Joint Press Availability With Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra
Secretary of State
April 3, 2014
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on the Middle East, you spoke today – here today and in Brussels about the limits of being a facilitator and about bringing the horse to water, saying today that the leaders need to know that now is the time to drink. Have you had any indication from Prime Minister Netanyahu or President Abbas that they are ready to drink?
And Mr. Minister, could you tell us specifically: What is it that you would like to see from the United States to help with security assistance, especially along the border with Mali? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Scott, let me say that I have been in direct touch this morning with our team on the ground in Israel, and they worked literally until 4:00 in the morning in direct discussions between Israelis and Palestinians, with the United States present, in an effort to try to move the process forward. I think it is a critical moment, obviously. The dialogue remains open. There was progress made in narrowing some of the questions that have arisen as a result of the events of the last few days, but there’s still a gap, and that gap will have to be closed and closed fairly soon.
So I will be in touch this afternoon with both leaders, but again, it’s really their decision that has to be made. They understand what the choices are. They understand what the stakes are. And they understand each of them, their own limits and dynamics. So we are urging them to find the compromise that is critical to being able to move forward.
One of the important things I want to say about this moment: The fight right now, the disagreement between them, is not over the fundamental substance of a final status agreement. It’s over the process that would get you there and what you need to do in order to be able to continue to negotiate. It would be a tragedy for both of them, we would say, for them to lose the opportunity to get to those real issues that are the differences of a final status agreement.
A fight over process, how to get into a negotiation, should not stop you from getting into that negotiation. And so I hope that they will consider that very, very carefully. President Obama believes very strongly that the role of the United States to help the parties come together is a critical role. He is committed to his efforts and my efforts on behalf of him and the United States to play this role without any fear, because we believe that it’s the right thing to do. President Obama believes that it is important for the United States to try to help the parties make peace.
But as he himself would agree, in the end, the leaders have to make the decisions to do so. We will continue to do everything in our power to try to bring them together, to find a place of reasonableness, to encourage them to compromise, show ways in which they might do so. But in the end, they are the ones who have to say yes, and that’s where we are.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: If I may, John, just to make a short comment on the Middle East, I think a week or so ago, we were having our Arab summit in Kuwait. And the ministers of foreign affairs of the group had a chance to be briefed by President Mahmoud Abbas about the status quo of the diplomatic effort at that time. What I want to say is that at that time, the president referred to the fact that he had some 38 interactions with you, John, and he described that as really a clear demonstration of the commitment by the Secretary of State and President Obama to achieve lasting peace for the region and justice for the Palestinian people.
So the whole group were very appreciative of this effort, and we were hoping that it would reach fruition and it will indeed have the desired outcome that we are all hoping for and praying for. President Mahmoud Abbas requested a meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of the Arab world to be held on the 9th of April in Cairo. We intend to go and we’ll definitely listen to President Mahmoud Abbas about the nitty-gritty of these discussions, and I’m sure that because it is our longstanding position to favor peace, stability, security, global peace, I believe that the Arab world will again express appreciation and support to your efforts, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY KERRY: And I —
FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: It’s not —
SECRETARY KERRY: I’m sorry, I thought you were finished. I didn’t mean to —
FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: No, I thought I would go to the Arab question, but please —
SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, please.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAMAMRA: Please, go, go.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you for that comment, Ramtane. Let me – just a quick addendum to that. I just want to – maybe I don’t have to say this, but I’ll just say it. If this was an easy thing to do, it would have happened a long time ago. It’s difficult because it is a very difficult conflict with deep-rooted historical levels of mistrust and huge narrative issues on both sides that are deeply emotional and go to the core of both people’s identity and aspirations.
It’s as tough as it gets. And the one thing that stands out to me is this: If it’s tough today, I have not met anybody anywhere who believes it’s going to get easier next week or next year or in the future. And that’s why I think this is so important. Both sides – neither side can achieve what it wants staying away from the negotiating table. There’s only one way to resolve that, and that’s through negotiation. And so my hope, along with the foreign ministers and everybody, I think, in the world, is that the parties will not lose an opportunity to negotiate.