Remarks With Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
November 13, 2014
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: (Via interpreter) In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful. At the outset, I would like to welcome a friend of His Majesty King Abdullah to Jordan, as well as to me personally, he – His Excellency, the Secretary of State of the United States of America. I do welcome him in this important visit and at this particular important moment. We have been honored today with a bilateral meeting as His Majesty King Abdullah received Secretary Kerry. And over the past 48 hours, they were – they covered different significant diplomatic deliberations and talks starting with the meetings with President Abbas yesterday. And today, His Majesty the King received Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry.
And this evening, His Majesty the King, there was a bilateral – trilateral meeting where His Majesty met President Netanyahu – Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as Secretary of State. And they discussed coaxial issues, including Jerusalem and the Holy Shrines, and they took a lot of time. And their discussion and all the developments that have taken place over the recent few weeks were at the core of the issue and they have led to more instability.
His Majesty, during his meeting with Mr. Kerry this afternoon, explained Jordan’s position and the stance regarding the necessity of maintaining the status quo of the Holy Shrines, and they should not be touched or affected by any means. And this is part of the Hashemite custody of these Christian and Muslim sanctities in Jerusalem. And you are well aware also that when Jordan took some measures, there was confirmation on the part of the Israeli nation, Israeli state, and they showed commitment that they will maintain the status quo and respect the Jordanian role, and also respect the peace treaty between the two countries. And this is what also has been stated during the trilateral meeting this evening.
And you will listen also to the outcomes of this trilateral meeting. There are mechanisms and communications underway, including practical measures to de-escalate the tension and that maintain the status quo without getting it affected by such tensions.
During the bilateral meeting with Mr. Kerry, there were extensive negotiations regarding all the developments across the region. And we will go back to the Palestinian-Israeli problem.
With respect to the peace process, you are well aware that Mr. Kerry and the Obama Administration are committed to find a peaceful solution that addresses all the final status issues and that the two parties should come back to peace process. Mr. Kerry is a man of peace, and he has proven this through his intensive and focused efforts over one year as the Secretary of State and also for the case as the head of a committee at the Congress. He is a man who is renowned for his efforts inside the United States and outside the United States. And we have seen the Secretary of State in more than one year meeting all the stakeholders, particularly the Palestinian and Israeli sides. In addition, other countries who have high interest in peace, like the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Republic of Egypt – he met with them scores of times. And I think the meetings that His Excellency Kerry has been unprecedented, and this confirms U.S. commitment and Mr. Kerry’s commitment to this peace process. He is now attempting to repave the way for coming back to a negotiation – and negotiations and to stop unilateral actions and measures, and we do support him in these efforts.
Once again, it is our high interest, and our national interest requires and entails the two-state solutions according to international legitimacy, especially the Arab Peace Initiative. Therefore, I would like to say that the trilateral meeting that was held this evening with the Israeli prime minister has already addressed the issue through the monitoring and follow-up of the Jordanian efforts. It also focused basically on the efforts being put forth by Mr. Kerry in order to revive the situation, to come back to negotiations. Another important aspect under the trilateral negotiations – a telephone conference with President Sisi was also conducted. And, as you know, Egypt is a basic and a key country when we talk about the issues of this region, as well as the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much. Good evening to everybody, and I am particularly grateful to my good friend, Nasser Judeh, who tonight I learned is the longest-serving foreign minister in the history of Jordan. So – and I asked him – I said, “Are you going to look like that on those portraits that are hanging out there?” And he said – that’s when he informed me that until recently, one of them was the longest serving. Now I’m standing beside him. So I’m honored to be here with him. And I have to tell you, he is a very valued partner and a very skilled diplomat, and somebody that we rely on for great collaboration and for very significant advice and counsel. And I thank him for his friendship very, very much.
I also particularly want to thank His Majesty King Abdullah, who is a gracious host, but also a courageous leader who understands how important this moment is and how critical it is to move forward. And I thank him for his exhaustive personal efforts in trying to resolve some of the region’s most difficult challenges, whether it’s Syria and Iraq, ISIL, or the longstanding conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Through all of these challenges, one constant has been the enormously constructive role that Jordan has played under difficult circumstances in order to try to resolve those challenges. And we’re very grateful and we admire those efforts.
I had a very productive meeting this morning with President Abbas, and Foreign Minister Judeh and I, as he just mentioned to you, have come here directly from a trilateral meeting, a discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and with His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan.
