CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (Via interpreter) Well, good day, ladies and gentlemen. I would very warmly welcome the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Mr. John Kerry, on this – his first visit after the forming of the new government. I know it took us a while to form this new government, but let me tell you that you’re all the more welcome, Mr. Secretary.
Let me say that we’re going to talk about a broad-based array of different international issues and challenges that we both see. There are a few hopeful signs here and there where we will also discuss and – those particular challenges and those particular issues. Let me say that we’re particularly grateful to you, Mr. Secretary, for the very personal effort that you have put in, in order to bring the Middle East peace process forward. That is an area where we can only assure you that we will lend you every support that we can, and also – in order to also bring this forward to the extent that Germany can do so. Linked to that is the fact that we shall have in February Germany’s (inaudible) governmental consultations, and this issue will there – also new launch on the agenda.
We’re going to discuss the conference on Syria. We’re also going to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue. And let me use this opportunity to say that on all of these issues, Germany and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder. We work very closely together in order to bring progress in all of these fields, on these very, very important issues – issues that are of global import. We shall remain in very close contact indeed on all of these issues, and obviously, there’s also – and other issues that must – and other issues, sorry, that must not be forgotten, namely the situation in Ukraine that we will also address here today.
There are a number of bilateral issues too that we have on our agenda for our talks here today, apart from the international issues, and there are, for example, issues that have something to do with the trade and investment program, the TTIP agreement that we are currently negotiating. There has been progress, as I said, on TTIP already for Germany. Such an agreement obviously is of prime importance, given the fact that we are an exporting nation. That export is very important to us. We will also have talks about the activities of the NSA and generally around about the cooperation of our intelligence services. Those are issues that we shall address, as we’ve always done it, in a very candid, a very open manner. Although there may be differences of opinion here and there, again, this will be very open talks today too, as we have done them – made it in the past. There is always obviously – there are always obviously areas where we may not be perhaps completely in agreement, but we shall address those differences here today.
We will also talk about the mission in Afghanistan. That is a mission that we have jointly undertaken, where we jointly have vested interests, and all of that is something that is of great import to the transatlantic relationship. And I think one can generally say that the transatlantic relationship is one that is strong, that is important, that is indeed of prime importance to us here in Germany.
And even though there may be differences, sometimes bumps along the road, differences of opinion here and there, that is something that we have always openly addressed, and we’re going to do this today too. And given we have, as I said, joint vested interests, and that is something that is going to drive us forward in all – in our relationship step by step. Again, we may incur some difficulties here and there. There may be bumps along the road. But that’s something that we’re going to continue to do – talking about.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Chancellor Merkel, I’m really pleased to be here with you. (Speaking German.) I’m happy to be back. It’s a great pleasure for me, and I am particularly happy to see you feeling better, stronger, and we congratulate you enormously on your really superb victory, a very brilliant political campaign. And obviously, the confidence of the German people was powerfully expressed, and I congratulate you on the new government that you have put together.
The United States really values this relationship. Those aren’t just words. This is a very important relationship. And we welcome Germany’s increasing global role and the way in which Germany is playing a critical partnership not just with us, but with several other nations, as we work on enormously important national security challenges ranging from Afghanistan, as the chancellor has said, to Iran, the efforts of the P5+1, and Syria. We have an unprecedented number of global challenges facing us, and our cooperation is more important now than it really ever has been.
And by the way, the chancellor suggested to me that I just talk in English because most of you speak it, so we’re not waiting for the translation in case some of you were anticipating that.
The work that we are doing together on Syria could not be more important right now. This is destabilizing the entire region. The world is witnessing a human catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes every single day, and we now know that the Assad regime is not moving as rapidly as it promised to move the chemical weapons out of Syria. So we have serious issues to talk about in terms of compliance with the agreement that the United Nations Security Council has ratified, and that is now a global legal international obligation.
And I would remind Bashar al-Assad that the agreement that we reached in New York with the Security Council makes it clear that if there are issues of noncompliance, they will be referred to the Security Council for Chapter 7 compliance purposes. Our hope is that Syria will move rapidly to live up to its obligations.
Likewise, we are at a crossroads with respect to the relationship with Iran, and Germany has played a critical role in the P5+1 to help to bring us to this moment. We all want a peaceful resolution. And it is not hard for a country that wants to pursue a peaceful nuclear program to prove to the world that what they are doing is indeed peaceful. So we welcome the opportunity in the next days to be able to complete what was begun in Geneva, and we have high hopes for that.
Finally, let me just say that the U.S.-German alliance is really the vital engine of the transatlantic partnership. We want this to be a year of renewal of the strength of that relationship. As the chancellor said, occasionally, there is an issue here or there. There are bumps in the road. But we have a combined vision and understanding of the set of values that bring us together and have for decades now. We are partners above and beyond bumps in the road, and we will find our way to be able to move forward resolving any kinds of differences in an appropriate way that respects our relationship, but also understanding that we have a lot of work to do together in 2014. We will have the U.S.-EU and NATO summits this year, and I know that President Obama and I look forward with the American people to welcoming the chancellor to Washington for a visit.
And finally, both of our countries will benefit enormously from the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which we need to try to bring to completion because that will be an economic engine for both of our countries as well as for all of Europe. And everybody knows too well, particularly Germany, which has carried some of the burden, that the challenge of some countries in the EU still needs to be brought to a place where they are stronger economically, where there is more growth, more jobs, and where all of us could benefit. We believe that the TTIP is the road to that improved economy for all of us.
So Madam Chancellor, thank you very, very much for welcoming me here on a bright winter day with a little snow. And I’m again really happy to see that you’re feeling better, and we look forward to a good discussion. Thank you.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much.