Press Roundtable in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
November 15, 2016

MR TONER: So guys, this is on the record, unless otherwise notified.

QUESTION: Unless otherwise notified. Yes, sir.

MR TONER: And I think we have about 10 minutes, because we’ve got – we’re running late.

SECRETARY KERRY: All right. Let’s roll.

MR TONER: So let’s roll.


QUESTION: Yes, sir. I guess – let’s talk breaking news, I guess, first. Yemen. You had some talks yesterday with the Omanis.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. We – the purpose of the trip to Oman was several-fold: First of all, to pay respects to His Majesty the Sultan Qaboos, who has been enormously supportive of our efforts through these last years, particularly the overture to Iran as well as being helpful with regards to Yemen and other issues of concern; and to have a chance to be able to see him in Oman, where I first met him six, seven years ago.

The combined purpose with that was to try to kick the Yemen negotiations, peace process – last peace process into gear, because there’s really an urgency to trying to end this war. There’s a humanitarian disaster in Yemen – just serious security and economic and political and humanitarian challenges. And our sense is that – and most of the parties we talk to agree – in fact, all the parties we talk to agree that there’s no military solution. So if that’s the fact, you’ve got to get into: What is the political solution?

We’ve worked very closely with Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN special envoy. We’ve been consulting with him every day, step of the way. But the purpose here was to try to figure out if we could break this deadlock and move the process forward. I met yesterday with Yusuf bin Alawi, the foreign minister of Oman, who’s been very helpful and engaged in this. Also had a long meeting with and dinner with His Majesty King – Sultan Qaboos. And they have together been very instrumental in helping to see if we can find a way to break the deadlock.

So I in fact met personally with the Houthi last night. I met with the basic Houthi negotiating delegation that came here in order to meet with me – came there in order to meet with me. And we met into the wee hours of the morning, until about 2:30 in the morning, and laid down a document, a short program for trying to move the negotiations forward. The Houthi, by agreement last night, took it under advisement until this morning – I told them I’m coming here; it was critical for my conversations with Mohammed bin Zayed – Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, to be able to have an answer and see whether we can move forward. The Houthi did provide an answer and did agree to – quote – “abide by the terms of the April 10th cessation of hostilities,” beginning on November 17th, provided the other party implements the same commitment. Thus far the Emiratis and the Saudis – I talked to Mohammed bin Salman today, and I – Crown Prince, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and I talked with, obviously, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed here, and they have both agreed to try to move forward with this. They believe that it makes sense.

QUESTION: So who’s on board with this now? The Houthis, Omanis?

SECRETARY KERRY: The Houthi have agreed. The UN envoy is very supportive of wanting to do this. We are on board, the coalition, so to speak. The Saudis and Emiratis. And the Houthi have agreed, for the first time, publicly, to sign on to sending representatives to the de-escalation and coordinating committee, and to accept the roadmap, including the sequencing that is in the roadmap presented by the envoy, as a basis for negotiations. And they support a negotiated comprehensive settlement to resolve conflict in Yemen based on the framework that’s laid out in the roadmap.

So we hope to work – they have agreed to work towards the establishment of a new national unity government in a safe and secure Sana’a by targeting as a goal sort of towards the end of the year. And the key now is to get everybody on board, actually sitting down and doing this meeting. That’s the key. So --

QUESTION: That’s a big deal. How do you feel? I mean, this is some real diplomatic progress, no?

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s – well, we have to have the final pieces, but I’m very hopeful that this can really come together, and has the potential to be a real turning point in this conflict, providing that everybody does their part, which is always key in these challenges. But it’s a first big step, and as Sheikh Tahnoon thought it was potentially a real breakthrough, providing the pieces come together.

QUESTION: So can we switch, given the limited amount of time, to the climate talks?


QUESTION: You’re about to go there. There is sort of this overhang of the presidential election and the promise by the president-elect to pull out of the climate accords. What are you going to be doing to try to convince the other countries that the U.S. can and will abide by the terms of the deal and --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I can’t speak for the new administration, obviously. The president-elect is going to have to make his decision. But what I will do is speak to the assembly about our efforts and what we’re engaged in and why we’re engaged in it, and our deep commitment as the American people to this effort. I can’t speak for the administration, but I know the American people support this overwhelmingly, and I will speak about where we find ourselves today and what the challenges going forward, and just lay out the stakes.

QUESTION: The other big stop after this is APEC. TPP doesn’t get through this year. The incoming president --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, yeah, but that’s not – I don’t think that’s dispositive with respect to what’s going to happen here. I think the lame duck is the lame duck, and it always presents complications. I think this – TPP is going to be thoroughly and well debated. It deserves its full hearing before the United States Senate. I personally believe TPP is very key to our country’s economic prosperity, to our leadership, to future growth, jobs for America. I think that the business community of the United States will overwhelmingly see its passage as critical to their own prospects in the region and the fastest-growing region in the world. It raises the standards of doing business. It raises the environmental standards. It raises labor standards. It increases the access of our goods to other people’s markets, and I think that the record shows that the United States has consistently grown.

Now, are there some challenges that come with trade? Yes, absolutely. I’ve spoken to those for years as a senator. And we absolutely need to make sure that more of the benefits of trade are flowing to all those folks up and down the economic ladder who need to do better because of their trade.

QUESTION: But what are you going to say at the meeting in Lima? There’s going to be a sidebar meeting of the TPP countries to the counterparts --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m going to say: Stay at it. We’re not finished at all. Nobody – the people who support this are not suddenly going to vanish because there’s a momentary lull in terms of a lame duck session of Congress. This is a very important agreement, which it may be that the president-elect will decide needs a tweak or two here or there or something. But I cannot see the American business community walking away from this, and I think it would be totally inadvisable and shortsighted for the United States not to increase job opportunities and trade opportunities for American goods in the world. Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live in other countries.


SECRETARY KERRY: And if we’re going to grow as a nation, we’ve got to be able to sell to those other countries.

QUESTION: So you think they can convince the president-elect to change his stance on TPP?

SECRETARY KERRY: I have no idea whether it’ll be that, or the Congress will pass something, or they’ll tweak it and make a couple changes, and then try to pass it, or what. I can’t tell you what the method’s going to be. I just know that this agreement is good for America. It’s good for the country. It will open up job opportunities. It will increase wealth in our nation, and it puts us on a fair playing field for trade with respect to our goods and services. It protects intellectual property. It puts American private sector businesses on an even playing field with state-owned enterprises in other countries. Everything in this advances our interests, and I think it’s important.

MR TONER: One more, I think. One or two more – quickly.

QUESTION: How concerned are you to that Xi Jinping is going to show up at APEC with – to press his proposals in this vacuum that --

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not concerned at all. I think that there are – this is not about China or in opposition to China, and we’ve often said China can join – China has to do – raise its standards on certain things; it has to meet the requirements. But that’s the purpose of the agreement, to encourage economic engagement. And if China has a good idea, we should look at China’s good idea and see whether or not it makes sense for us too. There’s no exclusivity here as far as I’m concerned, speaking for myself.

MR TONER: Great. Thanks, guys.


MR TONER: Thank you so much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Rock and roll. Good.

QUESTION: Thank you sir. A pleasure, as usual.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you all.

MR TONER: Thanks guys.