"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
And last April we had a meeting in Washington and we agreed that we will have regular communication with Mr. Kerry, Secretary of State, in order to discuss all the developments and all the personal efforts with regard to reviving the peace negotiations. Actually, it was a very good meeting and (inaudible) commitment of President Barack Obama and all the stakeholders in terms of commitment to the peace process in order to secure stability, prosperity, and peace for the region. So the objective of our meeting today was to review and to listen to the developments, especially in terms of the intensive efforts exerted by Secretary of State Mr. Kerry with the other stakeholders. And we really listened to everybody, commending this great effort, and we will keep you posted with the recent developments on this issue.
And also, we agreed as a delegation – ministerial delegation assigned by the Arab League – to communicate and to keep ourselves and each other posted on the developments in the region and the efforts here to seek a political solution. And all of you know our position with regard to stopping violence and destruction and to have a peaceful solution to maintain security in Syria and to achieve its sovereignty and to protect its great people. And in his meetings with the Russian officials some months ago and the interaction which led to the agreement on organizing an international conference in order to find a political solution, all of these meetings were very encouraging.
There were meetings in Amman, Istanbul, and Rome and in Doha for the 11 (inaudible) group, and – or London group – and there was an agreement to go forward on this track. Also there is great focus by the Secretary of State in terms of the repercussions of the Syrian situation on Jordan. Jordan is hosting about 550,000 refugees on its territories, from Syria of course. And from this platform I would like to express appreciation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to the American administration and to all the relevant agencies for their help to Jordan to host these refugees. We really appreciate this support.
There is other support given to us by other international sources, however, still we are in need for more support in order to deliver the required services for the refugees, especially when it comes to the sensitive sectors that were impacted with this inflow of refugees. And here we are speaking about the sectors of energy, health, education, and environment, and the business sector. Of course, we commend all of the efforts made by our – by the American administration all over the world in order to help Jordan in this issue.
And we had talks about other files that are of mutual interest for us, especially the bilateral relations between Jordan and the U.S. These are distinct relations and His Majesty, the King, had a meeting recently with President Barack Obama in Washington, and there was a visit by President Obama to Jordan. Actually, there were two meetings in like four to five weeks only. This is but an indicator to the mutual interest and attention given by His Majesty, the King, and President Barack Obama to the distinct relations. We really appreciate the help and the assistance of America in all the sectors. We always say that such support reflects the historical relations between us.
Again, I welcome John Kerry, my friend, and the person who has all the knowledge. Actually, his experience talks for itself, especially when it comes to the sensitive files in our region with his long history and his wise decisions. Actually, we can see a niche of hope, especially when it comes to the file of peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. I give the floor to you (inaudible).
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mr. Foreign Minister (inaudible).
QUESTION: We can’t hear you. Thank you. (Laughter.) (inaudible).
SECRETARY KERRY: Maybe it’s because of Ramadan. (Laughter.)
It’s an honor to be here with all of you. Thank you very, very much. And particularly I am pleased to be back here with my friend, Nasser. We really are good friends. Sometimes that word is used in this business and it’s thrown around lightly, but he and I have had the pleasure of spending a great deal of time together, well before I became Secretary of State, when I was a senator, and I appreciate his energy, his knowledge, and his commitment to solving difficult problems. He is not a foreign minister who sits bashfully on the sidelines. He’s willing to tackle the tough issues.
And the reason I find myself here again is not just the privilege of meeting with the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-Up Committee, which was a very important meeting, as Nasser said, but also because Jordan is so engaged in meeting its own challenges here at home but also helping to deal with challenges around it. And this is a region which, for better or worse, is not particularly quiet these days. There’s a lot going on with Syria, Egypt, Iran, the challenges of the Middle East peace process, and all of the normal challenges of economies and of the modern world.
So I’m here to follow up with the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-On Committee. I made a promise when we met in Washington earlier in April. I promised that we would keep up with our efforts on the Middle East and that I would brief them regularly. And since they traveled to Washington last time to come for a very important announcement, I came here this time in order to be able to meet with everybody and make it easier for their travel.
We continued the conversation today that we began in Washington. I think everybody knows that the Arab Peace Committee has – and the Arab League itself; Secretary General Nabil Elaraby was here today – has really long played a very important role in the path leading to the Arab Peace Initiative. And the Arab Peace Initiative, which King Abdullah put forward a number of years ago, I have said before, was a very important departure point and one which never received the full attention and focus that it should have.
