Remarks With Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
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SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the State Department. And welcome especially to my friend and my colleague the foreign minister, with whom I have had the privilege of meeting many times over the last two years to discuss a range of very serious and significant issues.
Before I talk about our meeting today, I want to say a word about the protests taking place in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. As we monitor this situation carefully, we call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violence. We support the universal rights of the Egyptian people, including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. And we urge the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications, including on social media sites.
We believe strongly that the Egyptian Government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic, and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people. The United States is committed to working with Egypt and with the Egyptian people to advance such goals. As I said recently in Doha, people across the Middle East, like people everywhere, are seeking a chance to contribute and have a role in the decisions that affect their lives. And as the President said in his State of the Union yesterday night, the United States supports the democratic aspirations of all people.
When I was recently in the region, I met with a wide range of civil society groups, and I heard firsthand about their ideas, which were aimed at improving their countries, of giving more space and voice to the aspirations for the future. We have consistently raised with the Egyptian Government over many years, as well as other governments in the region, the need for reform and greater openness and participation in order to provide a better life, a better future, for the people.
And for me, talking with the foreign minister from Jordan is always a special experience because of all the work that is being done in Jordon. On every occasion when we meet, it reflects our longstanding friendship and the mutual goals that we share between Jordanians and Americans. And I especially appreciate and respect his counsel. The United States has had a long, close relationship with Jordan for many decades. We value Jordan’s guidance in the region, and today we spoke at length about many of the issues.
We spoke about Lebanon and expressed our hopes that it will be the people of Lebanon themselves, not outside forces, that will sustain the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon. I know that the foreign minister and His Majesty share our concern about peace and stability in the region. And I commend his call for Lebanon to maintain its national unity, security, and stability.
Jordan has developed important relationships with many critical countries and has built a unique and respected position as a peace broker among diverse parties. It was a critical player in the creation of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which brought 57 Muslim states together to advocate a comprehensive peace between Israel and all Arab states. Jordanian peacekeeping troops have served in far-flung places around the world, including Haiti, Sudan, and Cote d’Ivoire. And earlier this month, the Jordanian prime minister, accompanied by Foreign Minister Judeh, led the very first visit by a head of government to meet with the newly elected government in Iraq.
For both our nations, permanent peace in the Middle East remains our number one priority. So much of our discussion centered on ways to keep working toward a two-state solution that will assure security for Israel and realize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own. Such an agreement, Jordan and the United States believe, will not only bring peace and prosperity to those who are directly affected, but it will be a major step toward a world free of extremism. Jordan’s tireless diplomacy has been, and continues to be, indispensible to this process.
Now, we talked about many other things: water shortages, rising food and oil prices, the need for continuing social and economic reform. And Jordan has taken crucial steps to do just that. I was very proud to have the foreign minister here when we announced the Millennium Challenge Corporation grant. Jordan met the very high standards of the MCC on these social and political and governance indicators. And that compact committed $275 million for sustainable development, jobs, and safe drinking water. It was a vote of confidence in the path that His Majesty is pursuing. And last November, the government invited international observers to monitor its parliamentary elections, and these observers declared the process to be peaceful, fair, and transparent.
Jordan is setting a great example, and we are proud to be your partner and your friend. Sixty years of mutual respect, common security interests, and shared values has built a strong and enduring relationship, and we continue to look for Jordan to lead further progress in the region as we meet the challenges ahead.
Thank you very much, Minister.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary, for your warm words, for your friendship, and for the partnership that we enjoy between our two countries. And it is a real pleasure and honor to be here at the State Department again today, and I wish to thank you for the warm reception and for the constructive and important talks we had today on peace efforts, regional issues, and our excellent bilateral relations, and ways and means to enhance them and build on them.
Middle East peace efforts, as you said, Madam Secretary, are at a crucial juncture. There is a growing and pressing sense of urgency attached to resuming direct negotiations that address all core issues of borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, and water in the very near future, and with an appropriate and effective context that guarantees the continuity of those negotiations without interruption until they conclude with an agreement that brings about the two-state solution within the anticipated 12-month timeframe identified by the Quartet when direct talks resumed on September 2nd, 2010.
Secretary Clinton and I discussed the means by which we can resume direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations promptly. And we both agree that the current stagnation is simply not acceptable and also has dangerous repercussions for the security and the stability of the region. His Majesty the King always stresses that the two-state solution is the only solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are no alternatives to this solution. And as His Majesty the King cautions, with changing demography and geography, and with shifting political dynamics resulting from settlements and other unilateral measures which are illegal and illegitimate and corrosive to peacemaking efforts, the alternative would be devastating to the whole region.
