SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon. I was going to say good morning, but I said what time – the morning has passed incredibly rapidly, but it’s my very real pleasure to welcome the prime minister of Moldova, Prime Minister Iurie Leanca, to Washington on a snowy day. He welcomed me to Moldova; we had a wonderful visit in December, and at that time I invited him to come here so we could continue our conversation.
The prime minister is leading a transformation in Moldova. We’re very pleased with the fact that they have continued their efforts to move towards their Association Agreement with Europe. We are pleased today to announce that we’re going to add additional funding to their effort to develop competitiveness, which is key to their businesses and to their economic prospects, and we’ll add another $2.8 million to an already $4.7 million for a total of $7.5 or so million to help in this particular transition. But the United States has provided very significant economic assistance, close to a billion and a half dollars over the course of this transition. We are very interested in helping the prime minister in his efforts to continue with his anti-corruption initiatives in the country, and we’re very, very excited by the leadership that he and his government are providing as they really determine their own future and make clear their determination to be part of a larger global trading mechanism.
While I was in Moldova I had an occasion to visit a really rather remarkable winery, quite a spectacular underground facility. This is one of the great products that they are now exporting, and we’re excited about the prospects of their ability to broaden that market. There are challenges. I regret to say that Russia, in some of the challenges we’re seeing right now in Ukraine, has put pressure on Moldova. There are challenges with respect to their energy sources and also their ability to trade. But we are committed firmly to the direction that Moldovans have chosen for themselves and their government has expressed a desire to pursue.
We will also, obviously, talk about the neighborhood, the region, and their near neighbor Ukraine and the events that are unfolding there. So I look forward to a very constructive conversation, a timely one as I depart this evening for Kyiv, and I’m very grateful to the prime minister for taking time to come to visit. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER LEANCA: Mr. Secretary of State, I am delighted to be back in Washington, the same delighted to be back in the State Department. And thank you very much for this invitation to come and to have a chance to discuss about bilateral relations.
We are indeed extremely grateful to the U.S. Administration, to the U.S. people, for the generous support they have provided us during this almost 23 years of independence, in building functioning institutions, a pluralistic society, a tolerant society, making sure that we are able to show the benefits of independence to the citizens of Moldova.
Today we are just supposed to launch the Strategic Dialogue, which I am sure will be an extremely important element within building a more functioning and a more democratic society in Moldova, and to address the direct challenges which Moldova and the region is facing.
I’m very happy that we were able to get to resume the activities of the trade commission to Moldova and the U.S. because we are indeed very interested to expand the access to new markets and to the U.S. market (inaudible) to see more American investment in the economy of Moldova. And the response which we got today from the USTR is extremely promising, so we are very interested to discuss about it.
Of course, we want to (inaudible) the government’s Strategic Dialogue, which we’ll launch today, to make sure that there are working groups on various issues – energy. Moldova is very keen to build an energy interconnection with European Union, and American support is critical in this respect. The same is about the security cooperation. As we see right now in the region, there is some very negative developments unfolding; therefore, our determination to have a very active security cooperation and dialogue is there.
You’ve mentioned, Mr. Secretary of State, the issue of Ukraine. And since Moldova is the neighbor of Ukraine – despite our small size we have a border the length of 1,242 kilometers common border with Ukraine – of course, everything that happens in Ukraine is extremely important to Moldova, to the future of Moldova.
The problems Ukraine experiences is of profound concern to us. Moldova, unfortunately, from the very first day of its independence, has a secessionist movement on its territory, and we know exactly what apparently this means. And unfortunately, we were not able to find a proper solution to it, so what happens today in Ukraine is just a reminder to us in the first place, but then show to our friends, that we need to do much more in order to address this issue, because if it’s not addressed in time, then it becomes very contagious. And what happens today in Crimea, in some eastern parts of Ukraine, are just a brutal reminder. So Moldova is very much in favor of the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, and we hope very much that all international mechanisms will be applied and a peaceful solution to this conflict will be found.
So Mr. Secretary of State, again, I am happy to be here. I’m looking very much forward to our dialogue. We remember your visit, the visit to Chisinau, but also underground, where they tasted the excellent Moldovan wine. And I hope very much that American consumers will have a chance to taste more of excellent taste Moldovan wine in the future.
SECRETARY KERRY: We hope so, for sure. I don’t think that will be hard with this crowd. (Laughter.) Thank you very much.