tv Secretary of State Kerry on Syria CSPAN May 19, 2014 12:55am-1:25am EDT
humanitarian, of course. the support that is not humanitarian is practical. but it is not lethal. so we have not entered into those discussions as the united kingdom. and one more question? and then we must let you get set up for secretary kerry. >> thank you. foreign minister, it sounds like you're declaring bankruptcy somehow on the policy on syria. that there's really nothing new that we can talk about in this meeting more or less. am i correct in saying that? and also, i wonder if you have discussed the rise of people like nasra and what are you doing about this in practical terms? thank you. >> we have discussed the need to increase further coordination which has of course begun some time ago on tracking and preventing the flow of foreign fighters into syria and all the ministers have raised that.
the spread of extremism, the threat of the spread of terror across the wider region is a major reason for the rest of the world to do everything it can to try to resolve the conflict in syria. it wouldn't be right to say there is nothing new in our meeting today. because as i've sat out in the communique, we have -- we decided to increase our support in various ways. for the moderate opposition, and the supreme military council. to press ahead with the various matters i've talked about at the security council. to increase our coordination on countering extremism. and to complete the work on the chemical weapons. to step up delivering humanitarian aid across borders. and to have further quite urgent meetings of our officials on a coordinated core group action plan. so this is a very clear statement of intent by these nations to work even more closely together. as i say, to step up our support for the national coalition, and before i forget, i did not
answer the question about, what is the point of the security council putting forward things that some countries may veto? with that, and make the argument that we sometimes get there in the end. we have faced long months of opposition to any resolution on humanitarian matters, but in the end, we succeeded earlier this year in passing resolution 2139 on humanitarian access. these arguments gained ground in the international community. we want the assad regime to know that there are very powerful nations in the world, very powerful forces in the world that are determined to see justice done one day. if we are frustrated now, if we are prevented now from referring the situation to the international criminal court, it is something we will return to and the people of syria may wish to return to in the future. yes, sometimes these things take
a long time, but it is a very clear statement of what -- of where we intend to end up. thank you very much. i don't want to keep you waiting too long for secretary kerry. i know you want to reject the room a little bit, and we will make space for him. thank you very much indeed. >> good afternoon, everybody. first of all, let me just think foreign secretary william hague for his terrific posting today, convening all of us together to be able to talk about a number of challenging issues we are facing together. after today, we have an even better sense of direction.
we gathered here, i think it is safe to say, frankly more united than we have been in some time. all of us remain committed to changing the dynamics on the ground in syria. since we last met, the opposition has itself taken some significant steps forward to expand their leadership, to expand their reach into syria, to become more effective. we know, as you know, we just hosted the president and his
delegation in washington for a number of days with a series of meetings, including meetings with the state department, the white house, and the president. the truth is, we all know that the grave humanitarian crisis is growing more dire. the bloodshed and the suffering in one unified voice, we need it clear that we remain committed even more so to taking steps that could in fact make a difference. most importantly, we start in one unified voice that rejects any notion whatsoever that that regimens that the assad waycaused -- there is no for a legitimate effort for this impossible set of circumstances for an election to somehow give legitimacy where there is none. together, we are unified in saying that his staged elections
are a farce and an insult. they are a fraud. his status in the world, his position with respect to potential ofd the any resolution of the exactly where they were before the election, perhaps slightly worse because of the fraud of this effort. how do have a legitimate election in half the people in a country are displaced and not able to vote? how do you have any legitimate election when when several
million people are in refugee camps unable to vote? how do you have an election when hundreds of thousands of people are scattered in various countries in the region seeking safety from assad? it is just impossible to believe that under those circumstances, where people are hunkered down in their homes, intimidated, afraid to be able to come out, afraid of being forced to do one vote or another, you just have no climate, no framework within which you can talk about legitimacy. we also agreed today that we have to redouble our efforts, all of us, in support of the moderate opposition in order to bring about a peaceful resolution that the people of syria want.
