Remarks With Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Secretary of State
Ahmet and I have worked very, very closely on a lot of issues, and you all are very familiar with them: the question of Israel and Turkey and a rapprochement, the question of Syria enormously, and other issues on a global basis. So it’s special for me to be able to welcome him here because the U.S.-Turkey relationship is vital on so many different levels. And he and I never seem to have enough time to be able to cover all of the issues. I might say that we’ve really only begun the process today. We’ve had a bilateral meeting. We’ve had a one-on-one meeting, then we’ve had a group meeting bilateral, and now we will go to lunch and continue the conversation on a number of the issues in front of us. But I’m happy that we’ve been able to have a very, very thorough, full discussion, even to date, on almost all the issues of concern, and we’re going to continue.
Whether the challenge is Syria or Iran, Middle East peace process, the future of our NATO alliance, or ensuring our economic prosperity, the U.S. and Turkey share strategic goals. And as the Foreign Minister put it in a recent article that he wrote, the U.S. and Turkey both seek a sustainable, peaceful regional and global order rooted in good governance and democratic accountability. We also appreciate how much hard work we have to do together and with our allies and partners to achieve all of these objectives.
In Syria, our objective together and with our friends and allies is to stop the bloodshed once and for all. And to do that, we agree that we must get the parties to the negotiating table. We are moving closer to that, literally, day by day now, and we commend the opposition’s recent vote to participate in a Geneva II conference, where we hope to forge the political solution to this conflict. I’ve had conversations when I was recently in Geneva with Foreign Minister Lavrov. I’ve had telephone conversations with fellow foreign ministers over the course of the last week, and now a face-to-face meeting with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, and we are all committed to this goal and will remain so.
Today, we also talked about the way that we can tackle together and with other friends the rising extremism of the region, which threatens not only Syria’s future but it threatens its neighbors, and obviously, in this case, Turkey. We discussed the horrific humanitarian situation that exists inside Syria; and by preventing vital aid from reaching those who need it, the Assad regime is now using a policy of starvation as a weapon of war. That is against the laws of war. It is against human conscience. It is unacceptable, and we are going to continue to press in order to deal with it. I talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov over the weekend about this issue, and we are going to continue to find ways, all together, in order to address it.
We commend Turkey’s remarkable generosity in hosting over 600,000 Syrian refugees now, as well as its vaccination program for 1 million children that they just announced today. And the United States is proud to have provided an additional 96 million in assistance to refugees to Turkey. That’s part of our now 1.3 billion that the American people have graciously and generously provided in order to relieve this humanitarian crisis, and America is proudly the number one donor in order to deal with this crisis.
We also discussed Iran and the key role that Turkey has played in helping to enforce the sanctions that have brought Iran to the negotiating table. This was the very purpose of these sanctions, and we are achieving the goal of at least getting to the negotiation. Now we obviously need to achieve something at that table. We need to remain united in our goal of ensuring that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon.
Now, I’ve heard a lot of back and forth in the last days and we respect the vigorous debate; we really do. But the bottom line is that we all agree, all of us, that there must be a verifiable, certain, failsafe process by which the guarantee of not getting a nuclear weapon is clear to all. That means our friends in Israel, that means our friends in the region, and that, of course, means all of us here in the United States and the United States Congress.
As we discussed today, the first step that the P5+1 is working on would stop the Iranian program from advancing while you engage in the negotiation to get to that situation where you have a comprehensive agreement and the guarantees that I talked about. We also want to commend Turkey for its recent high-level meetings with Iraq, which are important to every part of what is happening there, particularly in Iraq itself as well as with respect to Syria.
Turkey plays, as I said, a very large role in so many ways. For months now, we have been talking about Cyprus and we have been talking about Nagorno-Karabakh. And quietly, we have been trying to work ways that our ambassadors, who are front and center in this – in these initiatives, are continuing that process. Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators are making important progress, and we urge all parties to make the most of the current window of opportunity and to restart comprehensive talks.
