Remarks With Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird After Their Meeting

Press Conference

By:  John Kerry
Date: Feb. 8, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. It's my great, great pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister John Baird here to the State Department. He was one of the first calls that I made after I officially came into the building and started and was sworn in, and he is my first guest as Foreign Minister. So I hope everybody does understand that this is meant to underscore the extraordinary strength of the relationship that we have, and we are very, very grateful for it.

We dove right into the toughest issues. We began with hockey. (Laughter.) He knows -- the Ambassador knows that I grew up playing a little bit. And since I'm a Bruins fan, we've clashed in many ways. But he, from Ottawa, is a fan of the Senators. And I want you all to know it's the first time I've ever heard anybody talk well of senators. (Laughter.) So I'm grateful for it.

Today was the first of what I know will be many very productive sessions. And the reason for that is that Canada and the United States share the same values. We have a history and a heritage of our people that is unbelievably connected. We have the same entrepreneurial spirit. We have the same core beliefs that everybody ought to be able to find their place in life to do better.

We also share something else that's pretty important: a trillion dollars of bilateral trade relationship. And that is hugely important to both of our countries, to our economies, and to our citizens. Canada is one of the largest, most comprehensive investment relationships that we have in the world. It supports millions of jobs here in the United States. And today the Foreign Minister and I agreed to try to discuss ways that we can grow that and even make it stronger. And there are ways to do that.

Our border with Canada, happily, is not a barrier. It's really a 5,000 mile-long connection between us and it is a central part of the daily pulse of our relationship. So today we talked about progress beyond our border. We talked -- an initiative which Prime Minister Harper and President Obama announced last year. And we are improving our cooperation now in keeping our nations secure against threats without unnecessary burdens at the border. To the degree we can facilitate, we want to do that.

We also talked about our dynamic energy relationship. Canada is the largest foreign energy supplier for the United States of America. And many people in America are not aware of that. They always think of the Mideast or some other part of the world. But Canada is our largest energy supplier. And our shared networks of electrical grids keep energy flowing both ways across the border. As we move forward to meet the needs of a secure clean energy future on this shared continent, we are going to continue to build on our foundation of cooperation.

Our neighbor to the north is also one of our most able global partners. On issue after issue, whether it's been cooperation with NATO to promote security, stability around the world, or our shared efforts to mitigate climate change through international climate negotiations, the Major Economies Forum, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, or our joint work to advance human rights through the OSCE and the Organization of American States, in every one of these efforts Canada and the United States are united for progress.

We also discussed our common efforts on Iran. The P-5+1 partners are unified in our approach. And we are committed -- I emphasize we are committed -- to preventing Iran from securing a nuclear weapon. And we will continue our dual-track policy of both pressure and engagement. I want to underscore to Iran: The window for diplomacy is still open. And we have agreed to meet Iran again in two weeks in Kazakhstan. We've made our position clear. The choice is really ultimately up to Iran. The international community is ready to respond if Iran comes prepared to talk real substance and to address the concerns, which could not be more clear, about their nuclear program. If they don't, then they will choose to leave themselves more isolated. That's the choice.

I'd like to thank the Foreign Minister for Canada's leadership on all of the global challenges that we face together. In conflict zones like Syria and Mali, Canada has stepped up and Canada is helping our humanitarian response. In our own hemisphere, Canada is a strong advocate for strengthening democracy and the rule of law throughout Central America, throughout the Caribbean. And I really look forward to working with the Minister as a partner on regional issues that affect the Americas, including later this year when we will meet with the Foreign Minister of Mexico to decide ways as to how all of North America, which we talked about, can actually work more effectively together.

So through all of the issues on a crowded agenda, I'm pleased to be able to say that Canada and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder and work together as partners, as allies, and as trusted friends. And I look forward to our cooperation. Mr. Baird, thank you for making me your first visit today. I appreciate it. And I look forward to discovering innovative new ways in which we can do even more and do better.

Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Thank you. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. It's a great privilege and a great honor to be your first foreign minister to visit you here at the State Department. Thank you for the priority and the confidence that you've placed in the relationship with Canada. That is something that is tremendously important.

The United States has been a phenomenal friend and ally to Canada, and under the Obama Administration and under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, I think the two leaders and the two governments have accomplished a great deal. Obviously for us, the number-one priority continues to be job creation and economic growth, and I appreciate having the opportunity to talk about a wide range of issues that we seek to tackle to help encourage job creation and economic growth on both sides of the border. The Detroit River International Crossing is an important priority for Canada, and we've been very pleased with the cooperation we've received here in Washington and in Lansing, Michigan, and we look forward to getting this huge job creation initiative moving forward in the months and years ahead.

Particularly, we talked -- had a good discussion, an exchange on energy policy. Obviously the Keystone XL Pipeline is a huge priority for our government and for the Canadian economy, and I appreciated the dialogue we had on what we can do to tackle environmental challenges together. President Obama and Prime Minister Harper both assumed a 17 percent reduction in GHG emissions as part of the Copenhagen Accord, and that continues to be a real priority with Canada, with our plan to phase out coal-fired electricity generation, and to harmonize vehicle and light trucks emissions, which has seen great, great, great results in recent years.

I appreciated the opportunity to discuss other issues involving security. I think I share, Canada shares the huge concern with respect to the potential of a nuclear Iran. We believe that beyond Iran's support, material support for terrorism, beyond their abysmal and deteriorating human rights record, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is the biggest threat to international peace and security. And I want to say how much I appreciated your strong comments on this and your leadership. I share the view that a diplomatic solution is possible. We strongly support the P-5+1 initiative. We strongly support having and maintaining and increasing tough sanctions against the Iranian regime. We want them to change course and rejoin the international community. That is a significant priority.

