FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Via interpreter) I would like to welcome His Excellency Mr. John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, and his accompanying delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This, his third visit to the region, only asserts his personal concern with the region’s issues and the interests of the United States and those of its friends.
Secretary Kerry and I had a fruitful, constructive discussion today, just like we do in all of our transparent, open-minded meetings. We reviewed many regional and international issues, on top of which is the crisis in Syria and the developments on the Syrian, regional, and international arenas.
Perhaps the most ominous of these developments is the involvement of foreign forces, foremost of which is the motions of Hezbollah and others with support from Iran’s national guard in the mass murder of Syrians with unlimited military support from Russia. This critical turn of events cannot possibly be overlooked. Over and above the regime’s genocide against its own people, this adds an even deadlier element in the form of an all-out foreign invasion that breaks every international law, protocol, and principle. This violates the Syrian land and turns it into a battleground for global and regional conflicts and puts it under the mercy of sectarian struggles. Syria now can only be considered an occupied land. This requires a firm stand and speedy action from the international community. There no longer is rhyme or reason to let Russia’s open and fervent weaponization of the Syrian regime and the hordes of foreign forces backing it to go on unabated.
In the meantime, we are still failing to secure international protection for the Syrian people, or at least provide some sort of military assistance to help it defend itself against these abhorrent crimes being committed against it with nary an excuse. In this regard, the Kingdom demands a clear, unequivocal, international resolution that bans any sort of weaponry support for the Syrian regime, and declares null and void the legitimacy of that regime, which it had lost on day one of this crisis when it denied the simplest, most basic demands of its people, and waged a genocidal war against it instead. It lost its membership in both the Arab League and the Islamic Cooperation Organization, and the Gulf Cooperation Council had already reiterated its illegitimacy, a fact that has been further reaffirmed by the Friends of Syria meetings.
The regime’s illegitimacy eliminates any possibility of it being part of any arrangements or playing any role whatsoever in shaping the present and future of Syria, taking into consideration that the Syrian National Coalition now has the recognition of the international community as the sole representative of the Syrian people in its political and ethnic entirety. The Coalition is now ready to commence with the transitional ruling body with full-fledged authorities away from the pillars of the Syria regime and its cohorts who have blood on their hands.
At the same time, the Kingdom affirms the necessity of changing the balance of powers on the ground in favor of the Free Syrian people. This is the only way to bolster the chances of a peaceful solution, one that we will all seek at the upcoming Geneva 2 convention. I would like to commend the U.S. decision to send military aid to the Free Syrian Army, and express my relief for what I heard today from the U.S. Secretary of State concerning both changing the military balance of powers on the ground and maintaining the legitimacy of the Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people.
I shouldn’t forget to underline the European Union’s resolution to lift the ban on arming the Syrian opposition. I call upon the EU to immediately put the resolution into action to counter the serious current developments on the Syrian ground.
We also reviewed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the ongoing efforts to revive the peace process and the negotiations between the two sides. The Kingdom sees it vital that these efforts focus on resolving the conflict’s major issues after all else had failed at achieving any progress. All previous efforts had been dealing with the ramifications rather than the causes. Therefore there should be consensus towards a solution that is based on international resolutions and principles, agreements and understandings already signed, and the Arab Peace Initiative, so as to reach the goal of a sustainable, independent, and a contiguous Palestinian state.
I would like to thank the Secretary for his efforts in resolving this conflict, and we appreciate his efforts. Now I’d like to thank you all. The Secretary has the floor.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Your Royal Highness. Assalamu alaikum. It’s a privilege for me to be here again back in Saudi Arabia, and I’m happy to be in this very beautiful city, which is a great hub of innovation and a great history and the crossroads, obviously, for all the pilgrimage to Mecca, and important to the Kingdom. I’m particularly grateful to my friend, Prince Saud al-Faisal, for his welcome here. Always a great welcome and always a very enjoyable and frank conversation, and I respect and appreciate that.
