President Barack Obama and President Sarkozy hold joint press availability.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (16:56:07) Please, everybody have a seat. Good afternoon. Bienvenue.
(16:56:14) I am delighted to welcome my dear friend President Sarkozy to the White House and I also want to welcome to the United States, the First Lady of France. Michelle and I are very much looking forward to hosting our guest in dinner this evening.
(16:56:31) Now I have to point out that the French are properly famous for their cuisine and so the fact that Nicolas went to Ben's Chili Bowl shows his discriminating palette. My understanding is he had a half smoke. So he was sampling the local wares and we appreciate that very much.
(16:57:01) This visit is an opportunity to return the hospitality that the President and the French people have shown to me during my visits to France. And that includes our family's wonderful visit to Paris last Summer. Michelle and I will never forget the opportunity to introduce our daughters for the first time to the city of Lights. And I don't that Sasha will ever forget celebrating her 8th birthday at the Elysee Palace with the President of France. That's a pretty fancy way for an 8 year old to spend her birthday.
(16:57:33) Today, President Sarkozy and I have reaffirmed the enduring ties between our countries. France is our oldest ally and one of our closest. We are two great Republics bound by common ideals that have stood together for more than two centuries. From Yorktown to Normandy to Afghanistan.
(16:57:53) Under President Sarkozy's leadership, France has further secured its rightful place as leader in Europe and around the world recognizing that meeting global challenges requires global partnerships. France took the historic step by returning to NATO's military command and we are working to revitalize our trans-Atlantic bonds including a strong capable European union which the United States firmly supports.
(16:58:20) Because a close trans-Atlantic partnership is critical to progress. Whether it's applying our combined strength to promote development and confront extremist in Africa, or reconstruction in Haiti or advancing peace from the caucuses to the Middle East.
(16:58:36) Mr. President, on behalf of the American people I want to thank you for your personal efforts to strengthen the partnership between our countries. We first met four years ago, I was a Senator then, Nicolas was still running for President at the time and I immediately came to admire your legendary energy and your enthusiasm for what our countries could achieve together. That was the spirit of your eloquent speech to congress three years ago which deeply moved many Americans.
(16:59:07) Over the past year, the President and I have worked closely on numerous occasions. We respect one another and understand one another and we share a belief that through bold yet pragmatic action, our generation can bend the arc of history towards justice and towards progress.
(16:59:23) And this shared commitment towards solving problems allowed us to advance our common interests today. We continue to working aggressively to sustain the global economic recovery and create jobs for our people. And this includes, as we agreed with our G20 partners in Pittsburgh, to replacing the old cycle of bubble and bust with growth that is balanced and sustained. And this requires effective coordination by all nations.
(16:59:50) To that end, I updated the President on our efforts pass financial reform. And I look forward to the Senate taking action on this landmark legislation so we never repeat the mistakes that lead to this crisis. We must provide sufficient oversight so that reckless speculation or reckless risk taking by a few big players in the financial markets will never again threaten the global economy or burden tax payers.
(17:00:17) We must assure that consumers of financial products have the information and safeguards that they need so their life savings are not placed in needless jeopardy.
(17:00:26) That's why I pressed for the passage of these reforms through Congress when they return and I will continue to work with president Sarkozy and other world leaders to coordinate our efforts because we want to make sure that whatever steps we're taking they are occurring on both sides of the Atlantic.
(17:00:43) We agreed that sustained and balanced growth includes rejecting protectionism. France is one of our largest trading partners. We need to expand global commerce, not constrain it. With that regard we think that its important that DOHA trade negations move forward this year and we need all interested parties to push for a more ambitious and balanced agreement that opens global markets. We look forward at both the presentacy at both the G8 and G20 next year. So Nicolas will be very busy.
(17:01:14) To address climate change, we agreed that all nations aligned with the Copenhagen accord must meet their responsibilities. And I would note that President Sarkozy's leadership has resulted in significant new resources to address deforestation around the world. Upcoming meetings of the United Nations and major economies forum will be an opportunity for nations to follow their Copenhagen commitments with specific and concrete actions that reduce emissions.
(17:01:41) We reaffirmed our commitment to confront the greatest threat to global security, the spread of nuclear weapons. And I updated President Sarkozy on our new START treaty with Russia. I look forward to welcoming President Sarkozy back to Washington in two weeks on our summit of securing vulnerable so that they never falls into the hands of terrorists.
(17:02:02) We discussed our shared determination to prevent Iran from acquiring Nuclear weapons. On this the United States and France are united, are inseparable. With our P5 plus 1 parters, we offered Iran good faith proposals to resolve this matter through diplomacy. But Iran thus far has rejected those offers. Today the international community is more united than ever on the need for Iran to uphold its obligations. That's why we're pursuing strong sanctions through the UN Security council.
(17:02:34) And finally, we discussed our efforts to advance security and peace around the world including the Middle East, where we agreed that all sides need to act now to create the atmosphere that gives the proximity talks the best chance to succeed.
