FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: (Via translation.) A very warm welcome to Leipzig which you are the first Secretary of State to visit, as I have been told by your staff. I am very pleased to have you here today, and about the fact that you are spending two days in Germany. Today, we already visited the former inner German border in Thuringia, a place that is very important to you personally, and it was also important that we visited that place together to reminisce. You certainly also have some very personal memories of that place, about the time when shots were still fired at the border and U.S. troops like you defended the border, and freedom, on the Western side.
Now let me draw the line from there to Leipzig. Since the days of change in 1989, we Germans have seen this place as a symbol of the protesters’ courage, of the wind of change, and the fight for freedom, which finally led to Germany being reunited in freedom and dignity. And only a few particularly brave people believed that possible in those eventful days of the fall of 1989, in Germany, and here in Leipzig. Without American leadership, there would have been no unification – that still applies today. The U.S. Secretary of State at the time, James Baker, once said that, and he was very right about it. So we are indebted to you in gratitude and with a strong feeling of closeness towards you.
We clearly owe our freedom and unity to you and to the historic role that several American presidents have played in this process. And we also owe it to our European neighbors and not least to the policy of Michael Gorbachev, the Perestroika, which also made a contribution to it, and to the reunification of Germany.
This friendship between Germany and the United States and our shared values are the strong foundation of the transatlantic partnership on which we stand today. Presidents like Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior have also made a significant contribution to this. Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Mike, this friendship is also the foundation for all the things we intend to set in motion in the future in the field of international politics wherever we stand up to defend our interests in the world and talk about the values we share with other partners in the world. We had a whole host of issues on our agenda today as you may imagine because the United States of America continues to be Europe’s most important ally and Germany’s most important ally outside Europe. We know that many conflicts can only be solved if the United States of America and Europe work towards the same objectives. And we intend to continue to do so and even intensify our efforts. Even 30 years after the wall came down, security continues to be an issue in Europe. Something that keeps us on our toes of late. The end of the INF treaty means that we have lost part of our security in Europe.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Heiko, thank you. Good afternoon. I am delighted to be in Germany for this historic week. This morning Foreign Minister Maas and I spent in Modlareuth. We were vividly reminded of the painful separation that was caused by the wall. We saw guard towers, bunkers, remains of the very structure President Reagan called the “scar of a wall.”
It was a bit of a walk down memory lane for me, or memory strasse. You could say I saw – you could say I saw a piece of history that I was a tiny little part of back in the late 1980s. There was a plaque honoring American troops who protected peace and freedom in Western Europe. I was proud to play that small role. I think it’s indicative of the incredible, important relationship between our two countries over decades and decades and decades and decades as we move forward together as well.
As you said, I go out in a little while – I’ll continue my visit here in Leipzig. We’ll visit St. Nicholas Church, a sacred birthplace of German freedom. I’ll talk with some of the brave demonstrators who 30 years ago helped bring down the wall that divided people. We’ll then have a chance to visit the Halle Synagogue, the site of the vicious anti-Semitic attack just last month on Yom Kippur, a sickening reminder of how there remains much work to be done and the vigilance in the fight for religious freedom remains an imperative for each of our two countries.
The vets of 1989 remind me of what binds us, our two countries, free societies, transatlantic allies and friends. We share a strong belief in the rule of law and in democracy, human dignity, free speech, freedom of religion, and so many other unalienable rights, things we know to be central. These values link us together as people and as nations, and they define our policy – our foreign policy choices.
Not all nations share these liberal values. I spoke last week in New York City about the nature of how Chinese Communist Party, China’s governing entity, views the world, and we should speak frankly about such things. I know Germany, too, is facing its decision about how to handle its telecommunications network. This isn’t just a simple decision. It’s complicated, but it comes in the face of the challenges that are presented by the Chinese Communist Party.
Heiko and I spent a fair amount of time this morning, as he said, talking about Syria. The United States will continue to monitor the ceasefire and hold human rights violators there accountable. We’re investigating allegations of war crimes, and we’ll continue to deliver on our humanitarian mission there, and we’ll keep urging Russia and Turkey and the regime and its allies not to take steps that would further destabilize that already difficult region that has caused the mass displacement and refugee flows that we have already seen.
I know, too, that Germany prides itself on being an important and valuable multilateral partner, and I expressed my deep appreciation for Germany’s commitment to multilateral efforts that are in both our interest as well as in Europe’s interest. Germany has been a great partner in supporting our efforts to attempt to denuclearize North Korea. You’ve maintained pressure on Russia to meet its commitments to implement the Minsk agreements. You’ve stood alongside the United States and many European partners trying to achieve democracy in Venezuela, and in September you stood along with France and the United Kingdom in ascribing responsibility for the Iran attacks – or for the attacks by Iran on Saudi oil facilities.
