Executive Summary Sample

Executive Summary for the Week of 16/5/2012 – 23/5/2012

Egypt: Elections

All of the Think Tanks summarized below hold very different viewpoints concerning the same issue, the Egyptian elections; although, there are some statements that hold true throughout all of the think tanks. All believe that this is a very important time for Egypt and that the outcome of this election is very detrimental, possibly even predictive of the future of Egypt. The pieces primarily examine parliament and the role of the Islamists in Egypt. The Brookings Institution conducted a poll that is telling of what Egyptians want and see in their future, which shown alongside the Gallup poll can be disconcerting. The Gallup poll shows a more pessimistic view of the current political climate, whereas The Brookings Institution is more optimistic, this however can be attributed to the types of questions asked, as well as the depth of the questions. Both the Center for American Progress and Washington Institute for Near East Policy examined the role America can play in the transition process. The Center for American Progress, being more progressive, took a centrist approach to reinstating ties with the new Egyptian government; it was also the only report to provide more detailed background knowledge about the candidates. In contrast, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, under the guise of fostering stability, took a very American Exceptionalist approach to the elections, assuming the worst and even regretting the inability for the Obama administration to get involved. The second report from WINEP also indicates concern with the ability of Egyptians to monitor the elections for fairness and vote rigging. The Plofchan report from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, although not the first to talk about the Salafis and The Muslim Brotherhood, it was the first to chronicle, however briefly, the beginnings of the split between the two groups, as well as state some of the differences in beliefs amongst the two. Lastly, the Council on Foreign Relations report was the only report to put a face to a people, speaking of the obstacles Egypt may face and providing a more in depth look at what many Egyptians may be feeling.

Think Tank: Brookings Institution

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 21/5/2012

Author: Shibley Telhami

Type: Report

Title: What Do Egyptians Want? Key Findings from the Egyptian Public Opinion Poll

Address: http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2012/05/21-egyptian-election-poll-telhami

The Brookings Institution has conducted a poll surveying the Egyptian public about political preferences, leaders and regional issues, during May 4-10, 2012 in light of the first presidential election. The Brookings Institution places great emphasis on the importance of the inaccuracies of probable predictions, as there is no analytical model of voting behaviour as of yet. Egyptian voters have also shown a difference in criteria by which they judge parliamentary and presidential candidates.

Poll Results:

  • Abul-Fotouh led the polls with 32%, followed by Mousa (28%) then Shafiq (14%), Morsi and Sabahi at (8%).
  • In parliamentary elections, 24% a favoured political party determined their vote, whereas in presidential elections, personal trust is a determining factor for 31%.
  • Christians supported Mousa the most, with 43%, as well as voters outside of cities with 31% of the vote.
  • Abul-Fotouh led among university graduates with 35% and among youth, under age 25, with 36%.
  • 54% believe Turkey to be the model reflection in terms of Islam in politics, followed by Saudi Arabia with 32%
  • A majority of those polled hold very unfavourable views of the U.S., with 68% and 73% support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama.
  • 66% of Egyptians support Sharia as the basis of Egyptian law, but 83% believe Sharia should be adapted to modern times.
  • A majority of Egyptians admired the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, with 63%. When asked to include Egyptian leaders, Erdogan fell to 15%, with Sadat at 35% and Abdel Nasser at 26%.
  • Brokering Middle East peace and establishing a Palestinian State ranked highest (66%) in regards improving U.S. favourability, followed by stopping military and economic aid to Israel as 46%.
  • While 55% believe there will be no lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis, 46% would like to maintain the peace treaty with Israel and 44% would like to see it cancelled.
  • The two countries that pose the biggest nuclear threat are Israel (97%) and the U.S. (80%).
  • Egyptians have been in support of the rebels against Assad and the Syrian government, but only 18% wish to see external military interventions, 15% support a Turkish Arab military intervention and 43% wish to see no military intervention.

Think Tank: Center for American Progress

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 23/5/2012

Author: Brian Katulis

Type: Brief

Title: Previewing Egypt’s 2012 Presidential Elections

Address:  http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/05/egypt_elections.h tml/#1

This report by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank dedicated to public policy research, provides a brief description of Egypt’s first democratic presidential election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, as well as recommendations for the American government to restore and reinforce ties with the new Egyptian government. In addition, the brief lists and describes the presidential candidates.

According to the report, it is believed that “no candidate will receive more than 50% of the vote,” which would lead to run-off elections in mid-June between the two top candidates. By June’s end a new president will be sworn in for a four-year term and military rulers will hand over power to the new government. However, the transition is still incomplete as a new constitution is to be written and their remains questions over:

  • The economy- Candidates have addressed unemployment and inflation, but have yet to address public-sector debt, the currency crisis, and energy and food subsidies.
  • Security, Law and Order- The drafting of the new constitution has been halted due to Egypt’s disunities over the identity of their new political system; ie. The role of Islam in the government and legislation.

The drafting of the constitution is set to take six-months to draft, although it could take longer to get approved and gain public support. The new constitution may also address a checks and balances system, as well as the role of parliament. The role Egypt is to take in the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional security is also a source of debate amongst the candidates.

The report suggests that the American government conduct a “major interagency review of its Egypt policy.” This review will prepare the U.S. administration for dialogue with the new Egyptian administration later this year. The dialogue should consist of:

  • A renegotiation of “basic terms of the relationship.”
  • Enhance bilateral relationship through common interests.
  • “Build a more stable foundation for U.S.-Egyptian bilateral ties.”

Results of these dialogues would redefine ties and include more parts of the Egyptian government that were not included in past years.

Egypt Presidential Candidate Profiles

  • Amr Moussa- He served under the Mubarak regime as Egypt’s Foreign minister, as well as the secretary general of the Arab League. His platform consists of a centrist political strategy. He has been labelled as a remnant of the Mubarak regime. He is known for his anti-Israel and America statements and has campaigned as the “alternative to Islamist candidates.”
  • Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh- His candidacy is opposed by the Muslim Brotherhood. He is an Islamist activist and “would implement Sharia as a formal legal code.” His platforms are “populist economics and “people first” economics.” He served on the Muslim Brotherhoods decision-making council for twenty-two years. He has the support of leaders from the Salafi Nour Party.
  • Ahmad Shafiq- He has served as prime minister, and air force commander under Mubarak, causing him speculation amongst “revolution minded voters.” His platform is to “restore law and order within 30 days of being elected.” Public perception of him has been negative. He is running as an “alternative to Islamist candidates. “
  • Hamdeen Sabbahi- He has nationalist ideologies, basing his campaign on criticism of the U.S. and Israel. He founded social and political organizations and worked as a journalist, in which he was arrested for his “public confrontation” with former President Sadat concerning “rising food prices.” He did not serve under the Mubarak regime and is not an Islamist. He has proposed an alliance with Iran and Turkey and severing ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
  • Muhammad Mursi- He is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party Leader. He has served in Egypt’s Parliament and is the Brotherhood’s leading spokesman. He plans to amend the peace treaty with Israel “to create a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and have Israel recognize the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees.”

Think Tank: Council on Foreign Relations

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 21/5/2012

Author: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh

Type: Expert Brief

Title: A New Presidential Authority in Egypt

Address: http://www.cfr.org/egypt/new-presidential-authority-egypt/p28308

This brief takes a more optimistic approach to the Egyptian elections, summarizing the possible obstacles for the newly elected official, obstacles pertaining to religion in politics, and while also providing a look at the voters’ demands and desire for dignity.

While Egypt has witnessed violence, protests and authority turnover in the last sixteen months, it has empowered Egyptians to take part in their political system. Current polls show “a clear majority of Egyptians continue to hold the military in high regard,” although not nearly as many Egyptians “support a military-dominated political system.” The SCAF has been contested by the public for the “Selmi principles,” granting “autonomy from elected civilian officials,” as well as for their “application of the State of Emergency.”

The Muslim Brotherhood votes are split between two candidates, Aboul Fotouh, who was expelled from the Brotherhood, and Morsi, who has been behind in the polls. Despite the parliament being a Brotherhood majority, the Brotherhood is not leading in the presidential polls, possibly due to a Brotherhood announcement against running in the presidential race, that was later followed by Morsi’s presidential bid.

Egyptians demand more accountability of politicians. Although economic strife “helped create an environment of misery,” in years prior to the uprising, “Egyptians were demanding freedom, justice, and dignity when they brought Hosni Mubarak down.”

One thing that may delay the transition process will be the role of Islam in politics. Within that lies the issue of whether the Salafis or the Islamists are to speak for Islam. It is anticipated that whomever wins the election must negotiate between different religious groups. If the organised labour parties can emerge in large-scale, they can be very influential in the economic and social policymaking.

Think Tank: Gallup World via The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 18/5/2012

Author: Mohamed Younis and Ahmed Younis

Type: Report

Title: Support for Islamists Declines as Egypt’s Election Nears

Address: http://www.gallup.com/poll/154706/Support-Islamists-Declines-Egypt-Election-Nears.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=syndication&utm_content=morelink&utm_term=World

According to the Gallup poll, spanning from July 2011 until April 2012 the Islamists have seen a steady increase, followed by a sharp decline in overall support as well as in the areas of prime minister appointment and constitution drafting.

  • July 2011 saw Muslim Brotherhood support at 17%, steadily increasing and peaking at 63% in February, then sharply declining to 42% in April.
  • In July 2011 Salafi support was at 5%, steadily increasing and peaking at 37% in February, then sharply declining to 25% in April.
  • The Nour Party saw 5% support in July, peaking at 40% in February and declining to 30% in April.
  • The Freedom and Justice Party saw 15% support in July, peaking at 67% in February and declining to 43% in April.
  • In February 2012, 62% of Egyptians felt comfortable with parliament writing the constitution, in April 2012 that percentage fell to 44.
  • In February 2012, 46% of Egyptians believed the party that wins the most seats in the parliament should appoint the prime ministers. Egyptians supporting the newly elected president appointing the prime minister next summer was 27%.
  • In April 2012, 27% of Egyptians believed the party that wins the most seats in the parliament should appoint the prime ministers. Egyptians supporting the newly elected president appointing the prime minister next summer was 44%.
  • In February 2012, 62% of Egyptians thought a parliament influenced by the Brotherhood was a good thing; 27% thought it was a bad thing.
  • In April 2012, 36% of Egyptians thought a parliament influenced by the Brotherhood was a good thing; 47% thought it was a bad thing.

This dissatisfaction can be attributed to the economic decline and bouts of violence. The transition has been twisted by power struggles within parliament, as opposed to reversing “financial decline and working to hold former regime members accountable.”

Think Tank: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 22/5/2012

Author: Eric Trager

Type: Policy Analysis

Title: Presidential Elections Will Not End Egyptian Instability

Address: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/presidential-elections-will-not-end-egyptian-instability

This WINEP analysis focuses on American interests within the Egyptian elections and states that given the economic situation of Egypt and the lack of clarity in the role of a new president, the elections will not provide stability in Egypt, but could further instability. Trager states that Sabahi is considered a favourite amongst expatriate voters, and while Mousa appears to be leading in the polls, there is no anticipated winner. With 75% of the parliament being Islamists, “ongoing instability has damaged the Islamists’ popularity and raised the profile of former regime candidates,” such as Shafiq, who has sought the votes of former Mubarak supporters.

The analysis concentrates on the shift from an American friendly regime to the current stance of the candidates that express anti-Western platforms, with the exception of Shafiq who is the only candidate who is not anti-Western or pro-Sharia. 

Fair elections will not likely cause stability as the parameters of the role of the newly elected president are undefined, as the new constitution has not been drafted. The proposals to allow the SCAF “to retain absolute powers in reviewing its internal affairs, including its budget,” and the ability of the president’s power to dissolve parliament, are likely to “ignite a severe confrontation between the military and the Islamists.”

The Obama administration has not declared support for any candidate. Washington should insist the SCAF conduct the elections fairly and to “follow a credible constitutional process,” otherwise mass protests could occur. Such protests could suppress stability restoration. Concerned that Islamists may play a role in an uprising against the SCAF, Washington should “use its $1.3 billion in military aid as leverage,” to ensure proper SCAF administration.

Think Tank: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 22/5/2012

Author: David Schenker

Type: Policy Analysis

Title: Egyptian Elections: Beyond Winning

Address: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/egyptian-elections-beyond-winning

This policy analysis of the Egyptian elections by WINEP, often criticised for being pro-Israel, discusses the credibility and speculation surrounding the actual voting process in Egypt. Concern is raised over an Islamist sweep within the new government, as Islamists are the majority of the new parliament. WINEP believes that regardless of the election process, a group of Egyptians may not accept the results if their candidate does not win.

Egyptians have been to the voting polls four times in fifteen months, causing concern that Egyptians may be losing their enthusiasm to vote. The constitutional referendum in March 2011 saw 41.2% of eligible voters vote, but Shura Council elections in January and February 2012 saw only 6.5% of voters in the first round and 12.2% voters in the second. About 54% of voters cast their ballots for the People’s Assembly elections. The high turn out rate is thought to be because some Egyptians believed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would fine them for not voting. The threat of SCAF imposing an “interim constitution” could discourage voters or encourage voters to vote.

The Carter Center, the only American based democracy promotion organisation currently in Egypt  “will not be allowed to observe any single polling station for more than thirty minutes.” Thousands of Egyptians have volunteered to monitor the polling stations.

WINEP believes that in the event Shafiq or Mousa win, there may be “claims of SCAF fraud,” accompanied by mass protests. The key to stabilizing Egypt is in the credibility of the voting process.

Think Tank: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 16/5/2012

Author: Thomas K. Plofchan III

Type: Report

Title: Egypt’s Islamists: A Growing Divide

Address: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/islamists/egypt’s-islamists-growing-divide

This report chronicles and examines the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi rivalry from the fall of Hosni Mubarak until more recently into the elections. The two organisations originally held similar positions on issues after the fall of Mubarak, although began to divide mid-2011.

Three Salafi organisations, The Nour Party, being the biggest, joined the Brotherhood led Democratic Alliance that soon dissolved afterwards. The Salafis then formed the Islamic Bloc that won approximately 27% of the parliament vote, despite political inexperience. “The Nour Party won 111 of the 508 parliamentary seats, making it the second largest part in the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament.” The Brotherhood won 40% of the vote. Both parties have stated little interest in forming an Islamist alliance in the parliament.

