successful, and there are so many measurable ways in which we have already been rising to meet this particular challenge.
It’s also important that we respond to the killers’ inhumanity by underscoring our own basic decency and humanity ourselves.
We should learn from the example of an American doctor, Laura Billet, who had just left the airport here in Brussels when she and a friend heard the bombs go off. She ran to a nearby police station and started to triage victims. She tended to any victims who came through the door, doing what she could to treat shrapnel wounds, burns, and other injuries that she had never seen before. She had a few supplies – very few – but that didn’t matter to her. “There are people hurt,” she said, “and I’m going to help these people.”
“I am going to help these people.” No statement could be simpler, and yet no statement could really be more powerful. No commitment could be more directly opposite to what Daesh and similar groups represent.
Mr. Prime Minister, your nation has suffered a cruel and unfair tragedy this week. People are hurt, but we are, all of us, going to help. No act of terror can undermine the foundation of our friendship or the values that define our alliance: our fundamental openness, tolerance, and diversity; our pursuit of justice; our dedication to preserving the blessings of freedom for ourselves, our children, and generations to come.
On Tuesday, lives were viciously cut short, and hundreds were injured. It is with irreplaceable loss in mind that we will renew our vow to come together against a common enemy in order to keep our people safe. And it is with their memory in our hearts that we must always stand in solidarity as friends, as allies, and partners.
Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you again for taking the time to receive the condolences of the people of the United States today. We will continue to work very, very closely with you, and I am absolutely confident, as I have said, that we will be successful in destroying Daesh and restoring a sense of tranquility and peace to communities that seek exactly that daily life.
Thank you very much, sir.