FOREIGN MINISTER ABDALLAH: (Via interpreter) Good morning. May peace be upon you. I’d like to start by welcoming His Excellency, U.S. Secretary of State and close friend John Kerry. There’s no doubt that the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State to the United Arab Emirates at this time and under these conditions, especially following the meetings in Geneva, was a very strong message to the extent of the closeness of U.S.-UAE relations.
And I believe that it was a fruitful visit, a successful visit, especially the visit with Crown Prince yesterday, in which we exchanged several points of view on several issues, whether the discussions in Geneva or the situation in Syria or developments in – the positive developments in Egypt. And undoubtedly the visit of our close friend, John Kerry, to Cairo was a very positive message and it reveals the extent of international support and the U.S. support and encouragement to the roadmap in Egypt.
And lastly, we also had the opportunity to discuss the developments in the peace process, which the Secretary of State has been exerting great efforts in. And I would also like to say that it is the most important and most forceful effort on the part of a U.S. Administration to push the peace process forward. My friend, John Kerry, thank you very much, and you’re most welcome.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, and a special thank you to you Your Highness. (Inaudible) I thank you also (inaudible) Foreign Minister Abdallah bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan (inaudible) people who had (inaudible).
I also want to thank His Highness Muhammad bin Zayid for the depth of the conversation we had last night, as well as a very good dinner and a long walk together and some time to really dig into the issues of the region and create better understanding of our mutual efforts and interests with respect to those.
It’s wonderful to be back in Abu Dhabi. My visits, regrettably, wind up being sort of much too brief, and I’ve been invited to come back and spend a little time sometime when I can really get to share some of the life of the city and the region and I intend to do that.
His Highness and I spoke today about the strong, enduring relationship between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, and this is a relationship that is based on a joint commitment to security and to stability in the region. Today we talked about our shared efforts to end the war, the violence in Syria, to address the humanitarian crisis and bring about a peaceful resolution to the civil war in Syria, which has cost way too many lives of so many Syrians and which is breeding increasing extremism, radical religious extremism and terrorists who are a threat to all of us, to the region and to the peace and security and stability of Syria itself.
We appreciate the UAE’s leadership in supporting the Syrian Opposition Coalition and its commitment alongside our international partners to convening the Geneva 2 conference as soon as possible. And both of us are encouraged and pleased to be able to take note of the fact that yesterday the opposition voted to go to Geneva 2. This is a big step forward and a significant one, and we will continue to work on the humanitarian and other issues that are of such immediate crisis. A negotiated solution is the best way to increase the stability throughout the entire region, and it is the only way to end the bloodshed as soon as possible and give the Syrian people the future that they deserve.
His Highness and I also discussed the developments in Egypt. I was pleased to be there at the beginning of this journey, and we discussed our belief that Egypt’s transition to a stable, inclusive, and ultimately democratic, civilian-led government that respects the rights and freedoms of all Egyptians is critical not only for that country but for the entire region. We agreed last night in our discussions with His Highness Muhammad bin Zayid as well as today in our discussions to work together not down the road, not figuratively, not in the future but now, immediately, to work together in order to create specific efforts that we can jointly work on as well as with the Saudi Arabians and others in order to transform economically and politically the Egypt that needs to emerge. We share a belief in the importance of Egypt to the region and we want to make sure that the interim government does succeed.
We also agreed that as it succeeds, part of the definition of that success is the need to implement reforms and to protect universal rights and transition to an inclusive election process that respects the rights of the people of Egypt.
Finally, I’m also provided an update of the meeting of the P5+1 in Geneva, and I made it clear that while we made progress – good progress, very significant progress in narrowing the gaps between our partners in the P5+1 and Iran – this is not a race to complete just any agreement. No deal is better than a bad deal I have said many times, as has President Obama. But through diplomacy, we have an absolute responsibility to pursue an agreement. The sanctions were put in place to bring about negotiations. How irresponsible it would be to the concept of diplomacy, as well as the potential of any future use of force, if we have just put the sanctions on and then ignore the opportunity to have a negotiation. Having a negotiation does not mean you’ve given up anything. It means you will put to test what is possible and what is needed and whether or not Iran is prepared to do what is necessary to prove that its program can only be a peaceful program
As President Obama has said clearly since day 1, he will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, that the United States is committed to protecting our security and the security of our allies from the unthinkable consequence of what would happen were they to secure such a weapon. We also are well aware, more than conscious, of the instability that would be triggered in this region were that program to continue and not be peaceful.