The media has recently depicted the Brotherhood in a negative light due to entering the presidential candidacy after stating they wouldn’t. The Salafi party supports Aboul Fotouh, an expelled Brotherhood leader, while the Brotherhood’s Morsi is behind in the polls.

Salafis “oppose the use of alcohol and exposure of women’s bodies,” in regards to tourism standards; The Nour Party encourages cultural tourism contrasting to resort tourism and the Brotherhood “have distinguished between Egyptians and foreigners traveling in the country.” The biggest contrast deals with the role of Sharia in the new political system. The Brotherhood supports the principles of Sharia in legislation, whereas the Salafis support Sharia judgment.

Remembering Rachel Corrie on the anniversary of her death

contact@ifamericansknew.org

 

 

Dear Friend,

On this day 13 years ago, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli soldiers driving a military bulldozer. She was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home. According to numerous witnesses and photographic documentation, she was killed intentionally.

Representative Brian Baird from Washington State introduced a resolution in Congress calling on the federal government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Rachel’s death. The bill was co-sponsored by 77 representatives, but Congress took no action. 

The Corrie family then filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc in 2005, alleging that Caterpillar supplied Israelis with bulldozers even though they knew they were being used to commit war crimes. The lawsuit was dismissed.

The Corrie family’s appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was also dismissed. The court acknowledged that the U.S. government paid for the bulldozer that killed Rachel, but said that they didn’t have the jurisdiction to rule on the “political question” of U.S. military aid to Israel. 

In 2010, the Corrie family filed a lawsuit in Israel against the Israeli Defense Forces. Israeli officials prevented the physician who had examined Rachel’s wounds from testifying in the case. The court ruled that Rachel was responsible for her own death. In 2014, the Corrie family’s appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel, and the IDF was absolved of any wrongdoing.

Keep Rachel’s message alive by sharing her story with your community. We have cards, a booklet of Rachel’s letters, and posters available for download and order.

#SupportPalestineInDC2016

U.S. taxpayers send Israel over $3 billion a year in military aid with virtually no strings attached, and now the prime minister of Israel wants $5 billion a year.

The majority of Americans oppose taking sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but virtually all Democratic and Republican members of Congress continue to supply Israel with more and more weapons each year (Palestinians do not receive military aid).

American taxpayer dollars have enabled Israel to continue its decades-long illegal occupation of Palestinian land and deny Palestinians basic legal and human rights. With our money, Israeli forces have killed over 9,200 Palestinians as well as numerous international journalists and peace activists since 2000.

We are driving the violence in this region, and we must stop it.

This weekend, AIPAC kicks off its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump scheduled to give speeches. We hope you will join us this Sunday at noon at the White House to protest AIPAC’s influence on American politics and support Palestinian human rights. Your voice is urgently needed!

As always, thank for your commitment to peace, justice, and equality for all people.

The If Americans Knew team

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[announce_onepalestine] Human Rights Groups Call for Justice for Amer Jubran

***Please forward–Action call below***

Two more global human rights organizations have added their voices to the international campaign for justice on behalf of Amer Jubran.

On November 3, 2015 Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released a joint statement focusing on the issue of Jordanian authorities torturing Amer and his co-defendants to obtain a false conviction:

“Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are calling on the Jordanian government to ensure a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into allegations that [Amer Jubran] made the ‘confession’ that contributed to his conviction under torture and other ill-treatment.” ( https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/11/03/jordan-investigate-alleged-torture )

The statement also reiterates long-standing concerns about the lack of independence of Jordan’s State Security Court and its use as an instrument of repression against dissidents.

The Alkarama Foundation issued a public statement in October condemning the gross violations of human rights in Amer’s arrest, detention and trial, and promising to raise the allegations of torture before the UN Committee Against Torture in its upcoming review of Jordan, set to begin on November 9. (http://en.alkarama.org/reports/1896-jordan-human-rights-activist-sentenced-to-10-years-in-prison-after-unfair-trial-before-state-security-court )

Amer’s case is still on appeal before Jordan’s Court of Cassation. Please take a moment to e-mail the Prime Minister urging him to ensure justice on Amer’s behalf, and calling attention to the growing list of international organizations who share our concerns about the human rights violations in his case.

Please e-mail Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour: info@pm.gov.jo

Please cc’ the following:

Minister of Justice, Bassam Talhouni: Feedback@moj.gov.jo .

Minister of Interior, Salamah Hammad: info@moi.gov.jo

(You can also send us a copy: defense@amerjubrandefense.org)

****

Sample letter:

Dear Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour,

I am writing to you about the case of Amer Jubran, a Jordanian citizen sentenced to ten years in prison by the State Security Court on July 29, 2015. His case is now before Jordan’s Court of Cassation.

Global human rights organizations have expressed grave concerns about the violations of fundamental human rights in Mr. Jubran’s arrest, detention and trial.

As you may be aware, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released a joint statement on November 3, calling upon your government to conduct an immediate investigation into allegations of torture in Mr. Jubran’s case, and condemning the lack of judicial independence and rights to fair trial in cases brought before the State Security Court.

On October 5, 2015, the Alkarama Foundation issued a public statement condemning Jubran’s “unfair trial during which confessions extracted under torture were admitted as evidence.”

Please act to ensure that Mr. Jubran’s appeal receives full and independent review. The unjust sentence must be reversed and the officers responsible for torturing Mr. Jubran and his co-defendants must be brought to justice.

Sincerely,

___________________________

[announce_onepalestine] FW: [Free_Amer] Amer Jubran: Statement on GID Detention: Torturers Named; Threats of Retaliation

**Please Forward Widely***

Amer Jubran Statement on Detention Under Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate.

Torturers Named. Threats of Retaliation by Prison Officials.

On October 1st, Amer Jubran made another statement with a more complete commentary on his case and the conditions he is now facing in prison. In this statement he named two of the GID interrogators who tortured him.

We received word on Oct. 10th that Amer is now being threatened by prison officials, who are  limiting contact with his family and pushing for him to be placed in solitary confinement. We urge people to continue to write Jordan’s Minister of Justice. New sample letter here: https://freeamer.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/sample-letter-101215/

We are releasing Amer’s statement below, along with some further details from court papers concerning his trial:

“This case is made of two parts: one of targeting US soldiers stationed in Jordan back in 2006, and the other, of joining Hezbollah to carry out terrorist acts. As far as the part about US soldiers is concerned, how can a plot go on for 8 years without execution unless it was not true at all? Besides, there are no American troops in Jordan, as confirmed by the king himself and the Jordanian Prime Minister through their official statements published in the local media and presented to the court as evidence. Furthermore, there was a similar case that was ruled in favor of the defendants based on the same official statements. And also, there is one big question here:  who is  to be believed and who is lying? Is it the king, or is it some confessions extracted by force by the GID?

The GID has exaggerated this case for the following reasons, apart from its vindictiveness against me: first, they wanted to enlarge the achievement for themselves and for the officers involved, for promotional reasons; also, accordingly, to reflect maximum punishment and revenge against me in person; and thirdly, to use their false achievement to collect anti-terrorism funds from the foolish US government. No proofs were presented in this case except for the confessions made by forceful process. If this case is as serious as they claim, how come all the co-defendants have received 2-3 year sentences and I have received a 15 year sentence? Lastly, please note that I was declared innocent on the charge relating to carrying out terrorist acts and this constitutes a screaming contradiction between the verdict and the sentence.

As for the part about Hezbollah, apart from the political argument over this issue and my denial of this charge–and despite my respect and admiration for Hezbollah–here is the big fact: the Jordanian government has not classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The judges denied us our requests numerous times where we have requested both in writing and verbally to make the prosecutors spell out Jordan’s official position on Hezbollah’s classification or have us get an official statement from the Prime Minister or the GID and the Ministry of Interior, or the Ministry and the Ministry of Defense. The Court ruled on this based on its opinion and not based on the legal official stance of Jordan  on Hezbollah. Again, in this part, no proofs were submitted except for a false confession and a laptop–that had an encoding and decoding software–seized from the defendant  number 7. Defendant number 7 had this laptop  in his possession, and surprisingly he was cleared of any charges including also codefendant number 5.  Which puts a question mark on, Why? 

During the interrogation there were numerous sessions during which I was asked questions about friends and activists from the States. Including [list of names]. They claimed, when I asked why, that this was for their own use of information and for their friends in the States. [He provides some additional details about statements that the GID claimed were made by his co-defendants concerning people from the US.] These are total lies, made up to pressure me into cooperating […]

My dear friends, I admit that I was not a hero during the encounter with the GID. Except for refusing to be a sell-out. I was broken down by the amount of threats against my faith and my family, and the one I love. But one would ask, Why I would believe these threats? Because the GID is credible in its evil and criminal history. I, until this moment, still fear the vindictive reaction against myself and my loved ones. I have signed all documents that they have presented to me. And wrote all sorts of confessing narratives including admitting to full responsibility of an attack that was carried against the Israeli Ambassador convoy back in January 2010. Also plotting to attack the Israeli embassy in Amman. At the end, it got so funny with the confessions and the rearrangement of the confessions, that they had to rewrite them and to rearrange them–the whole full set of the confessions by all the co-defendants for over five times. And each time they changed–they made sure that it is directed toward my full responsibility. And along with these changes and amendments and total turn around of events in each different confession that they had assigned, the Prosecutor went on and made the changes accordingly in order to match and fit the confessions made by the interrogators, or before the interrogators.

The abuses and torture were carried out by a colonel whose name–you have his name in the papers. His name is Habes Rizk. He was the man in charge. And also, he is Officer Number 1 in the table list which you have. Also, there are many others. The first five witnesses presented by the prosecutor. … The first 5 of them were the actual interrogators and officers in charge of the whole show. The first witness is what you know as Officer Number 2. And he’s the one who took charge, from the moment of raiding my house, threatening me and my family inside my house, taking me and doing all sorts of torture and threats and abuse.

Last item I have, I’m kept now in a group solitary confinement with the other six co-defendants, of which 5 of them have made my life hell as they have been instructed by the GID if they were to get off the hook.

[… ] Now I will be in lock-up for perhaps some retaliatory measures to be carried out against me while in prison like perhaps by denying my rights to make phone-calls and visitation, or even by moving me to another prison where individuals who are charged with Al-Qaeda and its sisters do not take lightly people who are charged with being with Hezbollah or members of that party. And this is the least I would say.

Please note, I don’t know if you have realized in the documents which you have received that the court of military judges has said that they did not need to look even at our facts of defense or our evidence of defense and they have thrown all of that out and ruled from their own heads what was designed or predesigned before even the trial went on.”

***

Amer refers in his statement to a table list with officers who conducted the interrogations against him. This list of interrogation methods was provided as part of his trial testimony, but with numbers in the place of the names of officers. Since Amer has now provided the names of two of the individuals who tortured him, we are supplying the names of the actual officers in brackets from the narrative provided by Amer’s lawyers:

1.    Officer 1 [Colonel Habes Rizk] threatened to “hide  [the defendant] behind the sun” and expressed his racism that all the Palestinians are traitors because they want to free their country.

2.    Officers 1 [Colonel Habes Rizk] and 2 [Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman] deceived the defendant by claiming that his father [name] , his brother [name] and ten of his company’s employees had been arrested.

3.    Torturing other arrested persons in the same case before him like [defendant name] and [defendant name].

4. Successive interrogation sessions lasting 72 hours, with an interrogation team alternating every 8 hours. Sometime these sessions extended for 120 hours. During such sessions, the defendant sometimes suffered from fainting and in three such instances was taken to an internal clinic, a large quantity of acetone was poured into his nose to revive him, and the doctor would say that the fainting has nothing to do with cardiac disease, but is a psychological effect of the severity of the interrogation. When the interrogation was resumed, if the defendant lost consciousness he was given a cold shower with his clothes on to wake him up and the interrogation continued.

5.     On the third day after each interrogation tour, Officer 2 [Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman] would pour water on the defendant and treat him as if he had urinated on himself. He would then be punished by ordering him to stand in the corner of the room and then by insulting him, e.g. ‘Is not it shameful for a 45 year old man to urinate on himself?’ This would be repeated every three or four days.

6.     During the interrogation, Officer 2 [Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman] threatened to bring the wife of the defendant, and to insult and assault her in a way that would guarantee cooperation on part of the defendant. This occurred in the presence of Officer 3.

7.     Officer 2 [Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman] would use the method of applying pressure to the point where the defendant’s neck meets his shoulder while he is seated. He would do this by using a conscript called ‘Abu Zeid’ who was heavily built. Abu Zeid would put his elbow on the aforementioned area while pushing the head in the opposite direction for several hours. In addition, the method of slapping the defendant on the face was used when he was not responsive.

8.     Officer 2 [Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman] would order the defendant to sit in the prayer position and would place both feet on the leg of the defendant in case of his failure to respond.

***

At the conclusion of his statement, Amer refers to the Court’s refusal even to consider the testimony and evidence of the defense. The court relied entirely on the confessions obtained through torture, although the defendants testified that in some cases they had not even been allowed to read these “confessions” before signing them. Here is the statement of the court:

“… The court was assured of the evidence presented by the prosecution, and relies on it for proof, including the fact that the confessions of the defendants during the investigations were given clearly, correctly, with no ambiguity, and were given freely and by choice.  … Upon the preceding and upon the prosecution’s evidence, this court finds that it is not obliged to discuss Defense’s evidence presented by defense attorneys since accepting prosecution’s evidence automatically implies rejection of defense’s evidence, as this was the interpretation settled upon by the respected Court of Cassation in many of its rulings, among them decision number 757/2002 chapter 21/10/2002, from which is quoted: ‘…the State Security Court has done well to set aside defense’s evidence without discussing it.'”

***

Amer’s case is still on appeal before Jordan’s Court of Cassation. We urge supporters to share information publicly about his case to create as much visibility as possible while it is still in appeal.

Amer’s case underlines the fact that the primary purpose of torture has never been to gather intelligence. Its purpose instead is to terrorize people into silence and inaction and to force them to implicate themselves and others in false crimes, which in turn props up whatever narrative the state wishes to promote about terrorism.

As friends of Amer from his time in the US–some of us apparently named in the the GID’s interrogation sessions–we express our full solidarity with Amer in his pursuit of justice, and condemn the use of torture against him and his co-defendants.