Jordan firmly believes that for the Middle East and the world to enjoy stability, prosperity, and security, the two-state solution must transpire, whereby an independent, sovereign, viable, and territorially contiguous Palestinian state emerges on the ‘67 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side in peace and security with all the countries of the region, including Israel, within a regional context that ushers in comprehensive peace based on an internationally agreed-upon terms of reference and the Arab Peace Initiative. This is the only gateway that would enable us to deal more effectively with other challenges and threats.
We discussed the situation in Lebanon, as the Secretary mentioned, and agreed that all efforts must be exerted to ensure that peace, stability, and security prevail, and that the constitutional process and deep-rooted political customs and traditions in Lebanon be fully respected by all parties, as this is the only way to maintain and preserve viability, stability, security, and peace. Jordan unequivocally supports Lebanon’s sovereignty, national cohesion, and independence, and stresses the importance of respecting the sovereignty fully and implementing the commitments and obligations made to Lebanon by the international community and vice versa.
We also discussed our excellent bilateral relations and means to expand them. I briefed the Secretary on the progress achieved by the government in implementing the comprehensive reform agenda of His Majesty King Abdullah II, including the fact that the new house – the lower house of parliament, which is the product of a fair and free general election, as attested to by U.S. and international observers, as the Secretary mentioned, who were invited to witness the elections.
Now, the parliament is in place. The reforms and their economic dimension are challenging and have social impacts, and we are attempting to do all we can to continue steadfastly in a political and economic reform agenda, while at the same time alleviating the economic hardships resulting from rising oil and food prices internationally which affect the Jordanian economy. With the help of our friends here in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, we are steadfast in our political and economic reform agenda, and in alleviating and addressing the economic hardship that result from the economic situation around the world.
And we are, as always, committed to this, His Majesty is committed to this, and we are committed to continuing our dialogue and consultation with you at all times, Madam Secretary. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, my friend.
MR. CROWLEY: Kirit Radia from ABC.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, I’d like to follow up on your opening statement on Egypt. In Tunisia, the United States was quick to support the aspirations of the protestors. Will the United States support the aspirations of the Egyptian protestors? Mr. Minister, is Jordan worried about these protests spreading elsewhere in the region? Madam Secretary, there are reports already that Egypt has shut down Twitter and Facebook. Do you plan to bring this up with the Egyptian Government directly?
And if I may stay in the region on behalf of a colleague and go a little further south – (laughter) – to Sudan, your meeting later today with the foreign minister of Sudan. Is the United States ready at this point to take them off the terror list? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I hope I’m awake enough to remember all those questions.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: I remember mine.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good, good. (Laughter.)
Well, first, let me say clearly the United States supports the aspirations of all people for greater freedom, for self-government, for the rights to express themselves, to associate and assemble, to be part of the full, inclusive functioning of their society. And of course, that includes the Egyptian people. I think that what the President said last night in the State of the Union applies not only to Tunisia, not only to Egypt, but to everyone. And we are particularly hopeful that the Egyptian Government will take this opportunity to implement political, economic, and social reforms that will answer the legitimate interests of the Egyptian people. And we are committed, as we have been, to working toward that goal with Egyptian civil society, with the Egyptian Government, with the people of that great country.
So I think then, we were going to you.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much. I think your question was: Are we worried that these protests will spread? I can’t speak for other countries. I can speak for Jordan, and I’m happy to do so, and I’ve addressed this issue publicly.
In Jordan, we have economic hardships. We have economic realities that we’re dealing with. We have a political and economic reform agenda that is initiated by His Majesty the King and that the government’s trying to implement. This, of course, comes with social considerations. And yes, we are an importer of 90 – 96 percent of our energy. We rely on imported goods. And when there is a rise in oil prices internationally or a rise in food prices internationally, it affects all sectors in Jordan. And the government is trying its best, through economic measures, to alleviate the hardship that the people of Jordan feel.
While at the same time there is freedom of expression in Jordan, where protests dictate this and will probably happen every time there’s an issue, but at least we in Jordan are proud of the fact that the demonstrators demonstrate in an orderly way and have issues to have demonstrate against, and certainly their voices are heard.
And I just want to say that we had a protest over fuel prices and food prices last Friday and the Friday before that. And I think you’ll all remember that last Friday the police was passing out water and juice to the demonstrators. And demonstrators started at a certain time and ended at a certain time, and they had announced their demonstration well ahead of time, weeks before.
So I think that we have to differentiate between economic hardship and – which we have in many countries around the world. Jordan’s not living in a bubble. It’s part and parcel of the fabric of these international economies – and between political stability, which we are blessed with in Jordan with the Hashemite leadership, His Majesty the King, who initiates reform from within, as I mentioned earlier.
So I can speak for Jordan and I can tell you that we have economic realities that we have to deal with, but we have a political system, guided by His Majesty the King, that promotes freedom and openness and freedom of expression.
