Secretary of State John Kerry’s “Remarks With Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu At Global Counterterrorism Forum Ministerial

John Kerry
Secretary of State
New York Palace Hotel
New York City
September 27, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY:  I’m very pleased to be joined by my friend and the co-chair, Foreign Minister Sinirlioglu, and I congratulate him on assuming his new responsibilities.  He’s been working with many of us for a long time, and someone we know and have confidence in.  I want to thank Under Secretary Feltman for joining us today on behalf of the UN Secretariat.

So it would be a complete understatement to say that we meet at a challenging time.  Extremist violence is a major contributor to the suffering that we see radiating not just out of Syria but elsewhere in the world, and particularly in the Middle East.  And it places an enormous burden on frontline states, sends millions of desperate people in search of a safe haven.  Daesh is the primary source of outrage, or ISIL, as we know it here, but there are others – al-Qaida, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, just to name a few.

So let me just say a quick word about these people, and particularly ISIL.  They are destroyers.  They don’t offer to build anything.  And there’s no negotiating with people who intend to dictate to you that you have to live exactly as they want to, contrary to every principle of universal values that we have accepted in the norms ever since World War II and tried to operate by.  Daesh institutes rape, not just as an instrument of war, but as a way of life – empowering young people to abuse women in the most god-awful ways, to create sex slaves.  It lines up people on their knees in a desert or on a beach and shoots them in the back of their head, or cuts off their heads.  It burns an airman, a pilot from Jordan, alive.  It does the most grotesque things and it destroys culture and history.  And we all saw what happened in Palmyra.

So it is going to require all of us to step up and do more, because the world is looking at this and wondering whether the institutions that have been created for so long to deal with these kinds of issues are going to come together and function.  There is no place for indifference at this moment for any nation that is signed up to rule of law and to global responsibilities.

So that’s the climate within which we meet.  And this week is a critical week for all of us to come together and find a way to restore people’s confidence that the international community will step up and do what’s necessary.  We can’t just keep donating to take care of refugees.  We have to prevent the refugees from having to be refugees, from having to leave their homes and leave behind even children.  I was in Germany the other day; I met with a group of Syrian refugees.  One woman left with one of her children but left two of her children with the grandparents because she couldn’t take them all out to find safety.

So this is what we’re facing, and as we come together today we are beginning to – we are acting militarily and diplomatically and financially, through legal reforms and through education.  But we obviously have to tap into every available channel of pushback.  And one of those is the initiative that President Obama hosted last year when we had a summit for world leaders on countering violent extremism.  Because this is not something where there’s only one way that’s going to solve it; it’s got to be solved on multiple layers and multiple channels.  And one of them is to prevent people from being attracted to this in the first place.

In two days, our leaders are all going to meet again here in New York to consider the next steps.  And this Global Counterterrorism Forum provides an opportunity for us, as the ministers, to serve up to them the best ideas and the best energy and coordination possible so we have a valuable platform for mobilizing resources and identifying the best practices in order to defend our citizens everywhere.  It helps to support the UN’s global counterism strategy – counterterrorism strategy, and it has helped to inspire the creation of the Hedayah, a center for excellence in training and research, the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, which is a public-private partnership to support local initiatives.

Now, obviously, we all understand that every situation is different, but the principle is the same.  To defeat terrorism, we have to act globally and locally, and we have to understand that we each have a responsibility to do everything that we can.  UN Security Council 2178, adopted last year, requires member states to cooperate in stemming the flow of foreign fighters to terrorist organizations.  So we have an obligation as well as a compelling interest to work together in ways that fully respect basic human rights, but to criminalize violent extremist activity, to secure borders, to share information, and to implement other measures to curb the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters.