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http://mail.amerjubrandefense.org/mailman/listinfo/free_amer_amerjubrandefense.org

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[announce_onepalestine] FW: [Free_Amer] REMINDER: Urgent Action Today (10/5) for Amer Jubran

***Please forward***

Action Call TODAY, Monday, October 5:

Please send e-mails today calling for urgent intervention in Amer’s case:

Minister of Justice, Bassam Talhouni: Feedback@moj.gov.jo .

And cc’ the following:

 

Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Abdullah Ensour, info@pm.gov.jo

Minister of Interior, Salamah Hammad, info@moi.gov.jo

You can send an e-mail automatically through the website of the Samidoun Network of Support for Political Prisoners:

http://samidoun.net/2015/10/take-action-update-on-amer-jubran-case-torture-and-denial-of-justice/

Sample Letter:

Dear Minister of Justice Bassam Talhouni,

I am writing to call your attention to the severe miscarriage of justice against Amer Jubran, a Jordanian citizen who currently has a case before Jordan’s Court of Cassation.

⦁    Mr. Jubran was arrested on May 5, 2014 by agents of the General Intelligence Directorate and held in incommunicado detention for close to two months. No warrant was presented at the time of his arrest. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention sent an urgent appeal on his behalf to your government at that time: See https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/28th/public_-_UA_Jordan_07.07.14_%281.2014%29_Pro.pdf

 

⦁    During his period in GID detention, Mr. Jubran and six other defendants in the same case were subjected to prolonged periods of torture, including sleep deprivation, beatings, stress positions, and threats of violence against their families. Under these conditions they were forced to sign false confessions to planning a series of “terrorist” actions–confessions  they were not even allowed to read before signing them.

⦁    On July 29, 2015, Mr. Jubran was sentenced by Jordan’s State Security Court to 10 years in prison with hard labor. The Court refused to consider the defense evidence in the case, and used the fabricated confessions as the basis for its decision.

Global human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Alkarama Foundation have condemned the prevalence of torture in Jordan by the General Intelligence Directorate. The lack of independence of State Security Court from the GID and its failure to condemn torture and other fundamental human rights violations by GID agents have been specifically cited as a reason for the persistence of torture in security cases in Jordan. The United Nations Committee Against Torture, and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have repeatedly called for the abolition of the State Security Court.

I am writing now to urge that you take all necessary action in the case of Amer Jubran to see that his appeal before the Court of Cassation receives full and independent review. The severe violations of human rights in his case must be condemned and the unjust sentence reversed.

Sincerely,

****

For more information and background on Amer Jubran’s case, visit freeamer.wordpress.com .

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Free_Amer mailing list

Free_Amer@amerjubrandefense.org

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Transcript: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Heraldo Muñoz, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile and Catherine Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Ecomonic Growth, Energy, and the Environment

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH HERALDO MUÑOZ, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF CHILE AND CATHERINE NOVELLI, UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH, ENERGY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

TOPIC:  WAVES OF CHANGE: AN UPDATE ON OCEAN POLICY AND PRACTICES

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2015, 12:30 P.M. EDT

NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR

MODERATOR:  (In progress) to the New York Foreign Press Center.  We are very honored to have with us today Catherine Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, and Heraldo Muñoz, the Foreign Minister of Chile.  The under secretary and the foreign minister are here to preview the Ocean Conference that Chile is hosting next week.  This briefing is on the record.  After opening remarks, we will open the floor to questions from the media and conclude the press conference after journalists have had the opportunity to ask their questions.  The under secretary and the foreign minister have agreed to remain after the official press conference to answer some questions from students.  Journalists, please wait for the microphone, and state your name and media affiliation when you’re called upon.

Before I turn it over to Under Secretary Novelli, let’s watch a message from Secretary of State John Kerry that features Foreign Minister Muñoz:

SECRETARY KERRY:  Growing up along the coast of Massachusetts, I developed a powerful connection to the ocean at a very early age.  But it wasn’t until much later that I discovered how significant the ocean is to all of humankind.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ:  (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY KERRY:  Last year I asked for your help in protecting our oceans, and I encouraged leaders around the world to take action.  Together we are making progress.  We’ve established new marine protected areas across the globe.  Efforts to end illegal fishing and seafood fraud are gaining momentum.  We’re raising awareness about how plastic waste harms our ocean, and we are working on solutions.

Many countries are cutting carbon emissions that cause ocean acidification. 

FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ:  (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY KERRY:  Show your support and make a commitment to leave behind a healthy and vibrant ocean for future generations.  Recycle more and reduce the amount of plastic that you use.  Only eat legally caught sustainable seafood.  Reduce your carbon footprint to help stop ocean acidification and climate change.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ:  (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY KERRY:  Que hara usted para ayudar a proteger nuestro oceano? 

FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ:  Let us know on social media using #OurOcean2015.

MODERATOR:  And with that, I’ll turn it over to Under Secretary Novelli.

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI:  Thank you very much.  It is an absolute honor to be here today with Foreign Minister Muñoz.  He and his government have shown incredible leadership on ocean issues, not just for this conference but all along the way.  And I am really excited that both the Secretary and myself will be visiting Valparaiso, Chile next week for the second Our Ocean Conference, and I just want to thank him for his commitment. 

As the world leaders gather here in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly, the fate of our ocean is as an important part of the agenda.  The UN has just adopted a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which will guide the work of the UN and member-states for the next 15 years, and a critical component of achieving all of the global goals will be conservation and sustainable use of the world’s oceans and marine resources. 

This is the good news.  And the good news is that there is a growing understanding that a healthy and resilient ocean will help drive widespread and shared prosperity, including economic, food, energy security, and will ensure the health of our planet for generations to come.  It’s been about a year since Secretary Kerry convened the first Our Ocean Conference in Washington, D.C., and that conference aimed to spur action on the threats to our ocean.  Since then, the United States and its partners around the world have been working together to tackle challenges such as ocean acidification, sustainable fishing, and marine debris.  And we’ve made a lot of progress, and so our momentum going forward is only going stronger. 

And so we’re very pleased that all of you came here to cover this event in such a busy UNGA week, and I think we’re all here because we recognize that a healthy ocean is essential to life on Earth.  Phytoplankton in the ocean produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe.  A healthy ocean provides us with millions of jobs through fishing, tourism, other industries, and with a nutritious source of protein for billions of people.  In short, we can’t live without a healthy ocean, and the well-being of our citizens depends heavily on how we treat it.  That’s why the United States, Chile, and other governments around the world, civil society, the private sector, are all working together to protect the ocean and ensure that we use its valuable resources in a sustainable manner. 

Just to go over a few things of where we’ve been in terms of last year’s Ocean Conference and the tremendous commitments that came out of that, we are moving closer – the United States and all of our partners – to the goal of having 10 percent of the ocean and coastal areas managed by marine protected areas.  Those are areas where we don’t allow fishing or other economic activity.  And we are working to ensure that these areas, the ones that have been declared, are properly enforced.  Shortly after the conference last year, President Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Monument, making it the largest marine protected area in the world closed to commercial extractive activities. 

Illegal fishing and seafood fraud are also seriously undermining the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries around the world, and it’s estimated that we lose billions of dollars to illegal fishing around the globe.  In the U.S., for us it’s especially important because we import 90 percent of our seafood.  So to address this problem, U.S. Government agencies, in consultation with environment groups, the seafood industry, and other governments are implementing the recommendations that the U.S. Presidential Task Force to Combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud, which is a long name – short name is IUU – and that task force was set up as part of the Our Ocean Conference last year.  It has now come out with recommendations, including an exciting new traceability program that’s going to track seafood from the harvest anywhere in the world to entry into the United States and is going to allow consumers to know where their seafood’s come from and whether or not it was sustainably harvested.

We think this is extremely important because we want to create a level playing field and reward honest fishermen and women both here in the United States as well as around the world globally.  We’re also working to reduce marine pollution and concentrating on marine plastics.  It’s estimated that about 80 percent of the plastics in the ocean are land-based, and so we’re focusing our efforts on improving waste management systems and programs in key countries across Asia, as well as innovative waste-to-energy solutions, so actually turning the waste into energy.

As you also know, the United States is playing a strong leadership role in addressing greenhouse gas emissions that not only lead to climate change, which is well known, but also lead to acidification of the ocean.  And this acidification has very significant consequences for marine ecosystems and shellfish industries.  The ocean has absorbed 30 percent of the carbon that has been put into the atmosphere, so it’s a great bellwether of what is going on.  President Obama and Secretary Kerry are fully committed to achieving an ambitious and durable international agreement at the COP 21 in Paris later this year, and our stated intention is to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels in 2025.  And this is relevant to this discussion today because it’s going to contribute substantially to the international efforts to reduce ocean acidification as well as climate change.

We’re looking forward to moving the ball forward on all of these things in Chile next week in Valparaiso.  There’s already an incredible lineup of participants as well as concrete commitments that the United States and other participants expect to unveil, and that will – the unveiling will wait until then.  And this is really due to the fantastic leadership of Foreign Minister Muñoz and his team, and so we are very gratified that we have had the opportunity to work with them on this oceans – Our Ocean II Conference.  And I’m going to hand this over to him to describe more their efforts, but again, I just want to commend the foreign minister for his courage and his vision.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ:  Thank you very much.  First of all, let me thank Under Secretary Cathy Novelli and Secretary of State John Kerry for their initiative to have organized the first Our Ocean Conference and now to have given us the baton to continue on to the second conference that will take place in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar on the 5th and 6th of October.

 

We are very pleased to be partners in this endeavor because protecting our oceans is betting on the future.  The ocean – and the conference is called Our Ocean, in singular – not in plural – because scientists have proven that through maritime currents, really there’s only one single ocean and that belongs to all of us and it is the responsibility of all to protect for the present and future generations.  So that’s why a country like Chile, that has a very long coast, our future depends on the sustainable use of the ocean, and that’s why we’ve taken up this challenge of organizing this second conference and to confront the dangers that ail the ocean. 

And these are basically three that I think Under Secretary Novelli has described very well:  First of all, illegal and unregulated and unreported fishing.  It is estimated that illegal fishing could amount to up to $20 billion in terms of business.  And this would be like the third most profitable illegal business in the world after drug trafficking and illegal trade of arms.  And this is because the consumption of fish and products of the sea by individuals has increased enormously.  FAO has estimated that during the 1960s, the per capita consumption at the world level was about 9.9 kilograms of fishing products.  That has increased to almost 20 kilos per capita during the present – during present days.  So that’s one danger that we have.  We have to control, we have to regulate illegal fishing. 

Second, acidification of the oceans which affect the corals and the change – the chain of biodiversity on which fish and mammals in the ocean feed.  And that acidification, it is estimated by some studies, has increased about 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution. 

And the third danger is the pollution of the ocean, particularly plastics.  And here there’s a huge responsibility about recycling and reducing the use of plastics because plastics in the ocean accumulate and constitute veritable islands and then disintegrate.  So that it is estimated that there is at least five concentrations of plastic, one in the so-called Indian Ocean, one in the north Atlantic, one in the south Atlantic, one in the north Pacific Ocean and in the south.  In the one in the south – it’s near Rapa Nui – Easter Island – which is part of Chilean territory.  And it is estimated that some of these concentrations of plastic reach a depth almost 80 meters and then disintegrate and affect, of course, fish and biodiversity. 

So we have to tackle this.  In order to do that, I think one of the elements that attracted Chile to support the initiative taken by Secretary Kerry and Cathy was that this is not a talk shop that we’re going to have in Chile.  Certainly, there will be speeches, but more important than that, we want commitments – voluntary commitment by governments and by institutions of civil society, because this is not only a government responsibility.  It is first and foremost, but it’s also civil society that can also contribute in a major way, so that we are asking those that are attending and speaking up to make voluntary commitments, to tell us what they are going to do to protect the ocean, whether it be a bill, whether it be a protected area – maritime protected area, or any other initiatives that will contribute to tackle the three problems that I’ve just listed.

And those of us who went to Washington last year when John Kerry organized the first conference will have to report on what we did and what we promised.  Chile promised three things:  First, that we would organize the second conference; we are doing that.  Second, that we would have a new policy on illegal fishing, and we’ve done that, and we’re going to report specifically on what.  And third, that we will join the United Nations fish stock agreement – the so-called New York agreement that would allow us to fiscalize better what goes on beyond the 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and we’re going to do that.

And now, the idea is that reporting what we’d promised, we do new commitments.  And I’m not going to speak about that, because I’ll leave it as a surprise for Valparaiso where we will be talking about new commitments that Chile will be making and all other countries attending will do the same as well as, as I said, civil society.  So we’re very excited about what’s coming soon in Valparaiso. 

We are very happy to be working also with important foundations and NGOs like National Geographic, like Oceana, like Pew, many others that will be attending there at the high level where we’ll have some high-level personalities, as well as government officials.  For certain Cathy and John will be there.  But anybody from Prince Albert of Monaco to many foreign ministers, the commissioner of fishing from the European Union, the director general of the FAO – well, it’s a long list of government officials and representatives of civil society.  So I – we hope that Valparaiso will be a major step forward. 

And as Cathy Novelli was just saying, we just approved the SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals, and goal number 14 is the protection of the oceans.  So this is a way to begin honoring a commitment that we just approved at the highest level.  This is the way we are honoring the commitments, we feel, so that we’re very excited about what will transpire in Valparaiso within a week or so.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Under Secretary Novelli, Minister Muñoz, for those opening remarks.  We’ll go to questions.

Right here.

QUESTION:  Hi.  My name is Kahraman Haliscelik from Turkish radio and television.  It’s great to see you again, Mr. Foreign Minister, here.  Now, the issue of marine pollution.  There are a lot of private companies, conglomerates that are actually also polluting the ocean – ships in the ocean.  How do you think preventing this could be enforced?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ:  Well, about – let’s see, about plastic, which is one of the major threats – clearly, recycling is one answer.  Less use of plastics, and the key is that all the plastic in the ocean comes from land, from us.  So that is the first realization that we have to have, and we have to stop throwing waste into the ocean.  In addition to that, we are seeing now that increasingly there are companies that are picking up that and recycling.  It’s very difficult to pick it up once concentrated because it begins to disintegrate into tiny little pieces.  And that’s one of the challenges that we have.  But, for example, I know of companies that will be present in this second conference that are picking up the plastic in islands, bringing it up to the continent, and recycling it.  And that – I think anything that goes in that direction, I think it would be very positive.

