Remarks With Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Four Seasons Hotel
Manama, Bahrain
April 7, 2016

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-JUBEIR: (Via interpreter in progress) – group works, six group works in different issues, and with regard to the defense of the GCC countries against any attack and how to counterattack the – and how to deal with the challenges in the region whether in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya. And we reviewed the peace efforts and the Palestine issue. Also we reviewed the efforts to counter terrorism and the – to combat terrorism, and the GCC minister – foreign ministers discussed the Moroccan Sahara issue and to continue the Moroccan autonomy and not to take any procedures to weaken that decision. And also the meetings were, as usual, positive and fruitful, and we look forward to a summit meeting in Riyadh – which will be held in Riyadh.

With regard to Iran, we expressed our rejection for the attempts of Iran to smuggle weapons to the rebels in Yemen. And moreover, we reject the interventions of Iran into the affairs of the GCC states and trying to smuggle weapons into some GCC states. We stressed that if Iran wants to have normal relations with the GCC states, it has to change its policies and to abide by the good neighborhood principle and to refrain from interfering into the affairs of the GCC states and the countries of the region in order to pave the way for more normal relations. But if Iran continues its aggressive policies and continues to intervene into the affairs of the GCC states, it will be difficult to deal with Iran.

I give the floor to His Excellency Mr. John Kerry.

SECRETARY KERRY: (In progress) – and I want to thank him very much for arranging this meeting of the GCC and convening everybody. And obviously, I also want to thank the Secretary General al-Zayani for officially convening the meeting today, and I thank King Hamad and our friend Khalid al-Khalifa for hosting us in Bahrain and for spending the day with me on both bilateral and now this multilateral meeting.

First of all, let me apologize that we will not be taking questions because we’re actually going back to have further discussions in greater detail, but we thought we had sufficiently discussed the broader sweep of each of these issues that we would share our conclusions with you, and then we’ll work on further details as we go forward.

Some of you may ask or you may wonder about the sort of frequency of these consultations. And it is a fact that we have been extremely active – the United States and the GCC – in our consultations over the past couple of years. The Camp David meetings were a very significant starting point for this broadened relationship, and today we discussed the summit that President Obama will engage in with all the heads of states of the GCC countries and we agreed to begin the process of evaluating whether or not the concept of a GCC-NATO partnership in specific terms is something that would contribute significantly to the security and stability of the region. And that analysis will go on over the course of the next days.

In addition to that, we agreed that it would be important given the transformation taking place not just in the region but globally with the price of oil and other challenges economically to have a major new component of this dialogue, which is economic transformation. And so we are going to further our efforts to have that dialogue and to analyze exactly what components of it will be included in the summit that President Obama takes part in with the heads of state in a few weeks.

President Obama believes very much, as I do, that in this critical period a very close and constructive communication between us is more than essential. It is critical to the ability of all of us to meet the security challenges and the economic challenges of the region, and that’s why President Obama is very much looking forward to the GCC summit to underscore America’s commitment to our Gulf friends and also to supporting greater peace and stability throughout the region, which has seen its challenges over the course of the last few years.

When our leaders met in Camp David last May, they agreed on a new strategic partnership in order to strengthen the security cooperation. And we have since been very, very busy implementing that initiative through working groups, about six working groups on key issues, including counterterrorism, streamlining the transfer of critical defense capabilities to our GCC partners, establishing a GCC ballistic missile defense system, enhancing the GCC military preparedness, and defending against cyber threats. And today we exchanged thoughts about the progress being made through these working groups and discussed ways that we can actually achieve greater gains in the months ahead.

We also talked about a few of the regional challenges, as Adel just related to you some of the things we talked about, and I’d just quickly summarize from my point of view a few of those. First of all, with the cessation of hostilities in Syria, that simply would not have come about without the cooperative effort of all the members here today and a lot of countries that aren’t here today that are represented in the International Syria Support Group. We have been able to achieve a very significant reduction of violence in Syria. Yes, there are still some areas of concern with respect to that violence. There have been violations. But we have a group that works assiduously – very closely – in Amman, Jordan and in Geneva on a daily basis that is working to hold onto the cessation and resolve these differences.

