Secretary Kerry’s Interview With Lisa Laflamme of CTV

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with CTV Anchor Lisa LaFlamme on March 9, 2016, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., before an interview in advance of the State Visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

QUESTION: Well, it’s a great honor for us to have you today.


QUESTION: I’m going to get right at it.


QUESTION: We’ll start with certainly the news of the day out of Iran and state media there reporting that they’ve test launched new missiles and Vice President Biden, as you say, traveling, saying the U.S. will take action if that’s confirmed. So what kind of action are you talking about?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Iran knows that under the United Nations Security Council, that is a violation. And in addition, under the agreement that we reached, we kept the embargo in place with respect to the missile launches for eight years. So it’s also, while not a violation of the nuclear agreement, it’s a violation of the concept that was embraced within it. So undoubtedly, if confirmed – and we’re doing the homework to make certain that everybody knows what they’re talking about – this will invite, I’m confident, additional measures by the United States and perhaps by others.

QUESTION: So the sanctions, then? More sanctions would be the action?

SECRETARY KERRY: Indeed, as well as – I mean, this will certainly build support for greater vigilance and for more action, so it’s unfortunate that they’ve chosen to proceed.

QUESTION: It’s also news today that an ISIS captive has suggested – a chemical weapons expert – that mustard gas will be used in Iraq. Now, Canada has just pulled our CF-18s out and we’re putting hundreds of special forces in. So first of all, can you confirm those reports that —

SECRETARY KERRY: No, I can’t, but what I can – let me just first of all – I want to thank Canada for its significant contribution from day one to the effort to fight against Daesh, and we welcome Prime Minister Trudeau’s significant package that he’s put together in order to contribute to this effort. And we will, I’m confident, over a period of time defeat Daesh. I have no doubt about it.

There are some reports that have been circulating about the potential use by the Assad regime or by the – or by Daesh or the opposition even, on some occasions, of some kind of gas. In some cases, it has been deemed to be chlorine mixed in a certain way, but there are also allegations regarding mustard, and those are being thoroughly examined and checked out by the chemical weapons folks.

QUESTION: This sounds like it would be a lot more dangerous, though. Canada’s new mission —

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, not necessarily. We don’t know the – there’s no indication of some widespread use against people or something, but it’s something that is being checked out.

QUESTION: Now, the U.S. actually abandoned that whole training mission in lieu of weapons and ammo six months ago, so it almost seems like Canada’s new mission is out of step with what the Americans have already seen as ineffective.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, on the contrary. In fact, today’s newspapers have a story about General Austin, our CENTCOM commander, starting up again the effort to train, but to do it in a more effective, targeted way. So we do believe that training is critical; plus, there’s a distinction between training those people who we’re going to train to be part of the opposition against Assad and training the Iraqi military, which has been steadily improving and growing in its capacity, moving now against Heet – a town in Iraq – and having liberated Ramadi, having liberated Tikrit, and eventually moving on Mosul. So this training is a very, very key element and a very needed element of the overall strategy against Daesh.

QUESTION: And on the overall strategy about Syria, the ceasefire, the talks start again Monday. The ceasefire is holding, but you’ve already said if it fails, there’s a Plan B: partition. And I wonder how you see that as effective in tackling ISIS.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we haven’t ever articulated a Plan B. People have talked about the possibility of a Plan B, obviously, if Plan A fails. But nobody has laid out the elements of that plan at this point in time. There has been some public speculation about it. And I am not talking about nor are any of the members of the International Syria Support Group talking about a partition. That has not been on the table. We are talking about keeping Iraq – Iraq? – Syria whole as a united nation, secular nation, protecting all minorities, in which the people of Syria can choose their future leadership. That is all that has been on the table thus far.

QUESTION: And have you backed away, then, from regime change?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, what we’ve talked about is Assad change. We want to preserve the institutions of the government. We don’t want a complete implosion in Syria. We need to have some continuity. But Assad cannot stay at the head of that, and that is the whole concept behind the Geneva negotiations. It is to put in place a transitional governing council. Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, all the countries that are part of the International Syria Support Group have signed up to this concept writ large of a transitional governance which will be by mutual consent of the opposition and the Assad regime, which will then run the show while elections are being set up to take place under a constitution in which the people of Syria will choose their own leadership for the future, with the diaspora permitted to vote. That has specifically been embraced by all of the International Syria Support Group.

