Remarks With Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh After Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Amman, Jordan
November 13, 2014

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: (Via interpreter) In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful. At the outset, I would like to welcome a friend of His Majesty King Abdullah to Jordan, as well as to me personally, he – His Excellency, the Secretary of State of the United States of America. I do welcome him in this important visit and at this particular important moment. We have been honored today with a bilateral meeting as His Majesty King Abdullah received Secretary Kerry. And over the past 48 hours, they were – they covered different significant diplomatic deliberations and talks starting with the meetings with President Abbas yesterday. And today, His Majesty the King received Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry.

And this evening, His Majesty the King, there was a bilateral – trilateral meeting where His Majesty met President Netanyahu – Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as Secretary of State. And they discussed coaxial issues, including Jerusalem and the Holy Shrines, and they took a lot of time. And their discussion and all the developments that have taken place over the recent few weeks were at the core of the issue and they have led to more instability.

His Majesty, during his meeting with Mr. Kerry this afternoon, explained Jordan’s position and the stance regarding the necessity of maintaining the status quo of the Holy Shrines, and they should not be touched or affected by any means. And this is part of the Hashemite custody of these Christian and Muslim sanctities in Jerusalem. And you are well aware also that when Jordan took some measures, there was confirmation on the part of the Israeli nation, Israeli state, and they showed commitment that they will maintain the status quo and respect the Jordanian role, and also respect the peace treaty between the two countries. And this is what also has been stated during the trilateral meeting this evening.

And you will listen also to the outcomes of this trilateral meeting. There are mechanisms and communications underway, including practical measures to de-escalate the tension and that maintain the status quo without getting it affected by such tensions.

During the bilateral meeting with Mr. Kerry, there were extensive negotiations regarding all the developments across the region. And we will go back to the Palestinian-Israeli problem. There were also discussions regarding the Syrian crisis and the U.S. as well as Jordan’s commitment to go back to the peaceful solution. It will be the only solution that will stop destruction, violence, instability, and the disintegration across the Syrian scene. This is Jordan’s stance, and it is in harmony with the U.S. stance as well.

There has been also talks about anti-terrorism and anti-extremism. And His Majesty the King stressed – and I also stressed during my negotiations and talks with Mr. Kerry – that this is the battle of moderate Islam against extremism and against (inaudible). Therefore, talks addressed this issue as well – including other issues.

With respect to the peace process, you are well aware that Mr. Kerry and the Obama Administration are committed to find a peaceful solution that addresses all the final status issues and that the two parties should come back to peace process. Mr. Kerry is a man of peace, and he has proven this through his intensive and focused efforts over one year as the Secretary of State and also for the case as the head of a committee at the Congress. He is a man who is renowned for his efforts inside the United States and outside the United States. And we have seen the Secretary of State in more than one year meeting all the stakeholders, particularly the Palestinian and Israeli sides. In addition, other countries who have high interest in peace, like the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Republic of Egypt – he met with them scores of times. And I think the meetings that His Excellency Kerry has been unprecedented, and this confirms U.S. commitment and Mr. Kerry’s commitment to this peace process. He is now attempting to repave the way for coming back to a negotiation – and negotiations and to stop unilateral actions and measures, and we do support him in these efforts.

Once again, it is our high interest, and our national interest requires and entails the two-state solutions according to international legitimacy, especially the Arab Peace Initiative. Therefore, I would like to say that the trilateral meeting that was held this evening with the Israeli prime minister has already addressed the issue through the monitoring and follow-up of the Jordanian efforts. It also focused basically on the efforts being put forth by Mr. Kerry in order to revive the situation, to come back to negotiations. Another important aspect under the trilateral negotiations – a telephone conference with President Sisi was also conducted. And, as you know, Egypt is a basic and a key country when we talk about the issues of this region, as well as the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Therefore, I would like to conclude here that part – or a significant part of our talks today included the distinguished bilateral relationships, and we have extended our thanks for their continued efforts to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, especially in helping Jordan to shoulder the tremendous burden. And through the U.S. economic assistance and help, we have been able to bear the situation. We have extended our thanks, and we have discussed so many aspects of these distinguished bilateral relationships.

