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Monday 25th February 2013 | 15:13
The Foreign Secretary and John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, held bilateral talks and co-hosted a press conference dominated by Syria
The Foreign Secretary said:
"It is a great honour to welcome the 68th Secretary of State of the United States of America, John Kerry, to London today and to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
"Secretary Kerry, we are delighted that you chose the United Kingdom as your first destination overseas.
"My own first visit as Foreign Secretary was to the United States, and each day, and often each hour since then, I have witnessed the importance of our indispensable alliance. When the US and UK act together we make a powerful difference in world affairs, and our partnership in diplomacy, intelligence and defence has no equal in the world.
"Secretary Kerry and I have met many times in recent years - and recent months - but this visit is my first opportunity to welcome him as Secretary of State, and to pay tribute to the immense experience he brings to his new role.
"We have had detailed and very thorough talks covering the full range of global affairs. Top of our agenda was the Middle East, including the importance we both attach to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I welcome the focus he has brought to bear on this issue since his appointment. There is no more urgent foreign policy priority in 2013 than restarting negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The region and the world cannot afford the current dangerous impasse in the peace process. For if we do not make progress very soon, then the two-state solution could become impossible to achieve. So there is a burning need for the international community to revive the peace process in efforts led by the United States and supported by European, Arab and other nations. And my promise to Secretary Kerry today was that the United Kingdom will make every effort to mobilise the European Union and Arab states behind decisive moves for peace.
"I warmly welcome President Obama's planned visit to the Middle East this Spring, and indeed Secretary Kerry's own travel to the region shortly.
"The Secretary and I will both attend the Rome meeting of the Friends of Syria this week. An appalling injustice is being done to the people of Syria, which the world cannot ignore. So we discussed the vital need for a political transition, and our firm support for UN and Arab League Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. We agreed that for as long as a political solution to the conflict is blocked off, the international community has a responsibility to take steps to help prevent the loss of life in Syria. This includes the terrible loss of life in Aleppo. That is why in the United Kingdom we believe we must significantly increase our support for the Syrian opposition, on top of our large contributions to the humanitarian relief effort, and we are preparing to do just that. In the face of such murder and threat our policy cannot stay static as the weeks go by.
"Our two countries agree that Iran's nuclear programme poses a threat to peace and security of the whole world. Talks between the E3+3 and Iran will take place in Kazakhstan tomorrow. We approach these talks in good faith. However Iran should not doubt our resolve to ensure that nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is prevented.
"2013 will be an important year for Afghanistan, where US and UK troops continue to stand shoulder to shoulder. I briefed the Secretary on the recent meeting between Pakistan and Afghan leaders hosted at Chequers by the Prime Minister, and we discussed the progress we will work for in the year ahead.
"We agreed on the need to continue a robust, intelligent response to the threat from international terrorism, including in North Africa and the Sahel. We reviewed the situation in Mali, and indeed in Somalia, where a coordinated effort by the international community with African nations has led to significant progress on the ground. And I updated the Secretary on our second conference on Somalia in London in May, which will support the rebuilding of Somalia's armed forces, police, coastguard, justice system and public finances.
"We also discussed the UK's priorities for our Presidency of the G8, in the areas of trade and tax and transparency. I look forward to hosting the Foreign Ministers, to focus not only on immediate foreign policy threats, but also longer-term challenges including the need to shatter the culture of impunity for those who use rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war - which is my personal priority for the G8 work this year.
"Finally, we reiterate our commitment to a transatlantic Free Trade Agreement, which would not only support jobs and growth in Europe and the US but would be a much-needed boost to the world economy. I welcome President Obama's endorsement and proposal of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. For just as our strategic cooperation on foreign policy is intense, so are our economic links. We have almost one trillion dollars invested in each other's economies, supporting over 1 million jobs in both countries, and the US is the largest single investor in the UK.
"So these have been excellent and productive discussions, which bode extremely well for even closer cooperation between our two countries.
"I look forward to working with Secretary Kerry over the coming months and years, and now warmly invite him to make his remarks."