SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. It's my great pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Steinmeier of Germany to Washington this afternoon. And I'm really happy to be able to do this because the foreign minister and Chancellor Merkel gave me a terrific welcome and hosted me in Germany about a month ago, and it's nice to be able to return the favor so quickly. The chancellor will be here for -- through tomorrow and he'll have a series of meetings in Washington on a number of the topics we discussed today, and we very much welcome Chancellor Merkel's upcoming visit. Our nations are both old friends and close friends, and we have the ability to talk candidly with each and to find a way to cooperate together on critical issues that engage both of us.
Frank-Walter and I spoke candidly about how we can continue to move beyond some of the current tensions that have existed and to deepen our transatlantic ties. And I appreciate the conversation that we've just had enormously. We had the opportunity to discuss our bilateral relationship at length, including finding the right balance between security of our citizens and the privacy of our citizens. And that is a discussion which the foreign minister will continue while he's here in Washington and particularly tomorrow have a couple of meetings on it.
At the direction of President Obama and Chancellor Merkel, we've been discussing additional steps to strengthen our intelligence cooperation, and we are going to continue that conversation in the months ahead. And I certainly appreciate the serious and appropriate way in which Germany is engaged with us in that discussion.
We discussed today how to deepen and broaden our existing partnership with respect to a number of global challenges, cybersecurity being one of them, obviously. And our experts are going to meet tomorrow morning on that.
Obviously, Ukraine is at the forefront of our minds, and we spent a fair amount of our lunch talking about Ukraine. I'm very grateful to the foreign minister for his leadership, his personal leadership, his engagement with several other foreign ministers who went to Kyiv and become engaged and helped to shape, particularly with Foreign Minister Steinmeier's leadership, the agreement that was reached.
The United States really is appreciative of that kind of leadership. It's a shared burden, and I know that together with our French and Polish colleagues -- and I talked earlier today with Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski -- together we were able to make -- create a framework within which this change was able to be carried out after the huge violence that took place in a mostly peaceful way after that.
Today, the Rada voted overwhelmingly to approve a new transition government -- technical government, importantly -- and that technical government will serve until the election can be held in May. We -- the United States welcomes this development and we look forward to working closely with this transitional government.
This morning, I called Foreign Minister Lavrov and we talked at some length about the transition and the events in Ukraine and in the region. And I asked specifically that Russia work with the United States and with our friends and allies in order to support Ukraine, to rebuild unity, security, and a healthy economy. And we also discussed the very tense situation in Crimea. I think it's very important to underscore that Foreign Minister Lavrov relayed to me directly from President Putin a reaffirmation of the conversation that President Putin had over the weekend with President Obama. And he stated that both the military exercise which has been conducted is not related to the Ukraine and was previously scheduled, but also -- importantly -- reaffirmed President Putin's statement that Russia will respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
And we believe that everybody now needs to step back and avoid any kind of provocations. And we want to see in the next days ahead, obviously, that the choices Russia makes conform to this affirmation that we received today. We are also making the same point about reducing tensions in Crimea to the Ukrainians, and it is very important that the process continue in a thoughtful and respectful way.
Let me also reiterate that as we see this technical government come into place, I want to confirm that the United States supports and welcomes this democratic step that has been taken today by the Rada to create this transitional technical government. And we look forward to working with this new government to restore national unity, security, and the protection of the rights of all Ukrainians, and that includes all minorities. We also strongly support the new government's decision to work closely with the IMF in order to stabilize the economy, and we will support these efforts that provide bilateral support in conjunction with the IMF program. And that is our objective over these next days.
Frank-Walter and I also discussed other regional issues, including our shared interest in completing the ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The United States and Germany already enjoy very strong economic ties, but we both know that TTIP would lead to even more investments, more innovations, more trade, and ultimately more jobs with more economic growth in our countries as well as throughout Europe.
And finally, we discussed our shared efforts to promote peace and stability around the world. The United States welcomes Germany's growing role in addressing global challenges. We really value Germany's support in Afghanistan, where Germany's ISAF contributions have been essential, along with their commitment to a post-2014 NATO mission and their financial support for the Afghan security forces.
