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Diplomacy in Action

Background Briefing on Secretary Kerry's Bilateral Meetings With Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius


Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
New York City
September 25, 2013

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SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: All right. Good morning, everyone. This is a background briefing for attribution to a Senior State Department Official reading out the bilateral meetings this morning with the Indian Foreign Minister Khurshid and the French Foreign Minister Fabius.

I will start with India. They discussed – during the meeting, the two foreign ministers discussed Prime Minister Singh’s upcoming visit to Washington and meeting with the President later this week on Friday. They also discussed a range of issues of mutual interest, including climate change. As you all will remember, when the Secretary was in India just a few months ago, they – he delivered not only a speech there, but they talked about elevating this dialogue to the foreign minister level. So they discussed that today. They talked about their shared concern about the enormous impact of climate change, as well as the role that the U.S. and India can play. They agreed to continue working to expand their clean energy partnership. They also discussed efforts to make progress on economic issues. The Secretary said that if India can march forward and embrace reforms, they can see real movement on their economy. And they talked about the importance of finding ways to expand trade relations.

Finally, they touched briefly on a couple of other issues, including Syria. The Secretary welcomed any vocal supportive role India is willing to play, and they talked about their efforts to move forward on expanding their defense relationship. And finally, they briefly discussed efforts, ongoing discussions on a civ-nuke deal.

During the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Fabius this morning, they spent the majority of the meeting discussing ongoing cooperation on Syria and the UN resolution. The Secretary provided an update on his meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov last night and on the latest status of language, and conveyed that after the meeting, there – we were down to a handful of issues that are being discussed. Both agreed language must be strong, binding, and enforceable. They also discussed Iran and preparations for the P-5+1 meeting tomorrow as well as President Hollande’s meeting with Rouhani earlier this week. And finally, they also discussed the dire situation in the Central African Republic. The Secretary conveyed that we would be announcing additional aid for refugees later today, given that situation.

With that, let’s take your questions. I feel lonely up here. Anything anyone have on their minds?

QUESTION: On the UN?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: On Syria.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday – you said just now that they’re down to a handful of issues being discussed.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, yesterday we said three to four. It’s just a synonym.

QUESTION: Okay. So – okay, so no difference from --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: As we talked about last night, following the meeting there were ongoing discussions between our UN counterparts about those handful or three to four issues. But I don’t have an update for you as of this morning.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about Secretary Kerry’s role on the UN issue now? Is this going to be a major investment of his time, as with Israeli-Palestinians and Syrians, or is this more of a supervisory role?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, as we’ve said since the beginning of this discussion, which seems like it’s – was long ago but only a couple of weeks ago, really, of course the UN counterparts will be playing the leading role. And the Secretary has been working closely with Ambassador Power. They’ve been on the phone regularly, they’ve been huddling around meetings regularly. They have a long history and a long relationship, so they’ve been in very close contact. And the Secretary is open to and willing to play any role that would be productive.

So certainly he’s played an important role, given the framework that he agreed to with Foreign Minister Lavrov has been the basis, but still he’s, of course, referring to – deferring to, I should say, the UN counterparts to work through the language. But last night – and we talked about this a little bit yesterday, but – what they did during the meeting was they had all the paper out, and they went through paragraph by paragraph in areas where we needed to continue discussion or work through outstanding issues. And given his relationship with the Foreign Minister, we made some progress.

QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official], was there any discussion of the use of force between the U.S. and France, France being one of the countries that was standing by our side when we were going to act outside of the UN? Is that still part of the conversation now when it comes to enforcing what’s – what we want to happen in Syria?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the focus of the conversation was really on making sure that it was – any resolution is strong and binding and enforceable. We’ve publicly stated that the debate, in our view, is not about the use of force. We still reserve, as the President always has and can, the right – that right that he has to use that. And of course, the French do as well, but that was not a focus of the conversation.

QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official], sorry, can I ask how far apart you think you are? Are you still at odds with the Russians or are you actually narrowing the gaps?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I mean, I don’t have any update from last night when we did the briefing and we said the conversation was constructive; it was. It was narrowed to three to four issues. That discussion continued last night and continues today.

QUESTION: And it’s discussed between Ambassador Power and Ambassador Churkin?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, that’s right. They met last night, and then obviously, those discussions are continuing between the counterparts today.

QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official], last week Secretary Kerry came to the State Department briefing room and said that it was important to secure a Security Council resolution this week. Is that still the plan?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, we obviously want to see movement as quickly as we can, but our most important factor here is that it’s strong and binding and verifiable. So that’s what we’re pressing toward, and we’re not going to set arbitrary deadlines.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Fabius, French Foreign Minister --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- did Secretary Kerry discuss the fact that President Obama did not meet with the Iranian president, while the French president met him? Were there any discussion about this situation?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. They did discuss – as I mentioned, they did discuss Iran and the fact that President Hollande had met with him, as well as the upcoming meeting tomorrow. So that was the context of the discussion about Iran.

QUESTION: So [Senior State Department Official], I’m sorry again. For tomorrow’s meeting --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- who’s hosting it, and where is it going to be?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, it’s being hosted by EU High Representative Ashton. She’s the coordinator of the meeting. It is taking place at the UN, I believe. I’ll have to double-check that for you, but I’m fairly positive.

