SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I apologize for keeping folks waiting for a moment here. It’s my great privilege to welcome the prime minister of New Zealand, the great Kiwi friend of the United States and someone I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with in a number of different conferences and locales, and I’m delighted that you’re here today, John. Thank you very much for being with us.
Before I say a little more about the New Zealand-U.S. relationship, I want to say a few words about the situation that we’re all focused on intensely and with the greatest concern imaginable, and that is, of course, Iraq. Iraq, in our country and in other places in the world, has long been hotly debated with contrasting views from many different quarters. But two things are crystal clear. This is no time for that debate, and it’s not the time for a war about the war. Second, this is the time to ensure that Iraq receives the help that is needed to break the momentum of extremist groups and to bolster the capabilities of Iraq’s security forces. And we do that to – because that is critical to the security interests of our country, the security interests of the region, of allies and friends of ours, and it is the way to best fulfil the mission which our troops spent their lives and treasure securing for Iraqis, and it is still possible that if Iraqis make those right choices that they can define their future in the way that our forces and others work so hard to give them the opportunity to do so.
An hour ago President Obama laid out a series of immediate steps, which include reinforcing the security of our Embassy and American personnel in Iraq as well as expanding surveillance and intelligence-gathering efforts on the ground, increasing our support to Iraqi security forces, including by sending additional U.S. personnel, non-combatant forces and positioning additional U.S. military assets throughout the region should targeted action become necessary.
Over the past 10 days I have been consistently on the phone with a number of our allies and partners inside Iraq in the region and across Europe as part of a diplomatic effort to resolve this crisis, because we know there is no single military answer. At the President’s request, I will take the next step in that diplomatic effort traveling to Europe and the Middle East next week to consult with our partners face to face.
Make no mistake, ISIL is a threat to Iraq and the entire region. And the United States is responding to that threat. But our efforts will only be successful if Iraqi leaders rise above their differences and come around and embrace a political plan that defines Iraq’s future through the political process, not through insurgency and conflict. That will require diplomacy and it will require willpower, leadership, decisions by those who really hold Iraq’s future in their hands. And we will be working very, very hard on all of this in the next few days.
Now, returning to the meeting that I just had with Prime Minister Key, New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCully, was here a couple of days ago in the State Department sharing a very important conference with us on the oceans. And it’s really good to welcome the prime minister here, who is a passionate advocate for the actions that we need to take to protect our fisheries, protect the ocean from pollution, acidification, from overfishing. And New Zealand is obviously, as an island nation, right on the front lines of climate change. And they also understand as well as anybody the extraordinary challenges that are faced by the marine world. They are a country in the ocean. And both Murray and the prime minister have a firsthand understanding of the enormous stakes and of the urgency of our taking action.
We are very pleased in the United States to be able to count New Zealand as an extraordinary partner committed to this effort. And the ocean conference was really only just the most recent opportunity to be able to celebrate and work on together the remarkable commitment of New Zealand to various efforts to protect our planet. We share a number of environmental priorities, including establishing the world’s largest marine sanctuary with Antarctica’s Ross Sea. As the United States continues President Obama’s commitment to rebalance towards the Asia Pacific, New Zealand has become an increasingly critical partner on everything from regional security to humanitarian assistance to relief to helping to build up shared prosperity throughout the Pacific.
So the prime minister and I are in full agreement that the best way to bring economic growth and new jobs to both of our shores is to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In fact, the last time that we were together was in October for the TPP leaders meeting in Bali. And President Obama and the prime minister are both – President Obama because he proposed it, obviously, and the prime minister because he was one of the first to embrace it and understand its benefits – are deeply committed to passing the TPP. And it’s about much more than just creating jobs. It’s about creating a set of rules that will bring other nations to the table to race to the top in the standards by which we do global business.
And it will be good because it will attract the investment and ultimately create the jobs necessary to kick the global economy into gear. By making sure that the companies of all of our nations are playing by the same set of rules, we will in fact improve life for all of our citizens. The TPP will promote innovation, transparency, and fairness, and it will do so in an area that represents 40 percent of the global marketplace, which is pretty extraordinary, and that’s market power. And that has an impact on choices that other countries, even those outside of it, make, because they will want to sell their goods within the framework of that market. So it’s in the best interest of every nation to get this off the ground as quickly as possible, and we intend to continue to work to do that.