(17:02:48) I shared my impressions with my discussions with President Karzai on the urgent need for good government and development in Afghanistan. As I told our troops to salute or coalition partners and that includes France which is one of the largest contributors to the NATO mission. Which has given its most precious resource, the lives of its young men and women to a mission that is vital to the security to both our countries and the world security.
(17:03:13) So I thank President Sarkozy for his visit. And for the progress that our countries have made today, in large part because of his extraordinary leadership. We are global partners facing global challenges together. And I think that Nicolas will agree that when it comes to America's oldest ally, we've never been closer.
(17:03:31) So I'll simply close with words that one American leader expressed to another French partner more than two hundred years ago. Because Washington's words to Rochambeau reflects the bonds between our countries today.
(17:03:43) "We are fellow laborers in the cause of liberty and we shall live together as brothers should do. In harmonious friendship." In that spirit I welcome President Nicolas Sarkozy.
(17:03:58) Thank you Mr. President. Thank you for your invitation. I think that we can say I stand to be corrected by ? but I think that we can say that rarely has the history of our two countries has the community of views been so identical between the United States of America and France.
(17:04:20) To ? One example… Which is that France would not be stepping next year to the Presidency of the G20 had the United States of America no supported France for this Presidency.
(17:04:36) Now through the words, the statements, the facts, the act that is a fact. I will not repeat what President Obama so eloquently said on Afghanistan, we support President Obama's strategy. We cannot afford to lose. Not for us. Not for ourselves. But for Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan are entitled to live in freedom.
(17:05:02) Of course, the road is arduous, of course nothing can be anticipated and of course we are so sorryful for the lost of young lives. But we have to have the courage to go to the end of our strategy and explain that there is no alternative strategy. Defeat would be too high a price for the security of Americans, the French and the Europeans.
(17:05:35) By fighting in Afhganistan, what we are fighting for is world security quite simply. Now in Iran I am very satisfied by what President Obama has said. The time has come to take decisions. Iran cannot continue its mad race. Now we don't want to punish Iran, which deserves better than what it has by way of leadership today and therefore fullest support in order to get fuller, tougher sanctions of the security council to take the necessary decisions is what you have. I have said to president Obama that with (Angalo madden?) and Gordon Brown we will make all necessary efforts to ensure that Europe as a whole engages in the sanction regime.
17:06:26 (inaudible) excellent news to hear that the united states has thus engaged of course peace in the middle east is something that concerns primarily Israelis of the Palestinians however the absence of peace in the middle east is a problem for all of us because what it does is keep feeding terrorism all over the world.
17:06:47 And I wish to express my solidarity with president obama in condemning the settlement process. Everybody knows how engaged and committed I am visa vi israel's security. But the settlement process achieves nothing and contributes in no way to israel's safety and security. There comes a time when you have to take initiatives in favor of peace now financial regulation.
17:07:21 Again its great news for the world to hear that the united states is availing itself of rules, adopting rules so that we do not go back to what we experienced. During the French presidency of the G20 - Tim Geithner, Kristine LaGuard are going to be working hand in glove in order to go even further in regulating world capitalism and in particular raising the issue of a new world international monetary order.
17:07:48 On all these subjects there's a much converted (inaudible) and of course I want to say to president obama how glad we were for him and for the usa to hear of the successful passing of the health care reform. And in so far the president gas revealed a secret namely where I had lunch today I should say that I have a good friend in Washington who had actually recommended that restaurant.
17:08:12 And when I walked in a saw a huge photograph of president obama and I'm afraid that when you go up to that restaurant you may see a smaller photograph of the French president.
17:08:25 alright we've got time for a couple questions. I'm going to call on ben feller
Ben: 17:08:43 thank you for your patience. President obama you've talked about the importance of having consequences for iran over its nuclear program but is there ever a real deadline? What is your specific timeline for UN sanctions on iran and is it one that the American people can believe in? And I'm sorry I wanted to ask president sarkozy you said yesterday in new York that the world needs an open America an America that listens.
17:09:13 I'm wondering if you can elaborate specifically if you think president obama is open to the world and is listening to you.
Obama: 17:09:20 well let me answer the second question even though that was to Nicolas. I listen to Nicolas all the time. I can't stop listening to him. On Iran. We came in with a very clear approach, a very clear strategy. And it was an open book to the world. We said that we would engage iran and give them an opportunity to take the right path.
17:09:46 A path that would lead to prosperity and opportunity for the people and a peaceful region and one in which they would allow themselves to become a full fledged member of the community of nations. The alternative path was further isolation and further consequences.
17:10:02 we mobilized the international community around this approach including partners like Russia that in the past might have been more hesitant to take a firmer stance on iran's nuclear program. What we said though was that there was going to be a time limit and if we had not seen progress by the end of the year it was time for us to move forward on that sanctions track.
17:10:35 My hope is that we are going to get this done this spring. So I'm not interested in waiting months for a sanctions regime to be in place. I'm interested in seeing that regime in place in weeks. And we are working diligently with our international partners emphasizing to them that as Nicolas said this is not simply an issue of trying to isolate Iran, it has enormous implications for the safely and the security of the entire region.