Each of these issues has at its core the mission of protecting unalienable rights and human dignity, something that communists of East Germany failed to do for so many years. I look forward to working with you, Heiko, to protect our shared values. There is no better way to do that than to be here to remember the victory of 1989. Heiko, thank you for hosting me on this very memorable visit. I will certainly never forget it. Thank you.
MODERATOR: There is time for a couple of questions, and the first one is coming from the Agence France-Presse (inaudible).
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the events in northern Syria. The French president in an interview that he gave declared that NATO was braindead, and the chancellor strongly rejected that statement. Do you do that too? And a question goes to the Secretary.
And Secretary Pompeo, having served here 30 years ago, how do you react to the French president’s words, and what can be done on both sides to repair the trans-Atlantic relationship?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sorry, what was the second question? I didn’t get the second question.
QUESTION: Sorry. Second question in English: Having served here 30 years ago, how do you react to the French president’s words that NATO is braindead, and what can be done on both sides to repair the trans-Atlantic relationship?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So I think you asked that in the right context. There we were, in this place where nations with democratic values worked so closely together for a long time to achieve what happened in 1989 and then again in 1990. Remarkable work that created freedom and brought millions of people out of very, very difficult situations. I think NATO remains an important, critical, perhaps historically one of the most critical strategic partnerships in all of recorded history. That’s why – it’s frankly – it’s why when you hear President Trump talk about the fact that we need to make sure that every nation shares that burden, that every nation works alongside, it’s why I welcome the comments from AKK, who said we’re prepared to do this by 2031, to get to the Wales commitment by 2031. We’re – I’m happy to hear that.
It’s that relationship, it is that NATO alliance that is so central, so important, and it’s why it is an absolute imperative that every country participate and join in and contribute appropriately to achieving that shared security mission.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: (Via interpreter) No, I do not believe that NATO is braindead. I firmly believe in international cooperation, also, and above all, because we are increasingly facing challenges of a global character, and NATO is the alliance in which we cooperate on security policy issues. Our core interest is to guarantee our security interests in Europe, and NATO does just that, and this is why we are grateful to our American partners for their contribution to Germany’s and Europe’s security.
Together we have to make sure that the alliance continues to cooperate in the face of a number of difficult tests we’ve been put to. The challenges should not be downplayed in their importance, those that we are facing, but we have an interest in the unity of NATO and its ability to take action. We should all have that very interest.
MS ORTAGUS: Thank you. We’re going to have Tracy Wilkinson, L.A. Times.
QUESTION: Hi, yes. Thank you. For Minister Maas, you mentioned Ukraine. As it tries to – struggles to fight both corruption and Russia, do you feel like Ukraine suffered a setback with what happened in Washington and vis-a-vis Ukraine, the Trump administration’s actions this year?
And Mr. Pompeo, Secretary Pompeo, you have said that Ambassador McKinley did not make known to you his objections over the recalling of Ambassador Yovanovitch, but he has testified that three times he directly appealed to you to make a statement in her support. You did not. Why not?
FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: (Via interpreter) We believe that there is a very positive momentum in Ukraine right now which began with the election of President Zelensky, and this is why we intend to support President Zelensky in his endeavors. He has two priorities, the first of which is fighting corruption. Over the past few years, Germany has already supported the Ukraine with 1.5 billion euros, and we will continue to support projects in Ukraine that are being set in motion as part of the reform agenda.
His second priority is to achieve peace in Donbas, and here too we have noted that he has created preconditions that so far have not been realized. Agreements that have already been reached as part of the Minsk process are being implemented now, and thus we want to benefit from this momentum. We have one format, the so-called Normandy Format, where Germany cooperates with France and Russia and Ukraine. It is not only in that format that we set in motion the Minsk process, but we intend to operationalize it further, and this is why we’re working very hard to prepare the ground for a summit meeting in the next few weeks in order to, as I said, benefit from the momentum, and we’re investing a lot of effort into that. Together with our French friends, we are engaging strongly here, and I am hopeful, I’m confident that in the coming weeks we will make headway, step by step, and we will get further than we have been able to do in the past few weeks and months.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I want to take on the first question you asked too. Your question said something to the effect of was there a setback based on what happened in Washington with respect to the approach on Ukraine. Well, what happened in Washington this year was that we provided $250 million worth of security assistance, defense assistance, and $140 million or so of additional security assistance, just like happened in Fiscal Year ’18 and Fiscal Year ’17. And the United States efforts to continue to fight corruption continued throughout this year. So that’s what happened in Washington with respect to Ukraine this year.
And I think that’s important, because here I sit in Europe, a place that understands deeply the challenges of corruption in Ukraine, who talks about those risks to Europe incessantly and properly and importantly, and our administration too – and the United States has been very worried about Ukrainian corruption. It’s been something that’s been at the center of the State Department’s mission set, and something that we worked last year and we will work again in the year ahead, trying to make sure that President Zelensky has the opportunity to root out corruption inside of his own country.
