The following is the text of the speech and press conference of US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Baghdad:
Secretary Kerry: Good afternoon. As-Salāmu `Alaykum. I’m glad to be here with all of you, and it’s a pleasure for me to be able to be back in Iraq. I haven’t been able to be here for a little bit of time now, so the difference for me is very noticeable in the reduced energy, if you will, and presence of personnel.
I was very pleased to be able to have a chance to affirm to the Iraqi leaders that I met with that the United States continues to stand with the people of Iraq as they work to establish a democracy and a better future. And we are particularly grateful for the efforts of those people who remain so committed to political activity, to engaging in the constitutional process, and who are working for the rights that are guaranteed by the constitution.
This past week, both of our countries marked the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war here in Iraq, and we were, all of us, reminded of the remarkable sacrifices of so many Iraqis and also so many Americans who, together, gave their lives in a common fight to try to build the civil state that the people of Iraq have chosen for themselves.
Iraq today continues – and I saw this in my meetings and felt it in the discussions that I had – continues to face some tough challenges on fulfilling that promise. It is difficult and – it is difficult for some to find the way to strengthen their democratic institutions and develop its full economic potential, and now that our forces are gone, to ensure that it’s going to be able to stand on its own two feet with respect to the security challenges. I want to assure the Iraqi people today that as you recover from four decades of war and dictatorship, and as you courageously face down lingering menace of terrorism, the United States is going to continue to uphold our end of the Strategic Framework Agreement.
It’s also important to recognize where there is, in fact, progress that is measurable. Iraq had one of the fastest-growing economies in the world in 2012, and while inflation stayed at single digits at the same time. For the first time in the lives of many Iraqis, people are now free to express their opinion, they’re free to organize politically as they wish. And anti-trafficking laws have been put in place, a human rights commission is now in place to work to try to protect fundamental freedoms, though we know there is a lot more to do in this arena. New bilateral relationships are strengthening Iraq’s place in the world.