Interview
John Kerry
Secretary of State
New Delhi, India
June 24, 2013


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for making time –

SECRETARY KERRY: Pleasure.

QUESTION: -- on a very busy and long day.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good to be with you. Thank you.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. doing – what are you doing to bring Edward Snowden back to the U.S.?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, our country is doing everything that’s possible. We have a coordinated effort between the State Department, the Justice Department, the FBI, the White House. All of our folks are in touch with people in an effort to try to persuade our Russian colleagues that this is important, important to the United States, important to them in terms of upholding rule of law, and we have returned seven prisoners to them in the last two years that they requested. I think it’s very important for them to adhere to the rule of law and respect the relationship.

QUESTION: Is that where Snowden is now? Is he in Russia?

SECRETARY KERRY: The last public news, obviously, was that he was arriving in Moscow. I’m not going to discuss where he may or may not be, where he’s going, what flights he might or might not be on. I simply want to say that this is a man who is accused of three counts of espionage against his country. By admission, himself, he has said that he released these documents. He is a fugitive from his own acts, ironically, using countries that don’t have very much internet freedom to help him in this process. And I think what’s important is that those countries join with the rest of the world in upholding rule of law. If that doesn’t happen, everybody is hurt. So I hope our friends in Russia will do what is necessary here. I’m not going to comment on anything further until we know where we are.

QUESTION: We do know that Mr. Snowden applied for asylum in Ecuador and possibly some other countries. So what will the consequences be for those countries if they do accept him?

SECRETARY KERRY: Again, I’m – those countries have all – all the countries in Latin America, a lot of countries have been notified about the United States’ interest in this individual. I am not going to get into prejudging what might or might not occur until we have all the facts, until this is played out. I think that would be irresponsible.

QUESTION: What does notifying them mean exactly? What is that conversation?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m not going to – it just means they’re on notice that the United States is interested in this party, and we expect the law to be upheld.

QUESTION: So you said that there would be no question there will be consequences for China, for Russia if they willfully allowed Mr. Snowden to get on a plane. There is some fear that this could make the United States look weak here. I mean, do you believe that there was a willful decision to aid and abet his escape?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we don’t have any idea yet. As I said to you, if it turned out, that’s one thing. But right now we don’t know the details of who approved what, whether it was approved at all. We don’t know how he got on the plane, how he traveled, and so I’m not going to get into the frenzy of predetermining all of this. What we know is there’s an individual against whom there is a very serious three complaints of espionage against his own country, who by his own admission has broken faith with the oath he took, with his responsibility to his colleagues, to his agency, to his nation, and he’s on the lam. And so we’re going to do all we can obviously to try to uphold the law, to apprehend him, and let’s see where we are before we start looking for all the repercussions and bounce-back on this. I just don’t think we need to do that now.

QUESTION: You said earlier it wasn’t clear how Mr. Snowden was traveling, if it was on a U.S. passport or some other passport. Do you have any clarity as to how he’s moving around and why it took so long to revoke it?

SECRETARY KERRY: I do not. No. I do not at this point. As you know, Margaret, I’ve had a very busy day here in India. We’ve been back in touch with Washington. Obviously my staff has. We do know that his passport was appropriately canceled within hours, literally, two hours, I think, of the complaint being made public. And our department is coordinating as it has all along. We’ve had people all weekend long, full time, working this in the State Department together with the Justice Department. I’m very proud of the work that they’ve done. They’ve been on top of this. The coordination has been superb. And let’s see where it winds up.

QUESTION: I want to ask you now about Syria. The U.S. has been remarkably unspecific about the kind of aid it is providing to the Syrian rebels. So can you tell us what concrete things the U.S. is actually doing and when the rebels will actually receive it?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the rebels have actually been receiving a significant amount of nonlethal aid from the United States for some period of time.

QUESTION: Food and medical kits.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there has been more than that. There’s been communications equipment, there’s been vehicle – I mean, there are a number of things that have gotten in. I don’t want to get into the listing of it. It’s not that important. What is important is that the President of the United States has made a decision that, because the crossed the red line, he is going to raise the stakes in terms of what the United States is providing. But even as we do that, the President is committed, as we all are, to recognize what we’ve said, and every critic of this policy has said from the beginning: The best solution is a negotiated solution; the best solution is not to have Syria implode and break apart; it is to have a politically negotiated solution. And to get that, you have to bring the parties to the table. We’re working at that --

QUESTION: But the President has said he has –

SECRETARY KERRY: -- and we hope to do it.

QUESTION: -- not seen any signs of a willingness or follow-through from the Russians or from the Assad regime on that, though.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we’re meeting, literally, tomorrow morning. We have – Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will be in Geneva meeting with her counterpart from the Russian side together with Lakhdar Brahimi. We’re working at this. These things don’t happen overnight at the snap of a finger. And so there’s hard work going on, a lot of discussion. That’s generally the way you finally get there. And there isn’t, obviously, a lot of incentive for Assad to negotiate at this moment in time, but the Russians have said they will work to bring him to the table as we must work to bring others to the table, and we’re going to continue to do that.

QUESTION: As part of your calculus in this, when you look at some of the countries in the Gulf like Saudi and Qatar, do you – did you worry? Do you continue to worry that they will put guns in the hands of Sunnis who are willing to fight, some of them extremists, and turn this into a proxy war with Iran since Iran is already funding people on the ground?

SECRETARY KERRY: Here’s my calculus and I think the calculus of the President of the United States and those of us who are looking at this. If we do nothing, if the United States does nothing, and the rest of the world does nothing, then Syria is going to wind up in an even worse condition than it is today, possibly imploding completely with a total breakup, with radicals, extremists able to get a hold of chemical weapons and free to use it as a base to begin to conduct their operations again against the West and the United States. Now they’ve predicted that’s exactly what they want to do. Knowing that, it would be irresponsible for the rest of the world not to try to bring them to the table or to try to create a situation where you can get a negotiated solution.

QUESTION: But how do you change –

SECRETARY KERRY: And if it broke apart –

QUESTION: -- circumstances on the ground without –

SECRETARY KERRY: -- that would be dangerous for Jordan, dangerous for Israel, dangerous for Lebanon, and I think the notion that Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, is going to be allowed to shift the battlefield in this way would be damaging to lots of America’s interests and other people’s interests.

QUESTION: But how do you shift the battlefield back? How is arming going to be enough without strikes or something else more debilitating?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s – nobody – you can’t say for certain that that will or won’t. What is happening is an increased effort that is reasonable, proportional, and hopefully leaves the door open to be able to bring the people to the table to work with the Russians, to work with others in order to try to get a negotiation. Now if that can’t happen, then you have to make some further judgments. But people who sit there and say, “Well, the United States doesn’t have policy or isn’t doing this,” it’s just incorrect.

The policy is to try to avoid Syria imploding. And the policy is to try to reduce the pressure on Jordan, on Lebanon, on Israel, and to try to find a way to bring warring factions – some tribal, some international, some sectarian – and bring them to the table in order to try to work this out so the people of Syria who are suffering at the hands of all of these other parties will actually get to choose their future. That’s the best solution of all, and it’s worth fighting for.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time. Always more to talk about with you, but that’s it for tonight.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thanks.

QUESTION: Thank you.



PRN: 2013/T09-06

[This is a mobile copy of Interview With Margaret Brennan of CBS]