Remarks With Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq Co-Chairs

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Japanese State Minister Yoji Muto, Kuwait Foreign Minister Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, and Netherlands Foreign Minister Albert Gerard Koenders
Dean Acheson
Washington, DC
July 20, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon everyone and welcome. I’m (inaudible) looking forward to it. It’s just a opportunity for you to question our co-hosts and all of us with respect to what we’re doing here today. I’m delighted to be here with each of these co-hosts, representatives, foreign ministers of Canada, Germany, Japan, Kuwait, and the Netherlands. And we really want to cut to the questions as quick as possible.

Let me just emphasize, for those of you who didn’t hear the opening comments of everyone here, the purpose of this session is very straightforward – it’s to help the government and the people of Iraq to be able to recover as territory is liberated, and in fact, much territory has been liberated faster than we imagined. But it is important to come in underneath the military liberation with the type of support for rebuilding, for health, for education, to be able to make sure that we’re not leaving the door open for a disgruntlement or the revisiting of Daesh that undoes the liberation itself. In recent months, some 780,000 Iraqis have been able to go back to their homes, but another 3.3 million are still displaced. And that’s what we’re here to deal with.

The goal of our pledging conference is to raise money to help Iraqis in four priority areas: humanitarian aid, de-mining, immediate stabilization, and longer-term recovery.

I am pleased to announce that, by securing more than $2 billion of pledges that we know will be forthcoming, we have exceeded our expectations and the conference is by all measures successful. Within that total is more than $450 million for humanitarian assistance, much of which is going to go directly to the most recent UN humanitarian appeal.

I’m very proud to say that the United States, each of the countries here, have donated significant – hundreds of millions of dollars, and I think when we finished just making our commitments, we were well over half a billion dollars, and now we are over the – excuse me, were well over half a billion and close to the full billion, and now we’re over the billion.

So countries coming together, as we are here, is really a effort to support the aspirations and the hopes of the Iraqi people, and, unequivocably, to also address the security concerns in each and every one of our countries. If we do not succeed in Iraq, none of our countries will be safer. And likewise, Iraq is connected to Syria, and Daesh/ISIL is plotting against all of us and has already proven its capacity to attack one way or the other. So we are fighting back in every way that we can, and our assistance to Prime Minister Abadi’s government and to our Iraqi friends is a significant part of the overall campaign to defeat Daesh.

Second, we support efforts by Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi officials to reform their country’s institutions and to build confidence and unity within their nation so that when Daesh is driven out, as I mentioned earlier, it cannot return.

So finally, we understand that the defeat of Daesh and the re-emergence of a stable and resilient Iraq is going to require a sustained, international commitment of energy, resources. And today’s – the inauguration of today’s UNDP Funding Facility for Expanded Stabilization, which I would describe as a “freedom recovery fund,” is evidence of the longer-term effort that we are envisioning. So I’m very grateful to each of the countries that are represented here. They’re all exerting important leadership. They’re all on the line. They’re all part of the coalition against Daesh, and they are all proving the value of multilateral diplomatic efforts, and I thank them.

With that, we’re pleased to respond to some questions. I’m not sure who’s --

MR KIRBY: Yes, sir.


MR KIRBY: First question today will come from Elise Labott, CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I’d like to ask you about the situation in Turkey. You’ve been urging the government to exercise restraint in its response to the attempted coup, yet we’ve seen the purging of about 50,000 officials, academic – academics, officers of the military. Would you say this initial response is excessive and keeping in the lines of what you have been urging the government to do? Do you consider this dossier that has been submitted by the Turkish Government for Mr. Gulen constituting an official extradition request, and will you trigger that process?

And then as you discuss the situation in Iraq and Syria today, on Incirlik, the power is still off. Do you think that the Turkish Government is using this as a quid pro quo for their support in the anti ISIS coalition in order to – as a quid pro quo to hand over Mr. Gulen? And how will this affect your operations, especially as you’re talking about today the advance on Mosul and even Raqqa in Syria – will this affect the coalition? And since all the members here are members of the coalition, perhaps they have some thoughts on that. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Elise, let’s tackle all four of your questions.

