Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Bethlehem
November 6, 2013


Well, good afternoon, everybody. Thank you very much for your patience. We just had a very, very good meeting with President Abbas and an excellent lunch and a great conversation about the process. Let me state unequivocally that President Abbas is 100 percent committed to these talks. He has committed that the Palestinians will not go to the United Nations during the period of time of these talks in exchange for the prisoners that are being released by Israel. That was the agreement.

Let me emphasize at this point the position of the United States of America on the settlements is that we consider now and have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate. And I want to make it extremely clear that at no time did the Palestinians in any way agree, as a matter of going back to the talks, that they somehow condone or accept the settlements. The Palestinians believe that the settlements are illegal. The United States has said that they believe the settlements are not helpful and are illegitimate. And there should be no connection. That is not to say that they weren’t aware or we weren’t aware that there would be construction. But that construction, importantly, in our judgment, would be much better off limited as much as possible in an effort to help create a climate for these talks to be able to proceed effectively.

I am convinced that President Abbas is serious about these talks. I’m convinced that he wants to find peace and that he understands that we require compromise by all the parties. And he has restated to me today his own willingness to compromise in an effort to find a fair and just peace.

So I thank him for his hospitality today. I’m particularly excited that today we were able, in Bethlehem, to make the announcement of $75 million that will be added to an already committed 25 million for $100 million of high-impact infrastructure investment by the United States to immediately have an impact on the day-to-day life of Palestinians. In addition to that, we have significant contributions that will be made by other countries, all of whom are interested in trying to support the peace process here.

So I look forward tonight to continuing my conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and again tomorrow in Amman, I will have a chance to meet His Majesty King Abdullah, as well as again with President Abbas. So hopefully in the course of all this, we can find the goodwill and a good purpose and a good faith to make progress on behalf of two proud peoples who deserve, each of them, to live in their states in peace. That’s our objective and that’s what we will continue to work for. Thank you very much.



PRN: 2013/ T17-13