So it’s a great pleasure, again, for me to have to the prime minister here in Washington. We look forward to continuing to work on all of these issues together, and John, I’m really happy to welcome you to the State Department.
Thank you, sir.
PRIME MINISTER KEY: Well, Mr. Secretary, firstly can I just thank you for the invitation to be at the State Department. Let me keep my remarks brief. We enjoyed a very wide-ranging conversation today, an opportunity to discuss some of the real hotspots around the world. We want to thank and salute you, Mr. Secretary, and the President, for your global leadership, for your friendship towards New Zealand.
We recognize and understand the very heavy lifting that the United States has to do in some of these difficult situations. I’d like to think that New Zealand, as a small country, plays its part and, where appropriate, lead and support. And our relationship is a very longstanding and very deep one. It’s a great friendship and we thank you for what you’re doing.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, my friend. Thank you, sir.
MS. PSAKI: The first question will be from Margaret Brennan of CBS News.
QUESTION: Thank you, and thank you Mr. Secretary. The U.S. has been asking Prime Minister Maliki for years to be more inclusive. You’ve asked him to do it, and he’s failed. So should he resign at this point? How much more time should he be given? And is the U.S. any closer to delivering the kind of help that the Free Syrian Army is asking for in its battle against ISIS?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Margaret, it’s up to the people of Iraq to decide the future of their government, not the United States. And it is a fact well known that we have been pushing for certain reforms for a period of time, but more importantly people in Iraq have been asking for these reforms for a period of time. One of the great problems that exists right now, which is a cloud over the governance of Iraq, is the degree to which there are parties – Kurds, particularly – Sunni – who feel left out and feel like they have not been included in the political process.
So if there is to be a solution, recognizing that ISIL is a threat to everybody in the region, and ISIL is something we’re going to have to deal with no matter what happens in Iraq, and others are going to have to deal with – recognizing that, we still know that unless there is a coming together and elimination of the mistrust and addressing of the sense of isolation of different segments of Iraqi society, unless people are brought together in order to try to bring the country together, it’s going to be – there is no single military solution.
So it is absolutely vital that the government formation process that is now underway be effected as rapidly as possible. The people of Iraq had an election. They’ve made their choices. And they’ve – they have a parliamentary system with factions coming together to choose a prime minister and choose a government. That process has to be played out as rapidly as possible so the security of Iraq is determined by Iraqis. And that will be the greatest single step taken to have an impact on the outcome of this current conflict.
Meanwhile, the United States recognizes that ISIL is a vicious terrorist organization with a proven agenda of violence, and its expressed aim is to take territory and terrorize the Iraqi people, regardless of sect. So the only way to fight ISIL is through strong coordination by Iraqi leaders across the full spectrum of Iraqi society and with the support of the surrounding nations.
The next days will decide whether or not that is the direction chosen, but it is really in the hands of Iraqis to determine their future, and we will do everything in our power to keep faith with our soldiers who expended so much in the effort to provide Iraqis with exactly this kind of a choice. But it is truly up to the leaders now to make those choices, and we’ll do everything we can to encourage it.
QUESTION: And on Syria? The support to the FSA that they’re specifically asking for to battle ISIS, are we any closer to delivering that?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we are – we – President Obama has over the last months made a series of decisions that provide additional assistance to the opposition in Syria. We are currently providing humanitarian assistance; the greatest single amount of humanitarian aid to Syria comes from the United States. We are in addition providing military assistance, humanitarian assistance, and we have, I think, increased our efforts with respect to our input to the opposition in Syria way beyond where it was one month ago or even two months ago or four months ago. This has been a progressive increase, and we are quite confident that there is increased capacity at this moment.
So again, ISIL is a freestanding effort. It is not linked to the – directly to the Assad regime, obviously, except to the degree that it originally came there to fight against them. But they obviously have broader ambitions and they have proven themselves to be violent to the degree that even al-Qaida divorced themselves from them. They are a threat to every country in the region, and the President has made it clear that we are going to do what we need to do to stand up against the possibility of a jihad threat that actually reaches out beyond and may even threaten the United States ultimately.
MS. PSAKI: The next question will be from Tracy Watkins of the Dominion Post.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can I just ask you, given that you did discuss Iraq in your meeting, what kind of support are you expecting from New Zealand, and does that include practical or moral backing for today’s announcements in any future --
SECRETARY KERRY: I’m sorry, I missed the part about the moral. Could you just give me that again?