We also value Germany's support in the Middle East. Chancellor Merkel just made a trip to the Middle East, and I am enormously appreciative for the support that Germany is giving to the Middle East peace process and their continued interest and effort to try to help not only support us in that but bring about a final status agreement.
We also are very appreciative for Germany's key role as a P5+1 member in the effort to try to reach agreement with Iran over Iran's nuclear program. And we talked a little bit about that and the prospects for that over the next days. Germany joins us in making clear to everybody that Iran is not open for business, that the sanctions regime continues, and that we will maintain unity within the P5+1 as we proceed forward in this negotiation.
We value also Germany's increasing international pressure on the Assad regime to bring about an end to the horrific war in Syria, and we talked about some of the challenges that we face with respect to the road ahead.
So Frank-Walter, you said recently that Germany is just too big to comment on world events from the sideline, and I want you to know that we couldn't agree more. We all need Germany as a partner in these efforts. We need you on the field and engaged, and we welcome that. In Munich, I called for a transatlantic renaissance starting in 2014, and today I want to underscore that the renewal that we need is also an important strengthening of the relationship and engagement between Germany and the United States.
So I look forward to continuing to work closely on the wide range of issues that face our countries, the region, and the world, and we're grateful to have a strong partner like Germany in that effort. Thank you, sir.
FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: (Via interpreter) Thank you, not only for inviting me here but also for the very friendly words you found right at the beginning of this press conference. I've only been in office for roughly 10 weeks, and we've met quite often, given the shortness of my term in office. We've met in Geneva and in other parts of the world. I am delighted about that, and I would wish to see that frequency be kept up.
But of course, the frequency of our exchanges is also tied to the international challenges we have to confront these days. Thus I would like to begin by thanking you for the initiative you have taken to make sure that the two-state solution for the Middle East can become a reality. Many efforts had been undertaken in the past that have failed, and I'm happy to see that you are engaging like hardly any other person. You are putting your political career at stake in a way, working for this two-state solution, engaging with energy and stamina, trying to convince both sides, trying to be successful where others failed before you. I very much hope that both parties in the Middle East -- the Israeli Government and the Palestinian leaders -- are aware of the fact that this provides an opportunity that both have to seize. They have to do that and they owe it to their respective peoples.
Now, in the immediate vicinity of Israel and Palestine, a dangerous conflict has arisen where until now we have not succeeded in putting an end to the bloodshed. The number of casualties of people who have died in the war in Syria is going into the thousands, and especially the neighboring region is affected, for refugees are fleeing to Lebanon, to Jordan, to Turkey, millions of them. And the suffering is immeasurable and it continues. The conflict is hardening and it is no longer only a battle between the government and the opposition of Syria, but it is a battle, a fight between different groups of the opposition.
We should take that as a warning, a word of caution to us to make sure that the Syria conference that in Geneva has not brought the hoped-for success -- that this conference ought to continue, and we ought to apply greater strategic strictness in doing so. Mr. Brahimi, who is heading the negotiations, happens to be in Germany right now. We are in close touch with him and we are trying to convince both sides, all parties involved, of the need for a new beginning in order to see that the talks which have proven -- have not proven successful so far can succeed at the end of the day.
Some of the parties involved in the Syria conference have to do their bit. We have to impress upon them that they cannot use their negotiations in order to simply play for time. They both, in the face of the suffering of the people of Syria, have to do their bit. They have to give access to humanitarian aid organizations so that they can reach out to the threatened parts of the population. And we very much hope that at least in parts of the country, a ceasefire can be agreed upon.
Of course, these days, there is one issue that is dominating our agenda and is very much on our minds. John Kerry mentioned it and made a decisive reference to the ongoing development in the Ukraine. The bloodshed in Ukraine has been stopped and we are all happy and relieved to see that that is the case. But nevertheless, Ukraine continues to be a major challenge. In the last few days since the agreement was signed between the political leadership and the opposition in Ukraine, we have witnessed that. We have seen a stormy development going far beyond the timeline that we had set ourselves only a week ago.
Today, an interim government has been appointed, mainly a government consisting of technocrats. That is good. We wanted to see a government in power quickly, speedily, that not only assumes responsibility for the decisions that have to be taken, but that can also act as a partner for negotiations with the international community, also when it comes to assessing the need for support and aid and financial support.
