Remarks With Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt
Secretary of State
May 14, 2013
PRIME MINISTER REINFELDT: Okay, warmly welcome. It’s a great pleasure for me to welcome Secretary of State John Kerry to Sweden and Stockholm only a few months after his appointment. It’s a sign of the excellent bilateral relations between Sweden and the United States. Links between our two countries go far back in history, and the King and Queen of Sweden and Vice President Joe Biden celebrated last week the foundation of the colony New Sweden situated in Delaware some 375 years ago.
At the heart of our relations are the core values that we share: freedom, democracy, respect for human rights. It’s also the same values that Raoul Wallenberg stood up for. But the U.S. is also a key partner in trade and investment. Sweden is actually one of the largest investors per capita in the U.S. Sweden’s foreign – Swedish foreign direct investment and trade with Sweden create around 250,000 jobs in the U.S.
During our talks today, we have stressed the importance of a EU-U.S. trade and investment agreement. It could actually increase trade flows with as much as 20 percent. It’s together one third of the world trade, world economy, we are talking about. We also explained the difficult economic situation that many EU member-states now are experiencing and the measures that are taken to revert to growth and employment.
We have also talked about the disastrous situation in Syria and developments in Afghanistan. I’ve informed the Secretary of State about the discussions going on in Sweden at the moment of our engagement in Afghanistan post-2014. Afghanistan will be one of our most important partners in development aid in the coming years.
So there is a common understanding between Sweden and the U.S. on many of these questions. Your visit will help develop our shared views and relations even further. And so I wish you the best of luck both in Stockholm and now heading for Kiruna. I mentioned I made my military service there. It’s a meeting with the Arctic Council, but it will also be a meeting with the Arctic climate, could actually be some snow as well, so be prepared.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Prime Minister Reinfeldt, thank you very much. I’m from Boston, so I’m prepared. (Laughter.) I’m really delighted to be here with you today and I look forward to getting to Kiruna later in the day. I didn’t know you had done your military service there, so I’m going to check out just how safe you made it for us. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER REINFELDT: Absolutely.
SECRETARY KERRY: It’s a real pleasure for me to be back in Stockholm. I came here a number of years ago when I was traveling through this part of the world working on the issue of acid rain, and we made a lot of progress with respect to the Montreal Protocol. We now have to make a lot of progress with respect to the challenge of global climate change, and we talked about that earlier today.
But I want to thank – I want to begin today by just thanking the Prime Minister and the citizens of Sweden and your Foreign Minister Carl Biltd, who had to leave us to go up to Kiruna to prepare for the meetings, and I will join him there later. But I want to thank you for the very strong partnership with the United States of America. We are deeply appreciative. This is an important partnership that is based on our shared values and on a lot of shared aspirations for peace, for better relations between countries, and certainly for the combined security and prosperity of all of our people.
I really want to salute the Prime Minister and the people of Sweden for taking on some of the toughest challenges of our time. The Swedish people should be very, very proud, and I know they are, of the work of their government and their own contributions to significant challenges on a global basis. And this goes way back, from the Balkans to the great challenges of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Middle East peace process, and now Syria, where Sweden is one of the great contributors, I think one of the more significant contributors to the humanitarian crisis in that area.
We also are very appreciative in the United States for Sweden’s efforts with respect to Afghanistan. In fact, no country receives as much foreign assistance from Sweden as Afghanistan, no other country provides as much foreign assistance in Afghanistan as Sweden does. And it has significantly contributed to the efforts previously in Kosovo, Libya, through NATO, though not even a member of NATO, but it’s made those contributions, and we appreciate it.
It is clear that the United States and Sweden share a common aspiration for the people of Syria. And given the sizeable Syrian community in Sweden, we know that the crisis of Syria is of particular concern to the people of Sweden, and Sweden has therefore been one of the generous donors of humanitarian assistance.