I’m glad that it is today because it promises to open up significant potential for normalized relations, for the potential for trade and growth in historic and very important ways. And it promises Israel – Israel needs to look hard at this initiative, which promises Israel peace with 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations, a total of 57 nations that are standing and waiting for the possibility of making peace with Israel.
Their willingness that they brought to Washington in April was very significant, because at that time they not only restated the commitment to a two-State solution, the only solution that is real, but they also included the potential of land swaps, as a mechanism for achieving that solution. And that was another historic moment and historic departure by the Arab community. It underscores what all of us really know, and that is that peace would benefit not only the security and opportunity and legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, but very significantly it would contribute enormously to the stability and the prosperity throughout the entire region. Every country in the region – and particularly Jordan, the neighbor of Palestine and of Israel, which already cooperates in many ways to help create stability and peace – would also benefit enormously from progress.
Peace is in the common interest of everybody in this region. And as many ministers said to me today in the meeting that we had – many of them – they said that the core issue of instability in this region and in many other parts of the world is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The only way to resolve that is through direct negotiations, and the only ones who can make that happen are not President Obama, John Kerry, Nasser Judeh, but it is the parties themselves. They have to make that decision.
I have stayed in very close contact with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. And I know that despite everything else that is happening in the region, despite all of the pressures of neighboring states, of refugees, of conflict, despite the pressures of a volatile neighborhood, the fact is that both sides continue to work up to this point in good faith in a good effort in order to try to find a way to succeed.
Now, when this process started several months ago, there were very wide gaps, very significant gaps between the two sides. And I think Nasser would agree with me that through hard and deliberate, patient work, and most importantly through quiet work, we have been able to narrow those gaps very significantly. And so we continue to get closer, and I continue to remain hopeful that the sides will soon be able to come to sit at the same table.
Now, there are still some elements and some language that needs to be agreed upon and worked out. This is normal, and I’m not going to detail the specifics. But as this important, quiet process continues to unfold, we want to make sure that we keep it quiet, because that’s honestly the only way that it works. And everybody has agreed on that.
I would caution everybody to resist the temptation to speculate about where things stand or what is possible. The easiest bet among Middle East prognosticators has always been on predicting impasse. That’s always been the easiest bet, and I understand that. But I also know that through the efforts that are being made now, the best hope for a different outcome is to have a quiet process that is working the way the parties are working now, and I congratulate them both for doing that.
It is fair to say that that initiative, peace within the Middle East, and the Arab-Israeli conflict has always been one of the most difficult challenges on the face of the planet. Decades of close calls, of near breakthroughs, and many disappointments make it very clear how tough it is. But while the conflict has indeed persisted for a long time, it is more and more true today than ever before that the time to resolve it is narrowing.
So that’s why Nasser and I and King Abdullah, President Obama, all of us join together in encouraging both sides to think very carefully about their words and their actions. That’s why we encourage them to promote trust and not to take steps that would undermine that trust. And that’s why we urge everybody to remain committed to creating a climate that is conducive to a peace that is worthy of the people that they all represent.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, John, and we’ll take two questions from the Jordanian side and two questions from the U.S. side. So (inaudible) will start, and we’ll take a U.S. and then we’ll come back.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) What are the proposals that Kerry spoke about which Abbas wants to discuss with the Palestinian Authority tonight?
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: (Via interpreter) I think that Kerry has stressed that the effectiveness of this track is – (in English) – quiet, to use the English word – (continuing via interpreter) and that the efforts that are being exerted and the communications need and all the proposals that he has suggested and discussed with both sides are still away from lights. And I think that we have already witnessed in decisive milestones in the Arab-Israeli conflict that some negotiations came to a failure just because of disclosing everything internationally. And I think that the effectiveness of this effort and exercise by John Kerry is that it is away from light, and I think it will result in reviving the negotiations between the two sides and handling all the political solution issues. Again, I confirm Jordan is a stakeholder here. It has an interest. It is not political mediator agency. It is our interest to have an independent Palestinian state on its territory with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital and to solve all the pending problems. This is our real interest here in Jordan. That’s why we commend the efforts by Minister Kerry and we want to have the two-state solution. And we reiterate what he has already said that these negotiations must be kept away from lights. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Matt Lee, AP.