It’s also worth asking everybody what would happen if we don’t find a diplomatic path forward. Obviously, Iran will continue to ramp up enrichment activities and advance on the plutonium track, while we would risk losing the international coalition that has been built up to keep Iran isolated. That also is a risk of not pursuing the negotiation.
I want to emphasize this very, very strongly to my friend, Sheik Abdallah, as well as to all people in this region, and that is that we have a strong strategic relationship that has been built up over many years. It is also a friendship and the United States will do nothing in negotiating with Iran that will change that relationship. I want to make that clear.
I thank His Highness again for welcoming me to Dubai. I emphasize that the President has said publicly at the United Nations that United States of America will into the future, as long as he is president, make certain that we will stand up for and defend our allies in this region against any kind of external threat or attack.
So this is a strong strategic relationship, and I look forward to continuing our important dialogue on many issues of regional concern and to strengthening the relationship that the United States value very deeply. Thank you.
MODERATOR: So due to time restrictions, we’ll be taking two questions only – one from the local media and one from the international media. The person in the second row? Third row.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from Gulf News. In spite of the American assurances, there are fears at the popular and government levels in the Gulf Cooperation Council concerning improved relations with Iran, which would weaken strategic relations with the U.S. These fears are still standing and the assurances are also there. But they change between – from time to time. At the local level, local companies have paid a heavy price for their adherence to the sanctions on Iran. What are the American assurances in this area, that the sanctions, when lifted, will not be selective and vary from place to place? Thank you.
MODERATOR: John, do you want to take that question?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you. Thank you for the question. And in many ways I think I tried to address that question in the course of my comments a moment ago, but I’m happy to reemphasize and to repeat as strongly as I can. President Obama is a man of his word. When he ran for president, he said that he would do whatever was necessary to go after al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden. And when somebody asked him, “Does that mean that you’d be prepared to cross into Pakistan and even chase him there, would you do that?” And he said, “I will do whatever is necessary if I have information that protects the security of the United States.” He was criticized for that. His opposition said you’re naive and you don’t understand. But guess what? The President of the United States got that information and he acted on that information and he did what was necessary. And so today Usama bin Laden is no long with us and most of the leadership and most of the core of al-Qaida within Pakistan is gone – most of it.
Now there’s still threats in other parts of the world, and the President is continuing to address those threats. Currently, working with Saudi Arabia with respect to the challenge in Yemen. Working with Somalia and has made great gains with respect to the transformation taking place in Somalia. The President remains committed and has just asked me to negotiate a bilateral security agreement with the President of Afghanistan, which will mean there will be a sustained American presence if the Loya Jirga accepts is. There will be a sustained international security force presence in Afghanistan to secure what has been worked for so hard over so many years.
The President kept his word. The President said we would wind down the war in Iraq and he wound down the war in Iraq. The President said we would hold Qadhafi accountable and not permit him to be able to attack civilians in Benghazi, and he did it. The President made a decision that he would go in and attack in Syria in order to hold Assad accountable to not use his chemical weapons. And before he had to finally pull that trigger or make that decision, he made his decision, but before he had to actually execute, we were able to strike an agreement to get all of the weapons out, which has actually goes further than would have achieved otherwise.
So every time the President has said I’m going to do something he has done it. He is stating clearly: Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. That is a centerpiece of his foreign policy and he will not bluff. As he said to me point blank when I became Secretary of State, I asked him about it. He said, “I don’t bluff.” This is our policy.
Now he also has said his first choice is diplomacy. It should be any responsible leader’s first choice. Nobody should rush to war. I fought in a war. I know what war is like. Nobody should rush to war. War should be the last resort. War should be only the failure of diplomacy. But the President is prepared to defend the notion that it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons program, because we all know what happens if that happens. It is a threat to Israel, it’s a threat to the region, it is the threat here, and we will see other countries that chase a weapon. And that will make a more dangerous world.
Now Iran has said that its program is peaceful. The Supreme Leader says he has issued a Fatwa, the highest form of Islamic prohibition against some activity, and he said that is to prohibit from Iran from ever seeking a nuclear weapon. What we are seeking to do is transform that Fatwa into a legal code that universally is acceptable so that we can in fact prove that the program is peaceful. And I have said to you today on behalf of the President of the United States, and the President has said for himself in his speech at the United Nations, that he will continue to defend his friends and allies in this region, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, others. He will defend them against external attack. That is the promise of the President of the United States, and as I stand here as Secretary of State, as long as I am Secretary of State, that is also our policy, my policy, the policy of the State Department, representing the President of the United States in executing it. So these aren’t just words.