I talked with both President Aliyev and President Sargsian in the last 48 hours – or I guess the last 72, anyway – and they are meeting shortly. We are urging that process to move forward, and we will continue to be engaged in that.
And of course, the relationship between the United States and Turkey is also defined by our work to promote prosperity for our people, the economic opportunities for all of our peoples, as well as across the world.
In September, we launched a high-level committee headed by the U.S. Trade Representative and the Turkish Minister of the Economy, and they will focus on developments between the U.S., EU, and the TTIP negotiations, as we call them. We will monitor any impacts on Turkey and closely continue to find ways to strengthen our economic ties, which are growing every year, and continue to work with Turkey on this process as we go forward.
The United States is particularly encouraged by the historic Kurdish peace agreement – process, I should say – we hope agreement – the Turkish process and the recent announcement by Turkey of several domestic reforms. Implementing these changes will spur greater openness and greater freedom in Turkish society, which the former – the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister completely embrace, and which we encourage them and commit to working with them in order to try to promote going forward.
The United States firmly believes all of these things that I’ve just mentioned are the fundamentals of our future of prosperity. Strengthening due process and freedoms of the press, expression, and assembly always strengthens the nation as a whole. And as the Minister has said, the U.S.-Turkish partnership is values-based and founded on universal principles of fundamental rights and democratic norms, and we appreciate the way in which Turkey is consistently moving, as we are, to try to improve our approach to each and every one of those challenges.
So as you can see, there is a lot on our plate today. I think there are only a few countries – you can count them on one or two hands – who work on as many issues together as effectively as we are working on them. And we are both stronger when we tackle these challenges and create opportunities together. So Ahmet, thank you for you partnership at this critical moment for both of our countries, and thank you so much for Turkey’s support and partnership with us on so many issues of regional and global concern. We appreciate it.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. Thank you, John, for this excellent hospitality and excellent weather. I welcomed John to Turkey during spring three times. I always was feeling very guilty not to reciprocate with a visit and after Prime Minister’s visit to Washington in May. It is a great pleasure for me to meet you again and within this excellent atmosphere.
Of course, we met several times on many occasions meanwhile last in New York, and sometimes every week we are having telephone consultations, conversations. This is an excellent opportunity. I always followed your very active dynamic diplomacy, John, from Middle Eastern peace process to engagement with Iran, in all fields. I don’t know how many times you came to our region. This is – you are the most – the fast moving foreign minister or Secretary of State in the history, I am sure.
SECRETARY KERRY: I have to keep ahead of these guys. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: And any time, of course, it will be a pleasure to host you again, and we will continue to work together. And always, as Turkey and as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, I myself and our government has been supporting all of your initiatives – diplomatic initiatives, Middle Eastern peace process and many other initiatives you are leading.
First of all, let me express my sympathies for the loss of lives and destruction caused by the tornadoes in and around state of Illinois. And this is our sympathy as Turkish Government, Turkish nation. Whether there is any loss of lives in, whichever reason it happens, Turkey will be always shoulder-to-shoulder with American nation everywhere.
Today, we had again an excellent opportunity to discuss several issues. When I was listening you, John, it was an excellent summary. I thought, what else should I say? And you can imagine how Turkish-American common (inaudible), it’s so widespread from the frozen conflicts like Cyprus and Nagorno-Karabakh, for last 40 years, 30 years conflicts until today the existing conflicts next to us in Syria or in the Middle East, we are always working together. And in this sense, as I wrote in my article – thank you very much for your reference to the article – our partnership is a value-based partnership. And therefore, President Obama used the right terminology. It is a model partnership. Of course, sometimes there will be difference of opinion or other synergy which we need to do more, but this value-based model partnership will continue forever, and will be one of the main asset for international community to resolve any issue.
And it is very structured partnership. We have several mechanisms, and I am also grateful for mentioning this high-level comity on TTIP, which is very important for us because we see Turkish-American relation not only as a security-based strategic cooperation but as a cooperation on democracy, economic prosperity, for our nations and for the global society. In this sense, there are many challenges in front of us, especially regarding the developments in the Middle East and in Syria.
