Secretary Kerry Remarks on Middle East Process

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 30, 2013

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, why was yesterday’s acknowledgement by the Arab League, in the person of Qatar’s Prime Minister, that a peace deal in the Middle East is going to require land swaps? Why is that so significant to you, given that it was already sort of baked into the Clinton parameters of the year 2000?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, with respect to the meeting yesterday with the Arab ministers, let me make a number of things very, very clear. First of all, whatever was baked into the Clinton parameters was said by President Clinton, not by the Arab League. And we are now years beyond – 10 years-plus beyond the original statement of the Arab initiative. I think everybody would agree that when the Arab initiative was first set forth, it never received the full focus and full attention and recognition for the importance of the initiative that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was undertaking.

And so now since then, there have been changes on the ground. There’s been a significant, obviously, amount of disagreement between different countries, conflict in Israel, disappointment in the Oslo process, in other processes – Prime Minister Olmert, others. So there’s a confusion, frankly, in a lot of people’s minds.

When I have been in Israel in recent days, a lot of people have asked me: What are the Arabs going to do? What is the Arab attitude towards peace at this point in time? And so the Arab community – and I think they should be thanked for this – saw fit to come here to the United States as a delegation of the Arab League to make it clear that they are re-launching the Arab Peace Initiative.

And many people haven’t focused on what it does. Let me be very specific about what it does. Number one, if the Palestinians and Israelis reach a final status agreement between them, then the Arab community, 22 Arab countries and 57 Muslim countries that have signed up as members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, all of them have agreed, number one, that they would consider the conflict ended; number two, that they would establish the normalization of relations with Israel; number three, that they would enter into peace agreements with Israel; and number four, that they would provide security for all states in the region. In other words, they are offering a security arrangement for that region.

This is literally a statement by the Arab world that they are prepared to make peace providing the Palestinians and Israelis reach a final status agreement. I don’t think you can underestimate the – I don’t underestimate the significance of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, [United] Arab Emirates, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, and others coming to the table and saying, “We are prepared to make peace now in 2013,” but one more thing: Unlike the agreement, the proposal that was put forward originally which only talked about ’67 lines, nothing else, yesterday they stated that they are prepared to accept ’67 borders with adjustments to reflect mutually agreed-upon land swaps, recognizing some of the changes that have taken place.

That is a very big step forward. In fact, Israeli Justice Minister Livni said, quote, “It sends a message to the Israeli public that this is not just about us and the Palestinians.” It’s bigger than that. And I think, therefore, that it’s significant. We have a lot of homework to do, a lot of tough hurdles to get over, but each step forward is the way you get there. And the old saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Well, President Obama began that step when he went to Israel, offered a vision for peace. He instructed me to continue that work. We’re taking more steps. Yesterday was another step. And we’re going to continue to march forward and try to bring people to the table despite the difficulties and the disappointments of the past.