FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: (Via interpreter) In the name of Allah, I am very pleased to welcome His Excellency, the Secretary of State of USA. He is very close friend for His Majesty the King, and a friend of Jordan and a friend of mine, personally. And his visit -- which I believe it is the fifth or the sixth visit for him to Jordan since the beginning of his term as Secretary of State, and I think this is the seventh or eighth visit to the region. This shows his keenness to communicate with His Majesty the King and with the leaders and the senior officials in the region, especially concerning the important files which require consultation and communication and constant contact.
We were honored to meet His Majesty the King, and we have very plain and frank dialogue, comprehensive and in-depth, about all the issues of -- common issues, and you know that a few days ago before His Excellency started his visit, there was a phone call with His Majesty, and before the 10 days, there was a meeting with His Excellency in Washington. I met him there and the call of the speech or the theme of the speech before was involving about the nature of this tour and the issues to be debated with the leaders and officials in the region. There was a prolonged speech at the phone call, and before that, Mr. Kerry visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and today, he has just arrived from the Palestinian Territories and Israel, where he met the officials there. Many developments, and we were very pleased in our meeting with His Majesty a while ago.
And in our bilateral negotiations here, we listened to detailed discussions about the negotiations made by Mr. Kerry in the countries that he visited, and we discussed all the common issues -- the Syrian issue, the peace process, and other issues in addition to our bilateral (inaudible) relationships, and these distinguished relationships that can be performed by two parties to enhance them in the future.
Many issues happened in the region since Mr. Kerry visited Jordan last time at the summer of this year, starting the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel about the final peace settlement, and which came as intensive efforts exerted by Mr. Kerry to launch these negotiations under the auspices of the Americans. Our position in the Hashemite Kingdom with the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah, we have affirmed this and -- which is linked to the two-state solutions that can result of a Palestinian independent and viable state, which has full sovereignty on its territories and the capital is East Jerusalem, and addressing all the issues of the final settlement to establish this state on the territory -- on the Palestinian Territories. And this comes within the framework of the two-state statement, and then the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative.
And here, I would like to point out that His Excellency is very keen to communicate not just with the leaders, but with the committee of the Arab Peace Initiative. We have met for four times in Washington and in the region and in Paris. This shows his keenness to update the committee member about the latest developments in the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and to focus upon the positive points that will be witnessed for the people and for the countries in the region by applying the items of the Arab Peace Initiative which guarantees peace and security for all, including Israel, including a relationship not just with the Arab states but also with the Islamic states and the whole world, so that all the countries in the region will enjoy peace and security and stability.
We have talked about the latest issues, and there would be a meeting with the Palestinian President this evening, and we have talked about the negotiations and the atmosphere of the negotiations, and we agreed since the beginning when Mr. Kerry launched his efforts for these negotiations to be -- to have a reference for this discussion for the media with the American Administration and to be away from the (inaudible) in order to achieve the aspired results. And I think until now, this has been committed to and it proved success in leaving the negotiators to perform the required role and to achieve the required results.
We reaffirm our stance in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan that the settlement is impeding peace, it is illegal, and illegitimate. That is why we have to accelerate the negotiations to address through talking about the final peace settlement -- a basic item which is the borders, which will terminate settlements forever, where the globe agrees that it is illegal and illegitimate. And we have a stance concerning the unilateral procedures, especially in the occupied Jerusalem, and the violations we see that would not serve the exerted efforts for the success of the negotiations between the two sides.
We reaffirm always that in Jordan, we have a national interest in achieving peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We have interest in establishing a viable Palestinian state. We are not monitoring our mediators, but we have interest also in these matters. This is reaffirmed with His Excellency Mr. Kerry and with the USA. So we support the efforts of Mr. Kerry and we reaffirm also the necessity that these negotiations would meet in success.