We had an excellent meeting in London. Eleven countries agreed on a framework. And today, we confirmed again that as Turkey and the United States, we will do everything possible to end this bloodshed, to help victims of this crisis in Syria, and to make a diplomacy possible in Geneva II. In London we agreed together as 11 ministers that this new process of Geneva II will not be an open-ended process which will continue months and years, and will be a process leading to a political transition with full executive power by a transitioning governing body. And there also we agreed that we need to work with Syrian National Coalition, especially for them to join this process. And after our joint effort with the United States, our teams worked very efficiently in several meeting thrusts, after several meetings with Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul in other places, now they agreed to come to Geneva II and based on the principles of London meeting. This is success, and this success is joint – is a result of a joint effort of our teams.
And from now on, our objective is to organize this conference as early as possible, because even in one day, one hour a day in this process, cause many loss of – other loss of lives. And as you said, Bashar Assad, who committed many crimes, using chemical weapons, using missiles, attacking cities, urban areas, now he’s implementing a policy of starvation. People in Damascus and in many other parts of Syria are dying because of illness, diseases, and hunger. They cannot find anything to eat and drink. It is a responsibility of international community and responsibility of all of us, to end these crimes against humanity. And as Turkey and the United States, we will continue to work on this. And today it was a very fruitful consultation for the next steps we will be taking together for the success of Geneva conference.
And also it is a great opportunity for us to share our views on Iran, Iranian nuclear program. I am sure you have been following how Turkey worked in the past in order to end this issue, because as Turkey, we don’t want to see any nuclear weapon in the region. We don’t want any state obtaining nuclear weapon. But at the same times – at the same time, we are in favor of peaceful access of nuclear technology. So based on these two principles, we will always support P5+1 Iran negotiations, John. And we appreciate and very strategic approach of President Obama’s engagement policy with Iran and your very efficient diplomacy to make this engagement in a positive way for a resolution of this longstanding issue in the region. If there is a solution in coming weeks, I am sure that will be a big – a great news to ease the tensions in our region, and that will affect all other issues in positive faith. I can assure that as Turkey, we will support this process. We will support your efforts in P5+1 Iran talks. And whatever Turkey is expected to do, Turkey will do everything possible to ease this tension.
On Middle Eastern peace efforts you are leading, John, again, we give full support. We wish success. And whenever you go to the region, we always expect good news from you. And I hope in coming visit, there will be more progress. And whatever is needed to be done again for any peace initiative in the Middle East, Turkey is ready to contribute and to work together.
Your reference to Iraq is very important. Iraq is one of the most important neighbors of Turkey. And my visit to Iraq last week was very successful, not only successful in restoring our relations in positive faith but also successful in the sense of a clear message to the people of Iraq and to the people of the region that Turkey will be doing everything possible to prevent sectarian tension in the region. And the timing of the visit was important. During Muharram, I visited Najaf and Karbala. I didn’t meet only with Prime Minister Maliki, but I also had chance and honor to meet Ayatollah al-Sistani and other Shiite and Sunni religious leaders.
Again, with the United States and with other allies, we need to work together to prevent sectarian and ethnic tensions in the region. Turkey will continue to have excellent relations with all the parties in Iraq. I am sure you followed very closely recent visit of Mr. Barzani to Diyarbakir. This shows that Turkey is – has a strategy of acting and sectarian peace in the region – in Iraq and in the region. And our relation with Iraq will be strengthened. And as the United States and Turkey, we will work together for the stability in Iraq and also for the stability in the region.
Regarding Nagorno-Karabakh and Cyprus, on Nagorno-Karabakh we have been consulting through several mechanisms, co-chairs of Minsk Group and other bilateral consultations. And we hope that this frozen conflict will be ending soon. And that will bring peace to Caucasia; that will bring peace to the region beyond Caucasia. Therefore, today I am happy to see that John and me and Turkey and the United States look to this issue from the same perspective, and we hope that this meeting between President Sargsyan and President Aliyev will be successful.