QUESTION: Ah, yes. Will I need a mike?
SECRETARY KERRY: I think they’ll get you a mike. Yeah.
QUESTION: All right. So Mr. Secretary, recognizing that you want to keep all of this quiet and not give any details, the Arab League statement that did come out after your meeting does mention that they support your efforts and especially, quote, “the new and important political, economic, and security elements.” I’m assuming you’re not going to get into what these – specifically what these new important elements are, but could you at least say if there are, then? And if you could or would just try to describe them in a way that you think would not jeopardize the --
SECRETARY KERRY: Sure.
QUESTION: -- resumption of talks. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think – Matt, thank you. It’s a good question, and I’m happy to talk about a couple of them, specifically the economic and the security. Generically, I’ll talk about the security.
I’ve talked about the economic previously, but I’m going to repeat this. What we have designed together with major business leaders and particularly the leadership of a number of consultants of major international consultant firms who have now compiled about eight years of man-hours through two months of work, and they have done an analysis of the economic challenges of the Palestinian territories, looking at the sectors of the economy – tourism, manufacturing, infrastructure, energy, water, and so forth. And the analysis has been made with a view to trying to figure out: How do we have a transformative initiative that actually impacts the lives of Palestinians in a way that they will feel quickly, not rhetorical, but real, on-the-ground steps?
They have now laid out a set of projects, and we are working with Israel and with the Palestinians together in order to identify projects that could rapidly be invested in, rapidly be approved, that will have a direct impact on unemployment. Our hope is that, over the span of about three years, you could actually reduce the unemployment rate from 21 percent to 8 percent, that you could double the GDP of all of the Palestinian territory. And this initiative is not just for the West Bank; it’s also for Gaza. And our hope is – in the days ahead, our hope is to be able to have specific announcements about those projects and about these initiatives in order for people to see concrete, tangible ways in which their lives could change and in which a peace process could, in fact, attract investment and have a way of having an impact on life in Jordan and Israel as well.
Now, I’m not going to go into the details of it right now. That’s an outline. But I am excited about it, as are most of the people who’ve seen it. Many of the countries in the region have been briefed on this, the leaders of these countries, and they have committed themselves to be supportive of it providing we have the right framework within which to try to move forward. So that is basically the economic track that they are referring to.
On the security track, everybody knows that one of the greatest challenges to peace has always been the perception in Israel of the threat to Israel, and Israel’s security is paramount. It’s paramount to Israelis, obviously. It’s existential to any leader of Israel and to the Israeli people. But it’s also important to America, which supports Israel, and important to the allies and friends of Israel. And it is important, in fact, to the region – important to Jordan, important to the Palestinians – that there be security for the region.
One of the things that is mentioned prominently in the Arab Peace Initiative is a regional security concept. The Arab community is prepared to commit to a regional security framework, which has yet to be defined. So security is a very important component of any peace process. You must provide for the security of the Palestinians, the security of the Jordanians, the security of the region, and particularly, obviously, Israel will not sign a peace agreement if it does not feel that it will be secure.
We are addressing that through the efforts of General Allen, who has – is serving as a Special Advisor to the Secretary of Defense, and working with our team and with the Defense Department and with the Israeli forces, and will very soon be in the West Bank meeting with the Palestinians to make evaluations on a professional military basis about the nature of threats so that that evaluation can be factored in to any kind of negotiation in the future. Now, that’s a general concept of those two items.
On the political front, I’m going to leave that and not talk about that right now. It is obviously the most complicated. It has always been the most complicated. It is also the most important. The economic and the security are not substitutes. I want to repeat, emphasize, exclamation point – they are not substitutes for the political track. The political track is the centerpiece of any kind of peace effort, and I think it is best to leave those thoughts where they are, which is with the parties and out of the public discourse at this point in time.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Without presuming to jump in and add to what the Secretary said, I just want to say that he was astute enough, as is expected of John Kerry, to mention the importance of the political track right at the end so that it can stay very, very present in our minds and in the minds of the skeptics out there who may think that the economic and the security are substitutes, as the Secretary said, to the political, which is of paramount importance. Because at the end of the day, it is the political solution that will pave the way for the economic and the security tracks to succeed. So thank you for mentioning that, sir.
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