Secretary Kerry Meeting with Gulf Ministers in Doha

Published: August 5, 2015

Editor’s Note:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry completed talks with Gulf foreign affairs ministers in Doha on August 3rd on regional national security challenges of mutual concern. The Iran nuclear deal was foremost among the issues discussed by the officials. Kerry and Qatar’s Foreign Minister al-Attiyah met with the press following the ministerial session.

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Press Availability With Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Mohammed al-Attiyah

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Doha, Qatar
August 3, 2015

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-ATTIYAH: (Via interpreter) In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, the most merciful. I would like to welcome His Excellency, the Secretary of State of the United States of America. We have conducted a meeting of the GCC countries with His Excellency John Kerry. This is a strategic dialogue with the GCC states and the United States of America. We have talked about many topics very important – very much important to the United States and to the GCC countries. We have listened to His Excellency, the minister, about the details of the nuclear deal with Iran and the 5+1 states. We would like to congratulate His Excellency, the Secretary of State, for the efforts exerted in this respect last year and to be able to reach this very important deal.

This was the best option amongst other options in order to try to come up with a solution for the nuclear weapons of Iran though dialogue, and this came up as a result of the efforts exerted by the United States of America and its allies. We are sure that all the efforts that have been exerted make this region very secure, very stable. We have also discussed in our meeting the Camp David outcomes and the mechanisms of work and the work committed – done by the different six committees – joint committees.

We have talked about all means that should be developed with our friends in the United States of America. Politically, militarily, and also from a security perspective, we have talked about the situation in the region. We have talked about the situation in Iran – in Iraq, sorry – in Syria, and Yemen, and different views and positions were very much similar when it came to these files.

Without much ado, I would like to give His Excellency, Secretary of State of the United States of America, the opportunity to describe what – and explain the dialogue that has taken place with the different parties. Thank you very much. The floor is yours, Your Excellency.

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SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much – excuse me. Thank you very, very much, Khalid. Let me start by thanking Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and I want to thank also Foreign Minister al-Attiyah for welcoming me to Qatar and for most of the meetings that we’ve had today. I want to thank the other foreign ministers, all the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, for joining me here today in Doha for what was a very comprehensive and also very constructive meeting followed by a working lunch.

In every conversation that I had today, it was crystal clear that the United States and the GCC nations agree that the partnership that we share is indispensable to the security and stability of this region. And for that reason, we are releasing a joint U.S.-GCC statement outlining many of the points that we discussed and agreed on today. Ministers agreed, and I think you heard Khalid al-Attiyah talk about it a moment ago, that once fully implemented, the JCPOA contributes to the region’s long-term security, including by preventing Iran from developing or acquiring a military nuclear capability.

But frankly, most of the time that we spent this afternoon was spent articulating and working on the full measure of the relationship between the United States and the GCC going forward. No one should doubt for a moment that the United States is only focused on the implementation of the JCPOA, the nuclear agreement.

And I think that President Obama made it very clear at the Camp David summit, where he discussed steps that the GCC and the United States would take together as we implement the Vienna agreement. Today my counterparts and I have discussed the steps that we will take and how we intend to build an even stronger, more enduring and more strategic partnership with particular focus on our cooperative counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and also on our cooperation in countering the destabilizing activities taking place in the region.

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We discussed, for example, our work on an integrated ballistic missile defense capability and expediting certain arms transfers. We also discussed enhancing our cooperation on combatting violent extremism in the region on cyber security, on maritime security, and even more. We focused on a range of very specific regional challenges, including the fight against Daesh, al-Qaida, other violent extremists. The United States particularly condemns the recent attacks in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain, and we stand united in our efforts to deter and defeat the people who are responsible for these heinous crimes.

The GCC states also play a very key role in Iraq, and we discussed Iraq today, where together we continue to assist the Government of Iraq in degrading and defeating Daesh as well as supporting a multi-sectarian government that takes an inclusive approach to this fight. One of the comments made at our joint communique refers to the need for a full measure of reforms to be implemented.

I also might comment to people that we’re very proud that over the course of the last several weeks, or a month or so, 100,000 Sunni have returned to their homes in Tikrit – something that only a few months ago seemed unimaginable. Our cooperation is a major reason that we’ve been able to see significant progress in halting Daesh’s momentum and in some places reversing it.

We also recognize that no amount of military force will in the end terminate Daesh’s horrific violence if it is not also matched by a broader political and economic effort that addresses the underlying conditions that have allowed this group to gain traction. That includes addressing the dire humanitarian situation. Today I’m pleased to announce that the United States will contribute an additional $62 million in assistance to those Iraqis who are displaced and in need. With this new funding, the United States has now provided more than $475 million in humanitarian assistance to the region in the last year and a half.