After a few days, I will be in St. Petersburg with Prime Minister Erdogan. This was a good chance of consultation with John about these coming visits to Russia and Iran. And our relation with Russia will – and peace consultations will be bringing positive contribution in all the regional issues in Caucasia and the Middle East. And Turkey and the United States will continue to work together in all different challenging issues in front of us.
Thank you for your hospitality. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thanks, Ahmet.
MS. PSAKI: Our first question will be from Margaret Brennan of CBS News.
QUESTION: Thank you, and thank you to both of you.
Mr. Secretary, do you expect negotiators to sign a deal with Iran in Geneva this week? Prime Minister Netanyahu seems to be saying he’s going to re-litigate the issue with you. Is that necessary? And on the question of Syria, you negotiated the basis for this OPCW agreement to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons. It appears to be stalled; no countries agreed to take the weapons. Albania rejected the U.S. request to do so. What are you doing to move that along?
And Minister Davutoglu, if you could tell us if you think – on the issue of Syria – if this discussion of chemical weapons is just a distraction from the violence that threatens your borders.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Sorry?
QUESTION: A distraction from the violence that continues to threaten your border in Turkey.
SECRETARY KERRY: Do you want to go ahead? Go have at it.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Please.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I have no specific expectations with respect to the negotiation in Geneva except that we will negotiate in good faith and we will try to get a first-step agreement and hope that Iran will understand the importance of coming there prepared to create a document that can prove to the world that this is a peaceful program. That’s always been our standard. Now, I’m not going to negotiate this in public. We all need to be respectful of each other’s processes here and positions. And so I think it’s best to leave that negotiation to the negotiating table. And it will begin on Wednesday and I will be here. I’m testifying on Thursday before the U.S. Congress on – before the Senate on the Disabilities Treaty, and we’ll see what develops as to whether or not we can get close and get this done.
With respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Prime Minister and I – first of all, we are good friends. We’ve known each other for almost, what, 30 years or maybe more. I have great respect for his concerns about his country. The Prime Minister should express his concerns, and he has every right in the world to publicly state his position and defend what he perceives as his interests. We believe deeply in our commitment to Israel – deeply. And I have a long voting record, 100 percent record of support for our friends in Israel. And I can assure those friends and everybody else watching this that nothing that we are doing here, in my judgment, will put Israel at any additional risk. In fact, let me make this clear: We believe it reduces risk. We believe it helps all of us to move closer to this goal of achieving the comprehensive agreement that I talked about earlier.
The Prime Minister and I are talking several times a week. We talked over the weekend. We discussed timing and what may occur. I may not be able to get to – it looks as if I probably will not be able to get there over the course of this weekend, but I am committed to going in order to engage in the ongoing discussions that we are currently engaged in shortly after the Thanksgiving break, as soon as we can work out the timing. And that’s a priority for me and it doesn’t change. We remain deeply committed to this ongoing dialogue, to our friendship, and we intend to consult frequently and deeply about everything that we are engaged in.
With respect the OPCW process being stalled, on the contrary, a remarkable event is unfolding under the eyes of the world. The chemical weapons of one country are being corralled and moved and contained and placed under the supervision of an international organization which is committed to removing those weapons from Syria by the end of the year – by the end of the year. And I believe we are on target currently to achieve that. Now, while one country or another may have examined the question of taking those weapons under their jurisdiction in order to destroy them, we are not without other alternatives. In fact, we are actively pursuing two other alternatives which provide us a complete capacity to do the destruction and to meet the schedule.
