Remarks With Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Villa Taverna
Rome, Italy
May 9, 2013

This video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. It’s my pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh here to Villa Taverna. Thank you very much, Nasser, for taking time to be here. We are, I would say, old and good friends. We’ve spent a lot of time together in the last few years before I became Secretary of State. And we are enormously appreciative for the incredible assistance that the Foreign Minister and King Abdullah have given to the peace process and to the relationship with the United States.

Foreign Minister Judeh was particularly helpful in helping to bring the Arab League together and in helping to lead the Arab League to a new engagement for the peace process, which I believe is very significant. King Abdullah in Jordan remains enormous committed to the possibilities of peace, and the Foreign Minister has graciously adjusted his schedule so that we could meet here in Rome as both of us travel in different directions, but recognizing the importance of this moment, particularly important because each day that goes by in the Middle East always brings the ability for someone somehow to create events that always threaten the ability of the process to continue smoothly.

And the Foreign Minister has agreed that it is absolutely critical for all of us to try to move speedily and with focus to try to get to a place where everybody understands we are engaged in a serious process to reopen negotiations. Jordan will play a key role in that. Jordan is an essential partner to peace. It borders Israel, has already engaged in many activities regarding security, regarding trade and relations, and we’re very, very grateful to King Abdullah and the Jordanians for their commitments in that regard.

But Jordan is also suffering a very significant impact of the events in Syria, and Jordan is a big stakeholder in the course of events in Syria. The Foreign Minister will work with us, as they have, to try to bring all the parties to the table so that we can effect a transition government by mutual consent on both sides, which clearly means that, in our judgment, President Assad will not be a component of that transitional government. The fourth largest city in Jordan today is a tent city, a refugee city. So Jordan feels the impact of what is happening more than any other country. And with that in mind today, President Obama has asked me to and authorized an additional $100 million in aid for humanitarian purposes, 43 million of which will be designated directly to Jordan in order to assist to relieve the burden that they are currently feeling.

And finally, I’d just say, Nasser, as we talk today about the peace process and things that could be done going forward, I just want to thank you for the longstanding commitment of Jordan to this kind of effort. King Hussein himself, in the year before he died, talked about the urgency of dignity for the Palestinian people, for Arabs living in the neighborhood. He talked about the urgency of their having the ability to share freedom of expression and peace and stability. And he talked greatly about the need for stability in the region.

King Abdullah and you remain committed to helping to make that happen, so I’m very grateful to you for sharing your thoughts here today, and more importantly, for putting yourself on the frontlines of peace, which is always difficult, and we thank you for that.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, dear friend. Thank you for receiving me here today. And I am here today meeting again with my good friend and Jordan’s friend, His Majesty’s friend, Secretary John Kerry, to build on the extremely successful visit and very productive discussions that His Majesty The King had in Washington recently with the President and the Vice President, with your good self, and many officials in the Administration, and on Capitol Hill.

If there is one thing that characterizes the relationship between Jordan and the United States, it’s that we always say it’s not just a friendship; it’s a true partnership, and it’s across the board. And this is something that we cherish and something that we believe is a strategic relationship, and we’re extremely pleased and gratified by the successful visit by President Obama to Jordan a few weeks ago. And again, the fact that we meet regularly and remain in constant touch is a reflection of that special relationship that spans more than six decades, which again, we remind has stood the test of time and many challenges, but gets stronger by the day.

So, John, I’m extremely happy to have this opportunity to discuss all that interests us and all that poses a set of challenges for both our countries. No doubt that the meeting that we had in Washington, D.C., both bilaterally and with the Arab League Peace Initiative committee representatives, will be a launching pad for a productive and overarching conversation today on your efforts, your admirable efforts, the President’s commitment and your leadership of this effort to try and bridge the gap between Palestinians and Israelis, to – and to try and end and resolve this decades of conflict, one of the longest conflicts of our contemporary times.

