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Press Availability With UK Foreign Secretary Hague and UNHCR

Joint Press Availability With United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Hague and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie

John Kerry
Secretary of State
ExCeL Conference Center
London, United Kingdom
June 13, 2014


FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Well, thank you very much. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for coming to this, the concluding press conference of the Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict. As you know, I’ve been co-chairing this this week with the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie, and I’m also very, very grateful to the U.S. Secretary of State Secretary Kerry for taking such time and trouble to be here today, for making a formidable speech, an inspiring speech, to our summit.

I will recap in a moment very briefly on the conclusions of the summit, but Secretary Kerry and I have obviously also been discussing the extremely serious situation in Iraq. We have noted, of course, that fighting continues but that attacks have thankfully slowed in recent hours. And in the UK we think our focus should now be on three objectives: first of all, to stabilize the situation. This is primarily the responsibility of the Iraqi security forces working in cooperation with their civil authorities, including the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Second, for Iraq’s leadership to come together in a united response to this brutal aggression against their country. That requires their leaders to find ways immediately to put aside their differences, however strongly felt, and act together against the terrorism which threatens them all.

Third, the half a million or more displaced people in the north who have been forced to flee Mosul and the surrounding areas need urgent support so that the humanitarian situation does not deteriorate further.

In the UK, we are not planning a British military intervention, as you know, but we are looking urgently at other ways to help. For example, help with counterterrorist expertise. Work is underway on that now, and we will continue to liaise closely with our United States allies in particular on that. A British team of emergency aid experts from DFID arrived in Iraq early this morning and are looking urgently at what the UK might do to help on that front.

We’ll also continue to work urgently within the UN Security Council to help concert the wider international response. The UN special representative for Iraq was clear to the Council about the urgency, both of the humanitarian crisis and the need for Iraq’s politicians to address the immediate challenge. Clearly, ISIL represents a regional challenge. We’re thinking through very carefully the implications of that, and this attack shows the importance of a strong stand against extremists and that’s why we are giving our backing to moderate groups in Syria who are taking them on.

On the Global Summit, which has just ended, this has been an unprecedented event and a turning point in our campaign over the last two years. We’ve seen delegations from more than 123 countries. We’ve seen new support for survivors, new determination to tackle impunity, and a new international protocol, new support for affected countries, new commitments on women’s participation and conflict prevention and peace building, and we have raised awareness dramatically across the world of this issue and these crimes with what we’ve done in our 84-hour summit here and around the world this week.

We will be pursuing this effort with relentless dedication. The chair’s summary sets out what we believe we have achieved this week. And I’m very grateful, as I say, for the very strong support of Secretary Kerry and the United States and for everything that my cohost, Angelina Jolie, has done to make this possible.

And I’ll turn to her to make her remarks before we give the floor to Secretary Kerry. Thank you.

MS. JOLIE: Thank you so much. It’s an honor for me to be here with Secretary Hague and Secretary Kerry. It sends an extremely powerful message to the world that the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom and the United States are taking such a strong stand on this issue.

Among the 123 countries represented here over the last four days, one of the most heartening aspects of this summit has been to see so many male leaders from across the world prepared to confront the taboos surrounding sexual violence in conflict. Indeed, I believe that one of the outcomes of this summit is that this subject is now firmly on the top table of international diplomacy, and we will work to ensure that it stays there.

Warzone rape is not simply a women’s issue, it is not a humanitarian issue, it goes to the heart of international peace and security. Even more heartening is the fact that this summit has brought together leaders, survivors, and experts from around the world in an unprecedented way. I see this as a new and hopeful model for how we can begin to tackle vast global issues and strengthen the rule of law and justice internationally. I will work with William Hague and those who have joined us here for as long as it takes to prevail in the struggle against sexual violence in conflict.

All represented here, individuals, agencies, and nations have promised action, not just words. The test of whether this summit is a success will be whether or not we can truly make a difference in the lives of survivors of warzone rape around the world and take the steps that visibly shatter the culture of impunity. And I look forward to everyone who has taken part in this summit holding us to our promises, encouraging us to go further, and working with us in many different ways. And in my mind, the work we have begun here is very, very much linked to the violence against women in many other contexts, whether it is the kidnap of the schoolgirls in Nigeria or the recent appalling rape cases in India and Pakistan. My goal is that by treating sexual violence in conflict as a central issue and bearing down on impunity there, that we will be able to accelerate change in all these other areas, and that will be very much a part of my focus – I’m sure our focus – in the months and years to come. Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you very much indeed.