QUESTION: They’re all related.

SECRETARY KERRY: And let me do it enlisting the support of some of my colleagues here too, because we have four NATO members sitting side-by-side here, not by accident. It’s by accident that they are side-by-side, but we have four NATO members here.

With respect to the question you asked regarding excess, there is no way for us to know any or to comment on that. It’d be inappropriate to comment because we don’t know what the evidence is. And we support the government’s putdown of this coup. We support the democratic government. We support the duly elected officials. We condemn this coup and we are clear about our desire to see democracy sustained and flourish in Turkey.

Now, we have – all of us – said that we want to make certain that as the response to the coup is implemented it fully respects that democracy that we are supporting. And we don’t know what the evidence is regarding any dismissal or any judgment or arrest that has been made to date. That brings us to Fethullah Gulen. With respect to Mr. Gulen, we have consistently said to our friends in Turkey, our allies in Turkey, that we need evidence. Under our system of law, under our standards, we have a very strict set of requirements that have to be met for an extradition to take place. And everybody knows what it is. It’s used every day. People have to submit a --

QUESTION: Well, they say they have.

SECRETARY KERRY: They have apparently submitted something. That is accurate. And we know that that is on its way to us. I haven’t seen it yet. The Justice Department is the department of jurisdiction over this, and they will have to make their judgments applying our legal standards to whatever has been put forward. But in my comments directly to the foreign minister of Turkey – and we talked about four times in the span of 36 hours – I said please don’t send us allegations, send us evidence; we need to have evidence which we can then make a judgment about.

Now, we have no portfolio for Mr. Gulen other than the rights that accrue to anybody who is in our country as a legal resident, and that means that we have to apply our standards. But we will do so and we will do so promptly upon – with the provision of this evidence.

With respect to Incirlik and power and so forth, the base commander is one of those people who was arrested along with other people because of alleged complicity in the coup plot. And there is evidence that planes that were flying that attacked the people of Turkey and the parliament were refueled while in the air from planes at Incirlik – not ours but from Turkish planes at Incirlik.

And so we don’t, again, know. We don’t have the evidence. We don’t know. But we have generators. The generators that we have that are working for our mission kicked in immediately. We have not had our mission interrupted. Our mission continues. And we are told – our ambassador has been told that the full power should be restored within a day or so to the base through the normal processes, and we’ve had no requests of any kind of quid pro quo whatsoever from the Government of Turkey. So I am confident that that will take place.

But I do think that our other allies and friends of Turkey ought to also perhaps comment as they see it. Frank-Walter, do you want to?

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: Yeah. And if you’d be so kind to switch to Channel 5 because I speak in German.

(Via interpreter) Like the United States, we, already on Friday night, we quickly responded to the coup d’etat and I spoke to my colleague during that night and said that any form of changes in the constitution of Turkey will be condemned by us. But I also said that overall the entire parliament, both the government parties and the opposition parties, had a joint – took a joint position and that represents an opportunity.

The opportunity that this unity of the parliament and of all political parties, both of the government and the opposition, can be used to defend the democratic institutions and it should be used to have a more unified society. Therefore we are looking with concern at the reports of the last few hours, during which we learned not only that thousands of people were suspended and fired among soldiers and judges, that it’s now also university professors who have been prevented from leaving the country, that broadcasting channels have been closed. This makes us concerned and, of course, we remember that we assumed that a political and legal processing of this coup must occur, but we must have the rule of law prevail.

SECRETARY KERRY: Stephane, do you want to comment?

FOREIGN MINISTER DION: Let me just say that Canada, through the Prime Minister Trudeau and myself, we congratulated the people of Turkey and the Government of Turkey to have resisted to a coup and to have saved democracy in their country. But then, the principle of democracy and the rule of law should apply about the way to deal after the coup. And we have the same concerns that what I have heard from my colleague from the United States and Germany about the situation in Turkey today.