17:11:12 We don't want to see a nuclear arms race in the middle east. A conflict in the middle east as a consequence of iran's actions could have a huge destabilizing effect in terms of the world's economy at a time when its just coming out of a very deep recession. The long term consequences of a nuclear arms race with iran are unacceptable. So Nicholas myself and others agree that we are engaged…
17:11:40 The door remains open if the iranians choose to walk through it but they understand very clearly what the terms of a diplomatic solution would be. But during the interim we are going to move forcefully on a UN sanctions regime. Now do we have unanimity in the international community? Not yet. And that's something that we have to work on.
17:12:04 we think that we are in a much stronger position to get stronger sanctions now than we were a year ago prior to us initiating our strategy. But its still different. Partly because lets be honest. Iran is an oil producer and there are a lot of countries around the world that regardless of iran's offenses are thinking that their commercial interests are more important to them than these long term geo-political interests.
17:12:34 And so we have to continue to apply pressure not just on iran but we have to make sure that we are communicating very clearly but this is very important to the united states. We think that we can get sanctions (inaudible).
17:12:52 well I've read many comments and I must tell you I was quite amused on the relations between European leaders and the president of the united states. I say I'm amused because I've thought to myself well when we speak to one another people must be listening to our phone calls because I've seen reports on conversations and discussions that in no way resemble anything that has ever taken place between barack Obama and myself. Now why is it that he's the first to work? And I speak on behalf of chancellor merkle, Gordon brown and other leaders.
17:13:30 Well because president obama when he says something keeps his word. His word is his bond and that is so important. It's a joke among us. We don't like surprises. Well from that point of view there's no surprises. When he can he delivers. When he can't he says so. So there are no surprises. So we try to be likewise
17:13:56 Further more, secondly, on all topics there have been some pretty tough topics for instance bonus taxes., regulation, financial regulations. Pretty heavy going stuff. Copenhagen. I mean I happen to think president Obama is a step ahead of public opinion in the united states on this. But we're constantly talking about it its even president Obama who wanted us to have a video conference virtually every month with angela merkle or Gordon brown.
17:14:22 Now this doesn't mean that we're absolutely agree neck and neck on everything but we talk amongst ourselves and this is a novelty from the point of view of Europe when we look at the united states that everything is put on the table. Anything can be discussed everything can be discussed. What matters you see is not whether we agree once systematically before we even start discussing things that's suspicious is to say …
17:14:46 whatever (inaudible) we can talk about it amongst ourselves and I say things very frankly to you and this is what all we European leaders believe and think. I've also had it said that Europe was less interested in the united states…
I called President Obama and he knows exactly what we're going to do and why we're going to do it. Do you follow me on that? So maybe (unintelligable) never for the wrong reasons, and as we are very transparent on both sides, this confidence, this trust, I really think I can say that. There's a lot of trust. Now, trust always helps one overcome, perhaps, diverging interests. It may be that the United States of America has slightly different interests than those of France, but the bedrock of trust between us is something that we also have with all European leaders, and I don't say that to please you, but I say it because it's true, and I took two examples of two topics that could in other times led to head-on collision.
S: Which, in this case, on the contrary, I looked at on both sides of the Atlantic as a situation where we are complimentary. Perhaps he said, 'well, maybe, France is on the right track and maybe once day we'll have the opportunity to do likewise, and that's exactly the way we want it. …Go ahead, I'm not the one with the mike.
Reporter: Since you've just talked about your relationship with the United States, didn't you get a bad surprise, a nasty surprise, on the tanker planes which reversed the decision which had originally been taken in favor of airbus? Did you raise that subject with President Obama and if so, did you try and put together a new approach so as to ensure that the competition would be fair to share this contract with the Europeans as they are also members of NATO?
S: What I've just told you would be meaningless and senseless. Of course we've talked about it, and President Obama will give you his answer, but I said to him, 'I trust you.' And I do trust him. If you say to me that the request for proposals would be free, fair and transparent,than we say we will bid and we trust you.
O: I said to President Sarkozy is that the process will be free and fair and that the trust is justified. Now, it's important for my European friends to understand that, at least here, the Secretary of Defense makes procurement decisions. The president does not meddle in these decisions, and that's a long standing policy. So, I maintain an arm's length approach, but I have assurances from the Secretary of Defense Gates that in fact the rebiddnig process is going to be completely transparent and completely open in a fair competition. That's in our interests.
O: That's in the interests of the American taxpayers and it's also in the interest of our young men and women who rely on this equipment in order to protect this nation, and it's important to note I think, for those who don't know Secretary Gates, this is somebody who has actually taken on the military weapons systems establishment, and initiated somev ery significant procurement reforms that nobody ever thought would happen here in Washington. So, he's somebody who is willing to call it like it is and make difficult decisions and he will do so in those situations, OK? Thank you very much everyone.