John – Secretary Kerry.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Foreign Secretary. It’s a privilege for me to be back in London and to join William Hague, Angelina Jolie, and so many others in the first-ever global summit on sexual violence. And I’ll say a few words about that in a moment, but like William Hague, I clearly want to say a few words about Iraq and the subject that we just talked about in our bilateral meeting, much on our minds.

President Obama met with his senior foreign policy team yesterday afternoon. We had a comprehensive meeting regarding the events in Iraq. We discussed a range of options, including military action to provide support for the Iraqi Government and to respond to their request at this difficult time. Iraq is facing a brutal enemy that also poses a threat to America’s interests and to the interests of our allies in Europe and in the region. Given the gravity of the situation, I would anticipate timely decisions from the President regarding the challenge. We’ve already taken some immediate steps, including providing enhanced aerial surveillance support to assist the Iraqis in this fight. We’ve also ramped up shipments of military aid to Iraq since the beginning of the year, and we have continued to ramp up efforts over the course of the last months leading up to the events of the last week. We’ve also expanded our training programs, both inside Iraq and in Jordan.

We are laser-focused on dealing with the crisis at hand, but just as important as any short-term action is our continuing effort to build the Iraqi Government’s ability to be able to sustain this fight itself. And we plan to intensify that effort in the coming hours, days, and weeks. Security is a priority, obviously, but make no mistake: This needs to be a real wake-up call for all of Iraq’s political leaders. Now is the time for Iraq’s leaders to come together and to show unity. Political division fueled by ethnic or sectarian differences simply cannot be allowed to steal from the Iraqi people what so many have given so much for over the course of these last years. This is a fight for a better future for all Iraqis. It’s a fight for a pluralistic, tolerant society. It’s a fight for a civil approach to governance. And it is a fight ultimately which winning will require all of Iraq’s leaders of all different stripes and persuasions to come together in order to put the national interest above their own and above any sectarian interest.

Our commitment to a better future for people is really what brings us to London this week, to direct international attention and focus on the critical issue of ending sexual violence in conflict. There are few leaders more committed, as I said earlier, to this cause than Foreign Secretary William Hague. And we are very, very grateful, both of us and all government individuals involved in this, for the participation of the UN Special Representative Angelina Jolie. We also appreciate Special Representative Bangura’s efforts, and I recall a conversation we had back in February. And I am pleased to join Secretary Hague and Angelina in trying to elevate this conversation today.

Too many of the places that I have visited as Secretary of State bear the scars of a time when rape has been used as a tactic of oppression and intimidation. Sexual violence in conflict is one of the most persistent and most neglected injustices imaginable, and ending this cycle of violence is not just a personal priority, it is a priority of President Obama, the Government of the United States, and our allies, as you can see. That’s why we’ve taken a number of steps that I enumerated earlier. I’m not going to go through them all again. But we’ve taken steps to try to empower people to create accountability and to try to make it clear that all governments have to join together in denying a safe haven to those who perpetrate these crimes. We are expanding initiatives that I described earlier, particularly the Safe from the Start initiative as well as the Accountability initiative, and also gender-based violence and emergency response and protection initiatives. Our goal is to make sure that survivors get the urgent assistance that they need in order to be able to recover and heal.

So we have a big agenda, and that’s appropriate. We need to make clear with a single loud voice, and I think that is coming out of London today, that we are – that we refuse to believe that this is too big to defeat, that it is somehow too deeply ingrained in human nature or society not to care about it. We are convinced that we can make a difference and that there is no place in the civilized world for sexual violence as a tool of war in conflict. So I thank Secretary Hague for his leadership and would be delighted to answer other questions along with him.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Okay. Thank you. Time for a few questions. Carl, my press secretary, will identify them. I think Adam Boulton is first.

QUESTION: Yeah, a question from Sky News: Which regional powers do you think are benefiting from what’s happening in northern Iraq with ISIS? What role do you see for Iran now? And in relation to the subject of this conference, do you have specific concerns about the use of sexual violence by ISIS?

SECRETARY KERRY: What was the first – I missed the first part of the question.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: The first part was which regional powers benefit.

QUESTION: Which regional powers do you think are benefiting from what’s happening?

