QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, now that the White House says it’s open to practical and tactical talks with – mil-mil talks with the Russians, what’s the next step and at what level, what’s the scope, what do you envision?
And Mr. Minister, is the UAE now prepared to take some Syrian refugees, and if not, why not?
SECRETARY KERRY: The President believes that a mil-to-mil conversation is an important next step and I think hopefully will take place very shortly and it will help to define some of the different options that are available to us as we consider next steps in Syria.
Obviously, our focus remains on destroying ISIL and also on a political settlement with respect to Syria, which we believe cannot be achieved with the long-term presence of Assad. But we’re looking for ways in which to try to find a common ground. Clearly, if you’re going to have a political settlement, which we’ve always argued is the best and only way to resolve Syria, you need to have conversations with people and you need to find a common ground. That’s precisely the heart of my conversations here with His Highness and Sheikh Abdullah, and then further conversations with my counterparts – Foreign Secretary Hammond tomorrow, with Foreign Minister Steinmeier in Germany, and other conversations that we’re having on the side. So our hope is to find a diplomatic way forward.
But this crisis has to be solved. I think everybody is seized by the urgency. We have been all along, but the migration levels, the continued destruction, the danger of potential augmentation by any unilateral moves really puts a high premium on diplomacy at this moment. And that’s why I’m here, and that’s what we’re going to work on.
MR KIRBY: Thanks, everybody.
SECRETARY KERRY: I think —
FOREIGN MINISTER BIN ZAYED: I’ll just say that in the last four years, the UAE has received over 100,000 Syrians. That’s a huge burden for a very small country. We are just over a million in terms of indigenous, and having another additional 100,000 Syrians is a huge burden on us economically, socially.
But I agree with the Secretary; he’s absolutely right. Unless we can go back and fix the core situation of Syria, which is getting the parties and resolving a political agreement in Syria, facing the challenges of Daesh, and stopping the use of the army, the intelligece forces against the civilians of Syria who have come out to ask for their rights, it will be very difficult to sustain the current situation.