I do welcome His Excellency, and I do extend my thanks for his efforts towards peace. And this is in harmony with His Majesty’s and the Kingdom’s position towards peace in order to have a stable region without terror and without turmoil. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much. Good evening to everybody, and I am particularly grateful to my good friend, Nasser Judeh, who tonight I learned is the longest-serving foreign minister in the history of Jordan. So – and I asked him – I said, “Are you going to look like that on those portraits that are hanging out there?” And he said – that’s when he informed me that until recently, one of them was the longest serving. Now I’m standing beside him. So I’m honored to be here with him. And I have to tell you, he is a very valued partner and a very skilled diplomat, and somebody that we rely on for great collaboration and for very significant advice and counsel. And I thank him for his friendship very, very much.

I also particularly want to thank His Majesty King Abdullah, who is a gracious host, but also a courageous leader who understands how important this moment is and how critical it is to move forward. And I thank him for his exhaustive personal efforts in trying to resolve some of the region’s most difficult challenges, whether it’s Syria and Iraq, ISIL, or the longstanding conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Through all of these challenges, one constant has been the enormously constructive role that Jordan has played under difficult circumstances in order to try to resolve those challenges. And we’re very grateful and we admire those efforts.

I had a very productive meeting this morning with President Abbas, and Foreign Minister Judeh and I, as he just mentioned to you, have come here directly from a trilateral meeting, a discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and with His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan.

President Abbas and I this morning discussed constructive steps, real steps – not rhetoric, but real steps that people can take in order to de-escalate the situation and create a climate where we can move forward in a positive and constructive way. President Abbas strongly restated his firm commitment to nonviolence, and he made it clear that he will do everything possible to restore calm and to prevent the incitement of violence and to try to change the climate.

We particularly talked about the urgent need to address the greatest tension between Israelis and Palestinians beginning with the imperative, the absolute need to uphold the status quo regarding the administration of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and to take affirmative steps to prevent provocations and incitement. In the trilateral meeting this evening, we discussed, as Nasser has explained to you, specific and practical actions that both sides can take to restore calm. The Jordanians and the Israelis have agreed – the Jordanians, obviously, in their historic role as the custodians of the Haram al-Sharif – and the Israelis joined together as they have worked since 1967 to administer the Haram al-Sharif, to make sure that they de-escalate the situation, and that the steps they take will instill confidence that the status quo will be upheld.

So I say to all people who are interested in this: There are firm commitments, particularly from the custodian of the holy mosque, as well as Israel, to guarantee that they will take these steps. Now, I know that the first question will be: “So exactly what are those steps?” And the answer is we’re not going to lay out each practical step. It is more important that they be done in a quiet and effective way, but they will be noticeable and they will be effective, and I am convinced of that. And I also believe that obviously not all of it can happen overnight. Not every message will reach every person immediately. And not everyone will automatically change in one moment.

But the leadership is committed, I am convinced, on the basis of their discussion tonight and to the seriousness of purpose that they both exhibited. And President – in Prime Minister Netanyahu traveling here to make the effort to have this discussion; King Abdullah being willing to host it; and the length of time we spent discussing it, makes it clear to me that they are serious about working in the effort to create this de-escalation, to take steps that will instill confidence that the status quo will be upheld.

Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to uphold the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and to implement these steps. And King Abdullah also agreed to continue to take affirmative steps to restore calm and implement practical measures to prevent further escalation of tensions. And obviously, the proof is not in the words; the proof is in the actions.

In our trilateral discussion, we also discussed the shared commitment by each of us to counter the growing wave of extremism in the region. We placed a call to President al-Sisi to discuss his contribution and support for this critical effort. Why? Frankly, because all of us have been impressed. I was in Egypt a few weeks ago, and President al-Sisi and I had a long discussion about his commitment to the process of challenging extremism and terrorism, and most importantly, his emphasis to me that not only is he committed to counterterrorism, but that he is prepared, in his words, “to do whatever I can,” quote, “in order to advance the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” And that was an important conversation to have in the context of the potential for new regional security assistance and arrangements. We had a very extensive discussion of the ways in which the regional partners could work together on a security arrangement that advances our common interests, and we agreed – all of us – to continue that conversation in the next days.

Now, we are – all of us – fully aware of the challenges presented by the current tensions. Everybody understands that there are deeply held frustrations that are pent up on both sides. Everybody knows the difficult roads traveled and years and years of disappointment on both sides. And that’s why we all engaged in nine months of negotiations, and it is why all of us would like to see the day when that effort can be re-engaged and can lead to the peace that we all know is the only real, sustainable answer to the underlying causes of this conflict.

But today, we are working to smother the sparks of immediate tension so that they don’t become a fire that is absolutely out of control. And the first thing we have to do is restore calm before you can talk about other alternatives. The United States stands ready to be engaged, provided the parties themselves begin to create the climate. I was pleased that all of the leaders today, particularly Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas earlier today, made clear their desire to see this situation de-escalate and to move in the right direction.