I underline what John Kerry just said -- it's not sufficient to form a government as such. The government now has to prove or furnish proof of the fact that it is the government of the whole of Ukraine -- the north, the south, the east, and the west -- that they actually stand up for those parts of the country. I, for one, believe that legislative measures to insure the disadvantaged minorities in the Ukraine, as have been taken recently, have to be made redundant. We have to make sure that that is the case. What has to be done now -- and I hope that all the parties involved attend to this -- is to ensure the territorial integrity of Ukraine. If one were not to attend to that, we would create tension and create instability in the region as a whole, and we cannot allow that to happen.
This is why both of us -- the United States of America and Germany -- place great value on the fact that given the critical situation, the country, the Ukraine -- Ukraine is given some breathing space, a reprieve in order to stabilize the situation on the ground. It ought not to be our ambition at this particular point in time to draw the Ukraine -- draw Ukraine towards the west or the east, Russia to the east, we, the European Union, through the west. Ukraine needs a reprieve, as I said. They need time to find footing again.
We ought to strive hard as Europeans with our partners in Europe, with the United States, with the IMF, hopefully also together with Russia, to make sure that the country -- that Ukraine is given and granted the financial assistance it dearly needs in order to not be left behind in the next few days.
Dear John Kerry, we've been able to talk about all these matter in a sense and spirit of trust and confidence because we're working on the foundation of a long, traditional partnership. It has grown over the decades and the years. It is based on shared values. It is a foundation that allows us to also sometimes disagree and to openly speak about it. This is why we use the opportunity today to also speak about the recent reporting over the last few weeks and months regarding activities -- or, rather, surveillance activities, eavesdropping and monitoring the mobile phones of members of the German Government and others. We talked about it. And we both agree that we cannot leave it at that between both administrations. We have taken note of the fact that we have different views as regards the meaning of security and privacy, and I think we have to talk about this in a spirit of seriousness.
I am very happy to see you, and I'm grateful to you, John. I'm happy to see that the debate that has been mainly led by the media now leads us to a serious dialogue involving all the stakeholders, involving also members of civil society, a bilateral cyber-dialogue, which is to be initiated starting today. I know that the United States are quite ambitious as far as that is concerned; I will have the pleasure to meet with John Podesta tomorrow who is responsible for the review of big data and the future of privacy here in the United States. I believe that that will provide us this -- provide us with the forum to talk about our different views, but also work together -- let us work together in order to define privacy and protection of civil liberties.
I'm also delighted to see that though we have a conflict here in our bilateral relations, we are both working hard together. You spoke of the renaissance, and I think part and parcel of that renaissance is a very ambitious project we're negotiating right now. TTIP, I believe, constitutes a major opportunity we ought to seize. It's not about uniformity. This is not what it is about, TTIP. Rather, we want to maintain and protect diversity in Europe amongst the individual European countries and the United States. But what we want to do is to do away with hurdles, which make it more difficult to reach out to each other. That's the more difficult part of it. And we're trying to achieve this in a spirit of great transparency as far as the Europeans are concerned with regard to publishing where we are making progress in the negotiations. And I hope that we will be able to take our public along, our people along on that path.
Thus, we had a very substantial agenda internationally, but also bilaterally -- a very busy schedule. We've met four times in the last four weeks, and I think it won't be -- we will keep up. We will keep up that interval in the next few weeks to come. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: (Inaudible) will be from Catherine Chomiak of NBC News.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, just a follow-up on Ukraine on two things that you mentioned in your remarks. On the Crimea region, we saw armed gunmen seize the parliament building and raise the Russian flag. Did Mr. Lavrov give you assurances that they were in no way operating under the auspices of the Russian Government?
And also on the troop movements, whether they were pre-planned or not, it's hard to see how this doesn't increase tensions in that region. How concerned are you by these exercises, and did you ask Mr. Lavrov to postpone or scale down them? And today, Mr. Yanukovych said that he's still the lawful president of Ukraine. What do you say to that?