So we’re on schedule, and I think it’s a remarkable thing that this cooperation that began in Geneva between Russia and the United States – or began earlier than Geneva; it began with telephone calls and conversations in St. Petersburg – is now actually being affected so effectively with the United Nations engagement with multiple countries aiding and assisting, and is on schedule and getting the job done. This is a great example of why multilateral organization and multilateral energy and commitment is so critical to all of us. I’m not going to crow about it till the job’s done, but we’re on track and we’re proud of the course that we’re on, and we are far from stalled. We are very much in business and we have alternatives as to how this will be destroyed.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Thank you, John. Yes, Turkey is the most affected country because of the crisis in Syria, because we have the longest border: 911 kilometers long. So on this border, of course, it is getting a national security issue for Turkey. Turkey has been affected because of this humanitarian tragedy. As John mentioned now, we have more than 600,000 refugees who came from Syria not for holiday unfortunately, but in order to escape from these air bombardments, missiles, and massacres.
Of course, they are our guests. We will do everything possible. It’s our humanitarian responsibility. We spent $2 billion and Turkish nation opened their hearts, their doors, to these people and embraced them as their brothers and sisters. And we will continue this policy from humanitarian perspective. But at the same time, beyond this humanitarian issue, Turkish border security has been affected negatively because there is not any orderly public authority on the other side of the border. In these type of cases, if two sides of the border are not – do not have equal authority to control, you will have – you will always face problems.
Therefore, in last two and a half years, there’s an increasing threat to Turkish national security. And for us – today, I mentioned to Secretary Hagel as well – of course, Syrian issue is important for us, but our first concern is Turkish national security. And the situation in Syria is threatening Turkish national security. Every day, there are some attempts by Syrian air forces to violate or coming and bombarding close to our border, and we had to take certain measures. And at the same time, every day we are receiving more and more refugees escaping, and this is affecting. On the other side of the border, there is no control and this creates a power vacuum which might be used by extremists groups.
And there are two threats now to Turkish national security: one is Syrian regime itself because of the policies; the second is those extremists groups which are misusing and exploiting this power vacuum for their ill intentions. Therefore, it is important to end this crisis as early as possible. When the crisis prolongs, these type of threats are emerging. And Turkey will be doing everything possible for humanitarian issues and for our national security and border control, but is not only Turkish responsibility. It is responsibility of international community to end this crisis in order to prevent these threats against Turkey and other neighboring countries.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Foreign Minister, you were in Iraq a couple weeks ago, and you stated that we are opening a new page with Iraq. What does Turkey want to see on this new page? And we know that you are going to Russia and few days later to Iran. What is Turkey hoping will come out this visit?
And Mr. Secretary, can Turkey trust U.S. will fully be on its side when it struggles with the prospect of failed state in Syria, largely due to ineffectiveness of international community so far? What concrete plans does your Administration have to have is huge humanitarian and security burden over Turkey’s shoulders?
And also Mr. Foreign Minister, could you give some comment at this point? Did you feel U.S. Government has sent mixed signals to Ankara or left Turkey abandoned?
And quick question, Mr. Secretary – (laughter) – just Middle East peace for a second.
SECRETARY KERRY: That’s what we call in the law a leading question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, just on the Middle East process, Prime Minister Netanyahu said you will be in Israel on Friday. You have said Israeli settlements are illegal, a barrier to peace, and U.S. Government has been saying this for more than 30 years. What is difference now? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Go ahead. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Two ladies asks so many questions, not two questions. The gentleman will ask for gender equality. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: She asked you first, but I’m happy to go first.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Okay, okay, thank you. Thank you very much. About the new page on Iraq, yes, my visit was very successful, but it was a visit after so many other diplomatic meetings. The Speaker of the Parliament Nujaifi came to Turkey. We met with Hoshyar Zebari several times. Hoshyar Zebari visited Turkey. And this – we prepared the ground for my visit.
And three basic messages was there in my visit: First is, Turkey wants to have excellent bilateral relations, cooperation, and economic integration, if possible, with Iraq. That has been our intention when we established High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council mechanism first with Iraq. Now what we are doing, what we have decided with Prime Minister Maliki, is the preparatory meeting of this High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council will be completed soon. And Prime Minister Maliki in his visit – was probably late December, early January – there will be a High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council mechanism where all the important ministers will be accompanying Prime Minister Maliki, and we will have joint cabinet meeting in Turkey.