And as for Ambassador McKinley, I clearly follow this a lot less than you do. I haven’t had a chance – it’s a pretty busy world out there – haven’t had a chance to follow this, but with respect to Ambassador McKinley, I think he said at the opening statement that he put out that he wasn’t particularly involved in the Ukraine file, so it’s not surprising that when Ambassador Yovanovitch returned to the United States, that he didn’t raise that issue with me. That’s —
QUESTION: You’re saying he didn’t raise the issue at all?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It shouldn’t surprise anyone that in May when that took place, he didn’t say a thing to me.
QUESTION: Or ever?
MS ORTAGUS: Okay, thanks. Next.
MODERATOR: So next is First German Television, Mr. Felt.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Minister Maas, the German defense minister called for a more active German policy, a greater, stronger military engagement. How would you view a more active German policy? And also, with an eye to what the United States have been doing now on the anniversary of the fall of the wall, do you expect more commitment, more engagement, more gratitude on the part of Germany?
And also a question with respect to Leipzig, there seems to be – one of those members of the civil organization doesn’t seem to be interested in talking to you.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: (Via interpreter) I would very much like to respond to the question that you put to me, the questions – the question regarding our minister, the statement by our minister of defense. These are proposals that we’ve been discussing for quite a while. They’ve also been a subject of the coalition negotiations, and we will continue to talk about them.
Also, as far as the expectations are concerned with regard to Germany stepping up to the plate, so to speak, and how we can comply with those expectations, German foreign policy is active on the international scene to an extent that we haven’t seen for quite a while. As I said, we are about to organize a summit meeting on Ukraine. We have taken a lead road with regard to initiating a political process in Libya. We’ve called it a Berlin process. We continue to engage with the Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, engaging in an intensive dialogue. We also offered to host the next peace talks following the peace conference that took place last year. We are in close touch with our American friends on how to proceed on Afghanistan. So should negotiations with Taliban be taken up again, Mike – I give Mike Pompeo the promise that Germany would be willing to moderate the peace process between the Afghan Government and the Taliban.
As I said, we are active on a whole host of dossiers. We want to actively help solve crises and conflicts and find sustainable solutions. And of course, we will also be facing up to those discussions that make it very clear that greater engagement is expected on the part of Germany. We witnessed that in a number of parts of the world, on the diplomatic scene. As I said, the issues of dossiers I mentioned are not complete. We will face up to this challenge. As I said, we are engaged in our international mission support. Some of them will be concluded. New ones will spring up. And of course, we will continue to focus in a very constructive manner on these expectations in the German Government. Our membership in the Security Council of the United Nations has not made these expectations any smaller, and we will do our best to live up to those expectations.
SECRETARY POMPEO: If I may, I want to second what Foreign Minister Maas said. The Germans have been great partners across a broad range of complex international issues, even the places where you might find newspapers writing that we’re in deep conflict, places like Iran. Like, we’re both very concerned about human rights issues inside of Iran; we’re each concerned about hostages being taken; we both understand the challenges of their ballistic missile threat; we both know the risks that if Iran were to get a nuclear weapon – this is unacceptable. We start at the same set of principles and the same set of concerns. We’ve taken different approaches from time to time. That will happen amongst any two good friends, partners, and allies. But I appreciate the work that the German Government has done alongside us on each of the challenges that Foreign Minister Maas described.
As for Leipzig, I’m very much thrilled to be here. I’m excited. It’s an important, historic place. The people of East Germany sat under the yoke of communism for all of these years and they worked so diligently and then rose up in a way that is most noble. The fundamental search for freedom of people all across the world was in great evidence. And to get a chance to go now to St. Nicholas Church, a sacred place for the birthplace of German freedom, will be very, very special.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Abbie Williams, NBC.
QUESTION: Foreign Minister Maas, first to you: Has Germany made any further consideration of the U.S. request to designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization? And are you encouraging the U.S. to open dialogue with Iran?
And Mr. Secretary, when Ambassador Yovanovitch returned early from her post in Ukraine, she was told you could no longer protect her. Who were you protecting her from? And what is the State Department doing to mitigate the financial burden on veteran career diplomats who are being asked to testify in front of Congress?
FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: (Via interpreter) We’ve been talking about Hizballah for quite some while, not only with our American partners but also with our Israeli friends. It is a topic that is not only important with respect to Germany, but it is something to which we need to find a European answer. We have been witnessing developments in the region and in Lebanon that gives us cause to be seriously concerned. And as I said, we will be engaging with our European partners with an eye to a possible listing of Hizballah, but this presupposes European unanimity. And as I said, we will engage in that discussion.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You can see the media in Washington is fixated on a lot of things that you and I didn’t spend any time talking about today, Heiko, things that actually make a difference about American people’s security and keeping the American people safe – the things that my team, my State Department team, is focused on all across the world.
And as for assisting our senior officials who will have legal burdens connected to all of this noise, I think we’ll have an announcement shortly that’ll make good sense and be consistent with what we’ve done previously.