Evidently, in terms of longer term, education is fundamental.  This is in a sense a pedagogic endeavor as well, because to create consciousness that the oceans are fundamental for our future.  Why are we creating maritime protected areas?  Because they’re like saving accounts for the future.  And we have to have those saving accounts, obviously, free of plastic waste.  So that to the extent that we’re creating consciousness with this conference, this – that will also be a great of – deal of help, I think.

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI:  If I could just add one thing to the fantastic answer of the foreign minister, I think there’s also some long-term things that we can think about.  In the short term we have to concentrate on keeping the waste from going into the ocean.  And in the longer term, we need to really think about how do we redesign packaging, how do we both use less and also how do we use different materials so that we really can be in what’s been referred to as the circular economy so that everything that’s used gets re-used, but that depends on what’s used in the first place.  And there’s some really good work that’s being done, pioneering work that’s being done both on how to redesign packaging, but also on using biopolymers and other things.  And so those folks are going to be present at the conference, too.  And this is going to be a whole-of-Earth effort to be able to tackle this.

QUESTION:  Actually, two questions.  Alexey Osipov from Novosty.  With all respect to the United States and Chile with – as a strong country with the longest coastal lane, it looks too weak.  Where is China, Russia, Australia?  Who invited to the conference to the Valparaiso?  Who supported the program that you presented today?

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI:  Well, let me just talk about the conference, the first conference, and I’ll let the minister talk about this one.  But we invited – there were countries from everywhere at the first Our Ocean Conference.  It wasn’t just the United States and Chile; there were foreign ministers from all over the world.  And all of those folks made significant commitments as to what their countries were going to do.  So I think the reason why the minister and I are up here is because we hosted the first one and Chile’s hosting the second one, but it’s not that we’re just the only two people standing up here.  But I’ll let the minister talk about who’s coming to the second one.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ:  Well, we’ve invited a representation of countries from all over the world.  In fact, you asked about Russia, and we’ve invited Foreign Minister Lavrov.  In fact, I’m still waiting for an answer.  I hope that he can be there, and I will be seeing him in the next couple of days, and I hope to get a positive answer.  We invited China as well at the highest level, and we know that there’s a high official attending from China.

So there’s been a very wide representation of countries that will be there, large countries and small countries, because here, you have to have due respect for small countries that – their own survival is sort of at stake.  So we’ve invited Caribbean countries because we wanted this time, since it is in Chile, to have a little bit of a more regional dimension, so that – for instance, the foreign minister of Jamaica is attending; very possibly, the first lady of Belize, who is very involved in these issues.  We’ve invited the foreign minister of Trinidad and Tobago.  We hope that he’ll be coming.  We’ve invited the foreign minister of Guyana. 

So we still, in the – as it always occurs with these conferences, we sometimes have confirmations in the last minute.  But it’s a very wide range of countries, no discrimination of any region, but – large countries and small, and many have a large stake because their future is very much at stake if we don’t act.

QUESTION:  And one more question:  Today, largest oil and gas producer is looking there, oil and gas far from even the coastal line.  And you mentioned already the marine pollution and plastic – yeah, it’s huge issues, big issues.  And what about oil and gas?

FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ:  Well, look.  The ocean – Our Ocean Conference, that’s not aimed at impeding the exploration, exploitation of oil and gas.  That’s a reality.  We also need gas even though I would prefer that we increasingly use renewables as a source of energy.  But that’s part of life.

But what are we doing?  There is three elements in this conference that I think are relatively new as regards to the first one.  One is marine-protected areas that we are underlining even more than the first conference.  And marine-protected areas is – as I said before, it’s like a savings account, and it will mean that in the future then, we will protect it from these type of activities and from illegal fishing and et cetera, and from any fishing that is not – from any fishing.  So that, I think, is something that I should underline.

Second element that I think is very important:  We are going to underline oceanic island communities this time so that we will have the mayor of Easter Island, as it is known here – but in Chile we know it as Rapa Nui – we will have the mayor of Juan Fernandez, which is a major island.  You know the story of Robinson Crusoe happened in those islands.  Because communities – oceanic island communities have very much at stake and they have very much of a high interest in protecting the oceans – the waters that surround them.  So that, I think, will be an element.

And third, philanthropic initiatives.  Increasingly, there is civil society and philanthropists that are very interested in contributing.  And there will be a strong presence of philanthropists as well.

All of this makes us confident that we can make a difference with these conferences, particularly because, as I said, the idea is voluntary commitments.  Nobody’s forcing anybody to sign anything if they don’t want to.  If they come, we expect them to make announcement to make promises and to comply by them.

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI:  Can I just add to that?  I think that the concept of the blue economy is really starting to be discussed more and more.  And the meaning of that term comes from the idea that you can have blue, meaning sort of sustainable, but also economic activity at the same time, and that you don’t have to say that economic activity is somehow the enemy of conservation.  And in fact, the goal is to find a way to have both.  It’s not an either/or, it’s an “and.”  And that is also something that I think is going to be more and more discussed as we go forward, because there is an incredible source of natural resources and fish themselves which are feeding huge swaths of the world.  So we do have to think about how do we conserve that, but we conserve it so that we can continue to use it.

QUESTION:  Hello, my name is Seana Magee from Kyodo News.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t know if Japan participated in your first meeting.  And I’m wondering, will they be participating, at what level, and what contributions do you feel Japan can make as a seafood nation of importance?

And also, could you tell us a little bit about how you plan to tackle the illegal fishing – I’m sorry.  Illegal fishing – do you have any proposals that are on the table or that you hope to present at this next meeting?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUÑOZ:  I don’t recall if Japan was represented in the first conference, and I don’t know whether they will be represented at the second one.  I hope they will be.  I don’t recall whether there’s a high official, though.  They would be welcome for certain.

As regards how to combat illegal fishing, there are various tools.  One of them is the New York Fish Stock Agreement, for example, because joining that instrument allows us to exercise control beyond the 200-mile zone over illegal fishing, particularly because a lot of these illegal ships position themselves right by the 200-mile limit and they go in and out.  And since this New York agreement is aimed at highly migratory species, the idea is that we can exercise control that we didn’t have if we didn’t join the New York agreement.  So this is one of the instruments.

Evidently, there is more technological instruments, so that we need satellite observation, for example.  We need satellite instruments to know exactly where they are, these boats fishing illegally.  And we’ve discovered them even within our exclusive economic zone.  Happily, in Chile we have a very active navy, and that navy’s always trying to spot the illegal ships fishing illegally.  And that – we’ve had many instances where we have captured those boats, taken them to port, and fined them heavily for fishing in our zone. 

So that’s happening just about every day.  Our navy picks up – when it’s bigger ships, we’ve had observation.  I myself was at the Desventuradas Island.  These islands are in the north of Chile, and we went with the navy in an observation plane.  We went to the island – which is a beautiful island, by the way; Oceana has done a film about the richness that we have below there – and as we were coming back, there was a major ship that is known for fishing illegally.  And we went over to spot it, and they were fishing just beyond the 200-mile limit.  They were just there.  And we went down in the plane about 20 meters above it so that – to make them nervous at least.  I’m not going to give the name of the ship.

So that’s a way to exercise control over illegal fishing, but one needs resources.  That’s the key.  And when you have such a long coast and you are a developing country, then satellite observation, data gathering is absolutely fundamental.

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI:  And I would add to that – and I completely agree with all of those things – there’s another agreement called the Port State Measures Agreement.  That’s a treaty Chile’s already ratified and that we’re – the United States is working on ratified – we’ve acceded to, and so have a number of other countries.  And what’s wonderful about this is that it basically says that if you sign it, you’re not going to allow these boats who have been illegally fishing and identified as such to actually enter your port.  And so they don’t have anywhere to then go and sell their fish, which is, I think, a fantastic way to dis-incentivize this fishing.

The other thing that, as I said, we’re going to do in the United States is to institute what we hope is going to be a state-of-the-art traceability program, so that we’re going to basically say that unless you can show where this fish has come from, it’s not going to enter the commerce of the United States.  And what we’re hoping is that we can work with other countries to also help them institute these kind of things, and we’re already speaking – the European Union has a system that’s slightly different than ours but also very strict, and we’re both speaking with Japan.  We are the three largest seafood markets among us, and so we’re hoping that that can have an impact.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  Unfortunately, we’re out of time for the press conference.  Thank you all for attending.  The transcript will be posted soon to fpc.state.gov.

# # #

TRANSCRIPT: Press Call on Upcoming UNGA Events

 

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                       September 24, 2015

 

 

PRESS CALL

BY BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR

FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS;

STEVE POMPER, NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR MULTILATERAL AFFAIRS;

AND CELESTE WALLANDER, NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR RUSSIA

ON THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

Via Telephone

 

5:06 P.M. EDT

 

     MR. PRICE:  Good afternoon, everybody.  And thanks for joining the call.  We wanted to convene this call to preview next week’s activities at the U.N. General Assembly up in New York City. 

 

     First ground rule, this call is on the record.  It is embargoed until the conclusion of the call, so we would ask you not tweet or otherwise use this material until the call concludes.

 

     We have three senior administration officials on today’s call.  First we have Ben Rhodes; he’s the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications.  We have Steve Pomper; he is the National Security Council Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs.  And we have Celeste Wallander; she’s the National Security Council Senior Director for Russia. 

 

     So, again, this call is on the record and embargoed until its conclusion.  And I will turn it over to Ben to start.

 

     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, everybody, for getting on the call.  I’ll just say a few opening comments and go through some of the main elements of the President’s schedule at the U.N., and then Steve can talk through a number of the summits that we’re hosting or participating in.  And Celeste can talk through the bilat with President Putin of Russia.

 

     First of all, every year at the U.N it’s an opportunity for us to try to address global crises, but also to make progress on an affirmative agenda.  And this year is, of course, no different.  There have been some very noteworthy, positive developments since last year’s session.  For instance, last year the President had to convene an emergency session to deal with the spread of Ebola.  The collective action that came out of that effort successfully stopped the spread of Ebola, and now we are working hard to try to stamp it out while also building a broader architecture of global health security.

 

     Last year we were in the midst of the Iranian nuclear negotiations.  This year we clearly will have an opportunity to mark on the global stage the progress that has come with the nuclear deal, which is set to be implemented and will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

 

     The President goes to the U.N. focused on a number of affirmative priorities that are represented in this schedule.  Our commitment to development and the goal of eradicating extreme poverty is going to be on display as we attend the Sustainable Development Goals Summit meeting.  The President’s commitment to build capacity around international peacekeeping, which has been a priority of ours at the United Nations, will be on display at the summit he’s convening. 

 

Importantly, climate change will be a focus at the United Nations this year.  This has been a core priority of the President’s, at home and abroad.  It’s been a priority of the Secretary General.  And this session at the U.N. is an important opportunity for nations to come together once more before the Paris discussions at the conclusion of the year where we’re aiming to reach a global agreement to combat climate change.

 

     Of course, we will have to be addressing some very significant global challenges.  Certainly, the counter-ISIL efforts, which was a focus last year, will continue to be a focus this year given the summit the President is convening.  And it relates to both the situation in Iraq and Syria, and our efforts to combat ISIL, and also the humanitarian challenges that are emanating from the region will certainly be a topic this year.

 

     And the situation in Ukraine continues to be of significant concern, and our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine will be front and center throughout our discussions, particularly with President Putin.

 

     So with that as a backdrop, let me just go through the schedule, and turn it over to my colleagues to go into more detail.

 

     The President will arrive on Sunday afternoon, and the first thing he will be doing is giving remarks at the Closing Session of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  This is the world’s commitment to embrace a set of sustainable development goals that hold out extraordinary promise for lifting people out of poverty and promoting the type of development that, again, will lead to not just better standards of living for individuals, but broader and shared economic growth and good governance.  And Steve can speak to that.  That’s the main element of his agenda on Sunday at the United Nations.

 

     On Monday morning the President will address the United Nations General Assembly.  Again, this will be an opportunity for him to review the progress that’s been made over the course of the last year while addressing a range of global challenges.  And he will be making the case about the type of leadership that is needed to build on the progress that’s been made, but also to confront the very real challenges we face.  And I’d be happy to take any additional questions around the speech.

 

     Following his address, he will be having a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi of India.  This will give the two leaders an opportunity to build on the discussions they had earlier this year during the President’s historic trip to India.  We are deeply committed to strengthening the U.S.-Indian relationship, building our economic and commercial ties, advancing our political and security cooperation in Asia and around the world.  Notably, India will be critical to a successful global effort to combat climate change, so the two leaders will certainly address their shared vision of how to approach the upcoming meetings in Paris.

 

     Following the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi, the President will attend, as he does every year, the lunch that is hosted by the Secretary General for the leaders.  And he’ll have an opportunity to have brief meetings, as he does every year, with the U.N. Secretary General and the President of the U.N. General Assembly.

 

     Then the President will convene a summit on peacekeeping, which again has been a priority for us at the United Nations.  Steve will speak to that in more detail.  Following the summit on peacekeeping, the President will have his bilateral meeting with President Putin of Russia.  And I’ll let Celeste describe the agenda for that.  And then that evening, the President will host his traditional reception for the leaders who are attending the U.N. General Assembly.

 

     On Tuesday, the main event on the President’s schedule is a summit that we are convening that is focused on countering ISIL and combating violent extremism.  This builds on the meeting the President chaired last year — the Security Council focused on this issue — and brings together our broad counter-ISIL coalition and other partners committed to combating terrorism and countering violent extremism.

 

     I’ll stop there.  I would just note we expect that there will be additional bilateral meetings that may be scheduled in the coming days, so we will keep you updated as that comes together.

 

     But I’ll turn it over to Steve now to go through the summit.

 

     MR. POMPER:  Hi.  So thanks for joining us on this call.  And some of what I say will be a little bit reiterative of what Ben has already mentioned, but I’ll try and give a little bit more detail, and then leave plenty of time for questions.

 

     So this is the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ founding, and it’s the kickoff, therefore, to the U.N. General Assembly’s 70th session.

 

And high-level week — which is what this is — it’s always a busy time for the diplomatic community, but particularly so in the 10-year anniversaries, which are really a particular focal point for the world leaders to come in and hone in on the challenges facing the international community and to plot a course for the future.  And really, that’s a consistent theme that unites the three major leader summits that President Obama will be participating in.

 

So Ben has already alluded to them, but I’ll just highlight a few details with respect to each of them.  So on Sunday, he’ll be speaking at the Secretary General’s Summit on Sustainable Development Goals, which are also known in shorthand as the SDGs.  The adoption of these goals marks the culmination of a multiyear process where the international community has come together and thought through I think the 17 goals that are going to organize its work on development for the next 15 years.