that requires the full support of the international community, and that was really the focus of our discussions today. i'm sure your question would be, what is different today? look at the length of the communiqué. it is short, and it is purposefully short. it purposefully points to the elections and then to the renewed efforts, and the most important sentence is the last sentence and which it points out that our teams are going to come together in very short order now to lay out a specific set of steps that we can and will take together in order to have a greater impact here and there isn't anybody who didn't come together today with the realization that there have been hurdles over the course of the last year. from the time when foreign minister lavrov and i announced the possibility of a geneva conference in moscow last year, about a month earlier than now, things changed on the ground. hezbollah entered the fight. iranian forces entered the fight on the ground, and more
terrorists were attracted to the fight against assad, regrettably thereby creating a framework where some of the opposition was fighting terrorists, not assad. that is a very clear and simple reality of what has taken place over the course of a year. that has changed. now, i think, there is a greater level of coordination, a greater level of unity, a greater level of understanding of purpose, and over the next days as those teams meet, there will be a serious definition of steps that can be taken in order to have a greater impact. the united states is committed to doing our part. each country today sat there and discussed what they felt they could do to grow the effort. that is what is different. last week, we announced that the syrian opposition coalition representative offices are now foreign missions.
we are working to provide nonlethal assistance and speed up delivery of assistance to the free syrian army. the treasury department has imposed new restrictions and sanctions against members of the regime, and we will continue to strengthen our ties with the syrian opposition, as i think you've seen firsthand in the visit to washington this past week. on behalf of the united states, i want to extend our deep concern for the two british journalists who were shot and who were beaten while trying to share with the world the real story of what is happening in syria. this is not the first time that courageous reporters have been part of the heartbreaking story of syria. far too many journalists and
innocent civilians have been hurt, killed, or held hostage in syria, and just two days ago in washington, we met with one of the families, with many of the families actually, of those being held in syria. we are keeping up a very focused effort to try to secure their release. we reiterate our respect and admiration for the reporters who put their lives and their liberties on the line to tell the stories to the world that otherwise people would never learn. let me also say a quick word about to other issues that we touched on this week. ukraine and libya. we had a very good discussion this morning with the british, french, german, italian foreign ministers. on ukraine, we welcome the successful national dialogue roundtable in kiev that took place yesterday and the very
good conversation that took place on decentralization, constitutional reform, and protection of minority rights. we hope that the separatists, the russians, we hope that others who are disgruntled by what has taken place will take note of the legitimate effort to try to reach out, bring people to the table, and find political compromise. we are absolutely committed to the notion that there must be a protection of these minority rights, and we support the government in kiev's efforts to reach out with serious concrete plans for increased autonomy and decentralization. i would note that the level of decentralization and autonomy that the prime minister has articulated far exceeds any level of autonomy or decentralization that exists anywhere in russia.
