Secretary John Kerry and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle held this press conference after their meeting on February 26, 2013. They discussed troops in Afghanistan, the Syria crisis, German-U.S. economic relations, and Iran.
FOREIGN MINISTER WESTERWELLE: And I will speak in my native language.
SECRETARY KERRY: For sure.
FOREIGN MINISTER WESTERWELLE: So Mr. Secretary John Kerry, ladies and gentlemen, welcome in Berlin to all of you. And I will now continue in my native language.
So once again, John, thank you so much for coming to Berlin so early in your new office. We are honored and we are delighted to have not only an experienced politician here in Berlin as a guest, but also someone who has some very special personal background with this city. So please welcome, and may I ask you now to take the floor.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, guten tag. Thank you very much, Guido. (In German.) And I thank you all very much for a generous welcome. (In German), if you don't mind, because it's easier for me.
But it's a great, great privilege. I want to start by thanking the Foreign Minister for his very generous welcome today. I want to thank him for his hospitality, but I also thank him because he and I have met and worked together at a number of conferences in various parts of the world over time. So we begin with a relationship and we begin as friends, and I look forward to continuing that.
It's also – the Minister has mentioned a personal connection here to the city, and it's a great pleasure for me to be able to return to Berlin, which is a special city indeed. As a young man, I spent some time here when my father worked here as a Foreign Service officer in the 1950s. In those challenging times the United States stood with the people of Germany, and through the years we have worked successfully side by side in order to meet an extraordinary number of challenges across Europe and around the world.
Germany is without doubt one of our strongest and most effective allies in the world, and we are very, very grateful for your leadership, the leadership of your government, and the sustaining friendship and support of your people because it has made a difference. A lot has changed, but today the ties that bind the United States and Germany obviously remain stronger than ever, and they are, again, going to guide us through these challenging times, I'm confident, Guido. I look forward to continuing discussion.
We began now, and in a short period of time I think it's fair to say we touched on a remarkable number of issues, found significant agreement, and talked about things that we will continue to talk about over lunch.
We are going to discuss our ongoing efforts to build a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. And I want to thank, on behalf of President Obama and the American people, I want to thank the Foreign Minister and the Chancellor, and I will have a chance to thank her personally in a little while, for Germany's steadfast support in a very difficult undertaking in order to make this critical transition work for everybody.
As I said in London, we are, of course, talking with all of our allies about the issue of Syria in advance of our meeting in Rome on Thursday, and I want to especially thank the Foreign Minister for Germany's leadership in increasing the pressure on the Syrian regime. The German Patriot missile deployment in Turkey is important, and Germany's support in planning the future reconstruction with the Friends of Syrian People is also an important consideration.
And of course, the Foreign Minister and I are going to talk about one of the most important things in our relationship, and that is our strong economic partnership. President Obama has announced his vision, which I think is an important one and shared by the Chancellor and others here, for a new economic partnership with Europe. Germany is our largest trade partner in Europe, and we want to see even more trade and investment that will create jobs – jobs for Germans, jobs for Americans, jobs for all Europeans – and help to lift the European economy at a time that it obviously needs it. That's why it is a priority for President Obama and one that I will work on diligently to try to advance a comprehensive, transatlantic trade and investment partnership. And I look forward to hearing the Foreign Minister's views and sharing thoughts about how we can accelerate that and try to do it seriously and rapidly.
The list of shared concerns goes on and on: security, counterterrorism, financial regulations, trade, many, many other issues. So I am really delighted to have an opportunity to dig into these issues with the Foreign Minister. I am confident that in the years ahead the German-American partnership is going to continue to be strong, continue to be as important as it has been, and in fact, I'm sure it can grow. And we look forward to doing that.
I will say that I had an opportunity a little while ago at a coffee shop to share thoughts with a large number of young people. It was really interesting for me as an American to listen to the questions of young Germans and their hopes for the future. They're very similar to the hopes of young people in America, all of whom are connected today in ways that are profound and important to all of our hopes and to all of our politics. So I think all of what we do here and talk about is really for future generations. That's what this is about, and Guido and I look forward to having an in-depth lunch and a longer conversation about these issues.
Thank you, my friend.
FOREIGN MINISTER WESTERWELLE: Thank you so much.
QUESTION: Concerning the Euro (inaudible), Mr. Kerry –
SECRETARY KERRY: I think we have – wait, wait.
MODERATOR: I have two questions, the first question from Jill Dougherty, CNN.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, thank you very much. I want to ask you about Iran. As we know, the Iran talks are taking place in Kazakhstan. And how realistic is it to expect any type of progress toward any type of agreement? I mean, just look at the facts. You have Iran continuing to enrich uranium to 20 percent, practically on the eve of the talks they say that they're going to be building more reactors, they're installing new centrifuges. Why shouldn't we think that they are just playing for time, because after all, they have elections coming up in June? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Jill, look, I want to respect the fact that the Almaty talks are going on. And given that, I think it would really be a mistake in the middle of the talks for me to try to talk at any length about what the dynamics of those talks are. Let me simply say this: Our P-5+1 proposal includes reciprocal measures that encourage Iran to make concrete steps in order to begin addressing international community's concerns. Those concerns are very clear; we couldn't make them more clear.
And so what I will do in the middle of these talks today here in Germany is express my hope, and I think our hope, that these talks can advance that dialogue and that Iran itself will make its choice to move down the path of a diplomatic solution. There is a diplomatic path. There is a clear way through this. And I want these talks to have their chance to work through before I comment further.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Mr. Secretary, (inaudible). You already mentioned Syria in your statement. People keep dying there on a daily basis. What can the U.S., what can Germany do in terms of an immediate support for the militant opposition in Syria? And will that topic be on the agenda in your talks later today with Secretary Lavrov of Russia?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, my talks – there will be a lot of topics on the agenda with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And I look forward to that conversation. He and I know each other fairly well. I'm anxious to have a chance to sit down with him. And I think I should let him have an opportunity to define that agenda with me. So I'm not going to comment on talks that haven't yet taken place.
With respect to Syria, we began a discussion. We have more to talk about in the course of lunch. But there's a reason we're going to Rome. We're going to Rome to bring a group of nations together to precisely talk about this problem. And I don't want to get ahead of that meeting or our ability to begin to think about exactly what will be part of it. What I've said previously is I've gone to London, I'm here in Berlin today, I'm going to Paris tonight and then to Rome, precisely to consult with our friends and allies. And I think it'd be a mistake to start laying out what we're going to do before we've consulted, number one, and number two, before we've all come together to make those decisions. So we'll see where we are when we get to Rome.
FOREIGN MINISTER WESTERWELLE: (In German.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.