U.S. Department of State
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
And British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
At a Press Availability
May 26, 2017
London, United Kingdom
FOREIGN SECRETARY JOHNSON: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you very much for coming. Over the last few days I have, as foreign secretary, have been the channel for innumerable expressions of condolences from around the world in the aftermath of the terrorist atrocity in Manchester, and I’ve been struck by how often our international friends and supporters have mentioned not so much the crime as the response: the acts of instinctive kindness by people in Manchester; the holding of hands; the gathering of thousands of people in the center of the city to show their indomitable pride and resilience; and in their unity and their determination to show that it is by coming together that we can beat this scourge.
And so I think that the people of Manchester are showing the way for the world, and we’ve seen again today what’s happened to innocent people in Egypt as a result of this challenge that we all face, this affliction that we all face together.
And that’s why I’m so grateful to Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State – Rex, for coming here today, again, in an instinctive act of solidarity between the U.S. and the UK. We have talked about all sorts of things today at lunch, as you would expect, a wide range of issues – Syria, relations with Iran, the DPRK/North Korea, the vital importance of the work we do together across such a range of fields, including, of course, intelligence sharing.
And around the world you will find the U.S. and the UK facing the same problems together and defending our ideals together. We defend democracy and the rule of law, our values, and our freedoms – not just because they are ours, but because they are universal. And if the world community can unite, I think, in the way that the people of Manchester have come together and united, then I think together we can prevail, and we will prevail.
Rex, your visit here today is an important sign of the closeness and the harmony of our cooperation. Thank you very much for coming.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, thank you, Boris, and good afternoon to all of you. I am here today in Great Britain on behalf of the American people. I can tell you that all across America, hearts are broken. They’re just – they’re broken at the very thought of the loss of life of loved ones, the injured, the effect it has on their families, and I know that we share that grief with the rest of the world as well. And please know that all of America’s prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and those that are injured for a speedy recovery.
For all of us, life will go on. But for those families, there will be forever a void in this world that will never be filled, and they will have to live with that. And so we pray for their comfort and we pray for their healing, both physically and emotionally.
The British people are renowned, however, for their strength in times of darkness, and we all know that. And they will not be broken by terrorism, and we know this. Even as our ally and friend mourns, the fires for justice burn very hot in all of our hearts. We will drive out the terrorists and the extremists. As President Trump said earlier this week in Saudi Arabia, we must drive the extremists out of our communities, we must drive them out of any country that would provide them safe haven, and we must drive them off the face of the Earth.
ISIS’s decision to target a concert full of children shows their intentions are not authored by God. ISIS worships death. In our mission to defeat ISIS, we are grateful for the help of people of all faiths and especially the many Muslim-majority countries who have joined us to win this fight. Every priest, every reverend in every church, every rabbi in every temple, every imam in every mosque must condemn the souls of those who carried out these attacks, and any and all who would assist them, and must condemn the soul of any who would consider carrying out such attacks in the future.
We will intensify our efforts to defeat ISIS on the battlefield, and we will eliminate their ability to operate their networks around the world. We will not allow them or any terrorist organization to spread violence and hatred without a fight, and we will block their efforts to recruit new followers, whether on the ground or online. America stands with the British people at this time of great sorrow and pain, and we pledge to you an even greater resolve to defeat Islamist terrorism and extremism.
FOREIGN SECRETARY JOHNSON: Thank you, Rex. I think we’ve got a couple of questions. Yes, please, sir. The gentleman.
QUESTION: Thank you, Foreign Secretary. In January, the prime minister said, “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.” Isn’t that an admission of foreign policy failures and essentially confirming Jeremy Corbyn’s comments this morning?
And Mr. Tillerson, do you think there will be lasting damage for information sharing between the UK and U.S. intelligence agencies because of the leaks this week?
FOREIGN SECRETARY JOHNSON: Well, if I can just deal with the first point, Rex.
I have to say I find it absolutely extraordinary and inexplicable, in this week of all weeks, that there should be any attempt to justify or to legitimate the actions of terrorists in this way. And this is a moment when, as Rex Tillerson has said, we should be coming together uniting to defeat these people, and we can and we will – not just in Iraq and in Syria, but of course, in the battle for hearts and minds, and winning the intellectual and the emotional struggle as well. We can and we will, because they are wrong, their view of the world is corrupt, it is a perversion of Islam, and it can be completely confounded.