Second message was that Turkey is supporting ethnic and sectarian peace in Iraq, and Turkey will supporting the electoral process, and Turkey’s happy that a date has been declared for the general elections in Iraq. And Turkey’s at equal distance to all the groups in Iraq, and I am happy that the same messages were shared by United States as well. And we will support this process of election, and we will give the same message to all Iraqi parties. When Massoud Barzani – Mr. Barzani came to Diyarbakir, we also shared these views, and I shared with other Sunni and Shiite leaders when I was in (inaudible). (Inaudible) message, which is really even as important as the others, is a message to the region that we don’t want sectarian tension. With the leaders – Sunni and Shiite leaders – we shared this same concern, and as Turkey and Iraq – once we have good relations and in full solidarity, I am sure that will be the right message to those who want to provocate sectarian tension and war in our region. We will not tolerate, and I am happy to see the same political will on the Iraqi side that they are ready to work with us, that these scenarios of sectarian war in our region will not be successful.
About our visit to Russia and Iran – in fact, this month, we had several visits – but to Russia, we are going for High Level Cooperation Council meeting. Like Iraq, we have this mechanism with Russia, and Prime Minister Erdogan and President Putin will be co-chairing this joint cabinet meeting and Cooperation Council mechanism. There we discuss – we will discuss bilateral issues and new projects of cooperation. But at the same time, of course, as I said before, we will be consulting on Syria, Caucasia, and all other pending issues international, and that will be an excellent opportunity. After my visit to Washington, the same week, I will be visiting Tehran and (inaudible). So with this excellent consultation here, we will have the same opportunity of consultation with Russia and Iran on these difficult files.
In Tehran, again, this will be my first visit after the new government. Although I went for immigration ceremony, this will be bilateral visit. And we are preparing President Rouhani’s visit to Turkey and Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to Tehran. Of course, we will be sharing not only bilateral issues, but also P5+1, Iran negotiations, as well as all regional issues from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Syria to Lebanon, and other regional issues. And that will be another good opportunity to create a common position in all these difficult files.
SECRETARY KERRY: Every fact in our relationship – every fact in our relationship – speaks to the trust that is built on an ongoing basis between our countries. And the fact is that Turkey is a NATO ally. The United States is supporting Turkey with respect to its border challenges and the unrest in Syria. The United States is working extremely closely on a daily basis with their officials and ours, cooperating completely with respect to Syria. We have consistent sharing of intelligence. We work on strategy. We are both involved on the challenges of the borders with respect to humanitarian assistance.
As you just heard, Turkey has put in 2 billion, and some of that internally in its own country. We’ve delivered over 1.3 billion in aid in order to help. We are collaborating and working closely together with respect to the London 11. We’ve been meeting consistently with respect to this challenge of Syria and the region. Ahmet and I talk some weeks several times, and then certainly once every week or two weeks we’re on the phone together. We have a constant discussion. And I think that if you look at the work we’ve done together with respect to Israel and Turkish relations where we’ve cooperated, the visit of Prime Minister Erdogan to here, to the United States, the President’s statements, this relationship is strong, and nobody should try to get in the way of it and suggest questions about its durability. We are working with Turkey with respect to European membership. We would love to see – we’ve been supportive of that for a long time. We’re encouraging that dialogue to continue.
So there are so many things that we are really engaged in that any neutral observer would have to look at this relationship and say, “Wow, these guys are really working together and they’ve got mutual interests.” And that’s what really brings nations together – when you share values, you share interests. Sometimes we have a disagreement. That’s okay. Friends can have disagreements as long as they respect each other about how they deal with it and how they are proceeding forward. So I’m very confident about this relationship going forward, and as I said to you earlier, we’re grateful for the work Turkey has done with us on so many different issues.
With respect to the Middle East peace process – and one other thing about – you asked about failed states and failing states in the region. Those are our interests too. We are deeply concerned about failed or failing states. And the United States believes in helping to bring about the stability of that region. It is not just of interest to Turkey or to Jordan or to Iraq or Lebanon. It is of great interest to us, and has been for many, many years. And we will not move away from or walk away from or turn away from that interest that is at the forefront of what President Obama talked about at the United Nations and remains a center of his foreign policy.