Since we met in Amman, there were development in the Syrian issues. There was an agreement between Russia and America concerning the chemical weapons in Syria. And we always say that as a neighboring state for Syria, we warned always from the risks of these chemicals and using them not just on the Palestinian people, but on the people of the region. And we reconfirm here that settling this file would serve our interest also. But we have to focus on the political settlement, which will restore peace, stability, and security and put an end to violence and destruction and killing in Syria within the efforts exerted by Mr. Kerry with the Russian side and with other countries to convene Geneva 2 conference, which hopefully would open the road for applying the peaceful settlement, and Jordan stance that the peaceful negotiations will guarantee the unity of the Syrian territories and put an end to violence.
We are very pleased with this visit. We reaffirm our support for these efforts and for the personal effort exerted by Mr. Secretary.
(In English.) (Inaudible) and to say that we had an extremely productive audience with His Majesty earlier on today, and I believe that your lengthy phone call with His Majesty before embarking on your current trip was extremely productive. We salute your efforts in terms of the peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We salute your commitment and your dedication. And thank you for briefing us today on the latest on that front. We also salute your efforts on bringing about a political solution to the ongoing crisis in Syria and your efforts towards convening Geneva 2 with the intention, as we are all in agreement, of implementing what was agreed upon in Geneva 1. And I believe that your visit at this time is extremely critical in that regard, and the efforts that are conducted by you and by your colleagues are ones that we support and encourage you to continue trying to bring the parties together at the conference that will herald a political solution that will end the violence and end the killing and end the danger that is ever present on our border.
In this regard, we discussed today the presence of 600,000 Syrian refugees on Jordanian soil, as well as 700,000 others who were there from before the crisis, a total of 1.3 million Syrians, almost 21 percent of the population, and the burden that Jordan is shouldering on behalf of the international community. And we addressed the need for the international community to help Jordan in hosting these refugees and in carrying this burden on behalf of the international community.
So our economy is already challenged, as all of you know, and this extra burden is not making things any easier. And I want to thank the Secretary of State for his understanding of this predicament that we find ourselves in, and for his support and his country's support for Jordan in this regard.
We discussed bilateral relations, and I want to thank the United States of America through the Secretary of State for the assistance that it provides to Jordan. I had extremely productive meetings in Washington when I was there, across the spectrum -- the Administration, on Capitol Hill, both sides -- and there was so much goodwill, and there is always so much goodwill towards His Majesty and towards Jordan. It's truly a special relationship that I am always careful to remind is a relationship that goes beyond friendship into a true partnership, and the commonality of interests that we have and the common challenges that we all face, and a relationship that is over 60 years old and continues to grow stronger by the day.
Thank you for your friendship, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for your efforts and for your dedication. Thank you for your visit.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Foreign Minister Judeh -- I got it right this time. (Laughter.) He lacks confidence in me. (Laughter.) Foreign Minister Judeh, my friend, Nasser, I really appreciate your warm welcome, your generous comments, and I appreciate your terrific food. Thank you for a wonderful lunch.
Nasser is really one of the foreign ministers I have come to know the best over these last months, and I'm particularly grateful to him for his constant willingness to engage and help all of the parties. Not just with respect to the peace talks, but in the region, he has been particularly creative, particularly engaged. And I especially want to thank His Majesty, His Royal Highness King Abdullah II for his tremendous engagement, his creative engagement in this process. We had a very constructive conversation this morning. His Majesty put a number of ideas on the table that have possibilities, and was really engaged in a very important way in this.
And I want to emphasize there is a reason why I have come here to Jordan as many times. Jordan is not just a neighbor, not a passive bystander in this process. Jordan is integrally involved in and has high stakes in the outcome of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the questions of peace. Jordan has a long border with Israel and the West Bank, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan has been a partner for peace with Israel, with the United States, and with all those people who are looking for stability and peace and an end of conflict in this region. Jordan is already engaged in a major security relationship with the parties, and whatever resolution there is with respect to the issue of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Jordan will be a partner in that process.
So it is important for the President of the United States, and through me to him, for the United States to be able to be engaged in this process with Jordan. And I came here today to Amman on President Obama's behalf directly from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where I held meetings with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and with President Abbas. The meetings obviously are about the critical question of how we can bring peace to Palestinians and Israelis -- long overdue, long consuming, now, generations.
