19 May 2012

Africa: Obama Remarks Before Working Session With G8 Leaders

Photo: FAO
Farmers in Burundi.

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Remarks by U.S. President Obama Before Working Session With G8 Leaders, Camp David, Maryland:

THE PRESIDENT: All right, everybody, listen up. First of all, I want to welcome all the leaders here. The press, you're welcome as long as you don't break anything. (Laughter.)

This is, by the way, the largest gathering ever of international leaders at Camp David, and I'm glad that we could arrange for good weather. Last night, we had a chance to discuss some core issues that affect our common security. And I want to say that we are unified when it comes to our approach with Iran. I think all of us agree that Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear power, but that its continuing violations of international rules and norms and its inability thus far to convince the world community that it is not pursuing the weaponization of nuclear power is something of grave concern to all of us.

We are hopeful about the discussions that will be taking [place] in Baghdad, but all of us are firmly committed to continuing with the approach of sanctions and pressure, in combination with diplomatic discussions. And our hope is, is that we can resolve this issue in a peaceful fashion that respects Iran's sovereignty and its rights in the international community, but also recognizes its responsibilities.

We had a discussion about Syria. And we all believe that a peaceful resolution and political transition in Syria is preferable. We are all deeply concerned about the violence that's taking place there and the loss of life. We are supportive of the Annan plan, but we agreed -- and I expect this will be reflected in our communiqué -- that the Annan plan has to be fully implemented and that a political process has to move forward in a more timely fashion to resolve that issue.

We also had a chance to discuss the situation in North Korea. All of us agree that North Korea is violating its international obligations and that there is a path for them to rejoin the international community, but that path is not going to be -- or that objective will not be achieved if they continue with provocative actions that they have shown over the last several months.

And on a brighter note, we had the opportunity to discuss Burma, and all of us are hopeful that the political process and transition and transformation that is beginning to take place there takes root. Many of us have taken action to open up trade and investment with Burma for the first time in many years and we have had discussions with the leaders there. Our hope is, is that this process will continue, and we're going to do everything that we can to encourage that process.

Finally, we had a brief discussion around the issue of women's empowerment, where we agreed that both, when it comes to economic development and when it comes to peace and security issues, empowering women to have a seat at the table and get more engaged and more involved in these processes can be extraordinarily fruitful. And this is something that we will also be introducing during the G20.

So I want to thank all the leaders, despite the fact that at least those coming from across the Atlantic ended up staying up, I guess, until 6:00 in the morning their time. The discussions were very fruitful. This morning, we're going to be spending a lot of time on economic issues. Obviously the eurozone will be one topic, and all of us are absolutely committed to making sure that both growth and stability -- and fiscal consolidation -- are part of a overall package that all of us have to pursue in order to achieve the kind of prosperity for our citizens that we're looking for.

We'll also be talking about uncertainty in the energy markets and how we can help to resolve some of those issues. And we'll be spending some time talking about development in the Middle East, North Africa, and our capacity to sustain economic development in Afghanistan. Obviously, in Chicago, during the NATO meeting, we'll spend more time talking about security matters, but here we want to make sure that we recognize the need for Afghanistan to be able to sustain a development agenda moving forward as we begin to transition out of war.

So, again, I want to thank all the leaders for being here. So far, this has been a frank and useful conversation, and it gives me great optimism about our ability to meet these challenges in the future.

All right. Thank you very much, everybody.

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