But now is not the time – now is not the time to do anything to subtract from the fundamental responsibility of those individuals, that individual in particular, who committed this atrocity. And I think it is absolutely monstrous that anybody should seek to do so.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: With respect to the release of information inappropriately, information that was released by someone, information that’s vital to an ongoing investigation, information that’s vital to capturing those who were involved in this heinous event, certainly, we condemn that. The President has been very strong in his condemnation and has called for an immediate investigation and prosecution of those who are found to have been responsible for leaking any of this information to the public. We take full responsibility for that and we are – we obviously regret that that happened.
In terms of how to fix the relationship between the U.S. and Great Britain, this Special Relationship that exists between our two countries will certainly withstand this particular unfortunate event.
FOREIGN SECRETARY JOHNSON: Thank you, Rex. Do we —
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Michael Birnbaum.
FOREIGN SECRETARY JOHNSON: Sorry.
QUESTION: Thank you. Michael Birnbaum from The Washington Post. Secretary Tillerson, Trump said – President Trump said yesterday at NATO that the alliance should focus on terrorism and immigration. The Manchester attack was carried out by the son of immigrants here. In that context, what advice does the Trump administration have for how Britain should handle its large immigrant community here, including those who are British citizens?
Secretary Johnson, do you agree with President Trump that immigration should be a focus for NATO, and is immigration a security threat for Britain?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think the President’s made a couple of – well, he’s made many important points on this trip given the extensive nature of the trip and the countries that he has visited. And clearly, migration of people – movement of people, immigration of people, and crossing back and forth of borders – is a significant challenge in how we confront acts of terrorism, and it is a challenge given our free society.
I think the other element of it that I’ve heard the President express in exchanges with leaders throughout this trip is our inability to assimilate people; that, for whatever reason, as people immigrate into our countries, whether it be in Great Britain or in the United States or other countries, we seem to have difficulty assimilating those people so that they feel part of our society and would never consider supporting acts of violence against their fellow citizens and their fellow neighbors.
So I think that it’s an extremely complex issue, this mass migration of people that we are witnessing around the world. It’s not a problem only for Great Britain. It’s not a problem only for the United States. It’s a problem for countries all over the world. It’s one that we have to learn better how to address.
FOREIGN SECRETARY JOHNSON: Yeah. Well, Michael, I just think there are two elements to your question. I mean, the first is about mass migration and the role of NATO in helping to solve that. I certainly think NATO can have an important role in trying to address the big movements of people that we’re seeing at the moment coming up from the south – the southern Mediterranean area. Clearly, that’s putting a lot of pressure on Europe and it’s something that the UK is in the lead in trying to deal with. I certainly think NATO has a role there, and I think the President is right in that – in that respect.
I also think that one thing that the – on the second aspect, the U.S. and the UK are countries that in many ways are built on immigration, and America is a fantastic country and economy that has thrived and prospered by the Statue of Liberty holding out its beacon to the world, and that’s been an inspiring message for generations. And in our own country, we’ve had very successful integration over many decades, and we can achieve that. You may not know my great grandfather was a Muslim and he came to this country – indeed, he came to Wimbledon – in the early part of the last century, and there you go. I became – I went on to become the mayor of London and, indeed, foreign secretary.
So integration is possible. It’s what we should aspire to. It’s what we can achieve. And I think if you look at the America – the American commonwealth, you look at what’s been achieved there, you look at the success of London – I think that’s what we should be aiming for. But I’m not going to pretend to you that every individual in every community feels as well-adjusted as they should, and that is something that we need to work on together.
But I am certainly not going to abandon the goal of trying to get people to identify and to love the country that they come to. That is the most important thing. When people come to this country, they have to become British; and if they’re going to live here and they’re going to work here, they must become part of our society and espouse its values. That’s what we believe in.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you, Boris.
FOREIGN SECRETARY JOHNSON: Thank you. Thanks, Rex. Thank you. Thank you.