QUESTION: Practical, or are you sort of – what sort of practical or moral support are you expecting for the actions that have been announced?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, this is not about – I mean, I think the President made it clear that we are committed to try to help Iraq, and that statement alone is moral support. The fact that he is asking me, sending me to go on behalf of our country and his policy to engage with the region is moral support. The fact that we are sending troops to be involved in a joint operations command in two locations and to help assess their capacity is more than moral support. That’s physical, real support that can have a difference.
Now, is that going to be the difference in stemming the tide with ISIL? It’s not meant to be. It’s mean to give the President the best assessment possible so that whatever choices the President makes or has to make as we go down the road are based on facts, are based on real possibilities, not a wing and a prayer. And I think the President is wise to try to come at this in a careful, thoughtful way, given all of the mistakes that have been made historically with respect to the decisions in that region.
QUESTION: So then are you seeking that moral and – moral support from friends and partners like New Zealand for your actions here?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we hope. I mean, yes, the answer is we welcome all the support there is in the world for rule of law, for a peaceful resolution rather than terrorism and conflict. And we know that our friends – we don’t have to ask. This is one where we know that New Zealand stands with us, and I’ll let the prime minister speak for himself.
QUESTION: And is there any practical support that could be provided as well?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s part of the assessment and that’s part of what we need to determine, which is why I’m going to be talking with our friends in Europe. I’ll be at the NATO ministerial in Brussels next week. I’ll be seeing all of our friends and allies within NATO as well as discussing this with Gulf states and others. And so we’ll get a much better sense of exactly what – how people see it, how they determine and define the best strategy, what they see as the best road forward for all of us to embrace, and what they’re willing to do. And all of those things will come out in the course of those meetings.
Mr. Prime Minister, do you want to --
QUESTION: You mentioned before that the terrorism threat could expand beyond Iraq into the United States. Does that include the Western world as well? Do you think --
SECRETARY KERRY: Yes.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: Why is that?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, why is that? It is because they have already threatened the rest of the Western world. It is because there are, regrettably, people from many different parts of the world, including Asia, the United States, Europe, and other places who have chosen to go do jihad in Syria.
QUESTION: But that includes New Zealand as well?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’ll let the prime minister speak to that. I know there are some from Australia. I don’t know specifically about New Zealand. But there are people from the Asian Pacific arena who have chosen to go to Iraq. There are a lot of people from North Africa, a lot of people from Europe, and some from the United States that we know specifically are fighting jihad in Syria against Assad. The young person who was wrapped in a flag in Brussels the other day who shot four people at a synagogue had been fighting in Syria. We know specifically of those threats and we know specifically of the concerns of many countries about foreign fighters who will choose to come home and continue their struggles in other ways.
So this is a risk. It’s not something we’re trying to exaggerate; it’s not something we want to blow up. But given where we have been from September of 2001 and given what we know day to day in our intelligence communities, we know that this has to be taken seriously. And the President does take it very, very seriously.
We also know what these people talk about and what they put out on their websites and what they are promising their followers. And so we need to be vigilant and concerned and engaged, and that’s what the President is.
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me let the prime minister – can I let the prime minister answer a question?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, we’re going to have to wrap this up, but let’s let the prime minister take --
PRIME MINISTER KEY: Sure.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah.
PRIME MINISTER KEY: I mean, look, we are fully supportive of what is clear from the President, which is a very careful and considered process for assessing what is best in terms of the next steps for Iraq. And from New Zealand’s point of view, we can lend a hand in there as we can sense we make a difference. And today the foreign minister has announced we’re giving UNHCR half a million dollars in humanitarian support. That’s the kinds of things that can make a difference.
QUESTION: So prime minister, what about --
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry --
QUESTION: What about moral backing, moral or practical backing of what the United States has announced today on military action in the future? Will you give that backing?
PRIME MINISTER KEY: Well, I don’t think the United States is seriously anywhere near that step at this point. I mean, what the President has made clear, if I understand it completely, is that he’s sending in some military people to look at the capability on the ground. The United States is standing up against a terrorist threat, and it’s trying to protect the innocent people of Iraq. And of course we support those actions 100 percent. But I don’t think anyone’s talking about a re-engagement of a war. I mean, the President’s made that pretty clear.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much. Thank you.