President Abbas and I this morning discussed constructive steps, real steps – not rhetoric, but real steps that people can take in order to de-escalate the situation and create a climate where we can move forward in a positive and constructive way. President Abbas strongly restated his firm commitment to nonviolence, and he made it clear that he will do everything possible to restore calm and to prevent the incitement of violence and to try to change the climate.
We particularly talked about the urgent need to address the greatest tension between Israelis and Palestinians beginning with the imperative, the absolute need to uphold the status quo regarding the administration of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and to take affirmative steps to prevent provocations and incitement. In the trilateral meeting this evening, we discussed, as Nasser has explained to you, specific and practical actions that both sides can take to restore calm. The Jordanians and the Israelis have agreed – the Jordanians, obviously, in their historic role as the custodians of the Haram al-Sharif – and the Israelis joined together as they have worked since 1967 to administer the Haram al-Sharif, to make sure that they de-escalate the situation, and that the steps they take will instill confidence that the status quo will be upheld.
So I say to all people who are interested in this: There are firm commitments, particularly from the custodian of the holy mosque, as well as Israel, to guarantee that they will take these steps. Now, I know that the first question will be: “So exactly what are those steps?” And the answer is we’re not going to lay out each practical step. It is more important that they be done in a quiet and effective way, but they will be noticeable and they will be effective, and I am convinced of that. And I also believe that obviously not all of it can happen overnight. Not every message will reach every person immediately. And not everyone will automatically change in one moment.
But the leadership is committed, I am convinced, on the basis of their discussion tonight and to the seriousness of purpose that they both exhibited. And President – in Prime Minister Netanyahu traveling here to make the effort to have this discussion; King Abdullah being willing to host it; and the length of time we spent discussing it, makes it clear to me that they are serious about working in the effort to create this de-escalation, to take steps that will instill confidence that the status quo will be upheld.
Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to uphold the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and to implement these steps. And King Abdullah also agreed to continue to take affirmative steps to restore calm and implement practical measures to prevent further escalation of tensions. And obviously, the proof is not in the words; the proof is in the actions.
QUESTION: My question is to secretary general. My name is Hamdan al-Hajj from Ad-Dustour newspaper. You said, Mr. Secretary, that the aim of the trilateral meeting is to restore peace and alleviate tension in Jerusalem. What makes you ambitious and optimistic that Benjamin Netanyahu is going to stick to the commitments? And what are the mechanisms that – to be followed to reach that goal? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first of all, when you deal in this business, you begin to get a sense of when somebody is expressing a legitimate concern about something or when they’re just brushing you off. And I thought it was quite clear from the conversation this evening and from prior conversations – which is why Prime Minister Netanyahu traveled over here – that he has deep concerns, as everybody does, about the – about what has been going on in the rise of violence. How can you be the prime minister of a country in which people are being run over by trucks, cars, vans, at a trolley station and killed – how can you be the prime minister of a country where someone is being stabbed in the street, killed, where you see what the reactions are, because of people’s interpretation of something, and not respond?
And so this is a test. I believe the prime minister came here because he is concerned, and he made very firm statements tonight about that. Now, I can’t tell you that everything will change between now and tomorrow morning or the next day, because actions are what matter, not just words. So I heard words. They were expressed sincerely. I believe they are. But it’s going to take the test of the next days.
And that is true on the other side too. If President Abbas says he will reduce the rhetoric and change the – and work hard to try to change the atmosphere, then we have to look to the test of that. And in the end, it requires leadership to be able to make this difference.
So I’m here, together with my friend Nasser, to work with him and others, King Abdullah, to try to create the framework within which people can make the right choices. And in the end, I hope they do, and we will see in the days to come.
I don’t know. Nasser, you might want to comment on that also because I think it’s an important question.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Well, thanks, John. I mean, I’ll just add by saying that since we saw the recent escalation – and there’s always escalation in Jerusalem, and we’ve always warned that Jerusalem is a redline. His Majesty is the Custodian. Jordan has a historic road. The peace treaty between Israel and Jordan points to that very, very clearly. There was an agreement signed between His Majesty and President Abbas in 2013 reaffirming the Hashemite Custodianship of the Holy Site. And there’s escalation after escalation, particularly in the last two years, and most particularly in the last few weeks.
When Jordan took a decision to recall its ambassador for consultation, it was a sign that enough is enough. There’s a clear message that went to Israel that something needs to be done. We’ve had since some positive developments in terms of the rhetoric, and I think, like I said, hopefully a mechanism that will result in restoring calm and in alleviating the tension that we see.
