Secretary John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius held this press conference after their meeting on February 27, 2013. They discussed the Syrian crisis, negotiations with Iran, and terrorism in North Africa.
FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS: (In French - Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us. Thank you for being here. Together with John Kerry, we will be saying a few words, and then if you so wish we are available for the press's questions.
It gives me great pleasure to host Secretary of State John Kerry on the occasion of his first visit to Europe. It is an honor as well as a pleasure to have amongst us a figure who is both highly respected in the U.S. as well as abroad, as well as someone who is known as a friend of France.
John Kerry's visit is taking place at a time which is particularly favorable to the relationship between France and the United States. The friendship between our two countries is well known. It is a warm, as well as a demanding friendship. The relationship between the United States and France are characterized by great like-mindedness regarding almost all international matters, and we so noted in our discussions.
This like-mindedness means that we are acting together on the field regarding the major global challenges and in order to solve them. And it can be said that when France and the United States commit together, they can change things. It is the case in the Sahel, which we discussed, in Mali, where France committed and is determined to restore Mali's integrity and stop the push of the terrorists. We benefitted from the full support of our American friends both politically and on the field. And I would like to thank the United States of America as well as John Kerry for the support granted to the intervention by France as well as the American forces against the terrorists.
Regarding Iran, which we also discussed, we are working together in the framework of what we call the E3+3 in order to lead through a diplomatic solution to lead Iran to comply with its international obligations and for that great country, Iran, gets back to the path to international legality.
Regarding Syria, we share the same analysis. The situation is unbearable, and we need to find the means to a transition and for Assad's departure. And we're working together so that a solution can be found as quickly as possible. We're also hoping to revive the Middle East peace process through an increased commitment of the U.S. in connection with the Europeans.
Regarding the global challenges, France took note with great hope of President Obama's statements regarding the necessity of acting urgently, given the climate disturbances. We know John Kerry's longstanding commitment in this respect, and it will be one of the priorities for our discussions in the months to come. And similarly we will be defending together our common view regarding the need for coordinated international actions for growth and to reduce global economic imbalances.
Lastly, we know that our political dialogue must be based upon a strong transatlantic relation, including from an economic point of view. President Hollande met with Secretary of State John Kerry this morning, and we all agreed that it is an excellent thing that there is a prospect of a free trade agreement between the United States and European Union, as long as this agreement is beneficial to both parties and can contribute to growth and jobs in Europe and in France. Of course, we will pay particular attention to a number of topics, including the agriculture, the opening of public markets, as well as the intellectual property and audio-visual services.
To conclude, I shall tell John Kerry that I was very pleased to host him. Dear John, dear Secretary of State, it was both a warm and productive visit.
SECRETARY KERRY: (In French - Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Minister. Thank you for your warm hospitality. Thank you very much for welcoming us here today. It's a great pleasure for me to be here with Foreign Minister Fabius. We just finished one of those wonderful French lunches that have been drawing Americans to Paris for centuries. Of course, it's a privilege to share any meal with Laurent. He is a trusted friend, a steadfast ally, and a valued partner. And I would like to thank him for all of these. France, as you know, is the oldest ally of the United States, so we would like to thank you also for that. And now I will speak in English, because otherwise I would not be allowed to return back home. (Laughter.)
(In English.) I think it's worth saying in both languages that France is America's oldest ally, our first friend, and France helped to shape America and helped it to be the America it is today. As our first diplomatic partner, France taught us what happens in one nation can affect what happens in every other nation. For more than 200 years, we have stood together in battle, from the siege of Yorktown to the liberation of Paris, to today, and we've also stood together for peace, most importantly. We continue to advance the cause of human liberty and to champion universal values that really built our sister republics. Standing here in Paris today, I think of someone else who lived in Boston and Europe as a young man, Benjamin Franklin, and his patriotic compatriot Thomas Jefferson, the first Secretary of State. Those two geniuses, literally, would walk the streets of Paris discussing Voltaire and Rousseau and debating in this city's famous salons, and formulating ideas that lit up the world.
So Paris remains a remarkably important city in both of our nations' histories and we share a mutual respect, mutual values, and mutual interests. Today our two nations continue to stand together as allies and as partners working to meet extraordinary challenges in the world, and frankly, working hard to seize the opportunities of the 21st century. We understand our global responsibility not only to our own citizens but to those of the world citizens who aspire to enjoy the benefits of liberty, economic opportunity, and peace.