Obviously we had a good discussion as well with respect to the situation in Syria, and I think the concern of all of civilized humanity of the terrible horrors going on that Assad is waging against his own people, and the huge challenge and problem of chemical weapons.

I appreciate the chance to talk about human rights and our strong commitment to working to support and defend freedom around the world. The fight against international terrorism is the great struggle of our generation, and we are strong and solid partners with the United States.

(In French.)

Thank you again for your time and for your leadership.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: We'll take two questions today, one from each side, and by one from each side I mean one.

We'll start with CNN, Elise Labott, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Welcome, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Elise.

QUESTION: The vast majority of top national security officials in the previous Administration, including your predecessor, Secretary Clinton, supported arming the Syrian rebels. Were you briefed about this plan when you were in the Senate, and what do you think of the plan? Do you think it's time to start arming the rebels?

And I'm wondering what you think of these -- you mentioned Iran -- these mixed messages coming from Iran. The Foreign Minister, even the President, have said that they'd be open to talks with Iran. The Foreign Minister had some very nice comments to say about you. But the Supreme Leader has said that direct talks are not possible. Do you think that there are prospects for a deal, and do you have a plan to move this forward? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me see, that was three questions if I counted correctly. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: One plus one does not equal two. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: But well done. I'm impressed. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: A lot of practice.

SECRETARY KERRY: I beg your pardon?

QUESTION: A lot of practice.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I get it. I'm impressed. I'm taking stock every day. (Laughter.) Next time you'll have to ask her to ask a half a question or a quarter. (Laughter.) I'll fill in the blanks.

MS. NULAND: (Inaudible)

SECRETARY KERRY: Anyway, let me answer that.

First of all, on the first part of your question, let me just say I don't know what the discussions were in the White House and who said what, and I'm not going to go backwards. This is a new Administration now, the President's second term. I'm a new Secretary of State and we're going forwards from this point.

My sense right now is that everybody in the Administration and people in other parts of the world are deeply distressed by the continued violence in Syria. There is too much killing, there's too much violence, and we obviously want to try to find a way forward. There are serious questions about al-Nusrah and AQI, al-Qaida from Iraq coming in, and other violent groups on the ground. It is a very complicated and very dangerous situation, and everybody understands it is a place that has chemical weapons, and we are deeply concerned about that.

So I'd just say to you that we're evaluating. We are evaluating now. We're taking a look at what steps if any -- diplomatic -- particularly might be able to be taken in an effort to try to reduce that violence and deal with the situation. And when we are prepared, Elise, I'd tell you, we -- you'll be the first to know, I'm sure. We'll let you know. We're going to evaluate this as we go forward. But I know the Prime -- the Foreign Minister and I talked about this at length -- at length -- and we both share a deep concern about what is happening there. And I'm going to focus on it quite considerably.

QUESTION: On Iran, sir?

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, on Iran. On Iran, we're deeply concerned about the arms that were on the dhow that went into Yemen. I think the Yemenis need to speak to that first before we do.

But I want to emphasize, the announcement the Iranians themselves have made in a letter to the IAEA in which they have announced a different kind of centrifuge is concerning. It's disturbing. And so my plea to the Iranians is to -- or my statement -- is a clear statement: We are prepared to let diplomacy be the victor in this confrontation over their nuclear program. The President has made it clear that Iran -- he's prepared to talk about a peaceful nuclear program. Iran has a choice. They have to prove to the world that it is peaceful, and we are prepared to sit reasonably and negotiate how they can do that and how we can all be satisfied with respect to the United Nations requirements in the effort to do that. Or they can choose to be more isolated, as I said earlier. It's really their choice, not ours, as to which way they want to go.

And the Administration, the President, has made it clear that his preference is to have a diplomatic solution. But if he cannot get there, he is prepared to do whatever is necessary to make certain that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon.

MS. NULAND: Next question, from Lee-Anne Goodman, please, from Canadian Press.

QUESTION: Hi there. Congratulations, Secretary Kerry.

SECRETARY KERRY: Hello. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: And welcome, Minister Baird. One half question: Keystone. (Laughter.) President Obama has made a point in his inaugural address of emphasizing the need to confront climate change. Does that bode badly for Keystone? And a quick one about any concerns about allegations that Canadians have been involved in the last couple of recent terrorist attacks. And (In French.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Not today. I've got to refresh myself on that. (Laughter.) But with respect to the Keystone, Secretary Clinton has put in place a very open and transparent process which I am committed to seeing through. I can guarantee you that it will be fair and transparent, accountable, and we hope that we will be able to be in a position to make an announcement in the near-term. I don't want to pin down precisely when, but I assure you, in the near-term.

I'm not going to go into the merits of it here today. I pay great respect, as I did in my comments earlier, to the important energy relationship with Canada, and the importance of the overall relationship. But we have a legitimate process that is underway, and I intend to honor that.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: We had a good discussion with respect to Keystone. We appreciated the Secretary's comments at his confirmation hearings. We spoke about making a decision based on science and based on facts. Obviously, when it comes to the environment, I think we have likeminded objectives. Prime Minister Harper and President Obama have both set a 17 percent reduction in GHG emissions. We've worked very well together on reducing vehicle emissions for cars, for light trucks. Canada is aggressively moving forward on our plan to ban and phase out dirty coal-fired electricity generation, and we'll continue to focus on that. I think we all share the need for a growing economy, to create jobs. We share the desire on energy security in North America, and we also share the objective of protecting our environment for future generations and those will be areas where we're going to continue to work together.

(In French.)

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all. Thank you very, very much. We appreciate it.