SECRETARY KERRY: No regional power benefits from what is happening in Iraq today – no regional power. Iran is deeply concerned about this, Turkey is concerned, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, countries in the region. No country benefits by what is happening. ISIL is a terrorist organization. It is so extreme that even al-Qaida saw fit at one point to try to disassociate itself to some degree from it.

The bottom line is that ISIL is a threat not just to Iraq and to the entire region, but it is a threat to Europe, the United States, and other countries in the world, and obviously, with the number of foreign fighters that have been assembled in Syria, this remains a very significant issue. That is why President Obama has urgently convened a security team and that is why he is moving rapidly to a point of deciding what the next steps need to be. I might add that what this represents is not a free-standing terrorist entity, but a consequence of what is happening in Syria. We have been warning for months now that the increased number of jihadists attracted to Syria because of Assad’s behavior and because of the sectarian differences is creating a danger to the region in the spillover violence and the spillover humanitarian crisis.

So everybody in the region, every country that understands the importance of stability in the Middle East needs to be concerned about what is happening with ISIL in Iraq today, and that is why I am confident that the United States will move rapidly and effectively in order to join with our allies in dealing with this challenge.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And on the question about sexual violence in Iraq, I don’t think we have evidence of that in these incidents – these events in the last few days. But we do, of course, have evidence of it on a huge scale in the Syria conflict. And indeed, we have deployed the UK team of experts to Syria’s borders to help to document these crimes and to support human rights activists in doing so.

Next question, I think, was going to the BBC.

QUESTION: James Robbins from the BBC. Secretary Kerry, you’ve talked about the brutality of ISIL or ISIS leading this uprising, but isn’t it really the case that it’s spread far beyond them now and has become a much more general Sunni uprising within Iraq? Is there a risk that if the President decides on military action in Iraq, he will be propping up a man, Nuri al-Maliki, who’s often seen by his critics as a sectarian leader, not one who necessarily deserves your support.

Can you tell us if it’s – your real overriding concern is the risk of what some have called transnational badlands, the formation of an extremist state straddling both Syria and Iraq?

Foreign Secretary, is it right for Britain to rule out military action in any circumstances? Because surely, what’s been characterized here is just the sort of threat ultimately to British nationals which might require military action. And aren’t you undermining the United States position by ruling it out so categorically?

And Ms. Jolie, if I could ask you what’s – what are your future plans on the themes of this summit? Do you hope, for instance, to make another feature film based around themes raised here?

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Right, three questions in one question. John, do you want to have --

SECRETARY KERRY: Why don’t we ask – why don’t we let Angelina begin and we’ll roll back.


MS. JOLIE: The easier question. (Laughter.) There are many different ways I will be attempting to work on this issue. I will be doing it through art and then through my work in the field, and meeting and working very much with survivors, doctors, lawyers, the task forces set out from PSVI, and of course any ways as an artist that I can bring attention to these issues. There is not a particular, specific piece of art, but I am of course very moved, and it means a great deal to me that a film that I made has – with these issues and felt nobody would see or pay any attention to was responded to by the foreign secretary and helped me to raise my voice even louder. Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: On the question to me, I mentioned in my opening statement that we are looking urgently at ways to assist, and I mentioned the example of counterterrorist expertise in Iraq. Secretary Kerry referred in his remarks to building Iraq’s ability to sustain the fight itself. And there will certainly be ways. There are ways and there will be ways in which the United Kingdom can assist with that, so we will work closely with the United States and all of our allies on that. That doesn’t mean, as I also mentioned, that we are planning a military intervention ourselves. But there will be many things we can do to work with our allies in trying to stabilize the situation in Iraq.


SECRETARY KERRY: ISIL is a – clearly a common threat to the entire region, including Iran, but to the entire region. And people need to focus clearly on the fact that the rise in Iraq’s violence is primarily a result of the escalating war in Syria and its empowering effect on ISIL. That is what has happened here. But we need to make it very clear that there are other contributing factors. Prime Minister Maliki and all of Iraqi leaders need to do more to put sectarian differences aside and to come together in unity to begin to be more representative and inclusive. And part of what has created a dynamic in Iraq where it is less prepared with less political will than it might have had has been this persistent divisiveness and gridlock with respect to some of the unresolved political issues in Iraq itself.