And to Mr. Foreign Minister, how much money is the EU willing to give Ukraine to stand up its economy? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Catherine, with respect to the events and the takeover of the Rada today, yes, of course, we talked about it. And he has said -- he indicated to me that he'd actually watched it on TV and he'd seen what had happened, but he disclaimed that they had anything to do with any formal Russian initiative. And on the contrary, they're concerned about it, and he expressed a concern about it.
They at least expressed concern that they do not want to see a breakdown into violence and into any kind of sectarian initiative, and I think they understand that to keep faith with their affirmation about protecting the territorial integrity, you can't be encouraging a separatist movement or some other effort. The -- I indicated to him that the minister of defense acting at that point in time was traveling to the region in order to indicate that they were fully prepared to live up to the Sevastopol port agreement with Russia. They had no intention of changing any of the existing laws or agreements, and that they fully intended to uphold the rights of all minorities.
And we talked today with Foreign Minister Steinmeier about one entity or another. There are several that have been proposed that might be able to be engaged in Ukraine to help in any kind of mediation and resolution of these kinds of questions. With respect to -- but I think we all have to understand that nowhere is there a greater connection to or link to Russia in several different ways than there is in Crimea, but that as the days unfold, this should not become a tension or a struggle between the United States, Russia, East, West, et cetera. This is about the people of Ukraine being able to make their decisions. And I said that to the foreign minister, and the foreign minister confirmed that this is about the people of Ukraine writ large, not one group or another. So that's what we're focused on.
With respect to the fleet and exercises, I don't think that they are so long or prolonged that it is something that is going to have an impact on the events there. And I think the very specific message from President Putin is one that we need to process. But as I said earlier, we will look to Russia for the choices that it makes in the next days for their confirmation of these statements. Statements are statements, words are words. We have all learned that it's actions and the follow-on choices that make the greatest difference.
So we will watch very careful and very hopefully that Russia will join us in the effort to help shore up the economy, hold the country together, and provide a road forward. We are absolutely ready, all of us, to welcome Russia to the table of creating a democratic, pluralistic, fully inclusive Ukraine according to what the people of Ukraine are defining. It's not our choice. It's not Russia's choice. It's the choice of the people of Ukraine. And they spoke very clearly when their legislature voted to impeach the existing president and to move on to a new technical government. This was their movement, spontaneous, speedy, definitive, without any encouragement from the outside. In fact, I think most of us were taken quite by surprise by those events.
So that said, with respect to Mr. Yanukovych, Mr. Yanukovych left the field of engagement. He voluntarily departed, and he signed an agreement, and then without signing the law that was the precondition to the implementation of the rest of the agreement, he departed and took off to parts unknown and was unavailable to those of us who were trying to reach him. The Vice President of the United States had a call in to him for some 12 to 14 hours, unanswered. So I think it is clear that events have now overtaken whatever legitimacy he claimed. There is now a government, and we are looking forward to working with the government that was appointed by the legitimately elected members of the legislature and through their legitimate process.
FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: (Via interpreter) The political future is in the hands of the Ukrainians. It is for them now to decide about their future, and I hope they will do so in a way that will allow for an inclusive government that considers itself to be responsible for the people of the country as a whole. As far as economic support is concerned, I don't think the people of Ukraine will be able to master the challenge on their own. Too many negative decisions and faulty decisions have been taken by the previous government, and Ukraine finds itself in a dire economic situation, and I don't think they can master that challenge on their own.
But I'm not only looking to Ukraine when I'm saying what I'm going to say now. I think this would also be true for each and every one of us. Given the situation of the country and the depth of the economic crisis, anyone present here would be challenged in a way he could not cope on his own. Thus it would be good for all of us to get our support coordinated. Let us all come in and help the IMF, the United States of America -- I will meet Christine Lagarde tomorrow morning. Hopefully, Russia will come in and help. We hope they also will engage in the efforts to stabilize the economic situation in Ukraine. No one will benefit from this country teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. We need political stabilization to be accompanied by economic stabilization.
Before coming to the question you put to me, how much is the European Union going to make available, before I address that question, we will have to figure out how much Ukraine needs. We have heard many different figures being placed on the table. It's difficult for anyone to give you an exact idea of how much Ukraine needs. Yanukovych has kept the figures hidden under his desk. We very much hope that the new prime minister of Ukraine happens -- who happens to be a former head of a central bank, and I think thus he will be much better suited than many other people to assess the situation.