And I'm pleased to say, that despite difficulties -- and we all understand what they are -- these discussions were productive, and they will continue even today. Tonight, I will see President Abbas yet again, and tomorrow morning, as I leave the region, I will have breakfast with Prime Minister Netanyahu. And the purpose of this is not just to have a meeting for the sake of a meeting. The purpose is to explore and discuss and examine the various possibilities of how we can resolve very complicated issues in ways that meet the needs of both parties, in ways that lead us to the kind of compromise that will be necessary in order to achieve peace. President Obama and the United States are deeply committed to this peace effort, and we are committed to a peaceful, prosperous future for the people of Israel and the people of Palestine.
Now, both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas reaffirmed their commitment to these negotiations despite the fact that at moments, there are obviously tensions over one happening or another in one place or another, whether it's in Israel or in the territories. No secret that these negotiations are always difficult, particularly this kind. But I want to say something that I think is important for Palestinians and Israelis to really think about.
What is the alternative to peace? Prolonged, continued conflict? The absence of peace really means you have a sort of low-grade kind of conflict, war, whatever you want to call it. And as long as the aspirations of people are held down one way or the other in one place or another, whether it's the aspirations of the people of Israel to be free from violence, free from rockets, free from the diversion of their lives to the energy of maintaining security, or whether it's the aspirations of young Palestinians who want to go to school, get an education, have a job, have a future -- as long as there is this conflict, and if the conflict frustrates yet again so that people cannot find a solution, the possibilities of violence, of other kinds of confrontation, of other alternatives, become more real. This region has been there before, and this region consciously has made decisions and choices to try to move away from that in a different direction.
So this is really important. It's important not just for the Palestinian Territories or for Israel, but it's important to people all through the region, which is why there is an Arab Peace Initiative. It's why the follow-on committee of the Arab League has been taking time to meet, I think four or five times now. It's why they have reaffirmed their commitment to peace. It's why they have said that if we can achieve peace, they are ready to make peace with Israel.
The stakes here are huge, and obviously, the lack of peace confronts everybody with choices, frankly, that nobody wants to contemplate. This region does not benefit by continued conflict. The possibility of a peace agreement with 22 Arab countries and 35 Muslim nations, 57 countries in all, brings a whole new economic possibility to this region. At one of the meetings we had recently, I heard one Arab minister, foreign minister, say to his fellow ministers at the meeting that if peace could be made between Israel and the Palestinians, that this region would be one of the wealthiest regions in the world, one of the most visited regions in the world, with economic opportunity that dwarfs the imagination today.
So that's what these stakes are. That's what we are pursuing. And nothing, I think, is more worthy of our time. We will continue this work in the days ahead with the close cooperation of King Abdullah II, who is following in his father's great legacy of seeking peace through the important work of the Arab League as a whole, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-up Committee.
Foreign Minister Judeh and I, as I know he just shared with you, also discussed the question of Syria. We understand in the United States how impactful what is happening in Syria is on Jordan. And we care about Jordan. Jordan is not just a partner; Jordan is a great friend, and we're grateful to the Jordanian people for their commitment not just to peace, but to their efforts in the region to take in refugees to try to deal with other crises. And so we feel that it is very important for us to respect the generosity that has led Jordanians to open their doors to refugees despite the fact that it is difficult and complicated for the people of Jordan. It's a heavy toll on the economy. It's the right thing to do. At lunch, I learned today how a huge number of children -- how many in total?
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: 78,000.
SECRETARY KERRY: 78,000 Syrian children are not being left in a camp or left to their own devices; they're in schools. Jordan has made its schools open and available for Syrian children so that their education and opportunities will not be cut off as a fact of this war. That is amazingly generous and very difficult and very trying for teachers and for the schools and for the systems. So we applaud that, and that's why the United States is very proud that we are the number-one donor to the humanitarian crisis of Syria. And we will continue to work with our Jordanian partners in this effort.