We’re also grateful for Sweden’s very strong stand on sanction and your appointment of a special envoy to the Syrian opposition, and Ake Sellstrom’s significant efforts with respect to the determination of whether or not chemical weapons have been used in Syria is of great importance to all of us. We welcomed him to Washington the other day and we welcome that initiative to try to determine the facts for the world.
We also share a mutual vision for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear threat in Iran. And Sweden deserves great credit for its defense of human rights of the Iranian citizens, and we thank them for that effort, too.
I also want to say that we appreciate Sweden’s partnership because these challenges in Europe and North Africa and Central Asia simply do not belong to one nation; they’re shared by all of us and they affect all of us. And at the top of that list of shared challenges which does not get enough attention, and it’s one of the principal reasons that I came here today to share bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister but also will travel on to Kiruna to take part in the Arctic Council, a principal challenge to all of us of life and death proportions is the challenge of climate change. It is not a challenge that can be solved by any one nation, and in our discussions with the Prime Minister he pointed out to me that, in fact, Sweden’s contribution to the problem of – to the problem of climate change is a tiny point percentage of the total problem. And yet Sweden’s contribution to the solution is much more significant than anything that might be expected because of the level of its own contribution to the problem. So Sweden is way ahead of the curve.
And I have to say that I regret that my own country – and President Obama knows this and is committed to changing it – needs to do more and we are committed to doing more. And we come here to Kiruna with a great understanding of the challenge to the Arctic as the ice melts, as the ecosystem is challenged, the fisheries, and the possibilities of increased commercial traffic as a result of the lack of ice raises a whole set of other issues that we need to face up to. So it’s not just an environmental issue and it’s not just an economic issue. It is a security issue, a fundamental security issue that affects life as we know it on the planet itself, and it demands urgent attention from all of us.
I will have more to say about this tomorrow at the Arctic Council, but I want to thank Sweden for its invaluable leadership as we work to strengthen our cooperation throughout the Arctic and more broadly to try to address very real challenges of life on this planet itself.
Like the United States, Sweden understands the challenge of bringing universities, students, scientists, businesses, cities, a broad array of actors have to come to the table in order to meet this challenge. And we have to produce best practices which can then be translated to action in countries around the world. This is why recently in my trip to China we joined with the Chinese, who together the United States and China represent more than 50 percent of the global emissions of climate change. Recognizing that, we have come together to elevate the dialogue between our countries, and we will be continuing that dialogue in Washington in a very formal way in July in an effort to try to do more to address this issue.
So I come here aware of the challenge with humility but with great respect for what Sweden has been doing in leading on this effort, and we look forward to working together on that and on many other challenges, Mr. Prime Minister. So thank you for a generous welcome today, and I look forward to answering any questions.
MODERATOR: Okay. We have time for a couple of questions. Please state your name (inaudible).
QUESTION: My name is Rolf Forschwidt (ph) from Swedish TV 4. Mr. Secretary, will you please tell us how many number of American soldiers will be kept in Afghanistan post-2014? And also, what do you expect from the Swedish Government, how many people we should keep in the country after 2014?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me begin with the second part of your question, Rolf (ph), and then I’ll go to the first part. How many soldiers Sweden leaves is up to Sweden, not the United States, and I’m not going to announce any expectations, except to say that I know Sweden has already made an announcement about the number of troops that it expects to have on an ongoing basis. And we’re very grateful. We’re very grateful for whatever Sweden decides to do. We believe that as we have said previously, in together, out together. That is the philosophy that has guided us with respect to Afghanistan.
Now, on the number of troops that the United States will leave, I can guarantee you it will be enough to get the mission accomplished that the President has defined, which after 2014 will be to continue to train, equip, and support the Afghan army and also to conduct sufficient counterterrorism operations that Afghanistan cannot be used as a platform to attack people anywhere in the world. The President is in the process right now – this week, next week, the next days – of deliberating about this. And I can tell you that very shortly, not too long from now, the President does intend to make public what his plans are for post-2014. But I can tell you he will – he is committed to continuing to support the mission, he is committed to continuing to support the Afghan military beyond 2014. And I leave it to the President to announce the precise contours of what that will be, but I am convinced that it will be adequate to meet the mission and to complete the task.