I'm pleased, though, that Christine Lagarde has already announced that a team of experts of the IMF will leave already tomorrow in order to provide us with the respective data and give us an idea of the dimension of the challenge we have to address. I hope that the IMF stands ready to provide funds from a kind of emergency fund. Quick assistance is what's required. I heard -- I was delighted to hear that the United States are also standing ready to assist, roughly $1 billion, and the European Union would probably also follow suit about the same amount of funds.
Right now -- and I beg your understanding for the fact -- we are at a point where we have to admit that these decisive steps have only been taken in the last few days. And the international organizations, the European Union, all the countries are still trying to identify what best to do. But I think we're all quite aware of the responsibility we have to bear and the need for assistance to be granted by us.
MS. PSAKI: The next question will be from Martin Klingst of Die Zeit.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, Mr. Foreign Minister, do you both trust President Putin? And vice versa, can he trust you? What are you going to -- what are you willing to offer him that you keep Russia engaged?
And is Ukraine's possible membership in the EU and NATO still on the table, or do you think also about other options, like Mr. Brzezinski, the Finland option, keeping Ukraine or taking Ukraine as a member into the EU but keeping it out of NATO? And what can you do to support the respect for minorities in Ukraine? Are you willing to link the support to economic support?
And are you going home, Mr. Foreign Minister, with concrete offers of confidence-building measures regarding NSA and the surveillance matters? Do you have anything concrete in your hand to calm the German public? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: (Via interpreter) First, as regards Ukraine, I think you will understand that we are trying whatever we can in order to make sure that we get our acts together and that we don't sort of split up international responsibility and everyone is to pursue his or her individual interest. That is what I tried -- is the point I tried to make at the beginning. Let's not focus on attracting the Ukraine, attracting Ukraine more to the East or the West. This is not the task at hand. This is not the central task we have to attend to. This is not what I would identify as the basic needs of Ukraine.
This is also why we have undertaken manyfold efforts -- I am one of the people who've done so -- to tell Ukraine that the end of the bloodshed and our endeavors to bring that about was not directed against Russia in any way. I think it was something that had to be done. We wanted to avoid a civil war in Ukraine. Preventing such a civil war ought also to be in the interest of Russia, and thus I appeal to Russia, I urge Russia, to also participate in the endeavors that will be undertaken now.
I know that there are expectations on the part of minorities, especially on the part of the Russian minority in Ukraine. They want their rights to be respected. And I believe that protecting the rights of minorities is something that the new government has to provide for and has to be very clear and outspoken, not only in their words but also with the respective legislative action. In the coming days we will be in a position to see whether it will be possible to make sure that the international community, in conjunction with Russia, will work in the same direction and stand side by side in order to impress this upon Ukraine.
As regards your second question, if you were referring to the fact that I had come here expecting that this was the way in which the day* ought to go and that John Kerry would then hand over a signed no-spy agreement to me saying me -- saying to me at the same time, good that we talked about it, this is not what brought me here. And the last few weeks and months have made it clear that this a bit more complicated than that, and this is why I said we have to realize that at this point in time we don't always agree, we do have different assessments as regards the importance of privacy and security and granting civil liberties. We have different perspectives, different assessments. But in making that point, I am not going to say that we have to begin negotiating a bilateral no-spy agreement, but we have to talk about the fact that we are not always in agreement here, explain our point of view, describe our arguments. Our arguments are not always shared by the other side, but there will be points where we perhaps won't ever be able to agree 100 percent.
This is why I said, given the efforts that have been undertaken in the past and that will no doubt continue in the weeks and days to come in the framework of the European Union, negotiating with the United States on a data protection agreement and negotiations that will continue between the European Union and the United States of America about adding to and complementing the Safe Harbor Agreement. But alongside with these endeavors we have to have an honest and frank dialogue about the future of protecting privacy in the age of the internet. And I'm happy to see that the American side has accepted that wish that we have expressed and is willing to talk to us about this, not only at the level of the respective administrations' governments, that is, but also involving the stakeholders and civil society in that dialogue.