In international diplomacy, you don’t just stand up and say something and it’s meaningless. This is a policy from a powerful nation and a friend of this region and friend of the United Arab Emirates. And when I come here to say that this is the President’s policy, it is the President’s policy and he will stand by it.
So we will continue to work on this and with respect to the sanctions, we know that the United Arab Emirates and others have paid a great price. Just today in our conversation I learned that it has gone from some $23 billion of business down to $4 billion. That’s a huge sacrifice. So we have real partners in the United Arab Emirates with respect to the sanctions, and that’s something that the United States Congress and others need to take note of as we think about where we are going in the future.
We will continue the sanctions regime – our hope is that in the next months we can find an agreement that meets everybody’s standard.
Now I want to say one word – you didn’t ask this – but I want to say one word about it, because I’m reading the press that tries to – has been indicating some sort of lack of agreement among the P5+1 or something to that effect. That’s just not correct. The P5+1 was unified on Sunday when we – on Saturday – when we presented a proposal to the Iranians. And the French signed off on it, we signed off on it, everybody agreed this was a fair proposal. There was unity. But Iran couldn’t take it at that particular moment; they weren’t able to accept that particular agreement.
So hard work was done, progress was made. The P5+1 was united. There is a gap still between what language may be appropriate that they’re prepared to accept, but the concept that we are all working on we have absolute unity on, that we cannot have a weapons program and we must have guarantees that we’re being clear enough in what is required so that this is not if and not possible and not speculative, but absolutely certain that we know the road ahead is well defined and can protect the interests of everybody.
FOREIGN MINISTER ABDALLAH: (Via interpreter) About the course of the negotiations (inaudible) with the size and the speed of the consultation between us and the United States and the rest of the P5+1 concerning the conduct of these negotiations or the previous round of negotiations. Not just the conduct of the negotiations, but also with respect to the discussion on the future of these discussions and how they can be developed further.
There is no doubt that this is a very difficult period in the negotiations, but we are aware and believe that the best solution to the nuclear file in Iran is through political and diplomatic discussions, and we hope that Iran would be able to reach soon the vision or develop the – soon the vision that there is no option but to be clear and transparent concerning its nuclear weapons program – not just with the P5+1 but also with the IAEA. We feel there are positive indications, but there is work and effort – significant work and effort that the Iranians would still have to expend.
I believe we only have one more question left.
MODERATOR: The gentleman in the third row with the blue shirt.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, the Prime Minister of Israel as you know is calling world leaders to marshal opposition to an interim deal with Iran. Other Israeli leaders are rallying Jewish groups who oppose it, and you’re returning to Washington tonight to face a restive Congress. Are you concerned that in this 10-day pause before you reconvene in Geneva that enough opposition will build up that may scuttle the progress you made and make an interim deal impossible?
And to the Minister, you expressed confidence with the consultation and encouraged the P5 to continue pushing toward a deal. Would you support a deal that granted Iran the right to enrich uranium? And as a follow-up, on Syria if I may, at the beginning of this trip in Saudi Arabia, your neighbor expressed – this is to the Minister – strong concerns about U.S. policy in Syria. Did you hear anything from the Secretary today that assuaged your own concerns about U.S. policy in Syria?
And then lastly for the Secretary, are you concerned, sir, that the Saudis and the Emiratis may simply go their own way with Syria, leading to potentially dangerous results that the U.S. would then have to deal with. Thank you both.
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me deal with the last question first, because I want to get that off. No, I am not concerned. I believe we have a very clear understanding with respect to the goals, what we’re trying to achieve. The United States continues to support the opposition in many different ways. We are providing significant assistance. We want to coordinate as closely as possible with our friends, the Saudis and the Emiratis and others. I think we both agree that we need to get a couple of other actors in the region – not us actually – but others to be unified.
But the Saudis, Emirates, the United States, Jordanians, are very clear about what groups ought to be receiving support, how we ought to proceed, what we ought to be doing, and we all agree that we see no way that Assad has an legitimacy to be able to continue to actually bring the country together and lead it with any kind of legitimacy whatsoever. So we’re very much, I think, in agreement with respect to that and the direction.
With respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his position, yesterday, Under Secretary Wendy Sherman went directly to Israel in order to brief the Israelis in full on precisely what the negotiation is entailing, what the terms are. My hope is – look, I’ve worked very closely with the Prime Minister Netanyahu particularly in these last months. He has been very constructive in working on the things we’re trying to do with respect to Middle East peace. I have enormous respect for his political acumen and his deep concerns about the security of his country. We share those concerns.
For 29 years, just a little shy, I spent in the United States Senate, I have a 100 percent voting record of defending Israel. And I’m not about to change my feelings about what we need to do to provide security for Israel going forward, even as I work on this process. But I believe the Prime Minister needs to recognize that no agreement has been reached about the end game here. That’s the subject of the negotiation. The sanctions were put in place in order to bring about a negotiation, because the first order of business of any super power is to exercise its power thoughtfully and respectfully. And if we had to turn to a military option because we are left no other option, we must show the world we have exhausted every possible remedy and opportunity.
Nothing is given up in a first step that freezes the program and even sets it back. While you begin to negotiate to see what is possible with respect to the proving of a peaceful nuclear program. That is the tough negotiation. And Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and all other countries – particularly the P5+1 partners – will be sharing and working that information and process if we get there in an effort to find an agreement that everybody could feel comfortable with. So the time to oppose it is when you see what it is, not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible.
And I would just say very respectfully that what we need to do here is recognize that we’re very knowledgeable about nuclear programs and nuclear possibilities. We share intelligence very closely with the Israelis on this topic. We’ve been meeting constantly with the Israelis to understand exactly Iran is today in its program. And we are confident that what we are doing can actually protect Israel more effectively and provide greater security to Israel. And we look forward to having an ongoing dialogue and conversation in a very civil and appropriate way with the Prime Minister, with our allies and deep friends, the Israelis, in an effort to try to see what can be achieved here.
There is no existing right to enrich for anybody. The NPT does not grant a right and it does not prohibit a right. Therefore, whatever might or might not happen in the future is subject to the negotiation and subject to what is possible in terms of limits, scope, verification, complete and total transparency and accountability for what might or might not happen. We don’t know yet what those possibilities are.
So that is why you need to have a negotiation. No one should ever fear a negotiation, because it takes two parties or more, if there are more, to say yes. And until they say yes, there’s no agreement and nothing to fear. So I would say to everybody the President has been clear, there is no rush to a deal, and no deal is better than a bad deal. That is our governing principle. And there may be a difference of opinion in certain people in the end as to what’s bad and what’s good, but this is subject to enormous global scrutiny.
Experts all over the world will look at these judgments and they will decide is this real or is it not real? Does this put somebody at risk or does it not put them at risk. And we much at least trust the process enough to put it to the test. That’s all we are trying to do.
FOREIGN MINISTER ABDALLAH: I believe that there are – there is exaggeration, that the U.S. and its allies in the region and its relationships is subject to some tensions. There might be difference in opinion or about some steps, but there are no differences over the comprehensive strategy concerning issues in the region. Regardless, irrespective of the nature of these issues, there might be differences in opinion or tactics, and this happens between states. So let us be clear: I believe that the media or at least some leaks in the media have made these differences in opinions as though they are differences over strategy between the U.S. and the – its regional allies.
I would like to assure you on this issue that the relationship is in its best shape between the U.S. and the UAE and the visit by my friend Secretary of State to the Emirates is the best proof to the strength of this relationship. And what we heard today confirms that.
With respect to enrichment, and I would like to talk about the nuclear programs in general, the UAE has a very transparent nuclear program and we believe that the UAE nuclear program is the standard according to which regional countries should abide by. This standard represents, first of all, we in the UAE have accepted not to enrich first of all. Second of all, we have also agreed not to retreat after once the uranium is extracted. With respect to these two standards, the two elements of our strategy we believe that possession of a nuclear weapons – weapons program that is peaceful is something attainable by everyone and is open to everyone if these countries are willing to abide by the NPT and also with the additional protocol.
So in this case, there is no fear. Everybody benefits. And the best proof is that the UAE program is today witnessing not just international acceptance but also in partnership with international parties and it is one of the programs that most attracts other countries to sign agreements with UAE. When a friendly country like the U.S. comes to us and agrees – reaches an agreements with the UAE – and makes it as a golden standard for its agreements with other countries. This is another proof that we are following the right path.
So if we can see such an approach spread in the region, I’m sure this fear will not be there.
(Inaudible), thank you very much for your support and your friendship.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you for coming.