About the Gulen movement, the same that what John said: We have received request before the coup and after from the Government of Turkey about this movement that is existing in Canada, and we have asked for evidence because otherwise the Canadian justice system cannot address an issue on the basis of allegations. We need evidence about that. So we are on the same page.

FOREIGN MINISTER KOENDERS: Thank you very much. John, let me be very short, because I think our reaction was and is similar. First of all, the Dutch Government has strongly condemned the coup early on during that night in defense of the democratic institutions of Turkey. We have seen also that during that night and the next day, government and opposition were in agreement on condemning this coup.

We would find it important that this would be a time to overcome the divisions in Turkey in which a time in which there would be a healing process, and in which, of course, those who have to be prosecuted for this coup are prosecuted in the context of the rule of law.

And I won’t hide from you that also we have serious concerns about the way this seems to be happening right now. We don’t have all the information, but it’s clear that there are serious concerns, and that we also want to send a strong message on the need to respect the rule of law in Turkey. I think that is important. Turkey is a partner of us, and we are working together in a community of values, and it’s important that they are respected.

MR KIRBY: Our next question comes from Kim Ghattas, BBC.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. I want to do a couple of very quick follow-ups, and then a question on Iraq and ISIS.

Secretary Kerry, has the State Department been in touch with Mr. Gulen at all? Have any officials been in touch with Mr. Gulen since the coup? And on Turkey’s participation in the anti-ISIS coalition, are you concerned that the current turmoil inside Turkey is going to consume officials and distract them from the mission? I mean, the Turkish foreign minister, the Turkish defense minister are not here today; they won’t be here tomorrow.

On Iraq, a question for you and your Kuwaiti counterpart. You have spoken about the need for reform, for building unity in Iraq, to make this pledging conference worth it. On the one hand, the money is a drop in the bucket. On the other hand, is it worth the investment? Do the Arab countries in the region feel that this money is worth it if the prime minister of Iraq is still struggling to put forward a unified vision of unity that transcends sectarianism?

And if I may, a final question for Minister Koenders and perhaps also the German counterpart. We’ve heard a lot from American officials that ISIS is on the run, that they’re losing territory, but does that reassure you when it seems like the threat is actually morphing? And in Europe, we have seen the tragic result of that morphing and the ability for this group to operate without territory. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, to my knowledge, nobody in the State Department has been in touch with Mr. Gulen, and nobody in the State Department has a reason to be in touch with him or should be in touch with him under these circumstances. If there is a legal procedure being initiated in a request by another government, that has to go to the Justice Department and be processed appropriately through our system. And until then, I think it would be inappropriate.

With respect to the mission and the disruption that’s taken place in Turkey, I think – I mean, I can’t tell you that we don’t hope it won’t interrupt, and I can’t sit here and say with absolute certainty because it’s a situation that is evolving. They have indicated it will not interrupt. They have said with certainty that they are deeply committed to the ongoing mission, that they do not want to miss a beat in terms of the operations we’re currently engaged in. But obviously, at home it’s no surprise to me that the minister, given their political system, needs to be there and – in order to be responding to the immediate challenges that they face. So they will be represented here. They’re not boycotting it. They will be represented, just at a different level, and we respect that. Right now they have some priorities.

Now, our hope is, obviously, that in very short order we will have a good sense, a better sense of the pathway ahead here. I know that yesterday in London I met with Staffan de Mistura and he was asked by the Turks to go to Turkey in order to have a conversation with them about our process in Syria. So I look forward to hearing from him what averments have been made to him from the Turks and sort of where we stand. And then in the days ahead, we’ll all be having conversations with our counterpart and following up and so on. And by the way, tomorrow, they will be represented at the conference, and we will hear from them directly in the context of the conference.