i think it is important for everybody to note that. we believe that the process of the roundtables coupled with the election provides the people of ukraine with an opportunity to be able to heal the divide, and that will now be encouraged through a second meeting of a roundtable that will take place in eastern ukraine in a few days. this morning, we also underscored the vital importance of a free and fair presidential election across ukraine on may 25, including, importantly, the eastern provinces. we are also working with the ukrainians and the osce to protect the rights of all ukrainian citizens and to make their voices heard through the ballot box in a legitimate election. we call on the separatists and russians to respect this
election process, to help to make it happen even, to encourage ukrainians to be able to define their future. that is the best way to de-escalate the situation. we believe that this effort to legitimize an election and move to have a broad-based election, according to the constitutional process of ukraine, is in stark contrast to the agenda of the pro-russian separatists and their supporters who are literally sowing in communities. insowing mayhem communities. far from defending the rights of people in east, they are seeking to speak for everybody through the barrel of a gun and through their own narrow sense of what they want for an outcome. we agree this morning that if russia or its proxies disrupt
the election, the united states and those countries represented here today in the european union will impose sectoral economic sanctions as a result. our message is really quite simple -- let ukraine vote. let the ukrainian people choose their future. let them do so in a fair, open, free, accessible election. finally, on libya, the united states and our quintet partners reiterated today our shared commitment to the stability and security for the libyan people and for the region. we agreed that we need to do more. we understood that there is a challenging moment and libya. we need to try to accelerate the efforts to bring about stability and security and the governance necessary to provide the time and space for libyan authorities to be able to confront the threat of extremism and the challenges that their country faces of providing governance to their people. in that light and in support of the libyan government, we are working collectively through a
number of different envoys -- the arab league has an envoy, great britain has an envoy, we have an envoy -- they will work in concert, and we tasked to them to be working as one entity, not as individuals out there. we are going to do everything we can to help the libyans in these next days to try to be able to gain control over their revenues and begin to forge the kind of coalition that can actually begin to build the offices of governance that are necessary. this is a small country. 6.5 million people. smaller than the state i represented in the senate for almost 29 years. i know something about what you can provide when you want to. libya is a country rich in resources, rich in people with talent and capacity, and we hope
that in the days ahead we are going to be able to tap into that and find a way to help the libyan people to move forward to have the kind of stability and peaceful governance that they aspire to. with that, i thank you, and i would be happy to take a couple questions. >> thank you, mr. secretary. on syria, i think you put your finger on what the question is, what is different after today? in terms of u.s. policy, could you tell us whether the united states is prepared to do what britain has done, which is to change the way its aid is sent into syria and start sending it through ngo's or other means instead of through the united nations? also, on the expanded aid you've talked about the both the military and political sides of
the opposition, the president has publicly called for increased weapons assistance, specifically portable surface-to-air missiles, to stop the syrian government's air attacks against civilians, including the barrel bombs you personally haven't announced. are you prepared to take this step or allow your allies to take this step, and if not, why not? finally, on syria, foreign minister fabius said in washington this week that france is seeing evidence of 14 chemical attacks by the syrian government since october. secretary hagel said yesterday that the united states has seen no such evidence. is this because you haven't seen what the french have seen, or that you have seen it and don't find it conclusive? thank you. >> well, let me take them 1, 2, 3.
we are open to the idea of providing aid through any means that will get to the people who need it. while the decision has not been categorically made, i repeat -- and we are open to anything that will get the aid to the people, and we are very frustrated with the current process. it is not getting to people. it is going through one gate, one entryway, and it is going through damascus controlled by the assad regime. that is unacceptable. we are, in addition to that, we are going to, in the united nations security council, challenge the appropriate level of follow-through that is necessary to be able to fulfill what was passed in the resolution previously a few months ago in order to guarantee that delivery of aid. it is not being fulfilled. it has to be fulfilled. our patience is gone. we are going to join with other countries in an effort to try to guarantee accountability through
the u.n. and making that happen. we are determined that people will be able to get aid. people who left homes, for instance, did so because they were literally under siege. they were being starved to death, civilians and others, and that is against the laws of war, not to mention anybody's fundamental values of decency. obviously not assad's. we intend to pursue this issue in the days ahead. on the issue of weapons, i'm not going to discuss what specific weapons, what country may or may not be providing or not providing. as you know, we are providing nonlethal aid, but i will say that out of today's meeting, every facet of what can be done is going to be ramped up.
