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Media Availability with Secretary Hagel at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar

Press Conference

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Location: Washington, DC

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: If you need any -- anything more on the plane, we can do that but while we got cameras going, and everything we might as well just start here.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about your meeting today in Qatar and whether you talked about the -- the U.S. and the government here have a disagreement over the approach to Syria and the groups to support. Did that come up? Did you talk to him about that?

SEC. HAGEL: I did talk with the emir, minister -- minister of defense about Syria, Iran, about all the issues. And I thought it was a good exchange.

We first of all, appreciate Qatar's partnership and their hosting of this facility. We have many common interests. We talked about those. And we're gonna continue to cooperate.

We talked about the resolution in Syria. As you know, we -- we have said, it's our position that a political settlement is gonna be necessary.

We talked about the chemical weapons destruction process, that we're on track to do that. And that's significant for a lot of reasons, obviously it gets rid of chemical weapons, and the threat of those chemical weapons in this region and to the world.

But also with the international community behind that effort. Through a national security council -- U.N. Security Council Resolution -- and the world, that helps build toward Geneva next month.

So, yes, we -- we talked about all those issues.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you talk a little bit about your meetings in Saudi Arabia and Iran, -- (inaudible) -- how -- how far you've come or at all towards, I guess, resolving some of the differences -- (inaudible)?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, again, the crown prince and I had a -- a very good conversation about all that last night, as well as the deputy minister of defense.

You start, whether it's the Saudis or any other country in this region with the same purpose that we all want and -- and that is an Iran without nuclear weapons, without the capacity to build nuclear weapons.

And we think the P5+1 and I -- I believe most of the world, that this six months window, a first step to see if we can get to a next step, is a wise and -- and careful and responsible way to go.

We also talked about what I said in -- in Bahrain and as I've said throughout the region in my meetings, that our force posture isn't changing here in this region.

Our cooperation and recognition with all of our partners here of the threat of Iran, the challenges that we all face are real. We're not gonna change or take any pressure off, just because of this six-month window.

And we had, I thought, a good exchange about that.

STAFF: Probably two more.

QUESTION: What about...

SEC. HAGEL: Yes.

QUESTION: Just back to Qatar and -- and Syria, do you feel that -- or what was your message on coordinating support and -- and weapons for some of the rebel groups? And these concerns about some of the harder line groups.

SEC. HAGEL: Yeah. Well, I -- I restated our position that we are supporting a moderate opposition. The opposition in Syria, I think as everyone knows, is very fractured and it includes terrorist organizations. It -- it represents different interest.

There is a sectarian war dynamic of this, there is a civil war dynamic of this.

Iran is -- is supporting various groups in there. So this is complicated. And we have the same purpose. We have the same objective -- all of us -- in our efforts here to bring stability and security and peace too, stability.

Our position on Assad has not changed. The president has been very clear on that.

We're looking forward to Geneva. But we're also -- our position is -- it continues to be a Syria without Assad. So, again, we -- we talk about all those -- those realities.

QUESTION: Okay.

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. HAGEL: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: How was that received by your counterparts?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I didn't say anything new or different. I mean, everybody knows where the United States is, working with our partners on this.

But I think it's important that -- as always in partnerships, and we've had a -- a long, very, very close partnership and relationship with Saudi Arabia, in particular, that we listen and we reassure.

We're not gonna get disconnected from our allies in this region. Our common interests are very clear here. We can have differences on how we approach it, and that's okay. But as long as we're honest with each other and direct with each other, our purpose and objectives are all the same.

STAFF: This is the last one.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: You mentioned something about airlift capacity yesterday for Central Africa, help -- help there -- is that where it stops, or will there be some other forms of assistance coming in?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, we responded directly and immediately to the French request, which I think most of you know, I spoke to the French minister of defense a couple of nights ago. And I'm very proud of our -- our people, how fast they've responded and reacted and we are going forward with that request. We'll see what happens and we appreciate the French leadership on -- on this and having them involved and, as I told the minister of defense of France, we'll continue to support their efforts.

QUESTION: Are we going to provide humanitarian assistance, though? Will we add to -- to the situation there?

SEC. HAGEL: We'll -- we'll see how all of this plays out and where it goes. But we want to help. I think the president made a statement on his way to South Africa to the people of CAR and the region. So we will continue to help and support every way we can.

STAFF: All right thanks very much, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SEC. HAGEL: Thanks.


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