And that’s why today we are launching a new initiative to address the lifecycle of radicalization to violence.  This initiative will improve our ability to address every part of the terrorist cycle, from the start when young people get grabbed by proselytizers who infect their minds, to the end where governments and communities have to decide how do you best handle returning foreign fighters.  The goal is to provide vulnerable governments with the tools and the knowledge that they need to prevent radicalization in the first place and to disengage individuals who have become radicalized so they might be reintegrated into their communities.  As an example, in the state of Minnesota, which has a number of immigrants from Somalia, and recently some Somali Americans have been caught trying to leave the country with the intention of trying to join Daesh or al-Shabaab, local officials refused to accept that.  So they created mentoring programs, they offered help in securing jobs, they strengthened their community organizations, and these initiatives are being paid for not just by the government but also by local corporations that have invested in this.  And a member of the Minneapolis city council who is of Somali descent said, “We are the solution.  It has to come from us.”

So this forum was launched four years ago, and the United States has been privileged to serve as co-chair.  At the end of today’s meeting we will step down, and the Netherlands is prepared to take our place, and we welcome their leadership and their commitment to this effort.  I also note that early next year Morocco will succeed Turkey as the corresponding co-chair, and I look forward to working with all of you in this forum as we make progress, and I’m convinced we can.

We all know we’re engaged in a difficult fight, but this should not be a complicated choice.  Our responsibility each day is to examine what more can we do in order to make a difference and to ensure that our citizens and every citizen makes the right choice themselves, today and for decades to come.  So I look forward to the conversation today, and I’m particularly happy to introduce my friend and colleague, Foreign Minister Sinirlioglu.

FOREIGN MINISTER SINIRLIOGLU:  Thank you, Secretary Kerry, distinguished colleagues, excellencies.  It’s a pleasure for me to be here today with you, John, to co-chair the Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum.  What a remarkable four years it has been since we decided to create this forum in 2011.  As the U.S. co-chairmanship draws to an end, let me speak for all those present by saying that we have truly appreciated the wise and able leadership of the United States and you, John, personally.  I am confident that your invaluable support and contributions will continue as we push ahead to make more progress all together.

Dear colleagues, the threat of terrorism is not only growing; it is, despite our best efforts, adapting, treating all boundaries as lines drawn in the sand.  It is constantly evolving and manifesting in ever changing ways.  This forum has so far successfully spearheaded our collective response to bringing long-term, meaningful, and concrete remedies to this insidious threat.  Looking beyond the matters we know and by focusing on the root causes and underlying currents that led to its emergence, we have taken a more granular approach to countering terrorism that was clearly lacking.  Today countering violent extremism tops our agenda.  With the new decisions we will adopt today, the GCTF will empowered with the necessary tools to assume the full role we have envisaged for it.

Distinguished colleagues, Turkey stands at the forefront of the terror threat.  For decades now, we have raced against all manner of terrorism, driven by all manner of twisted ideologies.  The onslaught has been virtually relentless, and we have suffered for it.  The threat was never solely homegrown.  Driven in no small part by our geographic location, it has complex and stubborn regional and international roots.

Today the fallout from invasions and war, simmering tensions fueled by unresolved conflicts, and political and social fault lines left to fester in our region have combined to further exacerbate the risks we face from terrorism.  As many struggle to learn just the acronyms, let alone apprehend – comprehend the changing motives, tactics, and cause of the many faces of terror, Turkey is once again in the trenches fighting on not one but three fronts, whether it is from revolutionary left in the form of DHKP/C, ethnic separatists as with PKK, or those exploiting religion like al-Qaida, Daesh, or al-Nusrah.

And this struggle is taking its toll not just in terms of the direct damage inflicted socially, politically, and economically, but also in terms of its byproducts, like the ever-growing refugee crisis fueled by the chaos in our immediate vicinity.  In this struggle that at times feels overwhelming, we have taken comfort in the support, solidarity, and cohesion that this forum has fostered among likeminded nations and international institutions alike.  Indeed, our work has enabled us all to better understand the challenges we collectively face in our counterterrorism efforts, and it has allowed us to realize that in this struggle we, together, are only as strong as the weakest link that binds us in our efforts to confront the complex challenge that terrorism poses.  This is why our engagement with TGCTF will remain robust.