every facet. that includes political effort. it includes the aid to the opposition. it includes economic efforts, sanctions. today, we announced additional sanctions. they will be -- there will be a ramped up effort to make it clear that despite the fact that assad may think today he is doing better and this process is somehow going to come to a close with him sitting pretty, the answer is no. we are not going away. the opposition is not going away. we are determined to reach a
political settlement that protects all of the people of syria. i want to make it clear, à la -- other minorities can be protected here. assad is only protecting himself. by doing so, he's making partnership with terrorist elements, attracting terrorists, engaging in terrorist activities against his own people, and i don't think anybody today felt the deterred one iota in the notion that there might be a better route, another route other than a political settlement, which can only be brought about when he is
prepared to negotiate. as everybody looks at lakhdar brahimi's resignation and makes a judgment about it, he performed valiantly against a great odds, but if the parties aren't prepared to perform according to the standards they have accepted to negotiate on, there is nothing an intermediary or negotiator can do. we remain committed to trying to find that solution, and i'm not going to discuss specific weapons systems or otherwise, except to say that every possible avenue that is available is going to be pursued by one country or another. on the third issue, the issue of evidence, i suspect -- i haven't talked to secretary hagel about what was in his mind or what he was referring to with respect to that -- chlorine is not listed on the list of prohibited items
by itself free standing under the chemical weapons convention, but chlorine when used and mixed in a way that is used as a chemical weapon in the conduct of war is against the chemical weapons treaty. i have seen evidence -- i don't know how verified -- it's not verified yet, hasn't been confirmed, but i've seen the raw data that suggests that there may have been, as france has suggested, a number of instances in which chlorine has been used in the conduct of war. if it has and if it could be proven, then that would be against the agreements of the chemical weapons treaty and against the weapons convention that syria has signed on to. >> secretary kerry, to follow up
on your last point, if it is proven that chlorine was used as a chemical weapon in war, which is prohibited, what will the syrian government face? what steps can you take? i want to go back to the point of military aid. i know you won't go into details about the system. what i would like to ask you is, are you more confident now in the free syrian army linked to the use of weaponry by the fsa? >> i think the free syrian army has clearly improved. it has clearly gained in its capacity. it has gained in its command and control. it is also now being supported in a more coordinated way. it is much more concentrated. we think that they are making progress. you know, are they a trained army in the context of a nationstate that we measure things by in many places?
no, not yet, but they are improving and under very difficult circumstances holding their own, in fact making gains in certain parts of the country. we are committed to continue to be helpful to them and give them greater capacity in many different respects. everybody there today shared in that commitment. with respect to the cw and what the consequences are, it has been made clear by president obama and others that use would result in consequences. we are not going to pan ourselves down to a precise time, date, manner of action, but there will be consequences if it were to be proven, including, i might say, things that are way beyond our control and have nothing to do with us, but the international criminal court and others are free to
hold him accountable. as you know, we have a resolution that will be in front of the united nations with respect to culpability for crimes against humanity, atrocities in the course of this conflict. one way or the other, there will be accountability. >> mr. secretary, you just told us that you and the four eu foreign ministers agreed that sectoral sanctions will be imposed on russia if russia or its proxies disrupt the may 25 elections. foreign minister hague earlier referred to russia's specific interference. russia has denied western reports of supplying weapons, personnel, and coordination to
the separatists. will russia be held accountable and responsible for actions of the separatists, even if they cannot be proved as a link to russia itself, or what is the criteria that you and that you are going to use? the second part of that question, we understand that the approach receptions is going to be a scalpel, not a hammer. does that mean it won't be a ryan -- iran-style bans on sectors of commerce, and does it mean it will be a ban on future deals with an exemption for existing contracts? >> i will not get into announcing today what the precise sanctions are come except to say to you, we have completed our work. we know what they are. we are ready. last week, we had state department and treasury personnel here in europe working with our european allies in order to define precisely what that road ahead should be. indeed, our hope -- i'm not going to get into
characterizations of scalpel or sledgehammer, except to say to you that they are effective, and if they have to go into effect, they will have an impact. obviously, the purpose of it is to have a greater impact on the target than it is on the people imposing it. we will be thoughtful, and we are being thoughtful, and we are being very deliberative in trying to make determinations about what is appropriate, what is not appropriate. our hope is not to do this. our hope is not that we have to go to the next stage. i say to the russians and everybody -- our hope is to de-escalate. we appreciate the president
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