The final thing I’ll say is we have not invested in this, all of us together for all of these years, in order to invite failure as we begin to do the very thing we sought to do, which is stand up the Afghan military and capacity and provide a transition. We’re in the middle of that now. This is the first fighting season as the Afghans take the lead, and thus far they’re doing pretty well. So we need to finish this in a way that does honor to the sacrifices and the efforts of a lot of countries for the last 11, 12 years, and I’m convinced we will.
QUESTION: Kim Ghattas with the BBC. Mr. Secretary, first a question for you on Syria. You spoke a while back about needing to change the calculations that President Assad is making as you discuss the possibility of a political transition there. But Mr. Assad and his government forces seem to be making military gains on the ground, they seem to be regaining the upper hand, and it seems as though they are hoping that they can change your calculation about how this transition needs to go forward. They’re not even interested in coming to the table at the moment.
Can you foresee a scenario whereby Mr. Assad will simply stay in power and the conflict will simply go on? He has no interest in coming to the table at the moment with the military gains he’s making.
And Prime Minister, a question for you on North Korea. You represent U.S. interests in North Korea. Do you have any updates on access to Kenneth Bae or any sort of talks with the North Koreans on his status?
PRIME MINISTER REINFELDT: No, not really. As you know, we are present there and also helping a lot of other countries, but I don’t have an update on these talks.
SECRETARY KERRY: With respect to Assad’s calculation, if he decides not to come to the table it will be another one of President Assad’s gross miscalculations. Now, I don’t believe that that is the case at this moment. The Russians – Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has informed me that President Assad has already given him the names of people who will negotiate.
So I don’t know where this information is coming from. You hear all kinds of reports right now. Let me just say to everybody point blank I have talked to the Secretary General in the last few days; I have talked to Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. They are both making plans for this negotiation to take place. I have talked with almost all of the foreign ministers in the Core Group who will be meeting next week together in order to lay plans for this negotiation. The members of the opposition have been in touch. I talked as recently as this morning with General Idris, who is committed to this negotiation process.
And I keep hearing some people suggest somehow that – the process moving away, not closer. I just don’t agree with that. Enormous plans are being laid. This is under the aegis of the United Nations. It’s not up to me to announce a date or the process. It’s up to the UN. But the talks we’ve had with them make it very clear that progress is being made. It’s only been five days since this was announced, and a huge amount of work is already underway. When we announced it, we said towards the end of the month or early June. We expect it to be exactly that, somewhere in early June I would hope. And that’s our current expectation. But as I say, it’s not up to me to set a date.
We will continue to work. We are all in touch; meetings are going on every single day. We believe the only way to settle Syria is through – the best way to settle Syria - is through a negotiated settlement. And that settlement process was set out a year ago in the Geneva communique, which calls for a transitional government with full executive power by mutual consent. The Russians signed onto that, the United States, and many other countries. That is precisely the formula that we are now trying to pursue.
Now, if President Assad decides to miscalculate again about that, as he has miscalculated about his own country’s future over the course of the last years, it is clear the opposition will be receiving additional support, there will be additional efforts made, and unfortunately, the violence will not end. But I know that the opposition and the support group, the Core Group of countries who have been engaged in this for some time, are deeply committed to trying to end the violence, to try to end the bloodshed, to try and save Syria, to keep a Syria as a united country which is available to all of the participants in the country. That includes Alawite, it includes Druze, Sunni, Shia, Christian. All elements of Syrian society should be protected and take part. And that is the approach which we are pursuing as a matter of conscience and also as a matter of practicality. And we hope we’ll have a chance to be able to get to that table. If Assad decides not to come, the world will see how empty his rhetoric is, as well as his intent.
Thank you all very, very much.
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