"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
I especially want to recognize my friend, the Foreign Minister of Qatar, Khalid al-Atiyah. I am very appreciative to him. He’s been a good partner in this effort of keeping the committee moving and of keeping it engaged. And this is the fourth time now in six months that the United States and the Arab League have gathered as part of our regular consultations in order to make sure that the final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians are very much accountable to those who have a great stake in it. And as everybody knows, the Arab Peace Initiative, which I have many times mentioned, was a very significant step forward, is still a very important ingredient of the possibilities of peace.
Excuse me. The breadth and the depth of the participation that we had here today and in all of our meetings is really a clear demonstration of the continued support that President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority continue to receive from the Arab community as a whole, and I think it is significant. The Arab League understands precisely what is at stake here. I might comment that in the middle of our meeting today, His Highness Prince Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia very eloquently stated, “You know, if you’re thinking about what the vision for peace of the Arab world, all you really have to do is look at the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers immediate peace to Israel when settling the Palestinian issue, a peace that will bring normal commerce, embassies, normal relations, connections between people and between countries, not with one or two nations, but with 57 nations all at one time – 35 Muslim nations, 22 Arab nations. That’s a vision, and it’s a vision worth fighting for.
From the very first visit with the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-up Committee in Washington earlier this year, to the key meeting that we had in Amman in July, the Arab League Follow-on Committee has shown a remarkable commitment to this effort, and we’re very grateful to them for that.
Their support for a final status agreement is essential to the agreement of a negotiated, two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis, and it is critical to creating the momentum and the seriousness of purpose that is essential in order to be able to be successful in these talks.
It’s no secret to anybody that this is and remains a difficult process, there is no shortage of passionate skeptics. But I want to underscore that the goal is clear and it is achievable, and those who are closest to it – the neighbors as well as the parties themselves – understand what is at stake: a just and a lasting peace that’s based on a two-state solution which is the only solution. Two states for a simple reason, because two proud peoples deserve the opportunity to realize their legitimate aspirations, their security, and their freedom, and their future.
The Israeli and the Palestinian people both have leaders who absolutely understand what is at stake, and they have taken risks in order to bring both parties to the table. They showed courage to begin the process and they have shown courage to continue it even in the face of criticism. The two parties have been engaged now in 13 meetings, serious meetings. They had three meetings in the last four days. The pace has intensified. All the core issues are on the table, and they have been meeting with increased intensity.
But for everybody to live up to the challenges of making peace, we have to support them, including living up to our obligations on the economic front. I want to stress that no economic track, no economic package or financial assistance will ever be a substitute for the political track. But with our partnership and with our support and our economic investment, we can all help in order to provide a difference to the lives of people living in the neighborhood. That is why I am especially pleased to announce tonight – and I’m very grateful to the Amir of Qatar, to the Qatari people, and to the Foreign Minister who has really helped bring this about – they have agreed to provide $150 million in urgently needed debt relief to the Palestinian Authority. And I am very grateful to Khalid al-Atiyah for helping to make that happen. I’m confident that other Arab governments are currently evaluating and making their decisions, and there will be others who will join in this initiative as we go forward.
So the support of donors has been critical to helping us get where we are today, and it is important ultimately for the parties themselves to make the key decisions and reasonable compromises necessary for a final status agreement. That includes taking all of the steps that are necessary to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations, which incidentally was one of the key things agreed upon by both parties as they entered into these negotiations.
So my friends, I might comment that in his – in that vein, I was very pleased to see that Prime Minister Netanyahu made an Eid al-Adha statement, a message earlier this week, and he made it clear that Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo in the holy places, and he made it clear that the hand of Israel is extended to the Palestinian people in the hope of peace.
So my friends, there is an opportunity for peace over the horizon. But to seize that opportunity, we need the continued support of the Arab League, we need the engagement of the Arab League, and we need the rest of the international community also to continue to be supportive. I believe that with our work together, we can provide for the peaceful, prosperous, hopeful outcome that people in the region, and particularly Israelis and Palestinians, have hoped for for a long, long time.
Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-ATIYAH: Thank you very much, and I’ll do it in Arabic if you’d like to put your headset, please.
(Via interpreter) In the beginning, as my friend John Kerry did, I would like to extend my thanks also to our common friend Laurent for allowing for this meeting to take place in France. Yes, indeed, we did meet today for a fourth time about the peace process. We discussed and confirmed some (inaudible) issues, which is the solution – a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. We also addressed some very important issues.
I would like to be very brief because my friend John here covered most of the issues. But there are some issues that we addressed in this meeting. For example, we talked about the issue of Gaza and the futility of isolating Gaza because that wouldn’t help the peace process, and the closure of crossing points. There are millions of people living in Gaza, and they are in need of supply – food supplies and medicine. Therefore, there must be a way to open crossing points by all parties so that we could enable the people of Gaza to live, because they are an inseparable part of the Palestinian people.
As for the negotiations, we confirmed the need – affirmed the need for American participation, actual participation, in the negotiations. And I would like to thank my friend John for the serious effort that is expended, but we would like him to be fully engaged in this process. We are concerned concerning the environment surrounding the negotiations, and we did address this concern. For example, the most recent measures, we are seeing settlement expansion, not just destruction of homes but destruction of entire communities similar to what’s happening in the Jordan Valley. Also, raising the Israeli flag, we consider this to be a transgression that we cannot possibly accept, not in the Arab world or the Islamic world. Therefore, we urge that the conducive environment for the negotiations be created. Also, some statements made by Israeli officials harm the peace process.
We addressed – we talked about most – several issues – economics and economic openness, and we asserted that the initiative of the sovereignty of the holy places in 2002 was very clear, and it also included all the possibilities that could take place in the event of a comprehensive peace. I would like also to – I wanted to shed light on these issues because my friend John has gone into the specifics of the meeting, and thank you very much.