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We also discussed the crisis in Syria. The policy of the United States in Syria is very clear – and I think many of you know I will be shortly be having a meeting, a first trilateral meeting between Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Russia. The policy of the United States with respect to Syria is clear. We believe that Assad and the Assad regime long ago lost legitimacy, in part because of his regime’s continued brutality against the Syrian people themselves. And that has been a magnet for foreign fighters, drawing them to Syria, fueling the rise of Daesh and other violent extremist groups. And since there is no military solution to Syria’s challenges, there has to obviously be a political solution. We continue to support the moderate Syrian opposition, along with our GCC partners and other global coalition partners, and we will remain relentless in our mission to eliminate the safe haven that Daesh has found within Syria.

We also discussed Yemen, and we agreed that the best way forward is a return to the political transition process set forth in the GCC initiative and National Dialogue Conference outcomes. We expressed our support with the efforts of the United Nations and UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The United States will stand by our GCC partners in condemning the continued destabilizing activities – the military activities of the Houthis, which have a very damaging impact on the peace and security of Yemen and the abilities of anybody to provide basic services to the Yemeni people. We will continue to urge all parties in Yemen to allow for humanitarian organizations to quickly and safely reach all the Yemenis throughout the country.

And finally, we discussed the situation in Libya, where we continue to work actively with the international community to support the UN-led political process, and we call on the Libyan decision makers – all of them – to join in supporting a political agreement that will lead to the formation of a government of national accord.

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Obviously, you can tell from this list of items, most of which we mentioned in our communique, that there is no shortage of urgent and complex challenges that are facing the United States, Qatar, and the Gulf states today. But frankly, so too there is no shortage of opportunity. There’s an opportunity for us to work together and to plan together and to achieve together the goals that we share for the region and the world. That was the purpose of the meeting at Camp David; that was the purpose of today’s follow-up meeting. We have working groups that will start meeting as of tomorrow in Riyadh, elsewhere over the course of the next three weeks. Those working groups will be piecing together a more detailed agenda, an agenda for not just cooperation but for action, by which we will raise the capacity of all of us in the region to be able to push back against destabilizing activities by anybody and also to help build the long-term peace, security, and stability that this region hopes for so fervently.

So we will remain in very close contact in the days and months ahead. I’m very grateful to Khalid al-Attiyah for his leadership as chairman at this moment of the GCC, and I particularly appreciate his efforts together with the United States on a number of issues that we have collaborated and worked in many, many ways.

Today we made progress on what we laid out on Camp David, but clearly, there’s more work to do. And we are – all of us – committed to that task. Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Today’s first question will come from Jay Solomon of The Wall Street Journal.

SECRETARY KERRY: By the way, let me just apologize ahead of time. Normally after a day like this, we would take an awful lot of questions. And I apologize for our inability to do that, but I have already pushed back very significantly on my meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov as well as another meeting with other foreign ministers and the departure to go to the – to East Asia for the ASEAN summit. So I apologize ahead of time, and I thank you for your indulgence.

MR KIRBY: Jay, go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have a question for both Secretary Kerry and Minister Attiyah. Secretary Kerry, can you talk a bit more about how you’re hoping to build on the Iran deal to deal with issues in the region, particular – particularly Syria? There’s hope now that there could be a new push to resolve Syria. And in your discussions with the GCC states, is – are you talking more about now trying to use Iran as kind of an integral part, kind of bringing them into the solution, or is it a message more of confronting them?

And for Minister Attiyah, as a GCC spokesman, basically, does the GCC as a whole now support the Iran deal officially? Is that your position? And do the GCC states believe they should be allowed to develop the same nuclear technologies that Iran is going to develop as part of this deal? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me make sure that everybody understands the journey we have traveled at arriving at this nuclear agreement. The agreement is not based on any expectation or understanding about what Iran will or won’t choose to do. This agreement, to some people’s criticism, did not focus on issues that we knew might take five years, ten years to try to resolve.

We focused exclusively on Iran’s nuclear program and the potential for Iran having a nuclear weapon. And therefore, what was resolved in Vienna was a nuclear deal without any understanding or expectation of what would flow from Iran with respect to the region, except for Iran’s own statements through President Rouhani and through Foreign Minister Zarif that they hope that it is possible that it might open the door to other relationships or to solving some problems in the region. We don’t know that. And we have no bet placed on that.

Our goal is to fully implement this agreement, and to hope that Iran’s behavior will be ameliorated. Obviously, we all know about the support of Hizballah, the support for the Shia militia in Iraq, the support for Houthi and other involvements in the region, support for terror historically which we have opposed and we continue to oppose, and we will oppose going forward in the future.

Now, everybody can hope that perhaps there’ll be a turning of the page, but we’re preparing for the possibility that that may not happen. And so we will continue always to pursue diplomacy when diplomacy presents itself, but we will also work with our friends and allies in the region to make certain that we are doing the most possible to prevent any kind of external or illegal and inappropriate engagement within a country from destabilizing our friends and allies in the region. And today, we talked very specifically about the ways in which countries can build their own capacity to push back against that kind of activity.

We talked about and will engage in greater intelligence sharing. We will engage in special forces training, in exercises. We will engage in maritime interdiction and security. We will engage in other activities with respect to the flow of fighters and financing mechanisms. And we are going to work together in a very concrete way through our – initially our working groups in setting up an action agenda, a specific set of operational steps that can be taken together in order to provide greater security for the region.

