Press Availability by Secretary of State John Kerry in Beijing, China (Excerpts)

November 8, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I want to begin by thanking our Chinese hosts for their very, very warm welcome and for the depth and breadth of the discussions that we’ve been able to have at APEC this year.

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QUESTION: Could you provide some more details on your discussions this morning with Mr. Lavrov, specifically about Ukraine and Iran? Did he provide any assurances that Russia is committed to upholding the Minsk agreement, particularly when it comes to sending troops and tanks into Luhansk? And if there is credible evidence to the contrary, how would the U.S. respond? New sanctions or something else?

On Iran, did he assess what he considers the prospects for a November 24th agreement? And what is your sense, given the correspondence between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei, that Iran is prepared to make a deal given they – the fact they still refuse to be transparent regarding current and past use of nuclear materials?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov was a very in-depth meeting in which we discussed a number of different crises in the following context: Obviously, the United States and Russia have some clear differences and some clear disagreements about certain policies at this point in time. And we discussed, obviously, those disagreements. But we also know that we need to find the places where we can agree and cooperate because it is important for the world to do so.

With respect to Iran, Russia has been a constructive, engaged, serious partner in the effort to try to find a solution to a problem that is not – that shouldn’t lend itself to other disagreements, but which has enormous impact for everybody and which is strategically important not just to the United States or the P5+1, but to all countries, and which can have a profound impact on nonproliferation for the long term. So Russia has been working as a constructive participant in the P5+1 process. They have made various suggestions that have helped to move the process along. And we are hopeful that over the course of the next weeks, it will be possible to close real gaps that still exist in order to be able to reach an agreement, but I’m not going to stand here and predict at this point in time what the odds of that are.

I also want to make this very, very clear: No one, to my knowledge, has confirmed or denied whether or not there is a letter or was a letter, and I’m not going to comment on what the President of the United States and a leader of another country may or may not communicate – may or may not communicate privately. I will tell you this, though: No conversation, no agreement, no exchange, nothing has created any kind of a deal or agreement with respect to any of the events that are at stake in the Middle East. There is no linkage whatsoever of the nuclear discussions with any other issue, and I want to make that absolutely clear. The nuclear negotiations are on their own, they are standing separate from anything else, and no discussion has ever taken place about linking one thing to another, one involvement with another, that I am aware of. And I’m confident I am aware of what the President has been doing and saying with respect to this issue.

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