With that, let me highlight some of the main achievements of our collective efforts.  We have jointly inspired the foundation of Hedayah, the Center of Excellence for CVE, Countering Violent Extremism, the International Institute for Justice, and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund.  We have all contributed to the revision of the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy.  The six working groups of the forum adopted 11 papers, and today we aim to adopt two more such papers in addition to the launching of two new initiatives.  As the co-chairmanship of the Horn of Africa and Yemen Capacity-Building Working Group, we are delighted to continue together a harmonious and productive cooperation with the EU until 2017.  On that more is in preparation for the rest of our co-chairmanship with the EU.

We have supported the Dutch-Moroccan initiative to establish the GCTF Working Group on Foreign Terrorist Fighters.  It was timely and necessary for raising awareness and the sharing of information and intelligence.  We also co-chair the FTF Working Group within the anti-Daesh coalition together with Holland.  We also appreciate the momentum and synergy that the GCTF has been able to provide for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2178.  More is definitely needed in this area, but the efforts by the GCTF and others, including the coalition, will surely continue.

Distinguished participants, as this is the last meeting we organize together with our U.S. co-chair, we are all too aware that our turn to pass the baton is also rapidly approaching.  After a six-months period with our Daesh colleagues, we will turn over our responsibilities to our Moroccan brothers.  This will be a new chapter for us, a challenge to give a new and perhaps even stronger impetus to our relationship with the GCTF.  Our distinguished Dutch colleague, His Excellency Koenders, will during this meeting share with the participants the vision of the upcoming co-chairmanship.

Today, as already presented by my distinguished colleague and co-chair, John, we proposed the adoption of two important decision.  The first entails the preparation of a toolkit to guide members and others on the full lifecycle of radicalization.  We have identified gaps in the work of GCTF has done until today and proposed areas of further activity together with a working group to lead the effort.  Conducting meaningful research and drawing from academia will be crucial in this effort.

Our second proposed decision for today is on creating a clearinghouse mechanism within the GCTF for counterterrorism and countering violent extremism capacity-building assistance.  Bringing supply and demand together in these areas, this mechanism will help with effective implementation.

Now let me come back to the crucial topic of counter violent extremism and the Counter Violent Extremism Summit Actions Agenda which provides us with a new challenge.  Working together, it is now our responsibility to position and empower the GCTF as the forum where initiatives born of the summit will grow and sufficiently mature before being taken forward.  Under the lead of the co-chair, we are also looking forward to building further on our existing cooperation with the EU in the Horn of Africa on countering the financing of terrorism and also violent extremism.  With the establishment of the Djibouti office – Center of Excellence for Counter Violent Extremism in Africa, there is now a new body through which we can focus our bilateral and multilateral assistance for our African brothers and sisters.  We will make use of this new CVE tool to provide capacity-building training in Africa itself.

This brings me to my last point, which even though it will sound like a cliche is crucial here, and that is the importance of implementation.  In all our efforts, be they local, national, or regional, we must ensure rapid, effective, and careful implementation.  Used actively, the clearinghouse mechanism will be very beneficial in this regard.

In closing, let me once again thank you, John, for these four years of fruitful cooperation as partners in crime co-chairing the GCTF.  Let me also say that while you may be leaving the gavel, there is certainly much more work for the U.S. to do within the GCTF.  The initiatives that you launched only at this, the last meeting of your co-chairmanship, stand as a testament to the vital importance of your continued active engagement.  I also wish every success to the new Dutch co-chairmanship.  Our Dutch colleagues should know that we are ready to help in any way that we can.

Last but not least, I must extend our warmest appreciation to all the past and present members of the administrative unit in Washington, D.C. for their hard work.  We also wish the incoming administrative unit team all the best in their endeavors.