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Remarks With European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton Before Their Meeting

Press Conference

Location: Washington, DC

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. I am very, very happy to welcome my friend, Lady Catherine Ashton, here. We are the veterans of some wonderful dinners and meetings together. I think we have had a meeting of the minds on many occasion in the past, so I'm very happy to have you come back here.
First of all, let me just begin by saying to everybody that a lot has been written in the last year or so about America's increased efforts in Asia Pacific. And I want to emphasize with Cathy, who we've talked about this previously, that the rebalancing that President Obama is engaged in does not and will not come at the expense of any relationship in Europe whatsoever. In fact, we want more engagement with Europe, and we think Europe can be more of a partner in those efforts, which is one of the reasons that President Obama is so firmly committed, as he said in the State of the Union message, to a trade and investment partnership initiative with Europe.

And I think Europe is, I hope, excited by it. I think there are huge possibilities. Both of our economies can benefit by this engagement. There's an enormous amount of benefit for our citizens throughout Europe and here in the United States. We can create jobs. We will have greater market clout as a consequence of that. And I think this is something we can get through. We all know the difficulties, but I think this moment is one that we could really get through. And we're going to talk about that in a little bit.

We're very, very grateful to Cathy Ashton and her leadership and the EU for their efforts on the humanitarian side with respect to Syria. And we will continue to work together to try to end the violence and respond to the humanitarian crisis.

We also have as good a partnership as I think anyone's ever had across the Atlantic with respect to Iran. The P-5+1 initiative, which Cathy Ashton is leading, is a critical effort to avoid confrontation and to provide for a peaceful resolution to the challenge of the Iranian nuclear program. And I've talked before with her about that. We'll continue that discussion today. We hope that the talks in Almaty in a few days can show some further progress, perhaps open some additional opportunities. So I wish her well in that.

And I want to just congratulate her on a superb effort personally. I think she's visited the prime players in the Balkans in the Serbia-Kosovo continued challenges, and she's really working diligently to be able to try to bring parties together and get a final resolution to that. So I wish her well in that.

And I can't tell you how terrific it is to welcome you here. We see each other everywhere else, and now I finally get to say hi here. So we'd like to hear your thoughts.

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Well, thank you. There's nowhere better on Valentine's Day to be -- (laughter) -- than in Washington, D.C. to celebrate this great partnership. And as I've said to you before, we want to be your most reliable partner.

Europe and the United States share many things. We share the same values; we share the same aspirations for our people, economic and political. And the opportunity of being able to deepen those economic ties is very exciting. It's very exciting across the 27 countries of the European Union. I think it's very exciting here, too.

I was the trade commissioner. I joke about that I did beef economics with my dear friend Ron Kirk. It was tough, but with political will and the good support of industry, we can achieve an enormous amount. And I think we can do this and do it in good time. And you and I will have a role to play in that in terms of the political strengths we can bring to this. But I do think this is something that will add great value to our relationship, and as importantly to support our economies and to support our people with jobs.

And on a political front, well, it's not a surprise for me that I wanted to come here to talk to you, because next week I host the most important part of the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, where the Prime Minister will come for two days. The United States is an incredibly valuable partner in that effort.

And then from there, I will go to Almaty to lead the discussions with Iran. I always look for success in those and I will do my best on behalf of the P-5+1, or E-3+3 as we call it -- it's still six, whichever way you do it. But it's important that we continue to try and make our efforts successful in that regard.

And then so much else in our neighborhood particularly where we need to continue to support the people of Syria and the countries around, who are now dealing with refugees coming across the border and worry about the future. I'm thinking too that when this violence ends, we will need to help rebuild.

And of course for us too, when we think about the Middle East peace process, (inaudible) undoubtedly you and I will be in discussion.

But most importantly to say congratulations to you, Secretary Kerry. It's great to see you here, and I'm so looking forward to working with you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Cathy. I neglected to mention and I do want to mention the Quartet component of the peace process is important, and we're going to talk about sort of how we move forward from here in the Middle East peace process. So we have a lot to talk about. We've got to get to it.

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