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Secretary Kerry's Press Conference after Israel Trip, April 2013

Author: John F. Kerry
Published April 9, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry held this press conference after his trip to Israel on April 9, 2013. He discussed his meetings with Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, and President Peres and speculation on the Arab Peace Initiative.

Excerpt from the press conference:

"QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Secretary. I want to ask: We've heard from several sources that in your meetings with the parties you proposed two changes to the Arab Peace Initiative, so that this initiative would serve afterwards as a basis for negotiations on borders and security.

Second issue: Just a follow-up for things that you spoke in the beginning; you spoke about economic steps to be taken on the ground. Now the pertinent issue for the Palestinians on the ground is the issue of prisoners. Have you heard anything from the Israelis in this regard?

Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. President Abbas raised the issue of prisoners with me, and he's very passionate about it, and I understand that passion. And obviously, the issue of prisoners is very, very important to the Palestinians, very, very important to President Abbas. And I am not going to discuss here what I discussed privately with the Prime Minister; I think that's inappropriate. But suffice it to say that President Abbas made a passionate argument to me about the prisoners, and I think the government in Israel has a full understanding of the potency of that issue.

With respect to --

QUESTION: The Arab Peace Initiative.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- the question of the Arab Peace Initiative, let me make this very clear. I actually am happy to have the question because I've wanted to have a chance to clarify a couple of things that I've been reading. Number one, no, I have not made any proposals to change it. It's not my initiative to change; it belongs to King Abdullah and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that made the initial proposal, and to the Arabs, the Arab League, and the Arab community that has – Arab and Muslim community that has adopted it. It is a very important initiative, free-standing on its own. And what is important about it is that it suggests in its own language a way forward for the Arab world to make peace with Israel. And as such, it remains a very important statement.

Now, it may not be that in its current format it is a basis for a negotiation or for – it is a – the foundation of the way in which negotiations can take place, but any statement, any document where you have a proposal for peace and where you have dozens of Arab countries, Muslim countries, willing to make peace, needs to be taken at its value and should be respected. And it is an important contribution to the overall dialogue. And that's the way I think it ought to be reflected.

Now, I will be meeting in a matter of weeks with a delegation from the Arab League that will come to Washington. I'm confident they will want to discuss components of it. But in the end, the parties themselves, Israel and the Palestinians, need to come to the table, and this is a negotiation between them, and they need to work out the details of which agreement they want to work off of, or what language they want to work off of, and where they want to proceed.

Clearly, this is one of the things that I am working on in the context of laying the groundwork so that we can bring people to the table with a clear understanding of what we're beginning on, of what we're trying to do, and of where we want to wind up. And those are the things that require time and thought and care. And we will continue, as I said, to do our homework. Others will do their homework, and when we've done our homework, I'm confident we're going to be in a position to be make some progress and move forward."

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