In our meeting today Foreign Minister Judeh and I also discussed how do we best coordinate our efforts against ISIL. We are combining our strengths across our more than 60 partners and along 5 different reinforcing lines of effort to shrink the territory controlled by ISIL, dry up its financing, reduce its supply of foreign fighters, expose the hypocrisy of the absurd religious claims, and provide humanitarian assistance to so many millions of people who are injured by this struggle.

Degrading and ultimately defeating ISIL is not going to happen overnight. We have to be patient as well as strong, and we have to be strategic. But make no mistake: We will succeed. Particularly in Iraq, where our effort by design has been most concentrated, we are making steady progress. I think you all saw that at Baiji recently.

Together with our coalition partners, including Jordan, we have conducted nearly 900 airstrikes against ISIL. Some partners are contributing to the military effort by providing arms; some equipment, training, advice; others are offering humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict. And we are particularly grateful to Jordan for opening up its borders and providing safe haven to more than 620,000 Syrian refugees. That’s an extraordinary effort by the country. And I know that there are parents, families, people in the country, who feel the pressure of this. We all understand that. We are deeply, deeply grateful to Jordanians for their humanitarian gesture in receiving these people, and that is one of the reasons why we are so committed to working to try to bring an end to this conflict.

And the United States understands and is particularly appreciative of the burden that has been put on schools, on hospitals, on water and energy services, and so much more. And we will continue to stand beside Jordan; I can assure you of that. I conveyed to His Majesty tonight the deep commitment of the American people, the United States Congress, the Obama Administration to the efforts of the Hashemite Kingdom to assume these important responsibilities.

Finally, as you all know, I traveled to Muscat earlier this week to continue the Iran nuclear negotiations. Our number-one priority on Iran is making sure that they don’t get a nuclear weapon. It’s that simple, that direct. We’re engaged in a difficult but serious negotiation toward that end. The question now is whether Iran will make the choices required to close the final gaps and provide assurances that they can’t develop and won’t develop a nuclear weapon.

Iranian leaders have said repeatedly and unambiguously that they have no intention of building a nuclear weapon. But actions have to be taken to back up those words and time is running short. The international community’s concerns are legitimate, and no agreement can be reached without addressing those concerns.

So in the end, it is really a matter of will, not capacity. Again and again, Iran – importantly, and frankly, gratefully – has said they are not going to seek a nuclear weapon; they exclusively have a peaceful nuclear program. So proving that you have a peaceful program is really just a question of choices. And with the November 24th deadline rapidly approaching, choices are going to have to be made very soon.

I’ll just close by noting this: When you look down the long list of challenges that we face in the world, it’s very easy to miss the fact that there are also unprecedented opportunities. During my meetings in Beijing this week with President Obama, the United States and China came together to jointly announce ambitious new targets to reduce carbon emissions in the post-2020 period. The United States and China are the world’s two largest economies. We’re also the world’s two largest consumers of energy and the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. We are also two countries regarded for 20 years as the leaders of opposing camps in the climate negotiations.

Now, I know that not everybody in the world wakes up in the morning and worries about this issue. I understand that. People have security challenges of immediate nature, and putting food on the table, and shelter, and being able to protect their families and just survive. But we understand from scientists that this is a collective challenge to survival for all of us in the long run. And by doing what the United States and China did together, we are encouraging other countries to put forward their own ambitious plans, their own ambitious plans to be able to deal with this issue, to have emission reduction targets soon so that we can conclude a strong global agreement in Paris next year in December of 2015.

The commitment of both President Xi and President Obama to take ambitious action in our own countries and to work closely to remove the obstacles on the road to Paris sends a critical signal. It is that we must get this agreement done, that we can get it done, and that we have the ability now to all of us come together because no one country can make this happen on their own. This is one of those issues that requires global input, and we’re proud that together with China, we hope there was a moment of global leadership.

Thank you. Nasser.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much, John.

Right. I just want to say that Secretary Kerry has to travel soon, and therefore I think we’ll take one question from the Jordanian side and one question from the American side. So, Hamdan.