SECRETARY CLINTON: With respect to my meeting later this afternoon with the Sudanese foreign minister, I’m very much looking forward to consulting with him about the progress that has been made to date. The United States and many other nations were encouraged by the peaceful execution of the referendum in the South. And we hope to continue working with the government in Khartoum on the remaining issues, which are many, in order to fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, to finally resolve the status of Abyei, citizenship issues. We are still very focused on the ongoing problems in Darfur. So we have a full agenda of issues to discuss.
MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible) from --
QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. Madam Secretary, you seem to imply that the Egyptian Government is capable of reforming itself and meeting the expectation of the people. Yet the mood in the streets of Cairo today contrasts that, and people are demanding for radical change, removal of the government and President Mubarak not to nominate himself for another term. Are you unsure of what’s happening in Cairo?
And if I may, you made a focus – the Israeli-Palestinian question a focus of this Administration. Yet the most important speech by the President last night seems to skip it, not to mention it by word even. Are you giving up on the Israeli-Palestinian question?
Very quickly, if I may – (laughter) – since I have – entitled the same rights as the Americans –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, you do. You do. (Laughter.) We believe in equal rights – (laughter) – for Jordanians, Americans, women, men. We are in favor of equal rights, even for reporters. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Please make sure my question is not as long as that one. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No. Very quickly – you talk about reigniting the process. How do you propose to break the impasse?
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Reigniting?
QUESTION: The Israeli-Palestinian –
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Yeah, in the overall context of what we’re talking about reigniting (inaudible). (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, I picked the word.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you want to answer that and then I’ll answer it? (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Reigniting the process?
QUESTION: Yeah. How do --
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Fine.
QUESTION: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: With your position, Madam Secretary, I mean, I think that our discussions today centered on what we need to do collectively. The current impasse in the peace process, like – I always use the expression “Arab-Israeli conflict, at the core of which is the Palestinians, (inaudible).” The current impasse is very, very unsettling, and it has to be resolved. And I know that the Secretary has reassured me today that they are still committed. We always say that the United States is not just a mediator or an honest broker; the United States is a full partner on this.
And it has been said that – by President Obama, by the Secretary, by Senator Mitchell, whom I’m seeing later on – that this is U.S. national interest. This is not just a local or regional conflict. This is a conflict that is loaded with global ramifications. We’ve said that before. And it is U.S. national interest, just like it is the national interest of all the parties concerned, the stakeholders, to reach a solution to this lingering conflict. The Palestinians are entitled to their state. Israel and the whole region is entitled to security and stability.
When we’re talking about economic hardship, I think we also have to bear in mind that peace will usher in the opportunities that come with peace – economic opportunities, not just political peace, but an economic peace, an integration and reintegration of the whole region, and the vast potential that can be unleashed from this region. Don’t forget that the majority of the people who live in the Middle East are young, below the age of 30. They need opportunities. In this day and age, you refer to Twitter and Facebook, and I am on Twitter myself – (laughter) – as the diplo-babes know. (Laughter.) Yeah, they are the diplo-babes, didn’t you know that? (Laughter.) They see the opportunity --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Try to dig yourself out of that one. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Well, they are. (Laughter.) They refer to themselves as --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. Oh, excellent.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Yeah. (Laughter.)
Anyway, this is some – the situation where people see the opportunities all over the world and they want to have the same opportunities, so there are economic dividends of peace as well. And I think the time has come to pool our efforts collectively to ensure that the next few weeks will see a resumption of negotiations according to international legitimacy, the parameters that we’re all agreed on, and the Arab Peace Initiative, and the timeframes that we have announced.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would certainly second everything that Nasser just said. With respect to the President’s speech, there were many parts of the world not mentioned and many very serious issues that were not mentioned because, as you could tell from the content of the speech, it was very much focused on the American agenda and dealing with our own economic challenges – getting more jobs, growing the economy, innovating, educating, rebuilding; but make no mistake; we are absolutely committed to the process. And we believe that a framework agreement that resolves the core issues not only remains possible, but necessary.
And as the foreign minister said, he will be meeting later with George Mitchell. We have a constant dialogue going on with many of our friends and partners in the region and around the world. We remain committed to a two-state solution. We are absolutely continuing our work. I will be going to Munich a week from Saturday for a Quartet meeting that will be held where we will discuss the way forward toward our common goal. So there is – from the top with President Obama and myself, all the way through this government, we remain absolutely committed and focused on what needs to be done.
With respect to the Egyptian Government, I do think it’s possible for there to be reforms, and that is what we are urging and calling for. And it is something that I think everyone knows must be on the agenda of the government as they not just respond to the protest, but as they look beyond as to what needs to be done economically, socially, politically. And there are a lot of very well informed, active civil society leaders in Egypt who have put forward specific ideas for reform, and we are encouraging and urging the Egyptian Government to be responsive to that.
Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much.