 

The last set of goals, the Millennium Development Goals, are timing out.  Those goals really did galvanize international action on a host of issues, including reducing the global share of people living on very, very small amounts of money every day, helping to achieve gender parity in primary school enrollment, reducing rates of child mortality, et cetera.  So these are really very important organizing principles for the international community’s work on development, and the President’s participation in this even demonstrates a commitment to the agenda and our sense that its implementation will both bolster, frankly, international peace and stability, and promote inclusive economic development and American values all around the world.  So we’ve very excited to be able to participate in that event.

 

On Monday, the President will be co-hosting a summit on U.N. peacekeeping with Secretary General Ban and eight other co-hosts.  Now, U.N. peacekeeping has been — never been, I should say, more stretched or more important than it is to international peace and security right now.  I believe there are probably 100,000 troops deployed around the world under U.N. blue helmets in something like 16 missions.  It’s a critical tool for the advancement of both U.S. security and humanitarian interests, and we have a very strong interest in seeing this system sort of strengthened as we sort of face the future.

 

Last year, Vice President Biden co-hosted the summit where participants were invited to make concrete pledges in support of a more modern, nimble and capable U.N. peacekeeping architecture.  And this year’s summit is the culmination of a years’ worth of efforts, in the meantime, to generate very concrete commitments towards those ends. 

 

We expect to hear very significant pledges, some from states that will be returning to U.N. peacekeeping in important ways after years of essentially non-participation.  And we also anticipate this will be a forum for states to support reform initiatives recommended by a high-level panel appointed by the Secretary General that will also help gird this instrument for the future.

 

The final big multilateral event in which the President will participate will be on Tuesday.  It’s an event focused on countering ISIL, and, more broadly, on countering violent extremism and on the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.  This summit will focus not only on counter-ISIL coalition efforts, but, more broadly, on what the international community is doing to counter violent extremism a year after the President chaired a Security Council summit that produced a resolution on countering foreign fighters.  And we’re going to be looking at how implementation of that resolution has been going and what more we can be doing as an international community to counter that threat.

 

So really, this is an event that’s about addressing a broad spectrum of issues relating to the terrorism threat at every stage in its life cycle.  And the summit will include leaders and other officials from governments and other multilateral organization, and also, importantly, partners in civil society who are critical to the countering violent extremism effort.

 

I think that’s all I’m going to say about the summits right now.  Maybe it’s time to turn it over to Celeste.

 

MS. WALLANDER:  Thanks, Steve.  Thanks, Ben and Ned.  So as we confirmed today, there is a bilat between President Obama and President Putin scheduled for Monday.  The two agenda items that we will focus on in that summit are the continuing situation in Ukraine, and, of course, the new issues raised by Russia’s involvement in Syria.

 

On Ukraine, this moment comes at a particularly opportune time.  The implementation of all of the elements of the Minsk Agreement, which were signed by President Putin and President Poroshenko, Chancellor Merkel, and President Hollande back in February, are coming to a critical turning point in October.  Ukraine has scheduled local elections for October 25th, and it remains insufficiently clear that Russia is committed to implementing its obligations under the Minsk Agreement, which is to support a local election that is consistent with Ukrainian law and that will be overseen by the international community — that is, specifically, the OSCE and its particular election-monitoring agency, ODIHR.

 

     So this is an opportunity for President Obama to make crystal-clear to President Putin that the United States supports full implementation of the Minsk Agreement; fully supports the diplomacy of Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande in advancing implementation; and make clear our expectations that Russia, and President Putin in particular, fully lives up to the commitments that Russia overtook in signing that implementation agreement back in February. 

 

Those elections are critical because they unlock the opportunity to implement all the other elements of that Minsk Implementation Agreement, including the special status for regions of eastern Ukraine, constitutional reforms that have made their way to the Ukrainian Rada, and then eventually to get, before the end of the year, to Russia’s commitment to fully withdraw its military forces and return control of the international border — the Ukrainian-Russian international border back to the Ukrainian government.

 

     So October is really important, and the opportunity to speak to President Putin directly is something that President Obama will embrace in this bilat.

 

     The second issue that the Presidents will discuss will be  — Russia has now announced clear military involvement in Syria, which goes beyond the assistance and the training that Russia has noted that it has been involved in for years in Syria, and has now involved the direct Russian military presence in Syria  — which we’ve talked about in other for a, but I can talk about in more specificity if needed.

 

     And in particular, President Obama will seek to understand what Russian government means when it states that it is enhancing or increasing its military involvement in Syria in order to support efforts to counter ISIL — because the United States certainly would welcome a constructive Russian contribution to counter ISIL — so the meeting is an opportunity to understand whether and how President Putin can see the Russian involvement and increased military presence might lead to that objective, and to make clear, of course, our longstanding policy and strongly held view that the only resolution to a conflict in Syria which allows us to tackle the problem of ISIL obviously involves a political transition of the Syrian regime — and that remains as key to the successful resolution of the challenge of ISIL in Syria as any other element that the Russians may bring to bear in terms of a new military presence.

 

     So let me leave it there.

 

     Q    Celeste, you mentioned a few of the other conversations that have happened between the U.S. and Russia.  And I’m wondering if there were any assurances or any more clarity that what Russia is doing there is not going to be enormously destabilizing or destructive to the situation as it stands.

 

     And secondly, a year after we heard the President’s resolution on foreign fighters, we’re hearing from military leaders that the flow continues as it has been.  As soon as you get rid of them, more pour in.  So is there going to be an effort to kind of realign or change the effort in that respect? 

 

     Thanks a lot.

 

     MR. RHODES:  So I’ll take the second question, Michelle, then I’ll turn it over to Celeste.

 

     First of all, I think we have seen progress over the course of the last year.  There have been significant efforts to work with dozens of countries to share more information about the flow of foreign fighters to align some of our laws and authorities that relate to stopping the flow of foreign fighters to address the challenge on the border between Turkey and Syria.  So nations have taken concrete steps to enhance their own capabilities in this space and we have been able to disrupt some of the foreign fighter flows. 

 

And, frankly, we’ve seen some progress in recent weeks as Syrian Kurds have been able to take territory along that Turkish border that was previously used by ISIL to move fighters into Syria.  That said, you are absolutely right that there continues to be a challenge of foreign fighters going to Syria and then potentially leaving the battlefield and returning to countries where they might conduct attacks. 

 

That’s part of the reason why the agenda for the summit is broader than just the foreign fighter issues.  So, for instance, we’re going to be focused on efforts to counter violent extremism.  This gets at what are respective countries doing to counter the ISIL ideology — which is the attraction, in part, that draws people to Syria — just as we’ll have an opportunity to update our efforts on the military side in degrading the ISIL safe haven in Syria. 

 

So the purpose of the summit is to look across all these different elements of the challenge — how are we using our military to go after ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq; how are we using our various authorities and capabilities, and sharing information to stop the flow of foreign fighters; and also how are we getting at the ideology that has been an attraction for some people to go to Syria.

 

Clearly there’s much more work to be done.  This is going to a long-term effort.  The counter-ISIL campaign is going to be measured in years.  But what we do have is a significant coalition of countries that are seized with this threat and that are enhancing their capabilities, and that are joining with us in this effort.  And I’d note, for instance, importantly, that Prime Minister of Abadi of Iraq will be attending that summit given the challenge he faces in his country.

 

But I’ll stop there and turn it over to Celeste.

 

MS. WALLANDER:  On assurances, we haven’t gotten any specific assurances in the conversations that have taken place so far with Russian officials.  The Russian public narrative has been very focused on the argument that the way to counter ISIL is to work with the Assad regime.  President Putin gave a speech just this week where he made that argument.  And this has certainly been one of the themes that Foreign Minister Lavrov has consistently advanced.

 

We think they got this backwards.  We think that one of the reasons why ISIL has taken hold and been able to attract support and gain recruits is because of the actions of the Assad regime.  So there’s clearly a difference of views in that regard.  And right now, that difference of views tends to take place — at least coming from the Russian side — in public rhetoric and speeches.  So this is an opportunity for the Presidents to talk directly about this very key issue face-to-face and one-on-one.

 

     Q    Hi, Ben.  Can you give us any indication whether President Obama might meet with President Rouhani, if there has been an overture to the Iranians, if the Iranians are giving you any indication whether they’re willing to meet, whether it’s in a bilat or in a broader setting at the reception?

 

     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Robin.  We currently don’t have any plans for a meeting with President Rouhani, and we’re really not expecting one. 

 

     Secretary Kerry I’m sure will have the opportunity to have discussions with Foreign Minister Zarif.  That has been our effective and direct channel of communication with the Iranians on a host of different issues.  And I’m sure there will be other activities among foreign ministers who are engaged in the P5+1 discussions.

 

     Our general approach to this in the past has been that the President is willing to engage President Rouhani if it can make constructive progress.  Back in 2013, they did not meet but they spoke on the phone.  And that was an important moment because that was the initiation of the public discussions devoted to the P5+1 process that ultimately resulted in the nuclear deal.  So they had a clear purpose for that engagement at that time to try to catalyze those negotiations.

 

     So again, we don’t expect a meeting at this session.  We do expect engagement with the Iranians, however, through Secretary Kerry, of course.  And I’d also note that some our key allies who share many of our interests and concerns as it relates to regional issues regularly engage President Rouhani.  And so we’ll have the opportunity to follow up with them as they have those discussions.

 

     Q    Hi, everyone.  Thanks for doing the call.  I was hoping that you could talk in a little bit more detail about the climate summit on Sunday.  Are you looking at specific deliverables, pressure on sort of non-players to step up their game ahead of Paris?  Do you think there will be any announcements or conclusions out of there?  And also can you talk a little bit about what the Vice President’s role this year will be at UNGA, whether he and the President will be doing something jointly and/or whether he’ll be doing some things on his own?  Thanks.

 

     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Margaret.  So in terms of the Secretary General’s event on Sunday, President Obama won’t be attending the climate discussions.  He’ll be attending the SDG summit.  However, we very much welcome the Secretary General’s focus on climate change.

 

     And what we want to get out of the discussions in New York is a sense of momentum for a successful outcome in Paris.  Many nations have made commitments in terms of their emissions reductions targets, in terms of their contributions to Green Climate Fund, in terms of various steps that can be taken to phase out the use of fossil fuels, but some countries have been more forthcoming than others.  So I think, first and foremost, we welcome the Secretary General’s effort to catalyze further action from all nations — major economies and developing countries — around this challenge.  And we see the U.N. this year as a key milestone on the pathway to Paris.

 

     Now, in terms of what President Obama will be focused on, first and foremost, of course, we’ve done significant amount of work on the domestic side with respect to the Climate Action Plan to ensure that we are going into Paris with very concrete steps that we’re prepared to take to support a successful outcome.  But we’ve also spent a lot of time — and I can tell you in his diplomatic engagements this year, climate has been front and center.  So in terms of how I think this plays out, you heard Pope Francis here at the White House the other day issue a very strong call on the United States and the nations of the world to confront climate change. 

 

You then will have President Xi Jinping of China here tonight and tomorrow.  Climate change will be high on the agenda in that bilateral meeting.  As the two biggest emitters of the world, the leadership shown by the U.S. and China heading into the U.N. session and the meetings in Paris will be critical to a successful outcome.  So after the breakthrough last year in terms of the United States and China both announcing targets in terms of emissions reductions, we’ll have an opportunity to put some additional meat on the bones in the discussions over the next two days about the commitments the United States and China will be taking into Paris.

 

     So I think what you can see very clearly is the moral authority of the Pope behind global efforts to combat climate change, the leadership of the Secretary General in making this at the top of the U.N.’s agenda at this moment in time, the leadership of the two largest emitters in the world coming together to support aggressive action to reduce emissions and have a successful agreement in Paris.  And then the President’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi will be very important because India, of course, is also another major economy — major emitter and we’ll want to continue the discussions that we had in India about what Prime Minister Modi is prepared to do to support successful international action against climate change. 

 

     So this will feature in the President’s diplomacy.  It will feature in his remarks certainly.  And I think taken together, all of those different elements provide very strong momentum towards Paris and, frankly, puts pressure on countries to step up and make some meaningful commitments.

 

     I don’t know, Steve, if you have anything to add on that.

 

     Next question.

 

     Q    Ben, can you just talk a little bit more about the priorities that the President will lay out going forward?  You already said that he is going to talk about some of the accomplishments, but what do you see as a couple key things that he is going to emphasize with this?  And also, how significant in the big picture of the attendance of Raul Castro is as well as his speech — can you put that into some perspective for us?  Thanks.

 

     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, I always appreciate Cuba questions, Chris.  I think it’s very significant.  This is Raul Castro’s first time at UNGA.  It comes on the heels of the United States and Cuba establishing diplomatic relations earlier this summer, and on the heels of Pope Francis traveling to both Cuba and the United States on this trip of his.  I think it’s a symbol that things have changed and that the United States’ approach to Cuba has changed. 

 

And one thing that you can be sure of is that the nations of the world overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, support the President’s policy.  One of the many things that was wrong with our Cuba policy is that it was succeeding only in isolating ourselves.  It was a major irritant in the hemisphere, but even around the world, frankly, we did not have any support for a policy of embargo and isolation that was only failing to improve the life of the Cuban people.

 

     So I think, symbolically, it’s important that President Castro is coming to the U.N. General Assembly.  I think it’s a symbol that we’re in a new era.  I think that the world will welcome the steps that President Obama has taken, and we see this as a way to unlock positive cooperation particularly in our hemisphere, but also around the world.

 

     Now, we’ll have differences, and particularly with respect to human rights, we have been very clear with Cuba that we’ll continue to raise those differences.  But we also believe that the best way to advance our interests and our values in Cuba is to open it.

 

     I’d expect that the President will have some opportunity to see President Castro at some point during the days that we’re there.  So we’ll certainly keep you updated on any interaction that they may have.

 

     On the question about the President’s speech, first and foremost, I think the President made clear time and again at the U.N. the necessity of an effective international system that can solve problems and advance collective action and burden-sharing.  So when you look at our affirmative agenda in the world, so much of it depends upon building coalitions and advancing collective action. 

 

     So, with respect to climate change, we need all of the nations of the world to step up and be a part of the solution.  With respect to peacekeeping that can help resolve conflicts and advance stability, the concrete contributions that we are seeking with other countries to U.N. peacekeeping missions will help make us more secure and help make the world more secure.

