QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, after the recent NSA disclosures, U.S.-German relations seem at a low point. Do you feel you owe Chancellor Merkel and the German people an apology?
SECRETARY KERRY: There is no question this situation has caused tension in our relationship with Germany and the German people, who have been so welcoming to Americans and to me personally. But our relationship is strong, and it will remain strong. Friends work through difficult moments with candor and mutual respect, and Germany is one of the United States’ strongest friends and most effective allies. Chancellor Merkel has been an incredible partner to President Obama and the United States. That friendship and the urgent issues we work on together -- including Syria, Iran, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- are just too important for us not to move forward. So we will work through this together.
As Chancellor Merkel’s office has made clear, it would be unfortunate to let these allegations - however important - distract us from so many of our other critically important mutual goals.
QUESTION: After the recent NSA disclosures – what has to be done to repair U.S.-German relations?
SECRETARY KERRY: The U.S.-German relationship is one of the pillars of the Transatlantic security architecture. We are talking to our German partners about how we can better coordinate our intelligence efforts and address some of Germany’s concerns. President Obama has spoken with Chancellor Merkel about these issues. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, National Intelligence Director Clapper, and other senior U.S. intelligence officials met with National Security Advisor Heusgen and Chancellery Intelligence Coordinator Heiß in Washington on October 30 and plan more meetings very soon. We will continue to work with our German allies to address these issues effectively.
President Obama has ordered a review of the way the United States gathers intelligence to ensure that we are balancing privacy and security in our effort to protect the lives of our citizens and allies. We want to ensure we are collecting information because we need it, and not just because we can. The review will be complete by the end of the year. President Obama is committed to sharing the results with our allies and partners, as well as publicly wherever possible.
QUESTION: There is now talk about German authorities questioning Edward Snowden in Moscow or Snowden even coming to Germany for a hearing and possible asylum. What's the U.S. position on this?
SECRETARY KERRY: Edward Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and has been charged with three felony counts. He should be returned to the United States, where our justice system will ensure he is accorded full due process in accordance with applicable U.S. law.
QUESTION: How important are stable transatlantic relations to address the major challenges of our time, like the war in Syria and the nuclear talks with Iran?
SECRETARY KERRY: I’ve said it many times: we need strong friends like Germany to advance our shared interests and values. Working closely together, we are focused on issues of vital interest to our nations and our people, including resolving the conflict in Syria, eliminating the chemical weapons threat there, and speeding up our assistance to the Syrian people. We are also working to ensure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon -- we hope to continue our separate discussion November 7-8 in the P5+1 on concrete steps and actions Iran needs to take to address the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program.
QUESTION: Would you like to see Germany take on a more forceful role on the international stage when it comes to big foreign policy issues?
SECRETARY KERRY: We deeply value Germany’s international leadership. From Afghanistan and Middle East peace to the Balkans and the Eastern Partnership, Germany’s contribution is crucial to peace, prosperity and a brighter future. Your country has also played a leadership role in guiding the Eurozone through uncharted economic waters. We welcome Germany's commitment to work within the EU to build support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which could substantially increase the more than 13 million U.S. and European jobs already supported by transatlantic trade and investment. Agreements like TTIP also enable the United States and the EU to develop joint approaches to global trade challenges, which becomes increasingly important in today’s more globalized economy.
QUESTION: Many people say the Obama administration is turning its back on Europe while embracing the Pacific region, Asia. Are your traditional allies Europe and Germany becoming less important to the U.S.?
SECRETARY KERRY: As President Obama said during his visit to Berlin in June, Europe remains the cornerstone of our own freedom and security and is our partner in everything we do. When the United States and our European partners forge alliances to achieve common goals, we are safer, stronger, and more prosperous. Whether we are promoting global prosperity, ensuring security so trade can flourish, or defending democratic ideals, we are more successful when we do so together. We want to work with all of Europe to resolve conflicts and challenges around the world, whether in the Middle East, Afghanistan, North Korea, or in Europe itself.
QUESTION: Will you visit Germany any time soon? Any plans?
SECRETARY KERRY: I love Germany. As you know, I have many wonderful memories of living in Berlin when my father served there as a diplomat in the 1950s, and that experience taught me heartfelt lessons about the real-world vitality of our relationship. I visited Germany in February during my very first trip as Secretary of State, and I even had the opportunity to deploy my somewhat rusty but I hope still accurate German when I met with so many young people in Berlin. I look forward to returning as soon as possible -- we have too much important work to do together.