On the question of the Middle East peace process and the settlements and sort of – “What’s the difference,” is what you asked. Well, the difference is enormous. First of all, we have said that the settlements are illegitimate, and the United States policy has always opposed these settlements. And you saw an effort during the first four years of the Obama Administration to try to achieve a freeze on those settlements. For a temporary period of time, it was achieved. But then other things changed, and so that’s not the current framework within which we find ourselves.
But if you look back in history, few administrations have been able to begin on day one of a second term to focus on the Middle East peace process. Too often it’s been in the final months or in latter months. So we now have three years-plus ahead of us here to continue to work on this. I don’t want it and President Obama doesn’t want it, and I don’t think Prime Minister Netanyahu or Israelis want it to drag on for that long. We believe that there is a difference in the air today in all parties. The Israelis have taken great risks. Even when they made decisions with respect to Gaza or Lebanon and rockets came at them, nevertheless, they are still committed to peace, and the vast majority of the people in Israel are committed to a two-state solution. And Prime Minister Netanyahu, to his credit, has said, “We’re going to negotiate,” and believes it is worth trying to find a way to change the status quo. And he took great risks in the decision he made and the formula he accepted to come back to these talks. The world should credit him and Israel for doing that.
The Palestinians likewise have made a commitment to come to this process. The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has given up what is his ability to take issues to the United Nations for a period of time because he’s committed to be part of this process. And he has taken political heat for that, but he believes it’s the right thing to do to be at the negotiating table. The Arab community, through the Arab League, has a committee of foreign ministers who are following these negotiations, who have recommitted to the Saudi King’s creative peace proposal of a number of years ago, which has now been updated and now includes a sort of state-of-the-art 2013 recognition of how one might achieve territorial solution here.
So there’s a lot of energy going into this, a lot of people supporting it outside, in Europe. The Japanese have made a commitment recently, others, to do things. There’s a great deal of support. And I think that makes this different, because people understand that this is a crisis, a conflict that has been locked in a place for too long, and that the benefits of peace for everybody are significant enough to be working for them. So that’s what’s driving this, and our hope is that over the next weeks, months, progress can conceivably be made. But we’re going to try to exhaust every possibility that is available in order to put that to the test, and that’s where we’re heading with this.
And I think that with respect to the visit that – you asked the question – let me reiterate: Originally, we thought that I was going to try to travel this weekend, but because I’m testifying before the Senate on Thursday and the timing gets sort of difficult, it’s going to be very hard to be able to fit that in right before the Thanksgiving holiday. And I pleaded guilty of wanting to be able to spend some time with my family over the course of the Thanksgiving holiday, so we agreed that it would be better to try to do this after that, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. But nobody should interpret anything from that except my schedule and my challenges.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Just – I forget to answer your question about mixed signals.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: I think there is no need of sending any signals, even not-mixed or – mixed or not-mixed. There is – in our relations, we have always had channels of communication, not signals. We don’t need signals. And we still remember how President Obama welcomed our Prime Minister in May in an extraordinary way of hospitality, and both – Prime Minister Erdogan everywhere, he praises President Obama’s leadership, and President Obama always praise our Prime Minister and our President’s contributions to global peace. And between us, we met I don’t know how many times in less than a year, and how many telephone calls? Once I remember there – we spoke three times by phone, and my wife rebelled. She said, “Maybe I should call you as well to consult some family issues by phone. It is easier to reach you by phone other than seeing each other.” (Laughter.)
So we are – so therefore, there is no signal between us. There are – since there is a sincere dialogue, consultation, and not-mixed or not – mixed or not-mixed signals, but there is no signals. Direct, sincere, friendly, if sometimes needed, very frank also consultation between us, because we are working not only for our nations, but for regional and global peace. And that will continue forever between Turkish presidents, leaders, as well as American, Turkish ministers of foreign affairs forever. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much.