Remarks by President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in Joint Press Availability (Excerpts)

June 26, 2009

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  • Germany

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PRESIDENT OBAMA: The Chancellor and I discussed the tragic situation in Iran. Today we speak with one voice: the rights of the Iranian people -- to assemble, to speak freely, to have their voices heard -- those are universal aspirations. And their bravery in the face of brutality is a testament to their enduring pursuit of justice. The violence perpetrated against them is outrageous. Despite the government's efforts to keep the world from bearing witness to that violence, we see it and we condemn it. As I've said before, the Iranian people will be the ultimate judge of their government's actions. But if the Iranian government desires the respect of the international community then it must respect the rights, and heed the will, of its people.

The Iranian government also has other responsibilities. Working with Germany, our other European partners, as well as Russia and China, we're working to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capacity and unleashing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. We will encourage Iran to take a path that respects international norms and leads to greater security and prosperity for the Iranian people.

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CHANCELLOR MERKEL : We had a number of issues on our agenda today. I would like to underline that the Iranian people need to be given the right to peaceful demonstrations; that the Iranian people have the right to have votes be counted and the election results substantiated; that the rights of human beings, of individuals, of citizens are indivisible the world over, and also apply, therefore, to the Iranian people.

We have to work to it that the Iranian nuclear program is stopped; that Iran does not get possession of a nuclear weapon. In this context, it is very desirable, of course, that also 7:34looms large on our agenda, that the peace process in the Middle East gains momentum, that there is progress, visible progress here, because that, too, might send a positive message to those forces in the Middle East who are not ready to be peaceful.

Germany and America will work very closely together on this, just as on the questions related to arms reduction and disarmament. We would like to wish you, Mr. President Obama, the best of success during the upcoming visit to Russia. A partnership with Russia is very important for Germany, also important for the European Union. But we have every interest also in seeing a very good relationship between the United States of America and Russia. We need Russia, for example, we need it looking at the problems we have with Iran, and we want to forge a common position wherever possible with Russia, but also with China. We've done that over the years in the format of the United Nations with the number of resolutions that that needs to be continued.

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Q Thank you, Mr. President. A couple weeks ago on Iran you suggested that there were few differences with Mr. Moussavi and President Ahmadinejad. I'm wondering if the ensuing time since you made those comments have changed your view on that?

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PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, what I said originally was that given the structure of the Iranian government and that power resided ultimately with Khamanei, the Supreme Leader, and given that there weren't at that point significant differences on the core national security interests that we initially had talked about diplomatically -- i.e., nuclear weapons development in Iran, the exportation of terrorist activity -- that we could not automatically assume that there would be a huge shift on those particular national security issues depending on who won that election.

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Q Thank you, Mr. President, Madame Chancellor. A question for each of you. On Iran, do the events of the past few weeks and even of the past couple of days indefinitely stall your ability to have any kind of meaningful dialogue with him on the nuclear issue, and frankly are you just losing precious time on that issue?

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PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, on the Iranian issue, I think that we are still waiting to see how the situation in Iran plays out. Obviously I continue to be deeply disturbed by reports of violence that are taking place there. I continue to call on the Iranian government to deal with people who are peacefully protesting, wanting their voices to be heard, in a way that respects international principles.

There is no doubt that any direct dialogue or diplomacy with Iran is going to be affected by the events of the last several weeks. And we don't yet know how any potential dialogue will have been affected until we see what's happened inside of Iran.

I will tell you -- and this was the point that I was making earlier in response to Jeff's question -- we have a continuing set of national security interests that are going to have to be dealt with because the clock is ticking. Iran is developing nuclear capacity at a fairly rapid clip; they have been doing so for quite some time. Iran's possession of nuclear weapons would trigger an arms race in the Middle East that would be bad not just for U.S. security, it would be bad for the security of the entire region, including, by the way, Iranian security.

And so even as we clearly speak out in a unified voice in opposition to the violence that's taken place in Iran, we have to also be steady in recognizing that the prospect of Iran with a nuclear weapon is a big problem and that we've got to work in concert with the international community to try to prevent that from happening.

So my expectation would be -- and we did discuss this -- that you're going to continue to see some multilateral discussions with Iran. There is a structure that exists -- the P5-plus-1 talks that include Russia and China. There are going to be discussions that continue on the international stage around Iranians' -- Iran's nuclear program. I think the direct dialogue between the United States and Iran and how that proceeds, I think we're going to have to see how that plays itself out in the days and weeks ahead.

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CHANCELLOR MERKEL: On Iran, over the past few weeks, we have seen horrifying scenes, looking at how, for example, the security forces there dealt with demonstrators. We will not forget this. And let me say that we shall do everything in order to identify the exact number of victims, who those victims were, and how they dealt with those demonstrators.

In this day and age of the 21st century, Iran cannot count on the world community turning a blind eye to this. We are able to see this through images. My own experience from the GDR tells me that it is so important than one knows when one is in such a situation that people somewhere else in the world are knowledgeable of what is happening to you.

And irrespective of that, the question that Iran must not be allowed to regain possession of their weapon is even more important, without bringing, on the other hand, those in Iran who would like to have a different system, bringing them into difficulties -- I mean, we would like to have a diplomatic solution to preventing Iran from gaining possession of a nuclear weapon.

So I completely agree with the President here. We have to bring Russia and China alongside in order to see to it that this solution is brought about. The more resolve, the more determination we show in doing that, the better our prospects also for the Middle East peace process. And I think we can be successful also in the Middle East process, and then be successful in our talks with Iran.

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