As I think everybody knows, Saudi Arabia is one of our closest partners, and we are grateful for that. We work together on a host of key issues in the region, including the most important one of protecting stability for all of the countries in the region. And the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is critical, I think, to both of our countries.
So, first, I thank Saudi Arabia for its very important leadership and work within the Arab League and, in fact, internationally with the critical and sometimes not properly recognized initiative of His Majesty King Abdullah with the Arab Peace Initiative. This is a most important initiative. And while not everybody agrees with every portion of it, it is an effort, literally, to bring about peace, an offer of a future in which there is a normal set of relationships with real peace, with diplomatic recognition, commerce, trade, all that comes with that peace. And I think that the Arab League’s mission to Washington some weeks ago was an important step forward in helping to lay the groundwork for the possibility of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
We believe, President Obama believes, that those negotiations should start as soon as is possible, and hopefully that they should conclude with two states living side by side in peace and security. And he has sent me out here to this region on a number of different occasions now in order to work with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, but also with the neighbors, in order to try to bring about the conditions for negotiations to take place, and ultimately notwithstanding all of the turmoil, notwithstanding all of the conflict, notwithstanding all of the counter-indications, to be able to bring about peace.
We need to be able to do that. And we share a belief with Saudi Arabia and many countries that these next weeks are perhaps – or at least this next period of time is an important period of time where decisions could be made that could affect this region for years to come.
We also discussed, as His Royal Highness has said, the crisis of Syria. I join His Royal Highness in making clear that this is a crisis that has been made worse, a situation that’s been made far more difficult and complicated by Assad’s invitation to Iran and to Hezbollah, Iran’s surrogate, to cross lines – international lines – and to become engaged on the ground in Syria. It is the Assad regime that has internationalized the violence on the ground in the worst of ways. And I would remind people, as I think His Royal Highness has and would join me, that peaceful demonstrations that asked for small amounts of reform were met with violence in the very beginning, and it is that violence that has grown, and now, because of the Assad regime’s decision, been internationalized.
I expressed our appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s leadership within the region, within the Arab League, in efforts to try to help us to find a political solution. We believe that the best solution is a political solution in which the people of Syria have an opportunity to be able to make a choice about their future. And we believe that every minority can be respected, that there could be diversity and pluralism, and that people could do so in a climate of peace in the absence of oppression and violence or the involvement of foreign fighters, providing the Assad regime is prepared to live by the framework that was created in the Geneva communique for a transition government with full executive powers chosen by mutual consent of all the parties, which really has the best chance of bringing about peace in Syria. We continue to believe, as His Royal Highness referred to, that the Geneva 2 offers the best opportunity to be able to try to bring that about.
And as countries like the United States and Saudi Arabia aid the opposition, we do so with the belief that it is done in the effort to try to bring people to the decision to go to Geneva and respect the Geneva 1 communique. Earlier this week, we agreed in Doha to do more to aid the opposition in order to help bring that about. And the President of the United States has made the decision to do more, and today I came here to talk with His Royal Highness the Foreign Minister in order to understand better what Saudi Arabia will be doing, what the countries in the region will be doing, and how we can coordinate those efforts in the best way to bring about the solution that we all hope for.
Finally, let me commend Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council for their support of President Hadi and the people of Yemen in their ongoing national dialogue and their broader transition process. This is critical to the future of Yemen, to the future of the region, and we agreed that there are ways that we can cooperate further on that, and we will.
All of these concerns and everything that we discussed today, frankly, has global consequences. And that is why our partnership, the partnership between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is so essential. So I thank His Majesty, King Abdullah, and the I thank the Foreign Minister, my friend, Prince Saud al-Faisal for his welcome today, and I thank him most importantly for the serious purpose and serious discussion that he is engaged in and for the cooperation that we are both engaged in, in order to bring about peace and stability to this region.
Thank you, Your Royal Highness.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and before I close, I would like to congratulate Prince Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the new prince of – the Emir of Qatar. And I would like to appreciate his father, Prince Hamad, for his efforts in developing Yemen and bolstering the relations between our two countries and our two peoples and his work on the issues of the region. And we pray for Qatar’s prosperity and advancement.
