SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody.
QUESTION: It’s a late morning.
SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon. (Laughter.)
I’m happy to spend just a few minutes with you today and I apologize that I have to run over to the White House quickly after this, but I wanted to be able to focus personally on an important addition to our team here at the State Department; an individual who is going to provide, I believe, a very important focus on a long-troubled region.
As everybody here knows, the suffering in the Great Lakes region of Africa and the ongoing crisis in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to trouble all of us greatly. We are convinced that we have to help the parties find a path to a lasting peace, to a permanent cessation of hostilities, and to the disarmament and demobilization of M23, accountability for human rights abuses, and finally, a breaking down of the barriers that are standing between humanitarian aid and the civilians who need it.
For the President and for me, this is a high-level priority and it needs to be met with high-level leadership. And that’s why today, I’m pleased to announce the appointment of my former colleague in the United States Senate, Russ Feingold, as the new United States Special Representative for the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Russ and I served together in the Senate for some 18 years. I have a lot of respect for a lot of qualities of Russ – his intellect, his courage, his passion – but with respect to this mission, chief among those qualities that are important right now is his expertise on Africa. In the Senate, when Russ Feingold addressed the issues of Africa, the Senate listened. He chaired the Africa subcommittee when I was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and I think my predecessor as chairman, the Vice President Joe Biden, would agree with me that Russ Feingold was the Senate’s leading advocate and expert on Africa. I’m very grateful that he has agreed to come back to government and to apply the expertise that he gained those years for the Obama Administration and for the State Department.
Russ will be coordinating with me and with the Bureau of African Affairs to shape our strategy on the many challenges in the region – cross-border security; political, economic, and social assistance issues; and many other issues. I mentioned some of them earlier – M23, the violence, the need to build confidence and capacity in the region. He will also work very closely with the United Nations Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, and he will work specifically to ensure the prompt and full implementation of the UN’s Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Barrie Walkley for all that he has done, working hard to further peace and security in the Great Lakes and the D.R.C. He has served with great distinction as the Special Advisor on the Great Lakes and the D.R.C. since December of 2011.
I want to emphasize that the stakes in this part of the world – and this was brought home to me in many of my conversations when I was in Addis Ababa for the 50th anniversary of the African Union – the stakes are very significant, and it is absolutely vital that we do everything possible in order to move things in the right direction and make the right choices. I am committed, as the President is committed and as is Russ Feingold, to focusing intensely on this challenge. And I can’t think of anybody better than Russ Feingold to take on the challenge. I’m happy to once again call him my colleague in government service.
So with that, I’ll turn the podium over to Jen Psaki for her briefing, and I can’t unfortunately take any questions now.
QUESTION: Not on the Taliban?
SECRETARY KERRY: But a bunch of you will have a chance to have at me in a few days on that. It’s good news. We’re very pleased with what has taken place. Thanks.