QUESTION: My question is to secretary general. My name is Hamdan al-Hajj from Ad-Dustour newspaper. You said, Mr. Secretary, that the aim of the trilateral meeting is to restore peace and alleviate tension in Jerusalem. What makes you ambitious and optimistic that Benjamin Netanyahu is going to stick to the commitments? And what are the mechanisms that – to be followed to reach that goal? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first of all, when you deal in this business, you begin to get a sense of when somebody is expressing a legitimate concern about something or when they’re just brushing you off. And I thought it was quite clear from the conversation this evening and from prior conversations – which is why Prime Minister Netanyahu traveled over here – that he has deep concerns, as everybody does, about the – about what has been going on in the rise of violence. How can you be the prime minister of a country in which people are being run over by trucks, cars, vans, at a trolley station and killed – how can you be the prime minister of a country where someone is being stabbed in the street, killed, where you see what the reactions are, because of people’s interpretation of something, and not respond?

And so this is a test. I believe the prime minister came here because he is concerned, and he made very firm statements tonight about that. Now, I can’t tell you that everything will change between now and tomorrow morning or the next day, because actions are what matter, not just words. So I heard words. They were expressed sincerely. I believe they are. But it’s going to take the test of the next days.

And that is true on the other side too. If President Abbas says he will reduce the rhetoric and change the – and work hard to try to change the atmosphere, then we have to look to the test of that. And in the end, it requires leadership to be able to make this difference.

So I’m here, together with my friend Nasser, to work with him and others, King Abdullah, to try to create the framework within which people can make the right choices. And in the end, I hope they do, and we will see in the days to come.

I don’t know. Nasser, you might want to comment on that also because I think it’s an important question.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Well, thanks, John. I mean, I’ll just add by saying that since we saw the recent escalation – and there’s always escalation in Jerusalem, and we’ve always warned that Jerusalem is a redline. His Majesty is the Custodian. Jordan has a historic road. The peace treaty between Israel and Jordan points to that very, very clearly. There was an agreement signed between His Majesty and President Abbas in 2013 reaffirming the Hashemite Custodianship of the Holy Site. And there’s escalation after escalation, particularly in the last two years, and most particularly in the last few weeks.

When Jordan took a decision to recall its ambassador for consultation, it was a sign that enough is enough. There’s a clear message that went to Israel that something needs to be done. We’ve had since some positive developments in terms of the rhetoric, and I think, like I said, hopefully a mechanism that will result in restoring calm and in alleviating the tension that we see.

We’ve had a phone call between His Majesty and Prime Minister Netanyahu a week ago or more when the prime minister reiterated that Israel is committed to the preservation of the status quo and respects the Jordanian role. Today, the discussion was – and we’ve had contacts since, of course, and we’ve had contacts with the international community. But today, the prime minister was very clear in yet again reaffirming that the status quo in Jerusalem will not be touched, and that Israel is committed to this and Israel is committed to respecting the role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Custodianship of His Majesty. But as --

SECRETARY KERRY: And with specific steps.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: With specific steps and a mechanism. But like John said, it’s actions that will speak louder than words. And we’re monitoring and observing and we’re contacting. We’re remaining in contact. I mean, the idea is not to just withdraw and not establish any means of communication. You need to have communication in order to ensure that what you want is done and what the international community wants is done.

The tension in Jerusalem, as you have seen in the last few days, has sparked tension not just in Jerusalem and around Jerusalem, but elsewhere in the West Bank. And this is something that concerns us all. And we need to restore calm because we need to think of the larger picture and we need to think of the end objective that we all seek, which is peace, a solution to all final status issues – independence, dignity, sovereignty for the Palestinians in the form of a state on their national soil, and security not just for Israel, but for the entire region. I think this is what we are all committed to.

And I think – Warren from Reuters. And the we’ll take one there.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, you’re going to be shocked I have a multipart question. (Laughter.) You have often said, Mr. Secretary, that there are people on both sides of the conflict who do not want peace. Understanding that you and Foreign Minister Judeh don’t want to go into all the details tonight, can you at least give us some idea of the types of things, types of commitments that you got today that would lead you to believe that both sides are willing to pull back and especially rein in their extremists? That’s question one.

Question two: Why was President --

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: You mean – sorry to interrupt. You mean the Palestinians and Israelis?

QUESTION: The Palestinian – yes, thank you. Question --

SECRETARY KERRY: With respect to the Haram al-Sharif or the --

QUESTION: Yes, yes.


QUESTION: Question two: Why was President Abbas not at the meeting today, the trilateral? And finally, did you and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a chance to discuss the nuclear issue today, and did he reiterate his deep and serious concerns about a weak deal with Iran?