Part of that responsibility means that we have to work together in order to strengthen our economies. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that President Obama just announced is really an exciting opportunity for all of us. It's a moment where fair and free trade can kick into gear economic growth, restore competitiveness, create millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, and provide us the strength that we seek and the quality of life for our citizens. Our trade relationship alone has already created hundreds of thousands of jobs for American and French workers, and the European Union is today our largest trading partner. And let me remind everybody, Europe standing alone as an entity is the largest economy in the world.
So there's a lot at stake in this for all of us. This is a tremendous opportunity to broaden and deepen our already strong economic ties and to add to over 13 million Americans and European jobs that are already supported by the current trade and investment that we have today. Just imagine what happens if we grow that.
A strong economy will also give us the strength to move forward on one of our biggest responsibilities that we share today, and that is quite simply the one that Laurent referred to in his comments about our global responsibilities on the environment, that we have a responsibility to leave our children and our grandchildren a healthier planet. And we intend to work to do so.
There might be no other issue that so clearly underscores what one country does matters to other countries around the world. What goes up out of the smokestacks of one country travels around the globe and falls on other countries and affects their lives and livelihood. Smart investments in a cleaner climate create good jobs, new cars, new railways, new houses, and entire new industries. I would remind everybody that the marketplace that made America very wealthy in the 1990s was a $1 trillion market with 1 billion users. The energy marketplace that stares at us as the solution to climate is a $6 trillion market with four to five billion users today, and that will grow to nine over the course of the next 40 or so years. This is the future, and it's important for us to grab it.
We also, of course, today discussed Mali, and I want to say today that we are very grateful. I bring President Obama and the American people's expression of gratitude to France for stepping in and showing leadership and doing what was necessary and important. This is going to be crucial as we continue to work together with the international community to help the people of Mali restore their security and democracy and to create a nation where the rule of law and opportunity can take over.
We appreciate French leadership in Syria, including the steadfast support for the Syrian Opposition Council and Coalition and the repeated condemnation in concert with the United States of the Assad regime's criminal behavior, including last week's indiscriminate Scud attacks on Aleppo. We all agree that the time has passed for President Assad to heed the voice of his people and the voice of the people in the world who want a peaceful transition and a new opportunity for Syria. That's why we are examining and developing ways to accelerate the political transition that the Syrian people seek and deserve, and that is what we will be discussing in Rome tomorrow.
The United States supports also France's leadership in the effort to help move Afghanistan towards greater security and stability, including the pledge to continue building on the progress that we have made by supporting Afghanistan's democratic institutions and economic sectors.
We also today reviewed the results of the P-5+1 meeting in Almaty. The talks were useful, and we look to Iran to carefully review the credible confidence-building steps that the P-5+1 have put on the table. If Iran engages seriously, and we hope they will, then these could pave the way for negotiations that lead towards a longer-term and comprehensive agreement.
U.S.-French unity, indeed the P-5+1 unity, has been an essential ingredient in these talks. And our unity is obviously important in all of these kinds of efforts, from countering terrorism to offering more opportunity to emerging democracies and growing societies. A more secure world, a stronger economy, smarter energy – these are the goals of the United States, of France, of Europe, and of the host of nations around the world. These are goals that can unify us in an increasingly complicated marketplace, an increasingly complicated world.
Our mutual commitment to these global challenges is far-ranging, but this partnership is obviously much, much deeper than just the day-to-day issues that we have talked about. This partnership is really founded between our people. French and American citizens start innovative businesses together. We study together. We build cities together. And we do much more; we always have and we always will.
So let me thank the Foreign Minister once again for his leadership, his hospitality, his friendship. This really is a partnership that has withstood the test of time, and there is no doubt that it will continue to serve as the cornerstone of our collective security and our shared prosperity. And we are grateful for it, and Laurent, I thank you very much for your wonderful welcome today. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (In French - Via interpreter) We shall take a couple of question if we so agree.
QUESTION: Should I put my question in French, as you understand French? Well, I want it to get back to Washington, so shall I put it in English? You decide.
SECRETARY KERRY: Whatever you're comfortable with.
QUESTION: (In French - Via interpreter) Okay. The same question goes to both ministers. You seem very optimistic regarding the meeting in Kazakhstan regarding Iran. Do you think it is possible to negotiate with a regime, the Iranian regime, which is a terrorist one? You say we should not negotiate with terrorists in Mali or elsewhere, so can we negotiate with Iran, Iran who keeps playing on time and putting it in one direction or another?
FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS: (In French - Via interpreter) If we were only to discuss with full democracies, the ministers for foreign affairs would have a lot of free time, spare time. Regarding Iran, a couple of years ago, already, we have chosen a double track – sanctions on the one hand, negotiations on the other. The purpose of the sanctions is to push to negotiation, and the sanctions, we apply them. The United States and France are side by side, and these sanctions already had some tremendous impact.