 

     With respect to development, we have the opportunity to promote global health security in ways that can prevent pandemic that could threaten us and save countless lives around the world just as we have the opportunity to lift many people out of poverty in the coming years.

 

So there’s a set of affirmative items I think the President will be speaking to.  He’ll also be underscoring the importance, however, of there being a rules-based approach to solving problems.  Now, some of that is on the firmer side, as well; the Transpacific Trade Partnership that we’re pursuing aims to establish rules of the road that apply to trade that opens markets, but also protects workers and the environment.

 

But when we look at conflict, the President will certainly be focused on the situation in Syria and Iraq, and he’ll be focused on the situation in Ukraine.  And there, too, I think our focus is going to be on the fact that there has to be a cost for a nation like Russia that is violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and that cost has been imposed through sanctions, even as we’re focused on and have a preference for diplomacy in resolving that crisis.

 

At the same time, in Syria, even as we have an aggressive military effort underway against ISIL, the only lasting resolution to that challenge is for there to be a political settlement, as well. 

 

So I were to say there’s a common thread between (inaudible) and diplomacy.  Diplomacy has borne significant fruit this year with the Iran deal, with the Cuba opening, with the advances on the TPP negotiations.  Diplomacy is necessary to bring about a conclusion, or at least a political resolution, as it relates to the situation in Syria.  Diplomacy is necessary to resolving the tensions in Ukraine.  But diplomacy has to be backed by teeth, and, in some cases, that’s force, as we’re using against ISIL.  In some cases that’s sanctions, as we’re using against Russia. 

 

But in all cases, I think the case the President will be making to the world is we need to remain invested in an international order that can solve problems and hold people accountable when they break the rules.

 

Q    Hi.  Thanks a ton for doing the call.  My question is for Celeste.  The administration has repeatedly said that Russia’s intentions in Syria remain unclear.  I was wondering if there’s been any update, if you could provide more clarity as to what Russia is perhaps up to in Syria, and if not, why is it still unclear?  Thanks a ton.

 

MS. WALLANDER:  Thanks.  As I tried to indicate earlier, we have a lot of public statements from Russian officials, senior Russian officials — including President Putin himself — about what he argues is necessary to successfully counter ISIL.  Since that argument doesn’t fit with our understanding of what’s necessary to counter ISIL, it doesn’t really hold water as far as we’re concerned, we’re going to use the opportunity to talk to President Putin and understand what he means by that, and make clear what we think is necessary to successfully counter ISIL, and test whether Russia’s efforts to basically deal itself in to a counter-ISIL effort will yield a constructive approach.

 

     So there’s a lot of talk, and now it’s time for clarity and for Russia to come clear — come clean and come clear on just exactly how it proposes to be a constructive contributor to what is already an ongoing multi-nation coalition. 

 

     So, no, I’m not going to — that’s a question for President Putin, and it’s a question we’ll be posing to President Putin.

 

     MR. RHODES:  Let me add just very quickly in addition to the current military deployments that we see, President Putin had reached out and initiated a phone call with President Obama earlier this year to discuss his concerns about the situation in Syria and to discuss the potential for a political resolution.

 

     Now, we continue to have very serious differences with the Russian government about the nature of the Syrian government that would emerge from that political resolution.  We believe Bashar al-Assad will have to leave power as a part of any durable solution given that he has lost the legitimacy with his own people.  Russia is continuing to support Assad.

 

     But again, even as we have this discussion about the very specific issue related to military deployments, I think we will want to be discussing, what are the prospects for advancing a political resolution?  And clearly any successful political resolution would have to benefit from the support of Russia and the United States and the countries in the region, and of course, importantly, the Syrian people.  So the political element will be discussed as well as the military.

 

     Q    Thank you.  It seems like it’s been a real long time before the President and Putin have met face to face.  Can you explain policy-wise what seems to be a shift away from a position of isolation, particularly a shift that’s happening when Russia is only escalating its intervention in Syria?  And is the President going to walk into that meeting with any new clarity or any new elements to the U.S. position in Syria?

 

     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Margaret.  Well, you’re absolutely right.  It has been some time since they had a bilateral encounter.  We canceled the summit that had been planned in Russia for a variety of reasons.  And we have not had bilateral discussions.

 

     They have seen each other at global summits like the G20, and had conversations on the sidelines of those summits, but frankly, given the situation in Ukraine, we wanted to make very clear that Russia was going to pay a cost for its actions in terms of not being isolated from groups like the G8, which is now the G7, and in terms of the sanctions we’ve imposed.

 

     All that said, at every juncture we said that we remain open to engagement if it can make progress.  They’ve spoken on the phone a number of times.  I think — to your question very specifically — given both the situation in Ukraine and the critical juncture that we’re at there, and the situation in Syria, it would be irresponsible to not have a face-to-face encounter and to not directly address with President Putin our positions and concerns on these two issues.

 

     I should also add that President Obama was urged to have this meeting with President Putin by some of our closest European allies who thought it would be constructive in the context of Minsk for him to hear directly from us as well as them about the importance of following through on the Minsk agreement.  So this is something that we’re doing with respect to Ukraine very much in coordination with our European allies who have taken the lead on many elements of the diplomacy with Russia, even as we’ve of course led with them in imposing consequences on Russia for its actions.

 

     I think with respect to Syria we’ll be making — the President will have the opportunity to make clear to President Putin that we share the determination to counter ISIL, that we welcome constructive contributions to counter ISIL.  But at the same time, we believe that one of the principal motivating factors for people who are fighting with ISIL is the Assad regime.  And its zero justification, obviously, for the horrific extremism we’ve seen in Syria, it’s simply a pragmatic fact that if there is a political transition in which Assad leaves then, frankly, we have the opportunity to better focus on going after ISIL because there will be a better political context in the country to do so.

 

     So I think that both — as I said, both the military and the political components will be discussed, and the key question, right, is how do those two converge.  And how do you have both a successful counterterrorism effort against ISIL alongside a political resolution that can ultimately restore some semblance of stability to Syria.

 

Q    Thank you.  Ben, quick question regarding the conversation that Secretary Kerry will have with Foreign Minister Zarif.  As you said, if there is nothing to be happening between two leaders, what do you expect to get out of that now that the deal is in the implementation phase other than the nuclear deal?  Are you hoping — are you seeing signals that the Iranians are more willing to talk about Syria?  Or is that — we know there’s going to be that bilateral on Saturday, then the P5+1 will have another one on Monday evening.  What do you expect to get out of that?

 

MR. RHODES:  Well, I don’t want to speak too much for Secretary Kerry.  I’ll just say a couple of things.  Number one, I think it is important to discuss implementation of the Iran deal.  We are nearing adoption day, at which point Iran will have to take — or begin to take its significant nuclear steps.  And in terms of how that implementation goes forward, it’s always important to have direct communication among the P5+1 and with the Iranians, because there are significant moving parts associated with Iran’s nuclear steps, the institution of the verification regime, and then, after Iran completes its key steps, the provision of our sanctions relief.

 

I think, secondly, we always raise with the Iranians the detained Americans.  And so I’m certain that there will be a clear message about our continued and grave concerns about the ongoing detention of Americans in Iran. 

 

With respect to regional issues, as we’ve made clear throughout the debate over the Iran deal here, we continue to have significant differences and concerns about Iranian destabilizing activities in the region — whether it’s in Syria or Iraq or Yemen, or threats to Israel.  In the past, issues like Yemen and Syria have come up in these discussions.  At times, Foreign Minister Zarif in his public comments has suggested a desire to play a constructive role with respect to regional challenges, but we have not seen actions from Iran that follow through on that.  So, for instance, with respect to Syria, again, their ongoing support for the Assad regime is what — is part of what is fueling this conflict. 

 

So I would imagine that regional issues may come up, but again, our position has been to underscore our concern with destabilizing Iranian activities.  And again, we’d have to see in actions, not just words, that Iran, after this nuclear deal, is prepared to move in a more constructive and less-destabilizing direction on these issues.

 

Q    Yes, hi.  Thanks for doing the call.  You’ve insisted on the fact that Mr. Putin is the one who asked for the meeting at the U.N., but what kind of interaction are you — can you expect?  Do you believe — does the President believe that Vladimir Putin can be trusted or that he can be a partner in Syria? 

 

MR. RHODES:  The Russians requested the meeting.  President Obama, like I said, believes that it would be wrong to not engage at this critical time given the pressing issues.

 

     I think our approach with respect to trust is one of watching deeds, as well as listening to words.  With respect to Ukraine, what Russia says publicly has often not matched what the world has seen happening — whether it’s the provision of arms to separatists or other activities.  So look, we would be measuring the outcome of this meeting not just by the nature of their discussion by what follows. 

 

     The one thing I would say is even as we’ve had these differences — and very significant ones — on Ukraine and Syria, Russia was a very constructive partner in the P5+1 process.  They very much were united with the P5+1 and insisting on a good deal.  So it does demonstrate that we can have sustained cooperation on critical global issues even as we have very significant differences.  And we would not want to deny ourselves the ability to have that cooperation because of our differences on important issues.

 

     So again, that’s a demonstration of the fact that we will follow these things in deeds, not words.  And Ukraine, the deeds have rarely matched the words.  But in the Iranian nuclear issue, Russia did follow through on its commitments and played a constructive role.

 

     Q    Yes, thank you.  Thanks for having the call.  I’m just wondering about the meeting with Raul Castro.  Are you trying to set up a bilat?  Are you thinking they might run into each other in the hall?  How hard are you guys pushing that?

 

     MR. RHODES:  I don’t know that they’ll have time for an extended bilat.  I would just expect that they’ll be able to see each other at some point over the course of the several days.  They’ll be both at the U.N. I expect on Monday and perhaps Tuesday morning. 

 

     So I think that they’d just look for an opportunity to exchange some words.  But we’ll keep you posted if anything is scheduled.  What I would say is that they spoke on the phone in advance of the Pope’s visit to Cuba and the United States.   They were able to note the — and speak the first time since the establishment of diplomatic relations.  Note that there are areas where we are working to cooperate constructively — whether it’s on counter narcotics, counterterrorism, the provision of health assistance in Haiti, which we just did jointly with Cuban medical professionals — while also continuing to have very real differences from our standpoint with respect to the human rights of the Cuban people.  From their side, certainly issues like Guantanamo come up.  So I think they’ll have some opportunity to speak with one another and continue this process of normalization.

 

     And I think the message to the world — and it will be very powerful that the United States has turned the page on a failed policy, that we’re willing to pursue our interests and values through engagement.  And I believe that will be very welcome here in the hemisphere and around the world.

 

     And one opportunity for me to note that one area where there’s been U.S. and Cuban involvement is in the Colombian peace process, where Cuba has hosted discussions between the Colombian government — a close stalwart, ally, and security partner of the United States — and the FARC.  And we’ve had an envoy who has been able to participate in those talks and we just had a significant breakthrough.  That’s separate and apart from our bilateral normalization process, but I think it shows that we’re committed to broader efforts in the hemisphere to solve problems.

 

     All right, thanks, everybody, for getting on the call.  And we’ll keep you updated as any other bilateral meetings are scheduled.  I wouldn’t anticipate there being many, but there may be one or two so we’ll keep you posted in the coming days.

 

                        END                 5:57 P.M. EDT

 

 

 

 

 

—–

Secretary of State John Kerry Press Availability with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 REMARKS

March 5, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry

Press Availability with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal

March 5, 2014

Riyadh Air Base

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-FAISAL:  (Via interpreter) In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful.  At the beginning, it pleases me to extend thanks and appreciation to the custodian of the two holy mosques, King Salman Bin Abd al-Aziz for the care and attention the – accorded to me during my recent treatment period recently.  I also express sincere love and cordiality to the current Saudi people for their noble feelings.  Moreover, I would like to seize this opportunity to express the national happiness for the return of the Saudi diplomat, Abdullah al-Khalidi, to homeland with the protection and care of Allah.  In this connection, I extend many thanks and appreciation and great (inaudible) to all the government, but as – and security agencies that participated in his safe return with direction from the generous leadership, particularly His Royal Highness, the deputy crown prince, second deputy premier, and minister of interior, Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef Bin Abd al-Aziz, who accorded this issue extreme care since the first day of the diplomat’s abduction.

I welcome now Secretary John Kerry and his accompanying delegation to Saudi Arabia.  His extensive schedule was full of meetings that started this morning by meeting the GCC foreign ministers, then he was received by King – by the king, and then we held bilateral talks.  Overall, the talks were fruitful, constructive, in-depth, and transparent, as always the case of our meetings.  We examined a wide range of bilateral relations, issues, between our two countries, in addition to discussing the regional and international issues of mutual interest.  The meeting explored the developments in Yemen, Syria, Libya, and the efforts of the international coalition for countering terrorism, in addition to the developments of talks on Iranian nuclear program, the Middle East peace process, and other issues.

With regard to Yemen, as you all see there is full international accord on rejecting the Houthi coup d’etat on the legitimacy and their endeavors to impose the status quo with force and refusal of the procedures resulting from this coup d’etat, including the so-called constitutional declaration by the Houthi militia.  The international community expressed its full support to the legitimate government in Yemen led by President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi.  This is clearly reflected in the statements issued by GCC, the Arab League, and the UN Security Council.

Noting these positions and efforts and resulting resolutions and measures, Saudi Arabia renews its emphasis upon the importance of resuming the political process based on the GCC initiative and its executive mechanisms and the outcomes of the Yemeni national dialogue.  Saudi Arabia stresses the importance of helping the (inaudible) Yemeni people out of their ordeal that led to these hazardous actions in a way that maintains Yemen’s stability, territorial integrity, stability in the region.  We discussed the efforts of the international coalition to fight terrorism, and the ISIL in particular, including the ongoing military efforts to fight the organization, the ongoing military security, intellectual, financial and media actions.  Saudi Arabia underscores the importance of this coalition in fighting ISIL both in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia opines the importance of providing the military the necessary means – necessary military means to fight this challenge on the ground, and that campaign should have comprehensive strategic perspective fighting terrorism, wherever it may be, and whatever the organizations that stands behind it in order to uproot terrorism.  Our talks included as well the negotiations of the Iranian nuclear program.  Saudi Arabian Government supports the efforts of 5+1 in view of its keenness to solve this file peacefully, to reach successful agreement that dissipates the doubts and ensures not shifting to a military program that threatens the region and the world.  Saudi Arabia also supports the 5+1 position in seeking a firm international and inspection system to ensure that Iran is not seeking manufactured opposition of nuclear weapons, together with maintaining Iran’s right and all regions – countries of the region rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy according to IAEA standards, requirements, and inspection.