SECRETARY KERRY: I'll just comment very quickly on the last part of the foreign minister's answer to your question, and I just want to make it clear from an American perspective. When I was in the United States Senate, I was a coauthor, with Senator John McCain, of the Internet Privacy Act. And I also was a powerful proponent for internet neutrality. And I have always maintained that it is critical to have an internet that has an open architecture. And that's the way the internet works most effectively. That's the way most of our countries will be well served.
At the same time, I well understand the need to have a balance. I mean, as the author of the Privacy Act, where we were clearly trying to prevent -- protect people, I'm more than acutely aware of the need for people to have their information, their rights, protected, their information protected. Their personal protection, their medical, all of that, needs to be protected. But I'm also well aware that we live in a very dangerous world, that there are many people plotting very dangerous acts in all parts of the world. No one is free from this.
Currently in Syria, there are in the -- somewhere in the range of 7- to 11,000 foreign fighters. And those foreign fighters are learning the worst methods of persuasion -- terror. And many of them will return to the countries from which they have come. And that includes many countries in Europe, it includes the United States, it includes Australia, it includes parts of the Middle East, South Central Asia, and Asia. And I've talked to leaders in those countries who are deeply concerned about what those people may do when they return to their country.
So we have a global interest in trying to know what terrorists are going to do before they do it. There was information available to people before the events of 9/11. There were telephone conversations made back and forth and so forth. We believe there's a balance that permits law enforcement and national security to be preserved in their interests and also to preserve privacy. There have been instances where it's gone over a line. President Obama has said that. That's why he engaged in the most far-reaching reevaluation and review of our practices, and that's why he issued new instructions in order precisely to deal with this issue.
So Germany does not have a protagonist here -- an antagonist. We're not adversarial. We have the same interest. And we want to make sure that all of our citizens are protected in both ways, in their privacy and in their security. And we believe there's a balance, and we're determined to try to get at that through a reasonable and thoughtful discussion, and I appreciate the foreign minister's approach to it.
With respect to President Putin and the issue of trust and the question of what's going to unfold with respect to Ukraine, let me say this. The conduct of foreign affairs is based on relationships and on discussions and the exchanges that leaders have, but it is not based solely on trust in any case that I know of. It's always based on a concrete set of actions that people agree to take or agree to refrain from. We learned this a long time ago with Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev, where they said trust but verify. In this case, we're not just -- and I said this in my last answer -- this is not about words. It's about actions. And we will look in the days ahead to see the confirmation of the words in the choices that are taken, and I think we'd be naive otherwise.
But I don't want to suggest that when the leader of a country tells you he's going to do or she is going to do something, that you shouldn't take some value in that and try to work with it. That doesn't mean that's all you're relying on. And so we will work in the days ahead to come up with a process that assists all of us in guaranteeing a transition.
And with respect to the reforms and the IMF and the protection of minorities, part of the IMF will rely on reforms. Reforms will have to be taken. And clearly, to the degree the Congress of the United States or others are going to be prepared to put either a loan guarantee or a direct budget assistance agreement on the table, it's going to require that Ukraine is moving in a certain direction that is able to be understood and measured, that it's accountable. And I think everybody will look for accountability as we go forward.
But again, it's important to note that these are just the beginning days. They're always the most complicated. I think it is a good sign that within a few days the government has now been announced. It's a technical government. We know some of the players who are involved in it. They are capable and they are people we believe we can work with effectively in order to get to elections so the people of Ukraine can make their decision.
Final part of your question: With respect to the Association Agreement and with respect to NATO, obviously, the people of Ukraine have to make their decision. This is not our decision. This is their decision. That's part of what prompted this upheaval in the first place. My counsel to Ukrainians -- unasked for but nevertheless, I think, may be pertinent -- would be to focus on the things that need to be focused on now. Let the election be about the choices of the future. That's a good thing to have a platform on and to run on. It's a good thing for the people to have a chance to vote for.
And I think it would be good for all the parties concerned to allow some space here. This should not be solely about NATO or consolidation or association. This should be about the democratic process, the economy, the ability to protect minorities, the ability to pull Ukraine together. And I think they would be well served to hold off on those other issues until that choice has been made by the people and they have a government chosen by the people that is ready to move forward on those kinds of choices.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all.