Press Availability in London
Secretary of State
London, United Kingdom
December 16, 2014
SECRETARY KERRY: Afternoon, everybody. Thanks for being here. Obviously, the last few days have been fairly intensive set of discussions, and we’ve covered a lot of ground, so I thought it was important to try to bring everybody up to speed on the road journeyed and the road ahead.
Over the past few days, I’ve had very candid and constructive conversations with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, Secretary of State of the Holy See Cardinal Parolin, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday in Rome, with EU High Representative Mogherini, and with my counterparts from Jordan, Egypt, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. And I will do the same today, the same kinds of conversations today, with Palestinian leaders who are here in London, with the Arab League Secretary-General Elaraby and his delegation who have come on behalf of the Arab League.
Now obviously, a focus of these conversations has been our deep concern about the situation on the ground in Israel and in the West Bank and the mounting calls from the international community to pursue diplomatic measures to try to address it. I want to be very clear: This isn’t the time to detail private conversations or speculate on a UN Security Council resolution that hasn’t even been tabled, no matter what pronouncements are made publicly about it. Many of us share a deep sense of urgency about this, given the constant threat of escalation and the dangers of a downward spiral of violence.
But we’re also very mindful that we have to carefully calibrate any steps that are taken for this difficult moment in the region. We all understand the challenges that are presented by this conflict. We all understand that there are pent-up frustrations on both sides and they run deep. We all know the risk of escalation. It’s constant and it’s real. And that is why it is imperative to lower the temperature, end the tension, so that we have an opportunity to find a path that Israelis and Palestinians both want so desperately, which is a path that leads out of the current predicament and actually provides people with an opportunity to touch, to feel, to see and know that there really is a prospect for genuine peace.
They want – everybody that I have talked to keeps talking to me – all the leaders on both sides keep talking to me about how they want a safe and secure future, and obviously, more hope for their people. All of the reasons that we engaged so intensely one year ago, a little more than that, and all the reasons that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas were willing to engage – those reasons are even more compelling today. The status quo is unsustainable for both parties and for the region.
And no people should have to endure a barrage of rockets in the thousands or the threat of a terrorist jumping out of a tunnel armed with a tranquilizer, drugs, and handcuffs in order to snatch them out of the night and drag them back into another place where they can hold them hostage. No one should have to endure either of those things. But the Israelis saw that firsthand during the course of the Gaza conflict. And likewise, no community should have to endure the loss of thousands of its citizens, including hundreds of women and children, as the Palestinians experienced during the same conflict, during – due to the choices that Hamas made that led them nowhere.
The ongoing unrest of the last weeks has brought new tensions to all sides. And earlier this month, two Israelis were stabbed as they shopped for groceries in the West Bank. Two more were axed to death while praying. And we were all devastated and shocked by the acid attack against an Israeli family last week. Palestinians have mourned the death of a Palestinian official, Ziad Abu Ein, and they have suffered indefensible price tag attacks, so-called price tag attacks, including the recent burning of a mosque near Ramallah.
The cycle of violence leads to more violence and to nowhere. Peace is the only prospect, and people need to fight for it. Getting to a better place is obviously not easy, but the alternative is more of the violence and the suffering that no people anywhere should have to accept as the daily fare of their lives, as the price of being born Israeli or Palestinian. And we are focused – we, the United States, and our allies and our friends in Europe and in the Arab community are all focused on a different path. Our friends are focused on a path that could lead to a different future, and we will never hesitate to fight to go down that path.
And that is why the United States and our partners will remain deeply engaged not just with the Israelis and the Palestinians, but on the other conflict – conflicts, plural, that dominated our discussions during the course of this week.
But even as we look down this difficult road that’s before us and consider the complicated choices that we face, we simply cannot lose sight of the fact that that hard road leads to a better place. I’m convinced of that. The United States recognizes the deeply felt aspiration for peace shared by the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, and we will continue to work with our friends and partners to find a path to the goal that we all share for a more peaceful and stable region.
So with that, I’d be happy to take some questions. And I don’t know who’s up or —
MS. HARF: Yeah. Our first – is it on? Oh, yes. Our first question’s from Nicole Gaouette of Bloomberg, and the mike will come to you.
QUESTION: Thanks for giving us this time, Mr. Secretary. In the past, the U.S. has simply blocked resolutions at the UN that it feels threaten or undermine Israel. This time, you’ve made this trip to Europe to discuss various proposals with your counterparts. Can you tell us what has changed that’s led you to do this? And mindful of your concern about discussing details about resolutions, could you tell us what the U.S. would like to see or would need to see in a resolution to support it?
And finally, given the challenges that the U.S. has faced in trying to broker a Mideast peace deal over these many years, is it time for the process to become more of a multilateral affair? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me answer the last first. It’s always been a multilateral affair. There were always countries that are involved in it, but the United States clearly has a unique role to play as a result of our longtime friendship and relationship with Israel, and the role that we have played historically with respect to Camp David, Oslo and so forth. In the end, though, this isn’t up to the international community or others. This has to be decided by the parties. The parties have to want this more than anybody outside, and the parties have to make key decisions that can lead to the resolution.
Now, coming back to the first part of the questions, right now, what we’re trying to do is have a constructive conversation with everybody to find the best way to go forward in order to create the climate; the atmosphere; the political space, if you will, to be able to go back to negotiations and resolve this politically. Now, clearly, in the beginning of an election and in the middle of an election, it’s very difficult and complicated because we believe very deeply that nobody should somehow interfere or do something that might be perceived of as interfering in the course of that election, and we want to find the most constructive way of doing something that therefore will not have unintended consequences, but also can stem the violence.
It’s a particularly sensitive moment because we understand the frustrations of Palestinians. We understand the frustrations of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and those who are pushing hard, because they don’t see another course at this moment. So the key is to try to find out whether or not there are other options, other ways, other courses; could something be done that helps to respect the process that the Israelis are about to undergo, simultaneously respecting the needs of the region to de-escalate the tensions and avoid confrontation?
That’s what we hope to achieve, that’s what these discussions are all about, and we will continue to have these discussions this afternoon and on into the next days. But we’ve made no determinations other than that about any – about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that. We haven’t made any determinations.
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