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Remarks With Lead Negotiator for the Palestinian Authority Saeb Erekat
After Meeting With Palestinian Authority President Abbas
Secretary of State
Muqata'a Presidential Compound
January 4, 2014
Mr. EREKAT: I think this is the 21st meeting between President Abbas and Secretary Kerry. It was a sleepless night last night and today also. Secretary Kerry has exerted every possible effort in order to achieve a two-state solution, a state of Palestine to live side by side with the state of Israel in peace and security in the 1967 lines.
What Secretary Kerry is doing – and let me repeat it in front of him – is not an interim agreement. It’s not a transitional period that’s beyond us. We’re working hard to achieve an agreement on all core issues. No one benefits more from the success of Secretary Kerry’s efforts than Palestinians, and no one stands to lose more of failure than Palestinians. Failure to us is not an option. We really are doing everything humanly possible to ensure the success of Secretary Kerry. We really hope that the Israeli side would refrain from any acts that may prejudice or preempt the outcome of permanent status negotiations, i.e., settlement activity and home demolitions.
Secretary Kerry – I have read in the papers that he presented papers, documents. Up till this moment, Secretary Kerry has shared ideas. We’re discussing these ideas. The job is not done yet. We have meetings scheduled for next week, and I think the Secretary will be coming back in the days ahead.
Mr. Secretary, President Abbas appreciates your efforts, we appreciate your effort, and thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Saeb. Thank you. Well, thank you very much, Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinians. I want to thank President Abbas for his renewed hospitality, and I am very grateful to his whole team for the generous way in which they receive us here, for the time they give to this, and the effort they put into it.
Let me be very clear about what we are doing now and where we are. As Saeb said, this is perhaps the 21st meeting. I can’t even measure from when. But I will say that we are working with great intensity, with serious purpose, with the commitment to trying to resolve this conflict that has gone on for many years too long, and which I think presents us now with the possibility of trying to find a framework agreement which would really lay out the end game and lay out the framework for the major issues to guide the negotiations from this point forward. As Saeb said, we’re not there yet, but we are making progress and we are beginning to flesh out the toughest hurdles yet to be overcome.
I want to thank President Abbas for the progress we made today, the issues we discussed. I will be going from here back to Jerusalem, where tonight I will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Tomorrow, I will go to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, and from there I will fly to Saudi Arabia where I will meet with King Abdullah in order to talk about where we are, what we’re trying to do in the days ahead.
Next weekend, I will meet with the Arab League Follow-on Committee with respect to the Arab Peace Initiative. And during this week, our teams will continue to work to try to lay the foundation and the groundwork for the progress needed in order for me to come back and take the next steps.
So this is hard work. There are narrative issues; difficult, complicated years of mistrust that have been built up, all of which as to be worked through and undone, and a pathway has to be laid down in which the parties can have confidence that they know what is happening and that the road ahead is real, not illusory.
So I remain hopeful as I have been, and I am confident that the talks we’ve had in the last two days have already fleshed out and even resolved certain kinds of issues and presented new opportunities for others. That’s the name of this game. It’s a tough process, step by step, day by day. But if people continue to act in good faith, as the leaders have – both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu have been criticized, both have been demonstrated against, both have been editorialized against, and both have been subjected to difficult questions from members of their own parties and bases as well as from other people.
But both have remained absolutely steadfast to this effort and committed to the notion that two peoples living side by side in peace and security is a goal worth fighting for and that the progress being made is sufficient to encourage people to keep going. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do, and I think over the next week we have some very serious homework – all of us – to do.
Thank you very much.