We discussed today the humanitarian crisis, which has received insufficient attention from the global community. The world needs to be outraged at the unbelievable consequences of Assad's brutality, where families are forced from their homes, are displaced within their own nation, forced to eat stray dogs or cats, and struggle for survival on a day-to-day basis, while the regime blocks humanitarian aid and engages in starvation as a tactic of war. So we believe that even as winter approaches, it is more compelling for us to try to find a way to address this humanitarian challenge.
And we cannot forget that this war in Syria has much bigger stakes than just Bashar al-Assad. It has to deal with the entire question of tens of thousands of families who've lost loved ones, lost their homes, and don't want to lose their great country to an endless conflict and killing. So the global community needs to step up. We will continue to work with our partner, Jordan, in order to try to get to Geneva 2 so we can have the negotiation that is really the only way to end this conflict. We discussed trying to get there as rapidly as possible, and both Jordan and the United States will continue to work together to do that.
So, Mr. Foreign Minister, we also touched a little bit on Iran and Egypt, both issues of concern to all of us. And we pledged to continue to consult with our friends in Jordan with respect to those issues as we go forward.
Finally, I'll just say that Nasser mentioned the work he's done on the Hill, and he's grateful for the relationship there. I think that His Majesty King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Judeh have done as effective a job of reaching out and building friendships and relationships for their country, and helping to give people a sense of the stakes in this region, as any head of state or foreign minister that I've met. And I thank them for those efforts, and I particularly thank them on behalf of President Obama for their highly valued friendship and partnership. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much, John. I think the Secretary needs to get ready for his meeting this evening, so we'll take three questions if I'm not mistaken. We'll start with the Jordanian side. Let's see who's -- and then take the U.S. I love press conferences where there are no questions. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good evening. I'm Majed al-Dabbas from Ammon news agency. His Majesty The King said that Jordan would take procedures to protect its interest in case the situation escalated in Syria. Do you have understandings about the nature of these procedures or measures taken by Jordan?
My question to Mr. Kerry: Some people think that the Syrian -- the Russian policy has overcame the American policy. How do you evaluate this thing?
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: (Via interpreter) First of all, concerning His Majesty's speech and the speech at the throne, this is not the first time where His Majesty confirm our stance concerning the flow of the Syrian refugees to Jordan, and His Majesty's speech is very clear. It doesn't need clarification from myself.
What is reiterated by His Majesty that we open our heart and our country to receive our brothers from Syria who sought shelter in Jordan, fleeing away from destruction and killing. And this is the history of Jordan and of which we are very proud. Our obligation performed in fully, as His Majesty says, that there is no country in the whole world, whatever its economy or political situation, as strong or acquire natural resources can tolerate an increase of 20 to 21 percent of its population during a period which does not exceed two years.
Jordan is continuing to perform its obligation and ask for the international community to bear its responsibility for the humanitarian effort performed by Jordan on behalf of the international community. The problem is not related to the Jordan location, as a neighbor to Syria, but it is a humanitarian crisis that needs the whole world to take responsibility in it. And in the absence of this support to Jordan and which enables Jordan to show that -- this responsibility, His Majesty said that all options are open to Jordan to select whatever possible to protect our interest and our people.
However, there are many countries and many international organizations that extended help to Jordan, whether directly by opening the camp at that time and the infrastructure for Zaatari camp, or through extending aids to Jordan, which is still less -- far less than what we bear of social and economical and a political burden on Jordan. So the international community has to bear its responsibility towards Jordan performing this mission on behalf of the international community.
SECRETARY KERRY: With respect to your question about Russia (inaudible), obviously, the United States and Russia differ with respect to Assad. Russia is supporting Assad, and the United States believes that Assad has lost any legitimacy for the governance of Syria and must go.
But Russia and the United States are two countries, both members of the Permanent Five of the United Nations, and important countries that need to be able to work together, cooperate together where we can, and find ways to help solve problems. So we were very pleased to join in an initiative, which our presidents talked about in St. Petersburg, and which Sergey Lavrov and I talked about several times, to try to remove the weapons of mass destruction -- the chemical weapons -- from Syria. And we have joined together in that effort, as we have joined together to help call for Geneva 2 in order to implement Geneva 1.