QUESTION: And while all of this is happening, the refugee crisis continues to spiral out of control. Canada’s just brought in its 25,000, but the U.S. resettlement plan is so far behind that. And I wonder, from what its own plan is, does that undermine all the work that you do?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, not in the least. We really applaud Canada. I mean, we have great respect for Canada’s humanitarian heart and for the ability that it has shown to try to screen people and bring them in on a rapid basis.

QUESTION: Why is it so much slower here, then?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, because I think that we go through a different kind of intergovernmental agency process; we have a different approach to it. But we are working very, very closely with the Canadian authorities, cooperating hand in hand to make certain that background checks that are extremely thorough are being performed, and I think it’s safe to say that traveler – that refugees coming in undergo a far more exhaustive analysis of their background than any other kind of traveler in the world today.

QUESTION: Certainly under the current election campaign going on, Donald Trump has been anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, and the world is sort of looking back, saying, “What’s happening in America?” Do you feel, though, as some of your world counterparts say, that he is a threat to peace and prosperity, which is the very work you spend day in and day out working on?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, people are going to make their own judgments about Donald Trump, both here and abroad. And because we are in the middle of an election process, and I am the Secretary of State and I try to work on a bipartisan basis with everybody, I just don’t step into the middle of the campaign in any way whatsoever, obliquely or otherwise. So —

QUESTION: What about – can you give us any insight into this phenomenon?

SECRETARY KERRY: The insight – sure. I mean, there’s a great anger out there, and I understand the anger as a former nominee of my party and privileged to run for president. People are feeling that Washington hasn’t delivered and there is a sense of frustration, and it’s felt on all sides of the aisle. I mean, you see this in both parties. The American people are very, very wise and ultimately this is the most serious of elections, and as we come in with two candidates – or more, if there are more – the American people will focus in. And I believe, as they always have, they’ll make a judgment that will reflect the American people’s wishes and desires, and I hope that it will be a decision that will obviously ultimately meet the approval of the world. But we won’t know that until we have nominees and we have the final moments in October and November.

QUESTION: It’s been a fascinating process to watch. In Canada there is a sense also that Washington —

SECRETARY KERRY: Fascinating is one word for it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You got a better word?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, not today.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) I’ll ask you that again in the future. But there’s a sense that Washington almost failed Canada, in a sense, when it comes to Keystone, and I want to bring that up. I know we don’t have a lot of time left.

SECRETARY KERRY: Sure, no, go ahead. Please.

QUESTION: In your opinion, is that deal dead-dead?


QUESTION: There is no way that that will be revived in the future if there were a new plan to move forward with it under this new government?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, not in this Administration. But look, we have some 300 pipelines, I think, if I recall correctly. This is one with respect to a particular kind of fuel. And the decision was made because President Obama and this Administration, and in my job as Secretary, believe very, very deeply that we need to move away from a high carbon footprint into low-carbon, alternative, renewable energy sources, and we must try to set an example and do that as fast as possible. We’re living in a new world – a very new world. Just yesterday, it was reported that this winter has been the warmest winter in recorded history. Every month, you pick up the paper and you read that the last month was the warmest month in history. This has been true now for 10 successive years – for 11 years, 12 years this is happening. People have to respond to this.

We are seeing the consequences of this in so many different ways: the Arctic ice melt, increased fires, increased intensity of storms, sea level rise, species that are moving away from where they are today to new locations to survive. I mean, run the list. It is compelling that we humans are contributing to this crisis and we must begin to have a lower carbon footprint and begin to deal with this. That’s why we’re – that’s why —

QUESTION: Will we see a deal, Canada-U.S., in the next few days on —

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m confident that – I know from my conversations with your Foreign Minister Stephane Dion and I know your environment minister are both deeply committed to dealing with climate change. Canada is committed to this. We need to work together to apply new technologies to help us deal with carbon, to find some unfound method yet of perhaps burning coal clean. I don’t know what it’s going to be. I know that we humans have this incredible capacity for innovation and entrepreneurial activity, and if we will apply ourselves to the effort over the next years, we have an unbridled energy future of huge possibilities – great economic growth, by the way; unbelievable numbers of jobs to be created – but to do so with a low carbon output. That’s the mission, and we all have to embrace it.

QUESTION: That is the challenge ahead, and I thank you so much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you so much.

QUESTION: Lovely to meet you today.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good to see you. Thank you.