So that’s a conversation that we are having now, real time, with the prime minister and with others in Iraq, but there is no entity, no government, no one broadly in the Iraqi population is looking forward to the presence of ISIL. ISIL terrorizes them. And there are many Sunnis who are taking cover, leaving the country, seeking refuge because of their fear of ISIL. ISIL is a fundamental, basic terrorist structure that seeks to do everything outside of any rule of law structure in order to dominate any territory location where it is. It’s frankly the enemy of civility, the enemy of rule of law, the enemy of pluralism, the enemy of decency, and we need to make it crystal clear, as we have, the United States views it as a threat to our interests as well as to the interests of our friends and allies in the region.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Okay. I think there’s just time for one more question, Carl.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Today in Iraq Shia clerics have called on Iraqis to fight the Sunni insurgency. Secretary Kerry, is the U.S. planning to strike – to launch airstrikes in Iraq to help the government? And can you discuss why it might do so now after declining to do so in Syria, and also potentially enter into a cooperation with Iran, which is also helping the Iraqi Government?

Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hague, why would additional help to Iraq now make a difference after both the U.S. and the UK spent the better part of the last decade trying to stabilize Iraq? Do you believe this is the start of a new years-long conflict in Iraq?

And Ms. Jolie, could you discuss a little bit how you personally became involved with the issue of sexual violence in conflict zones and how you plan to keep this – I know you discussed some of your projects are ongoing, but how you believe that this will remain a top-tier priority when there are so many other pressing priorities in the world? Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Right. Another three questions in one question. I think the answer to the, why would we do now what we haven’t done in recent months, is clearly the situation has changed. The situation has deteriorated seriously in Iraq. It’s therefore necessary to emphasize and assist with the things that we’ve set out, including stabilizing the situation. Both Secretary Kerry and I have stressed the importance of Iraq’s leadership coming together in a united response and the responsibility that rests on Iraq’s leaders, but in a situation that has deteriorated they are likely to have legitimate needs for assistance that are greater than before. So I think that is fairly clear.

John, do you want to take the other aspects of the Iraq question?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there is a huge distinction between what ISIL represents and ISIL is doing versus the situation in Syria. It begins first and fundamentally that in Iraq there is a government that we have been deeply involved in, that we support, that we have a military relationship with, that we have a – ongoing Memorandum of Understanding regarding the military relationship, which has invited us, asked us for help. And under international law, the United Nations and other law, it is clear that when a legitimate nation makes a request for help, there is a legal basis for involvement in ways that are different.

Number two, the fact is that ISIL is a terrorist entity, as I have described, that has already expressed threats against the United States and the West and about which we have some indication has been plotting and looking for opportunities to take on the West. So there is a vital interest with respect to that.

Thirdly, there is a clarity that what has been lacking in these last weeks and months in Iraq is not a trained capacity of a military to respond, not an ability of the numbers of people, frankly, in the military in Iraq to be able to stand up to the several thousand in ISIL, but a lack of political will. And that political will and leadership is a critical component of what we have been working on now for several years to try to resolve unresolved differences in the governance of Iraq itself. And I think that has had a profound impact, and that’s what I said a moment ago. This has served as a wakeup call with respect to political leadership. And there are indications that they are quickly responding to that. And so this may be a moment where you can actually coalesce and bring the country together, recognizing that there is a threat to them as a whole.

So our sense is that there is an ability here to work with the existing government and the existing trained military forces to be able to have an impact in ways that have never been available or as clear with respect to Syria, not to mention there are other issues, many other issues, with respect to Syria. But Iraq is, as I’ve said, a country we’ve had a very direct relationship with, a very direct investment and engagement with, not to mention the lives of our soldiers who were lost there providing this opportunity to them. And I don’t think anybody in the region or in this Administration believes it is in the interest of the United States to turn our backs on that.


MS. JOLIE: I became involved in this particular issue because of the women and men that I’ve met in the field, first through my work with UNHCR. And I have sat with them and they were very emotional not only about what had been done to them physically, but most of all the injustice, the lack of prosecutions for those who had committed the crimes. One of the women that I met that was very, very young I met in Syria, who was an Iraqi refugee at the time fleeing from that war. She then fled the war in Syria to return back to Iraq. I don’t know where she is now or where she will go.

So these issues are all tied together. There is not one that is more important than the other. But we must address them all at once. Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Okay. Thank you very much indeed, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you.


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