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Diplomacy in Action

Joint Press Availability With Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra


Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Algiers, Algeria
April 3, 2014

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QUESTION: (Via interpreter, in progress) – makes a lot (inaudible) in the field of counterterrorism. However, we have two unshakable principles. The first one is noninterference in the states first, and the second one is the nonintervention of our army outside our territories. So how could we serve stability in this context and as part of these two principles?

SECRETARY KERRY: Merci. We have great respect for Algeria’s principle of noninterference. At the same time, terrorism doesn’t know any borders. Terrorism moves indiscriminately across borders without regard to international lines or rules of law. And there is only one way to respond between states who are joined together in the principle of fighting against terrorism, and that one way is cooperation.

We have to cooperate. I think Algeria completely understands that and is dedicated and committed to it. Algeria has been a very strong partner bilaterally and multilaterally in countering terrorist threats and in building a regional and international capacity to be able to do that. And Algeria’s one of the original key founders of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. It’s co-chair of the Sahel Region Capacity Working Group. And we really applaud the leadership of Algeria.

What we’re here to talk about today and what we have talked about is: How do we cooperate even further? How do we take this cooperation to be able to be more effective in providing the kind of stability that your question just asked about? So the United States, the UN, the G7 endorse the practices that are now known as the Algiers Memorandum. And we have, I think, very strong exchanges today with Algerian security services, law enforcement, their justice sectors, covering a wide range of questions.

Algeria is also a member of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership, which is our primary vehicle – the United States State Department’s primary vehicle to support long-term capabilities of the countries in the West and North Africa to face the AQIM threat. So we’re building that capacity and I believe that Algeria’s noninterference principle that you asked about does not stand in the way at all of our capacity to build additional cooperative initiatives, and particularly to build a full-fledged security cooperative relationship, which is what we came here to talk about today. We’ve made progress on that and we’re very pleased with it.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: (Via interpreter) Thank you, John. As far as these complex issues are concerned, I can simply add to what the Secretary of State has just said. The issues of international terrorism at the level of doctrine and policies, the objective and principles of international cooperation are clear-cut on behalf of the protection of human life and dignity. At the operational level, it is necessary for efficiency purposes not to go into the details as far as international cooperation is concerned.

However, I would like to mention that the – for the countries of the region, can – we are available to support all the neighboring countries in terms of information, the exchange of experiences, equipment, and (inaudible), a stakeholder as totally involved in the field of counterterrorism. We have made huge sacrifices in fighting against terrorism, as you know.

MODERATOR: Another question? Scott from – our guest, the American side, from our – according --

MS. PSAKI: Scott Stearns from VOA.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on the Middle East, you spoke today – here today and in Brussels about the limits of being a facilitator and about bringing the horse to water, saying today that the leaders need to know that now is the time to drink. Have you had any indication from Prime Minister Netanyahu or President Abbas that they are ready to drink?

And Mr. Minister, could you tell us specifically: What is it that you would like to see from the United States to help with security assistance, especially along the border with Mali? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Scott, let me say that I have been in direct touch this morning with our team on the ground in Israel, and they worked literally until 4:00 in the morning in direct discussions between Israelis and Palestinians, with the United States present, in an effort to try to move the process forward. I think it is a critical moment, obviously. The dialogue remains open. There was progress made in narrowing some of the questions that have arisen as a result of the events of the last few days, but there’s still a gap, and that gap will have to be closed and closed fairly soon.

So I will be in touch this afternoon with both leaders, but again, it’s really their decision that has to be made. They understand what the choices are. They understand what the stakes are. And they understand each of them, their own limits and dynamics. So we are urging them to find the compromise that is critical to being able to move forward.

One of the important things I want to say about this moment: The fight right now, the disagreement between them, is not over the fundamental substance of a final status agreement. It’s over the process that would get you there and what you need to do in order to be able to continue to negotiate. It would be a tragedy for both of them, we would say, for them to lose the opportunity to get to those real issues that are the differences of a final status agreement.

A fight over process, how to get into a negotiation, should not stop you from getting into that negotiation. And so I hope that they will consider that very, very carefully. President Obama believes very strongly that the role of the United States to help the parties come together is a critical role. He is committed to his efforts and my efforts on behalf of him and the United States to play this role without any fear, because we believe that it’s the right thing to do. President Obama believes that it is important for the United States to try to help the parties make peace.

But as he himself would agree, in the end, the leaders have to make the decisions to do so. We will continue to do everything in our power to try to bring them together, to find a place of reasonableness, to encourage them to compromise, show ways in which they might do so. But in the end, they are the ones who have to say yes, and that’s where we are.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: If I may, John, just to make a short comment on the Middle East, I think a week or so ago, we were having our Arab summit in Kuwait. And the ministers of foreign affairs of the group had a chance to be briefed by President Mahmoud Abbas about the status quo of the diplomatic effort at that time. What I want to say is that at that time, the president referred to the fact that he had some 38 interactions with you, John, and he described that as really a clear demonstration of the commitment by the Secretary of State and President Obama to achieve lasting peace for the region and justice for the Palestinian people.

So the whole group were very appreciative of this effort, and we were hoping that it would reach fruition and it will indeed have the desired outcome that we are all hoping for and praying for. President Mahmoud Abbas requested a meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of the Arab world to be held on the 9th of April in Cairo. We intend to go and we’ll definitely listen to President Mahmoud Abbas about the nitty-gritty of these discussions, and I’m sure that because it is our longstanding position to favor peace, stability, security, global peace, I believe that the Arab world will again express appreciation and support to your efforts, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: And I --

FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: It’s not --

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m sorry, I thought you were finished. I didn’t mean to --

FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: No, I thought I would go to the Arab question, but please --

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, please.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: Please, go, go.

No, regarding what is expected on the part of USA as far as the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region is concerned, I believe that today, the time has come for us to consolidate the achievements of the war against terrorism in northern Mali. I believe that we need to help in the rebuilding state institutions, law enforcement agencies, the national armed forces of Mali, and also in encouraging the regional efforts aiming at putting together regional security arrangements under the African Union initiative.

Eleven countries in the region have launched what we call the Nouakchott Process in order to help to assist each other in monitoring borders, in sharing intelligence, and this is a good occasion for the region to show by itself that indeed, we can do our best to fight and defeat terrorism in the Sahel region with clearly the required assistance on the part of the international community. If we were to ask specifically about what the U.S. can do, because nobody else could do it, it’s, for instance, sharing electronic intelligence with the armed forces and security agencies in the region. One example, but this is a qualitative edge that only the U.S. can provide. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you for that comment, Ramtane. Let me – just a quick addendum to that. I just want to – maybe I don’t have to say this, but I’ll just say it. If this was an easy thing to do, it would have happened a long time ago. It’s difficult because it is a very difficult conflict with deep-rooted historical levels of mistrust and huge narrative issues on both sides that are deeply emotional and go to the core of both people’s identity and aspirations.

It’s as tough as it gets. And the one thing that stands out to me is this: If it’s tough today, I have not met anybody anywhere who believes it’s going to get easier next week or next year or in the future. And that’s why I think this is so important. Both sides – neither side can achieve what it wants staying away from the negotiating table. There’s only one way to resolve that, and that’s through negotiation. And so my hope, along with the foreign ministers and everybody, I think, in the world, is that the parties will not lose an opportunity to negotiate.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: Thank you, sir.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.



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