Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Remarks With U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry - Feb. 27, 2015

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
February 27, 2015— Washington, D.C.
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SIRLEAF: Mr. Secretary, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to meet with you, to exchange views. I come also to express on behalf of the Liberian people our deep appreciation for the support which we have received as we continue to fight this deadly virus. We want to thank President Obama for the strong leadership which he has shown, for the call to action that he has made. We thank the Administration; we thank the Congress in a bipartisan way for the support they’ve given to the Administration’s call for their support. And we thank the many U.S. institutions – NIH, CDC, the public health service, DART – all of those; the faith-based institutions, the American public at large, that all came together in a very strong partnership with us to be able to address and to fight this disease.

Last year was a difficult year for Liberia because we had and already obtained 10 consecutive years of peace, we had solved a lot of the problems that came out of two decades of war. We had addressed our debt issue, we were rebuilding our institutions, repairing our infrastructure, putting in the laws and the strategies that would’ve enabled us to be able to meet our Vision 2030 agenda, our agenda for transformation. When Ebola struck, the chances of all of that being wiped away confronted us.

In the early days, we did not know what to do. We were fearful, people died, our nurses and doctors who tried to treat what they thought were ordinary diseases such as malaria and yellow fever were confronted with something that they had no answer for. And I’m sure many people that looked at the television screen and saw Liberia as a place of disaster, everything was going wrong. But our people were resilient, and they were determined that we were not going to die, we’re not going to lose our livelihoods, we’re not going to reverse the gains that we have made. And so we all came together. We came together with not much capacity, not much resources, but came together with a great determination to save our nation and to ensure that we seize back the future that we had so carefully built over the past years. We could not do it without the partnership.

And the partnership that came from the United States galvanized and crystallized an international partnership that joined the United States in doing this, and this is why our message – it was a bold action, as you said, for the Administration to send military people out there, to send soldiers. That’s not something – we’ve never had boots on the ground in Liberia. It was the first time. But the landing of that just sent a big message to the Liberian people that the United States was really with us, and they provided the kind of service that have enhanced the capability of our own military because they worked together in building those centers.

The United States never closed to Liberia, even though we know there were great pressure on the part of a fearful citizen here, and we understood their fears because this was an unknown enemy to all of us. But President Obama and the Administration, supported by the Congress, stood firm and said, “We will continue to work with Liberia. We’ll continue to do this.” He went to the United Nations – you were there, I believe.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yes. President Johnson Sirleaf: And you all took a very strong stance. That message that went to the global community also engaged them. And so today, because of this strong partnership, we can say that we haven’t reached a place where we say we’re free of this disease, because we have neighboring countries and they send you the same messages of thanks and appreciation. But we have the place where we’re now confident that going forward, we can indeed get to zero for the required period, and we can indeed rebuild our health infrastructure, start our economic recovery even now as we try to get to zero, promote the regional support that ensures that all of our countries are free as a means of removing the threat that will remain if none of our countries are free.

To you, to the American people, we say thank you. Secretary Kerry: Thank you very much for a very eloquent and very personal statement. We thank you, appreciate it. I think we’ll be ready to take a few questions. Ms. Psaki: Yes. Abigail Williams from NBC will be asking the questions today. Question: Mr. Secretary, what are your expectations for the second round of U.S.-Cuba talks here at the State Department today? Do you expect an embassy to be open within a matter of weeks or months? And the Cubans are saying that a precondition for opening or establishing full diplomatic relations is being removed from the state sponsor of terror list. Do you expect that to create a delay in opening the embassy, and why are they still on that list?

And Madam President, what more are you asking of the United States to help prepare for the next outbreak of a similar deadly disease? Secretary Kerry: Do you want to go first? Go ahead, please. President Johnson Sirleaf: We’re asking for a continuation of the partnership, first to help us get to zero, and that means supporting our regional initiative. We’re asking that we work together in a dialogue to look at our economic recovery that will strengthen our health infrastructure that will get us to continue with our prioritization of agriculture to feed ourselves. Infrastructure – making sure that we have the roads and the power systems and the clean water systems now that our schools are open. That through dialogue, through understanding, this partnership can prepare Liberia not only to prevent any possible reoccurrence, but enable us to deliver better health services and a better life to our people. Secretary Kerry: Let me just say that we are very committed to working with our friends from Liberia in order to be able to maximize the possibility of economic recovery, which is critical, and it requires bringing the private sector back, it requires addressing the energy sector, building health infrastructure. There are a lot of moving parts, but we certainly feel – and I know President Obama shares this – that having put so much effort into stopping the disease, and now we really want to try to help provide the future that provides hope and a sense of possibility, and we will continue to work on that.

With respect to Cuba and the state sponsorship of terrorism, even as we are standing here now, negotiations are going on upstairs to deal with the issue of renewal of diplomatic relations. That’s one set of fairly normal negotiations with respect to movement of diplomats, access, travel, different things, the very sort of technical process. The state sponsorship of terrorism designation is a separate process. It is not a negotiation. It is an evaluation that is made under a very strict set of requirements congressionally mandated, and that has to be pursued separately, and it is being pursued separately. And we will wait for that normal process to be completed. It requires a finding that, over the course of the last six-month period, the country in question has not been engaged in supporting, aiding, and abetting – different language – international terrorist acts. And that evaluation will be made appropriately, and nothing will be done with respect to the list until the evaluation is completed. Ms. Psaki: Thank you, everyone. Secretary Kerry: Thank you all. Thank you, Madam President.

Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pgQlDFRyQo .