Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs : Press Conference

November 20, 2014

Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Minister Rinkēvičs: [Through Interpreter]. Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It seems that during this intense week of work I meet with you two or three times a day and that’s due to the fact that we are about to assume the presidency. There are also various regional security issues that have to be discussed with various partners, allies and good friends. And Victoria Nuland whom I know for a number of years is one of such great friends who [stayed] during the meeting.

We discussed various bilateral relations, related issues. We talked about regional security. We talked about presidency priorities and the EU-United States relations. We also talked about the need to continue close cooperation in various areas like defense, border station and border guarding areas, [inaudible] internal affairs. We also talked about [cooperation] of the Latvian presidency and the Council of the EU.

We’ve had [to address] negotiations regarding the EU and the United States with trade agreements and we’ll do our best in the capacity of designing [inaudible] to work together with the Commission in order to sign these agreements. We are also working [inaudible] and other issues involved in the signing of this agreement. And of course this agreement will be mutually beneficial for the United States as well as for Europe. It will not only boost our economy, but it will also help strengthen our defense and security.

We also discussed with Madame Nuland various issues related to the Eastern [bloc]. We also discussed the forthcoming Riga Summit of the Eastern Partnership. We talked about cooperation with not only Ukraine and Moldova and Georgia, we also talked about the necessity to further and continue the dialogue with respect to the Eastern Partnership, [throughout] the Eastern Partnership and to [inaudible].

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Thank you Minister Rinkevic, my dear friend, for this very very warm welcome. It’s terrific to be back in Riga at this very important moment following free and fair elections here and as you get ready for your presidency. It’s a very exciting program ahead for the Latvian presidency of the European Union and the United States looks forward to being a strong partner.

As the Foreign Minister said, we started today talking about security and America’s rock solid commitment to our NATO ally Latvia. We are very proud to have American soldiers here with you. And having participated in your National Day Parade yesterday, it is a show of our Article 5 commitment to this country, but it’s also an opportunity for our militaries to work together and for young Americans to learn more about the Baltic states and to work with you.

We also talked about securing the border and, as the Foreign Minister said, security more broadly in the region. The European Union’s Eastern Partnership is also about security, but it is about our larger 20 year vision together of a Europe whole, free and at peace, and of all the countries of Europe [that space] has the right to choose their own future, and all of your neighbors and their decision to work more closely with Europe and try to benefit from the prosperity and the democracy that Latvia now enjoys, and the strong example of mentorship that your country also offers to others.

So we talked about our work together — Sorry. Forgot about you. I apologize.

[Remarks translated.]

Thank you, and apologies.

We’re also very pleased that the Latvian government has chosen to make the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership a cornerstone of its presidency with the European Union.

As we embark on our relationship with the new Commission it will be very important to accelerate our work together. This is about jobs. This is about prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. But it’s also about our free trade model that has worked so well for us, and the examples of that [sit] at the global trade table.

Finally we talked about energy security which is important not simply for Latvia but for all of Europe, for the Transatlantic relationship. It is a major line of effort for us with the European Union. We’ve had lots of success in recent months in terms of energizing the energy market in Europe including some of the work that we’ve done on reverse flow of gas and new interconnectors, and we look forward during the Latvian presidency to working on that in this region and to working on it European wide.

So thank you, Foreign Minister. I am honored to travel to be here with you as you start this presidency term.

Press: [Aya Krutin] from Reuters News Agency.

I have a question about Ukraine of course. Do you see any chance of a breakthrough in the attempt to reach a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I think you know that the United States, the European Union have been strongly supportive of the full implementation of the Minsk Agreement made in early September. If Minsk is fully implemented that will bring peace and security and sovereignty back to Ukraine, but we have yet to see a commitment on the part of the Russian Federation, on the part of the separatists that they support to doing the key things that are necessary including a true ceasefire on the line of contact, closing of the international border, removal of foreign forces.

I will be later today in Ukraine with Vice President Biden for his visit. We look forward to hearing from the Ukrainian government on their efforts to get back to full implementation of Minsk.

We also, the United States and Latvia, play a strong role in the OSCE and preparing that organization to expand its monitoring effort when that is possible, and we will continue our effort in that regard.

Minister Rinkēvičs: Yes, there is always chance for peace and breakthrough, but I think that results of one issues are [inaudible] with Russia, has to then become a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. Unfortunately, currently [inaudible] very limited.

She said about the need to implement Minsk Agreement. Second I would certainly say I think that both United States as well as European Union should continue our best effort to convince Russia, to convince also Ukrainian leadership they have to work for solution. But certainly taking into account principle of internal integrity of the Ukraine system, taking into account [inaudible] Ukraine that makes and decides in its best interest.

From that point of view I also urge greater involvement of the [inaudible] representing the EU and trying also to broker the peace.