So I don’t think the mission is going to be negatively impacted by what has happened, but we have to see how different currents that have been felt over the course of the last weeks in terms of the change – in other words – between the relationship between Russia and Turkey. How is that going to have an impact, if any, in helping us actually to prosecute the effort against Daesh? So there are some unknowns out there, and we’re going to do everything that we normally do to fill in the blanks as rapidly as possible and be able to define the road ahead.

On the reform issue with Iraq, this was a topic which we, as the co-hosts, engaged in a conversation in immediately with the foreign minister of Iraq this morning, and he absolutely has assured us, as has Prime Minister Abadi, that they fully recognize the challenge ahead in order to be inclusive. I think we would like to see some reforms moving faster, but there have been internal challenges that everybody is aware of that the prime minister has had to deal with that come from the other side of the ledger. And so the politics are not easy, and we’re working very, very closely with the prime minister. I think right now, as the success against Daesh has grown, certainly in the repatriation of certain cities there’s been an opening of some political space to be able to do some things. But I think we also have to acknowledge that Daesh has tried to therefore make life harder in the alternative to holding the cities by just blowing people up in Baghdad, and that opens up a different security challenge which has to be met.

So this is a place that is filled with challenges and we recognize that, and that’s precisely why this conference today is so important and why we are so committed to trying to make sure that what you call the “morphing of Daesh” can’t take place or is limited in its ability to take place.

Now, one last thing: Daesh remains a dangerous entity because it has the ability to be able to inspire people to go do the kinds of things that we have just talked about – what happened in Nice. But there’s no indication to date that Daesh actually ordered it or played a role in it or that this was part of a specifically designated Daesh mission. This was something somebody did. And unfortunately, one of the challenges that all of us have been talking about for the last two years and working on dealing with in each of our countries is the challenge of fighters who went over three or four years ago but returned to their countries since then. And so we’re working very, very hard in our exchange of information, in our intelligence sharing, in our police work, in order to be able to try to minimize the potential of that kind of damage. But as I have said previously, governments have to get it right 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and somebody who decides to emerge from the shadows and try to do something damaging only has to get it right for five minutes or 10 minutes or an hour, whatever it is that they’ve decided to do. That is a very difficult challenge and I think countries have done a remarkable job of improving our capacity, and we’re going to do everything we can more in order to be able to prevent individuals, lone wolfs, self-inspired people to be able to create the damage that they do. But I don’t think any person in public life is going to sit there and tell you, “We know we can do it,” to a absolute certainty 100 percent of the time. It’s a very difficult challenge.

Bert, do you want to – or (inaudible).

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: (Inaudible) for a strategy against ISIS is still relevant or still justified, or if we – because they are now in the defensive and they’re changing, perhaps, their strategy – the ISIS strategy – if we have to replace our strategy by something else. I think the right answer is it is not either/or, because, yes, on the one side, we have to protect ourselves in Europe and other places in the world, and therefore, what we need is closer cooperation between the police, intelligence services, and so on.

On the other side, the military fight against ISIS is not yet finished, and I think we have – we all have a moral and political obligation to release these people, especially in Iraq and in Syria, from their slavery under ISIS. And so therefore, I think we have to move on. We have to continue our engagement. We have to help that cities like Tikrit, Ramadi, now Fallujah are being deliberated, that we are preparing living conditions in which people – Iraqi people are able, willing, and ready to return.

So therefore, this conference today is not only justified; I think it’s high time that we are meeting after ISIS has lost significant territory on the number of bigger cities in Iraq. It’s high time that we are gathering here to pledge again a volume of money for creating these kind of living conditions in which people are eager and willing to return.

SECRETARY KERRY: Could I call on our colleague from Kuwait, if I may? Because I know you asked about the neighborhood and I think we need to hear from our colleague.

