Remarks With UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Cairo, Egypt
July 21, 2014

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us about the new aid that you’re announcing for Gaza today?

SECRETARY KERRY: Let me just say to everybody that, first of all, President Obama and all of us are deeply appreciative for the secretary-general’s significant efforts to try to help bring about a cease-fire in the conflict in Gaza. And the secretary-general has been meeting in the region, but he purposefully stayed over here a little extra time in order that we could meet and discuss ways in which we might be able to bring about or encourage the parties to embrace a cease-fire under the right circumstances.

We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel’s appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself. No country can stand by while rockets are attacking it and tunnels are dug in order to come into your country and assault your people. But always, in any kind of conflict there is a concern about civilians, about children, women, communities that are caught in it. And we are particularly trying to focus on a way to respond to their very significant needs.

On behalf of President Obama and the United States, I’m privileged to announce tonight that the United States will immediately provide $47 million in order to provide direct humanitarian assistance of no other kind but humanitarian assistance to try to alleviate some of the immediate humanitarian crisis.

And meanwhile, we will work to see if there is some way to not only arrive at a cease-fire of some kind, but to get to a discussion about the underlying issues. Nothing will be resolved by any cease-fire, temporary or long, without really getting to those issues at some point. And that’s what we need to do.

Mr. Secretary-General.

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN: Secretary Kerry, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to see you, and I’m very pleased to be joined by you today. Our joint efforts will, I hope, make a great contribution to ongoing mediation efforts by the parties in the region to end the violence. I would like to thank Secretary Kerry for his active engagement and the tireless commitment for the peace and stability in the Middle East, and in particular these days in Gaza and Israel.

Our joint efforts are rooted on three mutually reinforcing efforts. First and foremost, we must find a way to stop the violence. So many people have died. As the Secretary just said, it’s mostly civilian population, women and children. It’s very sad, it’s tragic. We have to do all what we can do. That is why I am here in support of the Egyptian mediation proposal, and I’m coming from Qatar where I met Qatari emir. And also, I met President Abbas in Doha. And I went to Kuwait and I had the very good meeting with the Kuwaiti emir who is now a chair of the League of Arab State summit meeting. Tomorrow I am going to Israel and Palestine.

And second priority should be that we are urging the parties return to a dialogue. I believe that all the options should be on the table so that they can address these issues through dialogue in a peaceful means without resorting to violence.

Thirdly, we hope that they will also address root causes of this crisis. There have been many dialogues and there have been many crises, but we have not yet been able to address all these root causes. I deeply appreciate and highly commend Secretary Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to have Middle East peace process. I sincerely hope that when a cease-fire is realized that you will immediately resume the dialogue at this time.

I full understand, fully sympathize the sufferings of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. These restrictions should be lifted as soon as possible so that people should not resort to this kind of violence as a way of expressing their grievances. At the same time, I fully appreciate the legitimate right to defend their country and citizens of Israel. Israel should also be able to live in peace and security without being endangered of their citizens.

I’m asking that Hamas should immediately stop firing rocket. While I understand all how, why Israelis has to respond militarily, but there is a proportionality. And most of the Palestinian people have been – most of the death toll are Palestinian people.

Therefore at this time our first and foremost effort should be focused on ending violence. I hope during Secretary Kerry’s and my visit in the region these days, we’ll be able to help the parties to agree to a cease-fire in a reasonable form and immediately return to dialogue and address the root causes.

And I really appreciate, again, your diplomatic efforts, and United Nations will spare no efforts. And I really appreciate your very generous humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people. UN is trying to work to mobilize necessary humanitarian assistance as much as we can, as we have been doing in the past. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Let me just say in furtherance quickly – I would like to just say in furtherance of what the secretary-general just said, we are both here in support of and in an effort to help get implemented the Egyptian initiative for the cease-fire. Israel and Egypt have encouraged that, and Israel has accepted that cease-fire proposal. So only Hamas now needs to make the decision to spare innocent civilians from this violence.

I know from talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier tonight Israel is obviously going to defend itself, but he feels deeply, as does everybody, what – the pressures that this creates on civilians. But today, Israel lost more soldiers in defense of their country, and so Israel feels this as strongly as anybody. It is important for all of us to try to make certain that we do everything possible.

Hamas now has a decision. Only Hamas is out there awaiting the decision, and we hope they will make the right decision. The secretary-general and I will both make certain that the issues that need to be discussed will be discussed if we go forward, but we must have an atmosphere within which people in all concerns and parties can come together to have those discussions.

Thank you.