We’ve had a phone call between His Majesty and Prime Minister Netanyahu a week ago or more when the prime minister reiterated that Israel is committed to the preservation of the status quo and respects the Jordanian role. Today, the discussion was – and we’ve had contacts since, of course, and we’ve had contacts with the international community. But today, the prime minister was very clear in yet again reaffirming that the status quo in Jerusalem will not be touched, and that Israel is committed to this and Israel is committed to respecting the role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Custodianship of His Majesty. But as —
SECRETARY KERRY: And with specific steps.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: With specific steps and a mechanism. But like John said, it’s actions that will speak louder than words. And we’re monitoring and observing and we’re contacting. We’re remaining in contact. I mean, the idea is not to just withdraw and not establish any means of communication. You need to have communication in order to ensure that what you want is done and what the international community wants is done.
The tension in Jerusalem, as you have seen in the last few days, has sparked tension not just in Jerusalem and around Jerusalem, but elsewhere in the West Bank. And this is something that concerns us all. And we need to restore calm because we need to think of the larger picture and we need to think of the end objective that we all seek, which is peace, a solution to all final status issues – independence, dignity, sovereignty for the Palestinians in the form of a state on their national soil, and security not just for Israel, but for the entire region. I think this is what we are all committed to.
And I think – Warren from Reuters. And the we’ll take one there.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, you’re going to be shocked I have a multipart question. (Laughter.) You have often said, Mr. Secretary, that there are people on both sides of the conflict who do not want peace. Understanding that you and Foreign Minister Judeh don’t want to go into all the details tonight, can you at least give us some idea of the types of things, types of commitments that you got today that would lead you to believe that both sides are willing to pull back and especially rein in their extremists? That’s question one.
Question two: Why was President —
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: You mean – sorry to interrupt. You mean the Palestinians and Israelis?
QUESTION: The Palestinian – yes, thank you. Question —
SECRETARY KERRY: With respect to the Haram al-Sharif or the —
QUESTION: Yes, yes.
SECRETARY KERRY: Okay.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me deal with 1-2-3. With respect to the Haram al-Sharif, if you read the basics of the agreement that exists on – in defining the status quo, you will see precisely what is expected of the WAC, the Jordanian force that is responsible, as well as the Israelis. And if the status quo is being maintained, you’ll be able to see exactly what is expected. And I don’t think it’s appropriate to go into all of the ways in which that is going to be implemented. It’s up to the folks there to show it in the way that they’re implementing it. But I think people will notice in the next days, and that’ll be the measure.
So again, we’ve agreed not to go into the specifics because one person or another can misinterpret or not quite understand one choice or another. I think the status quo is clear and the status quo is going to be maintained, and that is what is absolutely vital to the Hashemite Kingdom’s responsibility as Custodian. And the prime minister has made it clear that he will uphold that.
Now with respect to President Abbas, I met with him one-on-one this morning. We had a good conversation, as I mentioned earlier. His Majesty —
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: The presence of the Jordanian ambassador in Israel since signing the peace treaty in 1994 was not intended to be to the benefit of Israel. The presence of our ambassador there was meant to be an action that would promote Jordanian national interest and promote the bilateral relationship, which will be of mutual benefit.
As you know, there are several diplomatic options available to any country to protest something that they feel very, very strongly about. One of those actions is to recall an ambassador for consultation. And this was a very clear signal to Israel that what’s been happening in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, particularly over the last few weeks, is not acceptable to Jordan as Custodian, not acceptable to 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, but we have a special responsibility as the Custodian, as a nonpermanent member on the Security Council. And I think recalling our ambassador for consultation was a very, very clear signal that something has to be done to check these actions that are causing much concern not just in the immediate region but around the world.
Now, as the Secretary and I have said for the last few days with intensive diplomacy, with intensive contact with the Israelis, with other international partners and particularly the United States, and in today’s discussions, we have seen a commitment on the part of Israel to respect and maintain the status quo and respect the special role of Jordan and to ease the tension and remove all the elements of instability that we are seeing. We have to wait and see if this is done. Like I said, there are concrete steps out there to be done. There is an agreement that we need to de-escalate. There is a commitment on the part of Israel that the status quo has to be maintained and to respect the Jordanian. Let’s see what happens and then we’ll review our decision, but we have to see what happens on the ground first.