QUESTION: The time is still around 4 o’clock?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: In the afternoon, exactly.

QUESTION: Are you expecting a readout, a backgrounder afterwards?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That is something we will look to plan for, and we’ll give you more details on that probably tonight or tomorrow morning, as we’ve been doing.

QUESTION: One quick question on India if we’re now done with Syria?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You mentioned that the Secretary sort of exhorted the Foreign Minister on economic reforms in India. Did he – or to carry through with them – did he cite any specific reforms that he thinks are important? And which – if so, which ones?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not going to get into more detail than that, but it was more of the context of the comment or the quote that I gave there was that there was agreement by both sides that there’s more that can be done. The Secretary was just encouraging steps that could be taken.

QUESTION: But he – can you tell us – even if you can’t tell us what the steps were, did he encourage specific steps or was it just a general comment?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They did have some conversations about specific steps, yes.

All right? Oh, go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Sorry, just – can I go to Central Africa? I’m just intrigued by the announcement that there’s going to be more aid announced from the U.S.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: To refugees. Stay tuned.

QUESTION: Who’s it coming from, at the State Department or the White House?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The announcement?

QUESTION: Yes.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I believe from the State Department. I’ll double-check that for you.

QUESTION: Is it going to come from a briefing setting or on paper?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I believe paper. We will not keep it a secret from you or anyone else, I promise. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official], question just going back to Syria. Was there any conversation about the meeting on Syria that is expected to happen tomorrow in terms of a show of support that the French have been vocal about wanting to happen?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There was really not a focus on that. I mean, they spent the majority of the time talking about the resolution and talking about the path forward toward a political solution. As we mentioned yesterday, but just worth repeating, Secretary Kerry, of course, looks forward to participating. It’s just – the event will be an opportunity for the opposition and the President to present themselves to the international community and present a vision for the future of Syria, as well as to highlight needs and concerns. And that’s how they’ve set it up, with a very large attendance, as we understand it.

QUESTION: And you still expect the full opposition, including the President, to participate – President Jarba?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t have any update on participation. The French are managing the event. So, the Secretary is attending.

QUESTION: I’m sorry – and what would be Secretary Kerry’s role in that event?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not sure if he’s speaking there or not. I’ll check on that for you. He probably will be in some capacity.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Sorry, one more on Syria.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: We touched briefly yesterday on the announcement by the 30 Islamist groups who’ve denounced the Syrian national coalition. I’m wondering if you’re in a position to give us a U.S. reaction to that this morning.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure. I mean we, of course, have seen the reports of an announcement by some Islamist opposition groups of their formation of a new political alliance, and that this alliance does not recognize the Syrian Opposition Coalition as representatives of the Syrian people. We are discussing and have already begun discussing the impact of this announcement with our Syrian opposition counterparts. As we’ve already said clearly before, we’ve been long working towards unity among the opposition, and have never felt that a divided opposition would be beneficial to anyone but the Assad regime. But we also have had extreme – concerns about extremists. So we are discussing this. The reports are fairly new. And of course, the opposition is here, so we’ll continue working with them on that.

QUESTION: How concerned are you about it, though? Doesn’t it mean that the – with the split in the rebels, then it’s going to be very difficult for them to actually coordinate a new fight against the Assad regime?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the split with – in – within the opposition has not – is not new, but we’re still working with the opposition and talking to them about what this means and how we can strengthen the moderate opposition and continue to help them. And obviously, the meeting tomorrow and ongoing discussions they’ll have with many supporters of theirs will, hopefully, help bolster them as well.

All right? Thank you, guys.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I have a quick question about the P-5 this afternoon.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The P-5 lunch?

QUESTION: Yes. Can you give us an idea --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Or the P-5 meeting tomorrow?

QUESTION: The P-5 lunch.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay.

QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of the level of dialogue and who will be participating in that lunch this afternoon?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the Secretary is there. I’m not – I’m not sure what you’re asking.

QUESTION: Is Ban Ki-moon also going to be there? Or is it just the P-5?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I would check with the UN --

QUESTION: He hosts it every year.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- on the attendance. I think he hosts it, so --

QUESTION: Can you give us a read out of that lunch?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Of the lunch? I don’t believe so.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But we’ll see if there’s anything to read out, and if there is, we’re happy to give one to you guys.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: And do you know if there’s any access to that? I know it’s run by the UN. My impression is there’s no access.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: To the lunch?

QUESTION: That’s what I had heard too.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think so.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Good.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I believe tomorrow there may be – we’ll check on this – but I think there’s some sort of UNTV may be there tomorrow for part --

QUESTION: Tomorrow, meaning for the – for what?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. For the P-5.

QUESTION: For the P-5+1?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Plus Iran?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: For part – the beginning part of it.

QUESTION: For that part of it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Exactly.

QUESTION: And do you have any idea how long that is scheduled for?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: About an hour.

QUESTION: And do you know if Iran would take part in the beginning or the end?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: My understanding is they certainly wouldn’t take part in the entire meeting, but I don’t have the specifics to that level of detail.

All right.

QUESTION: Thank you.



PRN: 2013/1184



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