Remarks With Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir
Secretary of State
Hafr al Batin, Saudi Arabia
March 12, 2016
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me say that I'm personally delighted to come to Hafr al Batin and have a chance to meet with His Majesty King Salman and to meet and have a long conversation, both substantive meeting and dinner until about three in the morning, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and of course, to have a chance to meet a couple times in the course of the evening with my good friend Adel.
We really focused very intently on Syria and all agree on the importance of getting to the talks where the substance of transition, the transitional government, takes place as soon as possible. We emphasized together the need to get more humanitarian assistance flowing and we particularly are concerned about allegations of violations by the Assad regime itself even as recently as yesterday, which need to be resolved in order to keep the process moving. We've seen a very significant reduction in violence, maybe 80, 90 percent, but there are clear places of question which we are all deeply concerned about.
The cessation of hostilities in our judgment is an ongoing process, and the Russians and Iranians we are counting on to do their part to, as agreed upon, to do their part to keep the Assad regime adhering to the agreement. We believe that the start of talks this next week in Geneva presents a critical moment for bringing the political solution to the table, which we've all been waiting for, even as we extend the humanitarian assistance and continue to try to reduce the violence.
We discussed Yemen, where we have agreed to work even more closely together in the next days to explore the possibilities of the political solution, and we both agree that it would be desirable to see if we can find a similar approach as we did in Syria to try to get a ceasefire. So we're going to continue to work on that quietly, and we have a team of people who are going to continue to be working together to that effect.
On Libya, we all agreed on the urgency of getting the government in place, and we agreed to take very specific steps, which I'm not going to go into in detail, in order to try to facilitate the return of a government to Libya, get the Government of National Accord in place, and begin to rebuild government capacity. There is full agreement on the urgency of our cooperation in order to do that. And we believe the Libyan political dialogue in Tunis and the political agreement is really the only legitimate framework within which to try to end the crisis, though there may be other ways growing that effort, which we're going to explore.
We particularly talked about the challenge of reconstruction and aftermath, should we be fortunate enough at some point in the not-too-distant future to achieve progress in Yemen.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) In Libya.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yemen also – massive reconstruction effort, which we discussed how that might need to take place. So it was a very constructive – let me just confirm that – I reiterated the strong alliance and friendship of the United States and commitment to working together, and Foreign Minister Jubeir and I will be finalizing the date in the next few days for a foreign ministers GCC meeting to take place here in Riyadh – not here in Riyadh – here in – (inaudible.)
So that's where we came out. We had a pretty thorough, exhaustive discussion particularly on the road ahead in Syria but also the other two countries very, very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-JUBEIR: I think the Secretary pretty much gave you a summary of the discussions. I would emphasize that we both seek a future in Syria without Bashar al-Assad. With regards to the settlement in Yemen, we believe it should be based on the GCC initiative, the outcomes of the national dialogue, and 2216, and we both agreed that this would be the way forward.
The – we reiterated to the Secretary of State our commitment, as expressed by the GCC heads of state, to embark on a long-term reconstruction development plan from Yemen once the hostilities there end. The – we're determined to protect legitimacy in Yemen, and we are also committed to a political process in Yemen.
The situation in Libya – the Secretary explained it very thoroughly. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques also raised the importance of the peace process and the finding of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is now the longest-running conflict in the region and which is one of the contributing sources to extremism in our region.
The – discussed also the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as the U.S. and the GCC countries general – our commitment to strengthening – or the commitment of both sides to strengthening and deepening and broadening it in all areas. The Secretary expressed the U.S. commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia, and we agreed that we would continue our intensive consultations on confronting the challenges that the region faces and that – and finding the best ways to promote – to protect and promote our common interests.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-JUBEIR: And not sure, did we agree that the foreign ministers meeting would be in Riyadh or it could be somewhere else?
SECRETARY KERRY: It could be somewhere else.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-JUBEIR: Yeah, yeah. So I would just say in terms of the --
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, could be somewhere else.
PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible) GCC plus --
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, that's right. It may well be – actually, it may well be – it may – I'd forgotten that, but it may well be, wind up in a neighboring country.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-JUBEIR: Yeah. So I would – so yeah, I would just say – what the Secretary said, that we agreed on a GCC --
SECRETARY KERRY: Just say we agreed on a GCC meeting within the next few weeks.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-JUBEIR: GCC – U.S. Secretary of State (inaudible) GCC meeting over the – in the next few weeks, and that will be the location.
PARTICIPANT: Okay, I look forward to that.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-JUBEIR: We'll make sure we'll do it where – someplace where --
QUESTION: You both mentioned that there've been suspected ceasefire violations in Syria. Do you think the --
SECRETARY KERRY: Perceived. I mean – we've perceived.
QUESTION: Perceived. Can these go – can the meeting go ahead on Monday or --
SECRETARY KERRY: The team – yes, it can. The team is meeting – our teams are meeting today with Russia in both Geneva and Amman, where very detailed laydowns will take place regarding these allegations. And I am requesting a call with Foreign Minister Lavrov today, and we will work through these, as we have been each day. As we said, we want to try to not litigate the specifics in public. We're trying to work to deal with them and we've been pretty effective at that. The level of violence by all accounts has been reduced between 80 to 90 percent, which is very, very significant. And what we want to do is continue to work to reduce these. But we've made it very, very clear that the Assad regime cannot use this process as a way to exploit the situation when others are trying in good faith to abide by it, and there's a limit to the patience with respect to that.
Thanks, man, appreciate it.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-JUBEIR: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
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