But the key to Syria is what is going to take place when the teams come back to negotiate in a few days in Geneva. That’s when the beginning of the discussion about a transition starts, and that discussion about transition is the key test of the seriousness of the Assad regime, of Russia and Iran to support what we have put into words in the Vienna communiques and in the United Nations Security Council resolution. We will need to apply all of our efforts in order to maintain not only the cessation of hostilities but to build some possible momentum in the negotiations themselves.

We also need to see an end to the use of indiscriminate weapons and attempts to seize territory from participating groups, and we need to get the trucks carrying the humanitarian assistance moving on a more regularized basis. We ought to encourage confidence-building measures and the exchange of prisoners, and we have to press forward with the UN-led political process so that this genuine transition can take hold.

There are, of course, some major obstacles to peace in Syria. To secure the future of Syria in the region and beyond, we have to intensify pressure and defeat Daesh and groups affiliated with al-Qaida. And we have to continue to push the Syrian regime to abide by its obligations and the promises that it has made to its supporters and to the world by saying it will come to Geneva and negotiate in good faith. We have to develop a political plan that the parties in Syria can agree to in context of the 2012 Geneva communique and UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

In our discussions today, we also emphasized the importance of the efforts of the Government of Iraq to unify and rebuild its country and to reclaim territory that was occupied by Daesh and the need to support the Abadi government in its efforts to stabilize and eventually rebuild the country. And we particularly talked about the need to assist in stabilization in Anbar as particular communities that were held by Daesh are liberated from the clutches of that terror organization.

We also discussed an effort in which Saudi Arabia has taken an important lead, but we have been working very, very closely over the course of these last weeks and months to try to find a solution to the crisis in Yemen. The United States very strongly supports the efforts of Saudi Arabia and others who have been trying to establish a cessation of hostilities in key areas with the goal of a full cessation of hostilities April 10th, and a new round of real negotiations starting on April 18th.

This is something that we have worked for for some period of time. It’s a discussion that began in our meetings in Rome, and Saudi Arabia has, in the wake of significant gains made through the military process, fulfilled its promise made some time ago that we need to find a lasting political solution in order to really provide the security and stability that Yemen wants and needs and that the region also deserves.

We will continue to support measures by the international community to help the people of Yemen recover from the devastating strife that they have endured, and to that end, I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Food for Peace program will provide $139 million in new funding this year for humanitarian aid to Yemen.

And during today’s meeting, we also discussed our shared concern among all of us about Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region. Just last week, the U.S. Fifth Fleet, based here in Bahrain, interdicted an arms shipment that originated in Iran with arms that were clearly moving in the direction of Yemen. We will continue to push back against this kind of provocation in the region.

And today we talked about how if Iran is going to give meaning to the words that were issued by its president in the last days about not being a threat to people in the region and wanting to work with people, the place to begin is by supporting the effort that we are engaged in to make peace in Yemen, not provide more weapons to Yemen and continue to fuel the conflict.

We also discussed generically the challenges to the region, whether it is Syria, where the IRGC plays a role, or whether it is some other countries – Bahrain and others – where, regrettably, we see activities from Iran that are engaged in interfering with another country’s politics and direction.

So we call on Iran to constructively join in the efforts to make peace and to help us to resolve Syria; and rather than continue to send weapons to the Houthis, join in the effort to encourage the Houthis to make peace and to work towards a cessation of hostilities.

The United States and the GCC countries remain united in our opposition to Iran’s missile activities, but we say very clearly to Iran, as the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia just did, that we’re prepared to work a new arrangement to find a peaceful solution to these issues, and we look for Iran to make it clear to everybody that they are prepared to cease these kinds of activities that raise questions about credibility and questions about intention.

In closing, let me just reiterate how indispensable the cooperation between the United States and the GCC countries is for the people of this entire region. Our ambitious agenda is based on our essential desire for peace, for stability, for broader prosperity, and for the rule of law. That is a platform that any nation ought to be willing to support. And it provides a firm basis for confidence between our countries as we try to seize the opportunities for peaceful outcomes in a number of different conflicts that currently exist in the region.

I’m very pleased to find a unanimity in the GCC in our conversations thus far that that’s the outcome they want: peace and stability. That’s what we’re working towards. And there is an openness here that I found in all of our partners that, for those who want to join in that effort, there’s a way forward. But we will stand together unified against any efforts to destabilize or to break apart the unity of the vision that I just expressed.

So thank you, Mr. Chairman, for hosting us here today, and I think again our hosts here in Bahrain. Thank you.