So that is a shared priority, a shared sense of responsibility, and we welcome the work with Russia in an effort to try to provide stability and peace. So I don't think it's a question of one besting the other. Those are unnecessary judgments to be made about relationships. Sometimes, countries can find mutual interests that have very positive impact, and in this case that is precisely what we are doing. And I think it's very good, not just for the beneficiaries directly, but for the rest of the world to see our two nations working together in that effect.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: We'll take a question from the U.S. side, perhaps.
SECRETARY KERRY: Karen DeYoung.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Karen, yeah.
SECRETARY KERRY: Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, yep.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Good to see you again, Karen.
QUESTION: For the Secretary, when you began the peace process, you said your objective was to achieve final status agreements over the course of nine months, and you rejected suggestions that only a partial or interim agreement was acceptable. Do you still think that that's possible? On the current trip, you told King Abdullah this morning that you thought some clarity had been achieved during your meetings over the past two days. Can you provide us of any sense of what is clearer now than it was when you arrived?
And to the Minister, two stops on this trip for Secretary Kerry, both Saudi Arabia and Israel, have cautioned the Obama Administration about accepting what they called a partial nuclear agreement with Iran. Do you share their concerns? And if you do, what have you learned today from Secretary Kerry about the first-phase agreement that was described yesterday by negotiators in Geneva? And has that assuaged your concerns?
And if I can just ask both of you, on Syria, it now looks like the Geneva 2 meeting will not take place at least until December. That meeting, as you know, has been repeatedly postponed since it was first proposed earlier this year. What makes you think that the problems that led to the earlier postponements are any different now than they were before? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me answer the last part first and then come back to the first part of your question on the peace process.
With respect to the movement, I understand it might be moved by a week or something like that. The date has not been set, incidentally, and part of the reason for that is that I think -- what is today, the 7th -- two days from now, the opposition is meeting and they're having a vote, and people are trying to respect their process appropriately.
So I'm confident that somewhere in the next days a date is going to be set. And whether it's a week later or seven days -- eight days or whatever it is, two weeks later -- is not -- it's going to give people time to prepare, it's going to open up more opportunity for, I think, the variations of options to be able to be explored, and some pre-work to be done by the parties after they are named by Special Envoy Brahimi.
So I think a lot of clarity will come in the next days, and I'm not deterred by that at all. I think it's good that it is as much on everybody's minds as it is. We had a good meeting in Geneva two days ago with our -- with Under Secretary Wendy Sherman and Deputy Bogdanov of Russian, together with Brahimi, and I think we're heading in the right direction.
With respect to the peace process and clarity, do I believe, with respect to a final status element -- absolutely. An interim agreement, only if it embraces the concept of the final status, might be a step along the way, but you cannot just do an interim agreement and pretend you are dealing with the problem. We've been there before. We've had interim agreements. We've had roadmaps. But if you leave the main issues hanging out there, mischief-makers will make the most of that and bad things will happen in the interval that then make it even harder to get to the final status. It is imperative that we keep final status and settle this before it can't be settled because events on the ground or other events interfere with that possibility.
So I remain absolutely committed to this ability to get a final status solution. And do I think it is possible to do it? The answer is yes. I believe when I say clarity is coming to things, as we surface ideas in discussions with the leaders, we begin to see what range they have for moving or what possibilities there are for another alternative, or for something you haven't thought of. And that brings a clarity to the range of choices that you have and therefore it defines in a sense the needle that you have to thread as you are proceeding forward. So I think listening to everybody -- frankly, we made significant progress in our discussions about a couple of the areas of concern in the panorama of concerns that exist. But these are some of the principal ones.
And so I have promised I'm not going to go into the details of the negotiation. By agreement, all the parties are not going to discuss what we are discussing. And since I'm the one who invoked that rule, I'm not going to stand up here and break it. But it is important for us to be able to proceed carefully, quietly, and secretly, frankly. And that's what gives the leaders the ability to be able to explore different possibilities. But I'm convinced, in my own judgment, that what happened here over the course of the last day, and it's not over yet, has opened up a number of different possibilities for things that could be included as we proceed forward, and that's a constructive way in which this goes on.