I mentioned just when I arrived what a challenging day yesterday was with the developments in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem being something that is very, very important not just to Arabs and Muslims around the world, but to Jordan and His Majesty and – His Majesty, the King, in particular, with the custodianship of the holy sites in Jerusalem. And we need to avoid that as much as we can. Jerusalem has to be the symbol of peace, and I think Jerusalem is a very, very important component of all the final status discussions that will take place.

So we salute the efforts that the Secretary is conducting. He’s seen everybody. He’s seen the Palestinian leadership, he’s seen the Israeli leadership frequently since he took over as Secretary of State. And I have had the pleasure of seeing him frequently as well and being in constant touch with him, and he has spoken to His Majesty, the King, and met with him several times as well. It is all an indication of what a commitment he has to see this fight through. There have been many initiatives in the past. There have been many failed attempts, false starts, and there were attempts that resulted in limited success, perhaps, and we should build on all that. And this is why it’s important to look at the history and share our thoughts and our ideas and our approaches with each other so that we can try and bring the parties back to the negotiating table, perhaps in a different way and more effective way this time. So I look forward to our discussion on them.

A key challenge, as Secretary Kerry pointed out, remains Syria today – the bloodshed, the violence, and no political solution in sight. And we are extremely encouraged by the results of the Secretary’s meetings in Moscow with the President and with the Foreign Minister and salute your achievements in that regard by identifying a path forward, I believe, and I look forward to hearing the details as I go to Moscow myself today to meet with our colleague, Sergey Lavrov. So it will be important to share with you, sir, and to hear from you and to get your insight on where we go forward. Our position in Jordan has and continues to be very clear that it has to be a transitional period that results in a political solution that includes all the segments of Syrian society, no exclusion whatsoever, all inclusive, that – one that preserves Syria’s territorial integrity and unity, and one that guarantees that pluralism and opportunity for everybody exists.

So as the Secretary pointed out, we are at the receiving end of the humanitarian spillover of that crisis with more than 525,000 Syrian refugees on Jordanian soil today, and continuing at an average rate of 2,000 a day. We have 10 percent of our population today in the form of Syrian refugees. It is expected to rise to about 20 to 25 percent given the current rates by the end of this year, and possibly to about 40 percent by the middle of 2014.

No country can cope with numbers as huge as the numbers I just described, and therefore, we appreciate the help that is coming from the international community, and particularly from the United States of America. And I’m extremely grateful for the announcement that the Secretary has just made with 42 million additional assistance to Jordan. And the more that comes, the better, but the United States has provided not just 200 million earlier, but another 42 million, and we’re extremely grateful to that – for that.

I hope that we can support each other in the weeks and months to come in that regard. We recently sent a letter to the Security Council to express the gravity of the situation when it comes to the refugees, and we thank our friends for the support that we’re getting there. We’re hoping that the United Nations will continue to shoulder its responsibility when it comes to assisting Jordan, to continue carrying this burden on behalf of the international community.

Sir, I look forward to our discussion again today, and I thank you for this opportunity, I thank you for your friendship, and may the friendship between our two countries continue forever.

SECRETARY KERRY: Inshallah. Thank you.


SECRETARY KERRY: I’ll just mention to everybody that I asked Ambassador Robert Ford to continue on from Moscow to Istanbul, which he has done, and he has already been engaged in talks with the Syrian opposition, and they’ve been very productive. And the Secretary General of the United Nations has been in touch with me with respect to the way forward for this conference. So we are going to forge ahead very, very directly to work with all of the parties to bring that conference together. I spoke yesterday with the foreign ministers of most of the countries involved, and there’s a very positive response and a very strong desire to move to this conference and to try to find, at least exhaust the possibilities of finding a political way forward.

And so we’re going to keep the focus on that, and obviously, in conjunction with our discussions about the Middle East peace process, we will also have some discussion about Syria. So thank you all very much, appreciate it.

PRN: 2013/T05-06