But these sanctions are not just in the air. The purpose is to push Iran, to get them to negotiate. We fully acknowledge Iran's right to have access to civil nuclear energy, but the United States, just like France and the other members of the P-5+1, cannot accept that Iran has access to nuclear weapons. Some negotiations took place a while ago, as well as a couple of hours ago. Some new meetings will take place.
Of course, the right solution is a diplomatic one. That being said, it is clear – and we discussed it with the American Secretary of State – it is clear that on the merits, we do want a diplomatic solution, which would be the only reasonable one, on behalf of Iran. But at the same time, we stand very tough regarding Iran's possibility of getting access to the weapon.
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me build with what Laurent said, if I may. We applaud France's decision, which is a difficult one, not to negotiate with terrorists who take hostages in the desert. And it's always difficult, but that is a policy that we appreciate and support.
Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union the evil empire, and yet he sat down with Mikhail Gorbachev and ended a nuclear threat. Historically – you go back in time. Richard Nixon, at a time when we had no relationship with China, that there were great dangers, had the courage to send Henry Kissinger and made a decision which opened up China. And a member of the P-5 now works with us in concert to try to impose – put the sanctions in place to deal with Iran.
Iran is a country with a government that was elected and that sits in the United Nations. And it is important for us to deal with nation-states in a way that acts in the best interests of all of us in the world. The world has made a decision that an Iran with a nuclear weapon poses a threat to global stability, to nonproliferation efforts, to the Gulf, to the region, and that if we are interested in a world with less nuclear weapons, not more, it is critical to try to find a peaceful way – as President Kennedy did in the Cuban missile crisis – to defuse those situations that are dangerous for everybody.
So I think we are pursuing the wise course that Laurent has described with a two-prong strategy. I think he has been absolutely accurate in it, and the United States and Europe are joined in this effort in the last consultations of the last couple of days with Chancellor Merkel and with Prime Minister Cameron and the foreign ministers of both countries. They stand in unity with us, and we believe we are pursuing the right course.
QUESTION: (In French.) I had a very short question for Secretary of State. Are you ready to open bilateral discussions with Iran? You've been quoting the Henry Kissinger trip to China, and are you ready to go to Iran if it can help to find a diplomatic solution?
SECRETARY KERRY: President Obama has been crystal clear. The President has said publicly on any number of occasions, and it's a matter of public record that he personally communicated to the Supreme Leader, that he was prepared to engage and to discuss these issues. So the President has made it clear that he will entertain the notion of a bilateral discussion. That was made clear during the campaign most recently when he was running for reelection. The issue came up.
So as a matter of record, I restate today, the United States is prepared to engage in a serious bilateral negotiation with respect to this course we're on, with the belief that Iran, that has a remarkable history, the Iranian people – there are many Iranian Americans today who contribute to our society. We would like to move to a better relationship, and it begins by resolving this nuclear issue. Iran knows what it needs to do. The President has made clear his determination to implement his policy that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon. That is the policy of the United States.
FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS: Madam.
QUESTION: My question is for Secretary Kerry, but I would like you as well to respond. Secretary Kerry, you pledged not to leave the Syrian opposition, as you said, "dangling in the wind, wondering where the support is." Is the U.S. now willing to directly aid the fighters on the ground, and is that enough to change Assad's calculations?
SECRETARY KERRY: (In French.) (Laughter.) Let me answer the question about Syria. We had good conversations here today to align our positions as we go to Rome, and we look forward to meeting with President al-Khatib and the Syrian Opposition Council tomorrow. And what we want to do is really focus on two things. Number one, we want their advice on how we can accelerate the prospects of a political solution, because that is what we believe is the best path to peace, the best way to protect the interests of the Syrian people, the best way to end the killing and the violence.
But as I have said, that may require us to change President Assad's current calculation. He needs to know that he can't shoot his way out of this. And so we need to convince him of that, and I think the opposition needs more help in order to be able to do that. And we are working together to have a united position with respect to that.
Now second, we want to help the supreme, the Syrian Opposition Council to better be able to meet the needs of the Syrian people. They've had difficulty doing that now. And some folks on the ground that we don't support and whose interests do not align with ours are delivering some of that help. So we think – the United States believes that, as the largest humanitarian donor today, we think it's very important that more of our assistance is getting to areas that have been liberated from the regime, and that's not enough. We need to help the supreme – the Syrian Opposition Council – we need to help them to be able to deliver basic services and to protect the legitimate institutions of the state, and to help a sustainable situation develop where you have a vulnerable population today that needs to be able to resist the pleas to engage in extremism. So we think we're coming together in the best way possible to provide additional help, but that will be defined through the discussions tomorrow, and it will be particularly defined through the consultation with the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS: Let's have work in the same direction. As you know, France has been the first one to recognize the opposition – I mean the Syrian National Coalition – because if we want to have a new regime, we have to encourage the opposition. Now they are gathered together, many means, and recently enough, there has been a proposal which has been made by Mouaz al-Khatib, which is a very interesting one. And now we have to help the situation to move. It's the reason why it was very important that John Kerry could be here today, because he will be in Roma tomorrow.