As for the Syrian crisis and its common efforts here, we all feel – I think that we all felt that the continuity of this crisis not only led to the destruction of Syria, displacement of its people, and deepening their humanitarian suffering, it also made Syria a safe haven for terrorist organizations with endorsement of the legitimate – of the illegitimate Bashar al-Assad’s regime.  This entails a threat to Syria, the region, and the world – the whole world.  This urges us to intensify efforts to promote and support the moderate opposition with all ordnance and training to counter al-Assad’s terrorism and the terrorist organizations as well.  And to expel the foreign occupier from the Syrian territories, we – at the same time, we stress that reaching the business solution, based on Geneva I conference, requires a military balance on the ground.

We have also discussed the peace process in the Middle East within the framework of the efforts exerted by the United States recently to revive the peace negotiations to reach a just, permanent, and comprehensive solution.  These efforts are supported by the Arabs, Palestinians, and with patronage of the Arab League.  Our view of the desired solution will always be based on the principles of the international legitimacy, its resolutions, and the Arab Peace Initiative aiming at creation of a viable, independent Palestinian state.

Unfortunately, these efforts are still not yielding its fruits.  This is due to the Israeli stubbornness and procrastination and its unilateral forcible measures against the rights of the Palestinian people.  A case in point:  The recent Israeli detention of a 14-year-old girl, Malak al-Khatib – not exceeding 14 years old – and indicted by an Israeli military court and imprisonment for two months and a fine with the pretext of hurling stones.  This verdict calls for severe rejection and grief.  Particularly, it’s being passed under the sight and hearing of all the world and its justice organizations in a flagrant defiance to all human rights and agreements and women and children rights agreements.

On our part, we stress the importance of international community shouldering of its responsibility towards the inhumane practices of Israel against the Palestinian people, also to obligate Israel to respect the peace process and its principles and not to infringe the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

I reiterate this is long, I renew my welcome of Secretary Kerry, and I leave the floor to him.

SECRETARY KERRY:  Let me begin by saying how very pleased I am to be back here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia here in Riyadh, and I am particularly pleased to be able to be here with His Royal Highness, Prince Saud al-Faisal, as he comes back from a brief period of dealing with medical issues and now returning to his full responsibility.  And all of us, all of the ministers here today, we’re really pleased to be able to welcome Prince Saud back.  We value his wisdom.  He’s the longest-serving foreign minister of any country, and he has become a very good friend as well as a good counselor with respect to issues in this region.  So I’m particularly personally appreciative that we are here today.

I want to begin by underscoring an important point that is on a issue different from those we discussed here today.  The safety and security of our diplomats abroad is a top priority for me and for President Obama.  And even as we join in congratulating Saudi Arabia on the skillful return of their diplomat from detention – and I congratulate Deputy Crown Prince Minister Mohammed bin Nayef on his role together with the foreign ministry – but we in the United States were deeply concerned to learn about a very vicious attack on our ambassador in South Korea in the Republic of Korea – Mark Lippert.  And this attack took place earlier this morning, and I want to be very, very clear to anybody who contemplates or thinks about this kind of tactic – the United States of America will never be intimidated or deterred by threat or by anybody who harms any American diplomat.  We will remain as resolved as ever to pursue what we believe is in the interests of our country and with respect to universal rights and values.  And whoever threatens or harms our diplomats, I can assure them, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I had the opportunity to talk to Mark earlier this morning.  He was in the hospital.  I’m enormously relieved to be able to report that thanks to the care and the support that he is receiving in South Korea, he’s doing okay.  I’ve known Mark for years, as has President Obama.  One thing both of us could tell anybody is this man is as tough as they come.  And as I told him over the phone this morning, the State Department is a family, and so we are all sending the thoughts of a family his way, we’re sending our prayers his way to his wife, Robyn, and to their baby boy, and we are wishing him a fast and complete recovery.

This morning, as Prince Saud said, we have discussed a great many issues.  We’ve had a very full day.  And that’s partly because we have a very full agenda, not all of it by our choice, but all of it we are determined to deal with.  We joined with our counterparts from the rest of the GCC, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait, in order to meet for the second time in the past month, which tells you something about the order of priority and the importance of the challenges we face.  President Obama and I know that partnerships with the Gulf nations are absolutely essential in meeting any number of urgent challenges.  It’s critical that we therefore keep in very close touch, particularly at such a complicated time when there are so many moving pieces in so many different places.

For that same reason, I also met today with His Majesty King Salman, with whom the United States looks forward to pursuing the very same kind of close and very personal relationship that we enjoyed with his predecessor, King Abdullah.  And I also had a very productive lunch just now, a working lunch with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as well as with His Royal Highness, the Foreign Minister Prince Faisal.

As all of you know, I came here to Riyadh directly from Montreux, Switzerland where I spent the past few days engaged in with – negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue that Prince Saud just discussed.  Obviously, the outcome of these negotiations will be of major consequence to the United States, yes, but really to the entire world – and particularly to this region, and we understand that.  With that fact comes a responsibility to all of us in the P5+1 to get it right.  Preventing a nuclear-armed Iran will, as Prince Saud just said, address many of the concerns of the region.  It will alleviate tension and remove barriers to regional security.  It will reduce the pressure for a regional nuclear arms race, and it will increase the strength of the international nonproliferation regime.  It will also vastly improve the prospects for peace both here and elsewhere.

So a large part of why I wanted to come to Riyadh today is to update our Gulf partners on exactly where the negotiations stand, on what our standards are, on what we are looking to achieve, and what we have done since the talks first started.  And let me underscore:  We are not seeking a grand bargain; nothing will be different the day after this agreement if we were to reach one with respect to all the other issues that challenge us in this region, except that we will have taken steps to guarantee that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.  And that is a critical component of security for the region and for the world.

We are seeking to show that Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful and that we can block all of the pathways necessary to acquire the fissile material for a nuclear weapon and then to be able to move towards the production of that weapon.  To date, we have made progress, but there do remain serious gaps, and those need to be resolved.  We still don’t know whether we’ll get there.  I said that in Switzerland; I say it again today.  It may be that Iran cannot say yes to the type of deal that provides assurances that the international community requires.  But we plan to return to the talks on the 15th of March, and we expect soon thereafter to know whether Iran will, in fact, be able to make the tough decisions that are required to get where we need to be.

Now, I also want to make clear, as I did in every one of my meetings today:  Even as we engage with these discussions with Iran around its nuclear program, we will not take our eye off of Iran’s other destabilizing actions in places like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula – Yemen particularly.  And whether or not we are able to reach a deal on the nuclear program, the United States will remain fully committed to addressing the full slate of issues that we have with Iran, including its support for terrorism.

Beyond Iran, we also discussed the situation in Yemen, where we recognize that it’s more important than ever for the United States and the GCC states to coordinate closely and where we need to continue to press all of the political parties, especially the Houthis, to commit to a consensus political solution that is based on the GCC initiative and the national dialogue outcomes.

We also, as Prince Saud said, discussed the situation in Syria.  I think the whole world needs to see the war in Syria come to an end.  Three quarters of the country are now displaced people, and the country is being torn apart by a leader who places his personal preservation ahead of the preservation of the state or the preservation of all of the people of his state.  As President Obama and I have repeatedly made clear that we don’t see how a man who has gassed his people; dropped barrel bombs on children and on women, on schools; a man who has tortured more than 10,000 people, according to the evidence of photographs – how that person can become a leader in the future is beyond our consideration or capacity.  He has lost any semblance of legitimacy.

But we have no higher priority than disrupting and defeating Daesh and other terror networks in order to give the people of Syria the chance that they deserve to recover and to build – rebuild their country.  Ultimately, a combination of diplomacy and pressure will be needed to bring about a political transition.  Military pressure particularly may be necessary, given President Assad’s unwillingness to negotiate seriously.  And what we must do is strengthen the capacity for this political solution.

Now, obviously, everything we have just talked about emphasizes the fact that there is no shortage of urgent and complex challenges that face Saudi Arabia, the United States, the Gulf states, and our allies and friends.  In the weeks and months and even years ahead, we will remain in close contact with our partners on the issues that I mentioned and more.  And I am confident that based on the conversations with the king today, with all of our meetings, with the determination of the Gulf states, we will remain united and we will continue to examine how to best coordinate our efforts and bring the peace and the stability and the possibilities of the future that this region so deserves.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Let’s go to the American press first.

MS. PSAKI:  Arshad Mohammed from Reuters.

QUESTION:  Your Royal Highness, what concerns did you and your fellow GCC foreign ministers express today about the emerging Iran nuclear deal?  And specifically, are you concerned that giving Iran sanctions relief will simply allow it to pursue its regional agenda in countries like Syria and Yemen more aggressively?  Are you concerned that any deal would have an expiration date?  And has the United States offered you and your fellow GCC countries any additional security assurances to guarantee your security once a deal has expired?

And Secretary Kerry, the State Department has said that it will review for public release the emails provided by former Secretary Clinton.  My question is:  Why shouldn’t the Department review all of the emails, including those that former Secretary Clinton has withheld from the Department, so that it is the U.S. Government that is determining what should ultimately go to the national archives or what should be released publicly rather than former Secretary Clinton’s office that is making that judgment?

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-FAISAL:  (Inaudible) Iran (off-mike).

SECRETARY KERRY:  He asked about Iran.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-FAISAL:  I don’t think I can be more specific in relating what guarantees the Secretary gave and he himself has done in this press conference.  He has been very clear in the assurances he gave the country.  And he has been very transparent in saying what the United States will adhere to in negotiating a deal with Iran.  He has specifically specified that Iran – the intent is to keep it from developing an atomic bomb, which is to the good of all, international community as well as the Gulf countries.  But he said that is not at the expense of forgetting everything else that Iran does.  And that is really the main concern of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

We are, of course, worried about atomic energy and atomic bomb.  But we’re equally concerned about the nature of action and hegemonistic tendencies that Iran has in the region.  And these elements are the elements of instability in the region.  We see Iran involved in Syria and Lebanon and Yemen and Iraq and God knows where.  This (inaudible) must stop if Iran is to be part of the solution of the region and not part of the problem.

SECRETARY KERRY:  If I can, Arshad, I’m just going to comment very quickly on that also, because I want to emphasize a couple of things.  First of all, making the Gulf states safer and providing for greater security begins, notwithstanding Iran’s other activities, which we all object to – it begins by preventing them from having a nuclear weapon.  So the first step is make sure they don’t have a nuclear weapon.

But nothing else changes the next day with respect to our joint commitment to stand up against any other kind of interference or violation of international law or support for terrorism.  And Iran remains a labeled state supporter of terrorism.  So those efforts will continue.

And in order to make sure that everybody is clear as we go forward and we work together cooperatively, we are inviting our GCC friends to come to Washington sometime in the next month or so – somewhere in the next months, certainly in next couple of months – in order to continue to review together those cooperative efforts and arrangements that can be made with respect to security and cooperation as we go forward in this endeavor.

We have a long task ahead of us, and it’s not going to be solved by one agreement, nor deterred by one agreement.  And I think we’re all in agreement on that.

With respect to Secretary Clinton’s emails, the State Department has had access to a wide array of Secretary Clinton’s records, including emails, between her and Department officials with the state.gov accounts, as well as cables, as they do for every secretary of state.  And last year, the Department sent a letter to representatives of the former secretaries of state requesting that they submit any records in their possession for proper preservation.  In response, Secretary Clinton provided the Department with the emails that span her time at the State Department.  And after reviewing those emails, the Department produced about 300 responsive to the requests from the select committee.

So we are now in the process of appropriately reviewing those for public release, as we do for any document for public release.  And we will undertake this task as rapidly as possible in order to make sure that we’re dealing with the sheer volume of this in a responsible way and we’ll conclude it as soon as we can and get those released publicly.

QUESTION:  But my question is why couldn’t the Department look at all these emails and make its own judgment about which ones should go to the archives.

SECRETARY KERRY:  Well, the Department has the emails.  We’re —

QUESTION:  Has every one of them, or just the ones that were provided?

SECRETARY KERRY:  I’d have to check on that.  I believe we have all the ones that – I think we have all the ones that are state.gov, which are appropriately the ones in the purview of the Department.  But let me check on that when I actually have time to pay attention to such an important issue when I get home.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) (inaudible) newspaper.  Your Highness, what is – what are you going to do since the stubbornness of the Houthis in Yemen?

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-FAISAL:  (Via interpreter) In fact, GCC countries took the initiative in taking procedures in this direction since the Houthi coup d’etat of the state, as the president was held a legitimate president.  We are trying to stress the legitimacy and this is the only way for the safety of Yemen.

Consequently, we were happy for the arrival of Mr. – President Hadi to Aden, to southern Yemen, and the statements he made from that, that he stresses his legitimacy and he stresses not accepting any of the procedures taken by the Houthis, so that even GCC countries took the initiative to support this president.  And the secretary general of GCC went to Aden, other ambassadors of GCC countries were supported this position of the president, and as you know, the president is holding meetings outside of Yemen and he wants – and particularly the meeting for the negotiations will be most likely in Saudi Arabia.  If he asks this, we agree to this.  We will take the help of what is in the GCC initiative to help him restore the order in Yemen.

MS. PSAKI:  Jo Biddle from AFP.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  (Inaudible) thank you for your gracious hospitality to us all today.  Shukran.  Could I ask you how concerned Saudi Arabia is about the reports of deep Iranian involvement in Iraq at the moment, particularly for the battle of Tikrit, with reports that General Qasem Soleimani is actually on the ground, the head of the Qods Force, coordinating the battle?

And if I may, could I also ask you:  After your talks today, have your received assurances from Secretary Kerry that the United States is committed to regime change in Syria?  And what role do you believe Saudi Arabia could do to help the Syrian people?

And Secretary Kerry, if I could just quickly ask for your view on what is happening in Tikrit.  What is the U.S. involvement?  How much are you monitoring the situation?  And how concerned are you about the civilians who are trapped in the town?