FOREIGN MINISTER SABAH: Well, thank you, and good morning. As Secretary Kerry said earlier and – we do all agree that Iraq has just been a theater for Daesh aggressions, if I may say. We in Kuwait have been also affected by Daesh attacks – the region, the Gulf in particular been affected. Just recently, Daesh attacked the city of Prophet of Muhammad, which is one of the most sacred places for us as Muslims. Also, our friends in the Middle East, they’ve been also attacked by Daesh. Our friends and allies in the coalition against Daesh, they’ve been all – or most of them, actually, have been attacked by Daesh.

This would, in many ways, represent – this is an international issue; it’s not an Iraqi issue. Yet we, the international community – we believe in Kuwait that we need to help Iraq to be able and to be strong enough to fight Daesh. Of course, it’s not just the military fight, as Secretary Kerry stated earlier. It’s a fight in many other areas and that’s what brings us here today in this pledging conference for Iraq – is to help Iraq to be able to help the Iraqi people, and hopefully, we will be ready to assist them in every way and mean to do so.

We in Kuwait – we have a particular interest of having our neighbor Iraq in a position that they are strong, united, and hopefully they would live in peace and security. Because of all of this, we think it’s our obligation – in Kuwait in particular, and of course, in that regard in the whole international community – to do whatever we can to help them to reach that point. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: And finally, let me just have Stephane – a quick word, then we’ll get to the third question. We’re running tight on time.

FOREIGN MINISTER DION: Yes, quickly, I think we need to make the basic distinction between Daesh and the problem we have with terrorism inspired by radical and false interpretation of Islamism. Daesh pretend to be a state – Islamic state. They try to conquer villages, towns, cities, and they do it in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya. We are confident that we’ll get rid of that. It will be difficult, but we are making progress.

Once it’s done, terrorism is still there. Daesh as an organization is likely to survive that, and you have al-Qaida, Boko Haram. So we’ll need to continue to work very hard, all together, with our police, intelligence services, and deradicalization efforts, and we’ll continue to fight that, because this ideology – if we may call it this way – will remain.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Stephane. It was a good point. Who’s the last?

MR KIRBY: Yes, sir. Our final question today comes from Zena Ibrahim of Al Iraqiya.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Thank you all. Thank you first --

SECRETARY KERRY: Can you hold the mike closer?

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you very much for your generous donations for Iraq, and truly we Iraqi peoples really appreciate it. And I was wondering, is there a timetable? The Iraqis already started the war to liberate Mosul. Is there a timetable where we expect the money to arrive to Iraq?

And also, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi expects the war against ISIS in Iraq to finish this year. What do you think? Do you think it’s possible to get rid of ISIS in Iraq this year? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the money is supposed to be immediate. I mean, these – we made the point at this meeting that these contributions need to be real and they need to be happening as fast as possible. And I am absolutely confident because I know that money we pledged is in our budget and we are making this – we don’t have to go wait and get the Congress. We’re allocating money, and others are too. So I believe this money is real and immediate. That’s the quick statement to it.

With respect to the predictions, I’m not going to predict. What I will say is this: Our goal has been to put the pressure on Mosul before the end of the year and to have liberated a number of these communities, and we are ahead of that schedule. We are ahead of the schedule with respect to the beginnings of the operations, but I’m not going to predict when it will happen. What I will predict with the same confidence that Frank-Walter said it and I think all my colleagues say it – we are going to end the terror of Daesh holding territory and holding itself out as a state and terrorizing citizens of cities, but that will not end terrorism itself. We will still have to have an ongoing major level of cooperation, but we’re getting better and better at it.

Despite these terrible events that happen with someone who jumps in a truck and drives through a crowd and people who have individual weapons and go out and shoot – that’s an ongoing challenge. Nobody should pretend that that disappears the moment Daesh is defeated within al-Raqqa or defeated within Mosul. But we are making the steady progress we promised. We are ahead of the schedule that we predicted, and we are growing in our capacity to be able to put pressure on, and we are going to continue to do that.

Thank you. Thank you all very much.

MR KIRBY: Thank you, everybody. That concludes the press conference. Thank you.