Now I can't tell you precisely -- maybe in a few weeks I can give you a better sense of timing about what we're thinking about one thing or another, but for the moment we still have a nine-month period. We're only three months into this. So we have a considerable amount of discussion that has taken place, and we've got, obviously, a decent road ahead of us to continue to march down, and we intend to continue to march down it.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much for that. And if I may just add a comment on what John has just said, first of all, I agree that he shouldn't break his own rule, and one of the secrets for the success of this -- I hesitate to say process, because we've had too many processes in the past. But this is a serious negotiating process, the success of which depends on avoiding these negotiations across the airwaves, as we have seen in the past. So this is a rule, I think, that all parties are accepting and respecting, and it's important that it continues.
Now on your question, Karen, I don't know what you mean by "partial solutions." I -- whether it's the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or any other dispute, partial solutions, in my book, that leave issues hanging which could potentially come back and fly at our throats in the future, are not solutions. And therefore when we talk about the Middle East, and I don't want to go back to nuances of U.S. foreign policy at different milestones by talking about linkage or no linkage, but everything in the Middle East is connected. So there may not be a linkage when it comes to a certain file with another file that happened to be parallel, but there is a connection somehow. This is the Middle East. Everything is connected. And the overall picture is certainly one that consists of many dots that have to be connected.
We have always said that the -- a diplomatic solution, through dialogue and diplomacy, to the Iranian nuclear file is something that not only we welcome but something that we support and appreciate. I mean, look at the last three months. Look at the agreements that have come out of intensive diplomacy conducted by the United States and the Russian Federation, an agreement to eliminate the chemical weapons arsenal in Syria, an agreement to go to Geneva 2 to implement Geneva 1, overtures that took place on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly that resulted in a high-level contact between a senior U.S. official and a senior Iranian official. And there was an effort of the P5+1, and Cathy Ashton, that was ongoing for a number of years, and it has been given new impetus. And therefore the end of that line would be a solution to that file that satisfies everyone.
I mean, there is a threat of a nuclear arms race in the region, there's a threat of instability, because of that nuclear file, to the Gulf region, to the hinterland inside. There's a threat of military strikes that would cause further instability in this region. We've always said we want to avoid further factors of instability. So a diplomatic solution is not only welcome, but it has to be one that is comprehensive and that alleviates the fears of everyone concerned and bring back peace and potential peace of mind for this entire region.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) You said we are not observing or not mediators. How can we get our rights while we have continuous settlement and the problem of Jerusalem is still continuing? So we are facing a full Israeli rejection. Do you think that we have practical steps to face such rejection and reluctance by the side of Israel? And is there any American assistance concerning the Syrian refugees?
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: (Via interpreter) The most important issue when talking about (inaudible) is that there is a timeframe. This timeframe work mentioned by Mr. Kerry for nine years started in July last year -- this year, and has been there for four months. And there is an end for this road after these nine months when both sides look for the comprehensive pictures, although we have bilateral procedures on the ground that handle the peace process, but there is an end for this road. And this is expressed by Mr. Kerry frankly and clearly and with commitment.
The settlement is illegal and illegitimate. This is the position of the whole world, including the USA, and we have heard the speech of Mr. Kerry. Although the settlement should stop, but it should be solved from the root through the negotiations and whether we like or not. But we like that whether the settlement is continuing because of the occupation, the occupation should be end. And the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis have gone through real examination through some declaration of settlements and some violations for the sacred places and resulted in some killing and death. However, the more comprehensive framework and the commitment from the USA for final settlement, this would put an end for this rejection and for the suffering, and we are full of hope that this would happen.
Concerning the American assistance for the Syria refugees, it is continuing, and the USA was among the first countries that provided assistance to Jordan. And there was a visit by President Obama at the beginning of the year, and we have received assistance in this year concerning, in particular, the Syrian refugees. And also among the issues that discussed between His Majesty with Secretary Kerry about this assistance of which the USA is understanding in full the burden shouldered by Jordan. So we appreciate and value the assistance provided to Jordan.
Thank you very much.