And finally, just one other quick question, my apologies.  The King Faisal Foundation has just given a $200,000 award to a leading Islamic scholar from India who apparently called the 9/11 attacks in the United States an inside job, suggesting that the Bush Administration was behind it.  Could I have your reaction to that?  Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY:  Whose reaction?

QUESTION:  That was for you, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY:  Can I have the – what foundation?  The King Faisal —

QUESTION:  The King Faisal Foundation.  And the name of the scholar was Zakir Naik.

SECRETARY KERRY:  And they gave it to whom?

QUESTION:  To this gentlemen, who is an Islamic scholar who claims that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-FAISAL:  (Inaudible) if you keep asking more than one question we tend to forget.  (Inaudible) I’ve already forgotten the second question.

And the situation in Tikrit is a prime example of what we’re worried about.  Iran is taking over the country.  The act of the war and peace is no longer in the hand of the countries involved with Iran (inaudible) but in the hands of Iran.  And these (inaudible) in Iraq.  This is what is fomenting sectarian struggles in Iraq.  We shared no sectarian struggles before the involvement of Iran in Iraq (inaudible).

The second question was —

QUESTION:  Syria.  Syria.  Whether you have assurances now that the United States will (inaudible) regime change.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-FAISAL:  Well, we all agree with the United States that Bashar al-Assad has lost legitimacy.  We all agree that the solution – and it must be based on Geneva I.  That means that the transition government is going to be established, and that means that Saddam Hussein and those involved —

PARTICIPANT:  Bashar al-Assad.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-FAISAL:  — that Bashar – it’s the same, anyways – (laughter) – that they have to follow the political solution, as is suggested by the Geneva conference.  We don’t have any differences at all on the basis of a solution or settlement in Syria.  We want a political settlement.  We want a political settlement giving peace and stability to Syria and unity of (inaudible) and territorial integrity.  We want the troops that are illegally there to be withdrawn.  We want the Syrians to unite under one house where there is no difference between Shia and Sunni, a Christian or (inaudible) nationality or sects in Iraq, and that is what we hope for.

SECRETARY KERRY:  So with respect to Tikrit, Prime Minister Abadi himself has confirmed that this is an operation of Iraqi forces, consisting of a regular Iraqi Security Force militia – regular Iraqi Security Force contingent of militias and tribes, and it is specifically underway in order to liberate the Salahuddin province from ISIL control, and it is an Iraqi-led operation – Iraqi-designed, Iraqi-led.  Is General Soleimani – has he been on the ground, is he playing a role?  The answer’s yes.  We’ve got information to that effect.  But we are encouraged that as part of this operation, Prime Minister Abadi ensured the support of the Sunni leaders, including the governor of Salahuddin province and other local tribal leaders, as well as the speaker of the parliament, Salim al-Jubouri.

Now, there’s close coordination between the national and the local leaders throughout this operation.  That’s the only way it’s ultimately going to be successful.  Everybody has known that there are some movement of Iranian forces, both in and out of the northern part of Iraq, who have been engaged in fighting since the very beginning.  But it is not coordinated.  We are not coordinating with them.  And Prime Minister Abadi went to the front a day or two before this initiative began and made it clear that this is Iraqi-sanctioned and Iraqis’ design and Iraqis’ desire to achieve.

Additionally, the spokesman for the Sunni tribal council of Salahuddin province issued a statement calling for all of the tribes of Salahuddin who are Sunni to stand side by side with the Security Forces and support the restoration of the province and stressing that they want to avoid any kind of risk to unarmed civilians and to do as much as possible to preserve homes and property.

Prime Minister Abadi also committed to take the upmost care to protect civilian lives during this operation, and we have urged all Iraqi forces to avoid and prevent the abuse to civilians of any kind of activity that violates international norms, fuels the sectarian fears, and promotes sectarian divides, and that includes Iran in terms of their activities or perception or whatever.

So I think it’s clear as the Iraqi army stands up more and more, militias and external actors are going to be less and less imperative and needed.  But that’s not where they are, and this is – and I emphasize this is not American-designed operation.  This was put together by the Iraqis, formulated by the Iraqis, executed by the Iraqis, and that’s the best thing all of us could, frankly, ask for.  So we take it the way it is and we’ll hope for the best results and move from there.

With respect to your other question, I really don’t know anything about the award, the process, the – I know, obviously, something of the individual, but let me find out more before I make any comment on it.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) (inaudible) from Riyadh Radio.  Your Highness, so far Iran was not nominated as a terrorism-supporting country, despite Iran is occupying two islands from Emirates and an Arab country as well, also Syria.  You’re always blessing the Iranian fight.  So far, you have not talked about the Iranian – the Israeli nuclear file.  Israel is acting against the human rights.  You say the – are trying – so as not to attack any civilians in Iraq.  Israel is always infringing the rights of the population in Palestine.  The nuclear – the Israeli nuclear file have not been – has not been studied here.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-FAISAL:  (Via interpreter) Let me tell you, Iran doing what it is doing, interference in affairs of Arab countries, it is always a neighbor – it’s also a neighbor.  We do not harvest any antagonism against it.  If it’s – if it continues on its current positions, (inaudible) it will place itself directly against the Arab interest and against the moral values the international – against the international values.  It promotes terrorism and occupies lands.  These are not the features of countries which want peace and seeks to improve its relations with the neighboring countries.

We hope that Iran – before the situation develops and antagonism takes place between its neighbors, Iran should stop and listen to the advices of the wise Iranians and leave intervening in the internal affairs of Arab nations.  Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY:  Is that it?

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-FAISAL:  (In Arabic.)  Thank you.

# # #

Secretary of State John Kerry And French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 REMARKS

March 7, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry

And French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius

March 7, 2015
Quai d’Orsay
Paris, France

FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS:  (In French.)

SECRETARY KERRY:  Laurent, thank you very, very much.  Thank you for hosting us here today.  I really appreciate the welcome, as always.  It’s always wonderful to be in Paris, though obviously only for a few hours today.

I want to begin by expressing President Obama’s and my deepest condolences to the families of the French, Belgian, and Malian victims of this appalling shooting in Bamako this morning.  As Foreign Minister Fabius made clear just now in his comments, this is an act of cowardice.  And these horrific and cowardly attacks, these acts of terrorism, which Paris experienced too much of most recently, but an act of opening fire in a restaurant filled with innocent civilians – in the end, that only strengthens our resolve to fight terrorism in all of its forms wherever it exists.  And we are pleased that together with France we have a present-day manifestation of an old relationship as we join together to express our revulsion at this kind of act, and our unity, our partnership, and our alliance in standing up to it and continuing to fight.

So rather than intimidate us, it has the exact opposite effect.  It strengthens our partnership and it strengthens our commitment to see this moment, this generational challenge, through.  And we will.

Today, we talked at some length – in a short span of time, obviously, but we talked about Daesh.  We talked about the challenge in Syria, in Iraq, and the need to continue, and ways in which we can strengthen what we’re doing.  We talked also about the need for transition in Syria and the increased efforts with respect to the Assad regime and the need to leverage him to a negotiation.  We talked about Libya – the threat, obviously, of Daesh and other extremist groups taking advantage of the lack of adequate governance and the adequate resolution politically of the challenges there.  And we committed to redouble our efforts together in order to focus on that.

As many of you know, I’ve spent the past week traveling in Europe and in the Middle East discussing a number of important issues.  But obviously, my primary focus for this week has really been the Iran nuclear talks.  And after a couple of days of very intense negotiations with the Iranians in Switzerland, I traveled to Saudi Arabia, where I updated our allies and our partners in Riyadh and throughout the Gulf.  And here in Paris today, I appreciate Foreign Minister Fabius bringing people together and hosting us for our opportunity to be able to have a discussion about what is a partnership.  This is not a bilateral negotiation; this is a multilateral P5+1 negotiation.  And all of our partners are consistently exchanging and sharing information, sharing ideas, working together, meeting, and helping to try to drive this to the good conclusion that we want.

As Foreign Minister Fabius said a moment ago, we want an agreement that’s solid.  We want an agreement that will guarantee that we are holding any kind of program that continues in Iran accountable to the highest standards so that we know that it is, in fact, a peaceful program.  All of us in the P5+1 are deeply committed to ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.  And we continue to believe that a comprehensive deal that includes intrusive access and verification measures, and blocks each of the pathways to securing fissile material for a bomb and then to try and make a bomb itself, that the best way to achieve the goal is to shut off those pathways.

Now, I agree with Laurent.  We have exactly the same assessment.  We have made progress, but there remain gaps – divergences, as he said.  And we need to close those gaps.  And that is our goal over the course of the next days.  We have a critical couple of weeks ahead of us.  We’re all mindful that the days are ticking by.  But we’re not feeling a sense of urgency that we have to get any deal.  We have to get the right deal.  And it is frankly up to Iran – that wants this program, that wants a peaceful program, that asserts that they have a peaceful program – to show the world that it is indeed exactly what they say.  That’s the measure here.  And we planned a return to the talks.  Starting next Sunday, different folks will be having different conversations, and we look forward to trying to drive this thing to an appropriate conclusion.  And we will find out whether or not Iran is prepared to take the steps to answer the questions that the world has a right to get answers to.

I’d be happy to take any questions.  Laurent, you —

FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS:  (In French.)

Hello.  Madam (inaudible).

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Mr. Foreign Minister, you said yesterday the deal doesn’t go far enough in the extent and duration of Iran’s commitments.  What are your primary areas of concern?  Is it enrichment capacity, breakout time, how long Iran will accept constraints on its enrichment activities, what happens when the agreement expires?  Did you make specific suggestions to Mr. Kerry today on how the agreement can be improved?

And Mr. Secretary, also relating to the Foreign Minister’s comments yesterday, do you agree the deal does not go far enough in terms of the extent and duration of commitments?  What will you say to your partners today to reassure them about the progress of the talks?  Also, Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said today Iran has put forward technical proposals to the U.S. to overcome their concerns.  He said the impasse over technical issues is over.  Do you share this assessment?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS:  (In French.)

Under no circumstances Iran will never seek nor possess any nuclear weapon.

(In French.)

SECRETARY KERRY:  I agree completely with the comments of Foreign Minister Fabius, particularly with respect to the picture that he just drew of what happens if you don’t have a good, solid agreement.  All of us have an interest in making certain that the countries in the region feel sufficiently convinced that this agreement is meaningful – that it will hold, that it’s real, and that they’re secure – so that they don’t in fact make matters worse by all engaging in the development of a program because they feel threatened.

So our obligation is, as Laurent just said, not to each other, not just to those of us in the talks.  It’s to a much broader community – in fact, to the world.  Because we are also deeply involved in trying to denuclearize North Korea, and there are any number of other players in the world who might at some point think that they would be advantaged by proceeding down this road.  So this – the stakes here are higher than just this P5+1-plus-Iran negotiation.

I also agree – and I said at the beginning of my comments, we are on the same page.  If we didn’t think that there was further to go, as Laurent said, we’d have had an agreement already.  The reason we don’t have an agreement is we believe there are gaps that have to be closed.  There are things that have to be done to further strengthen this.  We know this.  And we have not resolved – now, like Laurent, I’m not going to stand here now and negotiate with you in public and give you a whole bunch of differentials.  That’s what we’re going to go do, all of us together.

But the bottom line is that everybody knows what matters here: the length of this – the length and duration, the levels of visibility, the control, as Laurent said, the issue of verification and knowledge.  All of these are key.  This is an arms control agreement.  They have been negotiated for a long period of time, particularly before between the Western world and the former Soviet Union.  So we know something about these.  We have a track record of standards.  We have a track record of IAEA requirements.  We have a track record of mistakes and we understand what we need to do.

So the proof will be in an agreement if it is reached.  And none of us are going to, I think, publicly start to lay out numbers and equations here.  We know what we’re chasing after, and we’re chasing after the same thing, all of us in the P5+1.  That’s what’s important.

FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS:  (In French.)

QUESTION:  (Inaudible), Al Arabiya (inaudible).  Secretary Kerry, you have said on Thursday that Iran is still supporting terrorism, while General Dempsey was telling senators that Iran’s role in Iraq might be positive.  Does that mean that according to the United States, Iran is fighting terrorism in Iraq and supporting it in Syria and in Yemen?  Would you clarify this divergence between the two statements?

(In French.)

SECRETARY KERRY:  Well, let me answer that very directly.  The advance on Tikrit is an Iraqi-designed and an Iraqi-controlled advance.  And Prime Minister Abadi himself went out to the front several days beforehand.  He briefed our people and others on what their plans were.  There are Sunni tribes involved in this effort.  There are Iraqi armed forces involved.  And yes, there are some militias involved, and yes, some of those militias are receiving direction from General Soleimani and from Iran.  That’s a fact.

But we’re not coordinating with them.  We’re not discussing this with them.  I think what General Dempsey said is a matter of pure common sense and fact.  If Iran kills a bunch of ISIL/Daesh on the ground, and it serves the interests of Iraq and the rest of us, that might wind up helping, but it doesn’t mean that we accept in any way their behavior with respect to other things they’re doing in Yemen, in Beirut, in Damascus, elsewhere.

So yes, they have been engaged in these other activities.  That’s why they are a designated country.  And the truth is that’s not on the table in this discussion.  Our goal is ultimately to change the behavior and ultimately try to affect these other places.  But for the moment, the key is to prevent them from having a nuclear weapon.  Because if this country that is engaged in these other activities has a nuclear weapon, you got a whole different ballgame.

So let’s keep our eye on the priority.  Priority number one is to not have a pathway to a nuclear weapon and guarantee that this program is peaceful.  And as I have said to our friends in the region and elsewhere, the next day, if we get an agreement, we continue to have disagreements over these other kinds of activities.  And that will be the next layer of effort, is to try to work at changing the whole dynamic.  But that’s not what’s on the table here right now.  And I think General Dempsey was simply speaking to a kind of common sense judgment about one moment, but only a moment in this unfolding process.

FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS:  (In French.)

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Readout of Secretary Kerry’s Call with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov

Dear Journalists:

Below is a readout of Secretary Kerry’s call with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, attributable to a Senior State Department Official.

“During a phone call this afternoon, Secretary Kerry urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to stop the flow of heavy weapons and rocket and artillery fire from Russia into Ukraine, and to begin to contribute to deescalating the conflict. He did not accept Foreign Minister Lavrov’s denial that heavy weapons from Russia were contributing to the conflict.

Secretary Kerry provided an update on his meetings in the Middle East and Paris this past week and the ongoing efforts to achieve a ceasefire.”

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