Every country engaged in this endeavor in the Gulf states hopes that behavior can change, hopes that indeed perhaps there could be a turning of the page, but we have to prepare for the possibility and eventuality that it won’t, and always I know the United States is prepared to explore a diplomatic option if it presents itself, but at this moment in time, with respect to Syria or elsewhere, it has not, and that’s one of the reasons for our conversation later today.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-ATTIYAH: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) have – always aim to have endeavors that would lead to security and stability in the region. When we talk about the nuclear discussions or negotiations that have been headed by the United States of America, and the United States of America with the other countries in order to deter any of the countries that aim to have these nuclear weapons, and they have all the knowledge – all the other European countries with the United States have all the knowledge and the capabilities that would enable them to deal with such nuclear issue. And consequently, the GCC countries have welcomed on this basis what has been displayed and talked about by His Excellency Mr. Kerry, and he let us know that there’s going to be a kind of live oversight for Iran not to gain or to get any nuclear weapons. This is reassuring to the region. We wish even further things. We hope that we going to have a kind of a ban of nuclear weapons not only to Iran, but to all the Middle East. This is our position in the GCC countries when it comes to the nuclear deal.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Question by Haitham Abu Saleh from Al Jazeera Network.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Your Excellency al-Attiyah. We have seen many visits from different regions and we have seen unprecedented meetings taking place. What do you expect to come out of Doha as an outcome of all the meetings that have been convened, taking into account that many of the topics that have been discussed, such as the Syrian situation, terrorism, and Yemen and so on and so forth – what is the outcome?

Mr. Kerry, I have a question – two questions, one from me and one from the other colleagues. The first question: In practical and very clear steps, what have you taken with you to the GCC countries? This is the first question. What have you come with to the GCC countries? Yesterday, the Egyptian foreign minister talked and said that any Egyptian journalist detained in Egypt, including our colleagues in Al Jazeera, are detained due to terrorist reasons, and your reply was very soft. Why was your reply soft to the Egyptian foreign minister?

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-ATTIYAH: (Via interpreter) For the first question, to have so many people present here in the State of Qatar, we always consult with our friends since the beginning of the crises that have started in the Middle East, particularly Syria, and we have communicated with our friends in the United States of America. We continuously did so through, I mean, mutual, bilateral meetings or through the GCC Council. So this meeting complements the very strategic dialogues that have taken place between the GCC countries and the United States of America.

Our friends in Russia have asked to take part for them to have the opportunity to consult vis-a-vis the Syrian cause and also try to find a kind – a political solution in Syria that we all underline here.

My friend, colleague, John, talked about the least that should be achieved when it comes to a political solution. He said that the president of Syria is an illegitimate president and we cannot be – find a decisive military solution in Syria. That is what we are aiming: to have a political solution. We are consulting amongst friends to be able to find the political solution that would make the Syrian people exit from this very dire crisis that they have been living in excess of five years.

SECRETARY KERRY: So on the question – question number one, I think I answered a lot of that a few minutes ago. I can be a little bit more specific. But we agreed to expedite certain arms sales that are needed that have taken too long in the past. We agreed to engage in very specific training to upgrade military capacity in the region and to integrate it more effectively, but particularly to work on special forces training because that is much more effective in dealing with some of the real threats that people face on a day-to-day basis. We agreed on exchange of intelligence and intelligence sharing, particularly with respect to the flow of people, either agents or proxies who come in to try to stir up the population in various countries, or actual extremists, fighters, individuals who come to blow something up or engage in smuggling. We are going to engage in a very robust intelligence sharing program.

We agreed to talk about how to integrate the region’s ballistic missile defenses based on some of the activities of other countries. The possibility exists of a much more effective deterrent and a much more effective response through an integrated capacity. We talked about the possibility – not the possibilities, but the realities of increased numbers of exercises that will be conducted together as well as a significant upgrading in the ability for maritime interdiction and security which prevents the flow of weapons and people.

So those are a few of the examples of ways in which we believe the security of the region can be significantly strengthened and our cooperation will be enhanced.

With respect to Egypt, I don’t recall actually – I recall some mention of the journalists; I don’t think I was asked a question about it. But obviously, as someone who’s been involved in that issue, I personally intervened to help get the Australian journalist freed who is now being tried in absentia. But obviously, we in the United States have a passion and commitment for the freedom of journalists, to the right of people to be able to print, read, speak, express their thoughts. That is a very, very powerful, deep-rooted part of the American political process and of our values system. And so we’re very concerned in any country, anywhere in the world, where journalists are prevented from freely pursuing their stories, from being able to communicate to people and do their jobs. And we’re deeply concerned about the prospect of people who have been simply doing their jobs would be labeled otherwise and put under – put on trial. We’ve expressed our concern in the past, and I never shy away from doing so.

Thank you all very, very much.

Source: State Department

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