Press Availability in Istanbul, Turkey
Secretary of State
The Conrad Hotel
April 21, 2013
SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for being here. I saw you earlier in the morning; appreciate your coming back and sharing a few moments with me so I can summarize what we’ve been doing in the course of the day. And this time I’ll hopefully take a few questions for you because I’m sure off of last night’s declarations you probably have some.
We’ve obviously had a very busy 24 hours here in Turkey, and again I want to thank our Turkish hosts, especially Foreign Minister Davutoglu, who has been just a terrific not just not host but partner in the initiatives of last night as well as the subjects we talked about today. And so I not only thank him for the hospitality of Turkey, but I thank him for the enormous contribution that he and the Prime Minister are both making in order to try to solve a number of very difficult issues.
I had very productive conversation this morning, first of all beginning with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. And we discussed the meeting that I had on Monday of this past week in Washington, D.C. with the Quartet representative Tony Blair as well as the president of the Coca-Cola Company and some other businesspeople who are all part of our initiative to try to change life in the West Bank as rapidly as possible, create some transformative economic initiatives. And they are engaged in that, and I discussed those with President Abbas, obviously because it so affects him and his people and is critical to the finding of a two-state solution.
And so with that, I’m happy to open it up to questions and look forward to trying to clarify anything that anybody needs.
MODERATOR: The next question will come from Can Ertuna, NTV.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you. Regarding to your last statement, do you refer Turkey as a hub for delivering aid to Syria to Mr. Idris? And my second question would be about the peace process, ongoing peace process. How do you conceive Prime Minister Erdogan’s plans with it to Gaza? Do you think it’s going to be a constructive step in the peace process?
SECRETARY KERRY: …
With respect to the Prime Minister’s potential visit to Gaza, we have expressed to the Prime Minister that we really think that it would be better delayed and that it shouldn’t take place at this point in time for a number of different reasons. The Prime Minister obviously has a right to make decisions about what he does and where he goes, but it was our feeling in a constructive way that we thought that the timing of it is really critical with respect to the peace process that we’re trying to get off the ground and that we would like to see the parties begin with as little outside distraction as possible. So our sense is that it would be more helpful to wait for the right circumstances. I think the Prime Minister listened very graciously to that. I think he’s been very thoughtful and sensitive about it. If needs be, we certainly can have further conversation about it when he comes to Washington.
But I want to emphasize this: Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu have been enormously constructive and very, very willing to be helpful in this process, and they already have been. And we look to them as helpful contributors to the climate, to some of the potential things on the ground like the economic development program and other things. There are many ways in which Turkey could be contributing to this. As we know, Turkey was deeply involved with Prime Minister Olmert at one point in time. There were serious talks going on. Turkey was involved in those. So this is an issue that Turkey not only understands well but actually has a stake in, and we respect that and we would like to see them contribute – and I’m confident they will – to the possibilities of this process.
MODERATOR: Nicolas Revise, AFP.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. This is a question on the Palestinian. Could you tell us, Mr. Secretary, whether during your meeting with President Abbas this morning you did raise the issue of the resignation of Prime Minister Fayyad? And do you consider this resignation as a bad news for the U.S. efforts to try to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians?
SECRETARY KERRY: That’s a very good question, Nicolas. Thank you. Let me begin by saying that I consider Salam Fayyad a personal friend and someone for whom I have enormous respect, and he has been a very, very important force in the development of a viable Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, of their security arrangements, their economic development, the transparency and accountability of their financial system and transactions. And we are sorry to see him reach a point where both his health and his energy level and his sense of ability to sort of really carry on are challenged. We’re very respectful of that. This is a good man who has worked unbelievably hard to create the full measure of a country that he is working for. So I’m sad to see him go, as is President Obama and all of us who have confidence in him.
That said, I think he would be the first to tell you, as I will tell you, that this initiative, this dream, this effort that we’re working towards, is bigger than one man. It doesn’t just depend on one person within a structure, and there are other very qualified, very experienced businesspeople, people of international reputation, people with development skills and management skills, who are capable of taking this on.
The answer to your question directly is yes, we did talk about it and we talked about the succession process and what will occur. And President Abbas made it very clear that he understands the international community’s concern and focus on the issues that I articulated earlier about accountability, transparency. And I’m confident that the President is going to find a person that he believes can fill the shoes, do the job, and work with everybody. But we are going to continue and will work, as I said, because this goal and this effort is bigger than one person. And we’re on a track, and I hope the track we’re on is one that can come to a positive place, and of course, maybe over the next weeks, month or so, where we are capable of sort of really laying out a road forward. That’s our hope. I say hope. I’m not going to express levels of optimism or qualify it. It’s a hope.
But I think President Abbas is very deeply committed to that process. Salam Fayyad will stay on for the next 35 days or more, somewhere in that vicinity. He’ll be a caretaker prime minister. There’ll be a careful transitional process. And I am convinced Salam Fayyad will continue to be involved in the development efforts and the politics of the Palestinian Authority. I have no doubt about that. So we look forward to simply moving on, continuing and beginning to work with whoever and whatever successor or structure the President puts together – President Abbas puts together.