Fw: Pool report #5: Press conference

From: Eilperin, Juliet [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Monday, July 27, 2015 02:44 PM
To: Velz, Peter T. EOP
Subject: Pool report #5: Press conference

At 1:47 pm EAT President Obama and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn came in and began a joint press conference. The event was open press, so the pool report will only include a few highlights.

The two leaders outlined several topics that they discussed in private, including their joint efforts on fighting terrorism, working to resolve the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, encouraging investment in Ethiopia and addressing climate change. The two spoke extensively about the need of Ethiopia to improve its human rights record and democratic institutions, Obama and Desalegn.

Both leaders made a couple of quips in their opening remarks. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn described his country as scoring a series of firsts, It is the “cradle of mankind” as well as “the political capital of Africa,” and moreover, “Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee.” That sparked a smile from Obama.

Obama said that after they had their bilateral meeting, “I had a chance to see the famous lions that live on the grounds. I’m considering getting some for the White House.” Though he conceded before he did that, “I’ll have to make sure my dogs are safe.”

They spoke of how they spoke at length about how to improve freedom of expression and democratic institutions in Ethiopia. Twice Obama referred to the Ethiopian government, whose ruling party won 100 percent of the seats in May’s parliamentary elections, as “democratically elected.” But he also said, “We had a frank discussion” on how Ethiopia needed to change.

“I don’t bite my tongue,” Obama said when it comes to raising concerns on these issues with Ethiopia. “But I do so from a position of respect.”

Desalegn, for his part, said, “Our commitment to democracy is real; not skin deep.” But he added later, “Something has to be understood this is a fledgling democracy.”

In response to a question about the comment by GOP 2016 candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee that the Iran deal was so flawed it will “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven,” Obama gave a lengthy answer on the poor state of American discourse in the United States.

He described it as part of a pattern of comments “that would be considered ridiculous if it wasn’t so sad.”

At 2:36 pm EAT, the press conference concluded.

At 1:42 pm, the motorcade departed, en route back to the Sheraton.

Juliet Eilperin

White House Bureau Chief

Washington Post

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