And finally, for Foreign Minister Judeh, will Jordan now return its ambassador to Tel Aviv? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me deal with 1-2-3. With respect to the Haram al-Sharif, if you read the basics of the agreement that exists on – in defining the status quo, you will see precisely what is expected of the WAC, the Jordanian force that is responsible, as well as the Israelis. And if the status quo is being maintained, you’ll be able to see exactly what is expected. And I don’t think it’s appropriate to go into all of the ways in which that is going to be implemented. It’s up to the folks there to show it in the way that they’re implementing it. But I think people will notice in the next days, and that’ll be the measure.

So again, we’ve agreed not to go into the specifics because one person or another can misinterpret or not quite understand one choice or another. I think the status quo is clear and the status quo is going to be maintained, and that is what is absolutely vital to the Hashemite Kingdom’s responsibility as Custodian. And the prime minister has made it clear that he will uphold that.

Now with respect to President Abbas, I met with him one-on-one this morning. We had a good conversation, as I mentioned earlier. His Majesty --

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: And His Majesty met --

SECRETARY KERRY: His Majesty met with him yesterday one-on-one, so there’s been a lot of communication. But it just isn’t yet the right moment for the two sides to really come together at this instant. It’s just not – it’s not the appropriate moment. I think they both need to see that things are changing, and there needs to be what we would call a ripeness, if you will, for that meeting that doesn’t exist at this moment. But there was no exclusion. It was simply an effort because we were talking about larger regional peace and security issues that directly involve existing states – state of Israel, state of Jordan, state of Egypt, and the United States – and those are important existing relationships and it was more appropriate to have that conversation in the context that we did.

Finally, with respect to the nuclear issue, yes, the prime minister and I talked one-on-one on that issue for a little while. And he expressed his concerns, of course, and I made it clear to him that the standard that we have applied throughout this negotiation still applies, and that is that there are four pathways to a nuclear weapon and we need to make certain that each pathway – the Fordow facility, the Arak nuclear – the Arak heavy water plutonium reactor facility, the Natanz enrichment facility, and covert capacities – are all closed off so that not – not as a matter of bias or prejudice, but because that’s the only way the world can know for certain that a program is indeed a peaceful program. And our responsibility is to make certain that there is a sufficient breakout time in the event that there was some change in policy or something happened.

So those guarantees are in place and we will keep all of our friends and allies informed of what we are doing in the days ahead. Our hopes remain still to try to achieve an agreement because it’s better for the world. But we can’t achieve just any agreement. It has to be done in a way that meets the standards I just set out. And we’re trying to be as thoughtful as we can in our approach to this, but there’s no shortcut. It’s difficult, and we hope Iran will work in the same way that we are, not as a matter of coercion but out of mutual respect and out of the interests that we all have for living in a world that is free of nuclear weapons. Obviously, the fatwa of the leader is a very important instrument, and we respect it enormously as a matter of religious edict. But that has to be translated into a lay person’s regular document, a legal one, if you will, with all of the things that are necessary for an agreement regarding potential nuclear programs. There are many standards by which that is measured, and that’s exactly how we’re proceeding.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: The presence of the Jordanian ambassador in Israel since signing the peace treaty in 1994 was not intended to be to the benefit of Israel. The presence of our ambassador there was meant to be an action that would promote Jordanian national interest and promote the bilateral relationship, which will be of mutual benefit.

As you know, there are several diplomatic options available to any country to protest something that they feel very, very strongly about. One of those actions is to recall an ambassador for consultation. And this was a very clear signal to Israel that what’s been happening in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, particularly over the last few weeks, is not acceptable to Jordan as Custodian, not acceptable to 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, but we have a special responsibility as the Custodian, as a nonpermanent member on the Security Council. And I think recalling our ambassador for consultation was a very, very clear signal that something has to be done to check these actions that are causing much concern not just in the immediate region but around the world.

Now, as the Secretary and I have said for the last few days with intensive diplomacy, with intensive contact with the Israelis, with other international partners and particularly the United States, and in today’s discussions, we have seen a commitment on the part of Israel to respect and maintain the status quo and respect the special role of Jordan and to ease the tension and remove all the elements of instability that we are seeing. We have to wait and see if this is done. Like I said, there are concrete steps out there to be done. There is an agreement that we need to de-escalate. There is a commitment on the part of Israel that the status quo has to be maintained and to respect the Jordanian. Let’s see what happens and then we’ll review our decision, but we have to see what happens on the ground first.

SECRETARY KERRY: Folks, I apologize. I know there are a lot of questions, but I have to get back to the United States, leaving right now and my pilots are under a time restriction, so if you’ll forgive us, we need to take our leave.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very, very much.