SECRETARY KERRY: Tonight.
FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS: Tonight. He will have an opportunity to meet particularly with al-Khatib, and in the same time, President Hollande and myself will be in Moscow where we shall meet President Putin and Sergey Lavrov, that you have met yesterday.
And we have to make our best, all of us, in order to go towards a new period of time. Because we agree, all of us, on the fact that Mr. Bashar al-Assad has to quit every day – every day. This day, we have more than 100 people who are killed. It cannot last longer. And therefore, we are making, all of us, our best efforts in order to find a solution.
The Geneva Agreement has been referred to, and it's an interesting moment. And therefore we've tried to make our best, all of us, in order to enlarge this way, which maybe will be seized to find a solution.
SECRETARY KERRY: I think it was U.S.
FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS: Oh, please. No, you have the micro – okay.
QUESTION: Yeah. Jay Solomon with The Wall Street Journal. A question for both of you: On North Africa, a lot of success has been credited to the French for driving militants out of northern Mali. I'm curious, with – also with a lot of U.S. support, logistical, intelligence, financial, I'm curious from both Secretary Kerry and yourself, what more is the United States prepared to do, and what more does France want the United States to do in support of pulling back the terrorist threat from North Africa? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me begin. Again, I want to say very clearly that we are extremely grateful for the leadership that France has shown here because things were really coming apart in a very dangerous way. And France stepped in understanding that danger, and it has made a huge difference. We continue – we are cooperating and helping in support of those efforts, providing lift for troops. We've been providing intelligence and some of the other needs that the French have expressed.
But we're also working – and I think this is in answer to your question about sort of the future – we're working with France to support the African-led International Support Mission to Mali, as it's called, AFISMA, and I think that the sooner these forces are able to be sustained, sustainable, to be able to take the work alongside the French and the Malian forces, that can help stabilize the situation so that France and others can pull back. It is not our intention, nor, I think, France's, nor our desire, to have a long-term presence of either of us in a way. There has to be an African solution, ultimately. And our shared goal now should be for African and UN entities to step up so that France has the ability to be able to step back.
And as I've said, we've got to support the restoration of democracy and we need to restore the capacity for justice in Mali, and that means work. That's work that is as important as the work we do on security. So I underscore, restoring a democratically elected government viewed as legitimate by the Malian people is the only way to address the problems that face that country in the Sahel region, and we're committed to trying to work with France to do that in a way that sees the African commitment take over, the Malian government regain capacity, and our ability to pull back and be supportive in lesser ways.
FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS: I completely agree with the words which have been used by John Kerry. As you know, we had to intervene, because otherwise, Mali would have been, all of it, a terrorist state with terrible menaces on all the region. Because it's not only a Mali problem, the problem of the region itself, and you know that there are menaces and hostages in many countries through Africa, but we had to intervene. But exactly like John Kerry was saying, we have no intention to stay a long time in Mali.
There are three different aspects of the solution of the Malian situation. A, we have to fight against terrorist groups. We are doing that with Chad, with Malian army, with Africans, and our American friends and other friends are bringing their support in term of intelligence, in term of this and that, and we are very grateful to United States of America for what they are doing in favor of liberty and integrity of Mali. Therefore, first is the military aspect.
Second, there is democracy dialogue. The President Traore and the Prime Minister Cissoko have said that they intend to have elections in July. And we are supporting this element because we need to have a strong government, a legitimate government, for the time coming. And at the same time, they must begin the dialogue between the north and the south. And the Prime Minister Cissoko has said, and I had him on the phone yesterday, that – intends to have this dialogue institution before the end of February, before – it is in the coming days. And at the same time, we need to have an action in favor of economy development, humanitarian means, not only in Mali, but in the whole region, because it's a threefold action.
And on all these aspects, the United States and ourself, we agree on the same analysis and we try to make our best in order to go into that direction. But it is clear that at the end of the day, it belongs to the Malian people, and the Africans, to take into their own hands their future, and it is the general idea we are there in order to restore integrity of Mali, to fight against terrorist groups, and to help to have economic and humanitarian development.
SECRETARY KERRY: I think they're telling us we have to go, because --
FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS: Merci beaucoup, merci a tous.