We will take your questions now.
MS. PSAKI: The U.S. question will be from Margaret Brennan of CBS News.
QUESTION: Margaret Brennan from CBS. Your Royal Highness, a lot has changed in terms of (inaudible) providing (inaudible). When will we see it make a difference on the ground? And (inaudible) that difference without outside military intervention? And Secretary Kerry, if you could explain more on how the U.S. is helping to coordinate on (inaudible) demonstration (inaudible). (Inaudible) Sergey Lavrov just said that (inaudible).
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Inaudible) and the corollary to that is (inaudible) a massive flow of money, of weapons to aid and abet (inaudible) genocide. This must end. And Saudi Arabia is not a country that interferes in internal affairs of countries. But an invaded country, where genocide is being perpetrated, is not a normal situation. And I can say with all clarity that we will help the Syrian people defend themselves. We will take our means we have – we are a small country. The aid we can provide is proportionate to our capabilities. But we will not stop helping them in the most effective way that we can, according to that capability.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, with respect to the (inaudible) technicalities of one particular type of aid versus another, or logistics, but it is obvious from the London 11 meeting that we had the other day, as well as from this meeting, that we are trying to coordinate. We’re trying to understand as well as possible what each nation is doing today, what they’re prepared to do, and obviously, how we can work in a way that isn’t at cross-purposes. We need to be coordinated. So that coordination effort was a subject of discussion today. And I think that given the fact that the President made the decision to provide additional assistance, we want to make sure that that’s being done in the most effective way possible.
We also wanted to – I wanted to hear from His Royal Highness the views of Saudi Arabia with respect to the strategy going forward, and larger concerns: What are the implications of Iran and Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, being involved across international lines in another country, in effect managing a war for that country? What are the impacts on our friends who are neighbors, on Jordan, on Israel, on Lebanon, on Turkey? These are all important considerations, and sometimes one needs to sit face to face in order to have an opportunity to be able to better understand our friends’ thinking on these issues. And that’s exactly what we did.
With respect to Egypt and the demonstrations, first of all, demonstrations are a very legitimate form of expression for citizens in any country. And it’s imperative, we hope, that those demonstrations will be peaceful, that the government would respect them, and that the people will respect their fellow citizens. So that is an important principle on which to begin, but obviously Egypt is going through a very difficult period. We have made many recommendations to our friends in Egypt. We are trying to help, as other countries are trying to help, to create a place for the opposition to be part of the political process in order to create some economic reforms that will help attract business and capital and begin to move their economy. And I think it’s up to the citizens of Egypt to make decisions as to whether or not they feel that all of those kinds of reforms and initiatives are taking place in a way that meets their needs.
That’s not our – that’s – we’re not involved in that. That’s their choice. This demonstration is spontaneous and comes from the Egyptian people. We hope that it will bring the government ultimately to a place where the reforms are effected and choices that need to be made about the economy are implemented. And we will obviously hope that it will not produce violence and be a moment of catalyzing, positive change for Egypt itself.
With respect to the comments – with respect to Mr. Snowden’s situation and the comments, I haven’t read the comments. I understand from – indirectly that it was a strong statement by the Foreign Minister. But I would simply appeal for calm and reasonableness in a moment where we don’t need to raise the level of confrontation over something as, frankly, basic and normal as this.
It is accurate that there is not an extradition treaty between Russia and the United States, so if you want to be technical, certainly there is no extradition treaty. But there are standards of behavior between sovereign nations. There are – there is common law. There is respect for rule of law. And we would simply call on our friends in Russia to respect the fact that a partner nation, a co-member of the Permanent Five of the United Nations has made a normal request under legal systems for law to be upheld.
And we would hope that as a nation, as a sovereign nation, Russia would not see its interests in siding with a person who is accused of breaking the law in another nation and who is a fugitive from justice according to international standards of law. So we simply call on them to – they don’t have to enforce the law, but they certainly can allow him to be subject to the laws of our land and our Constitution, which he is a citizen of. And that’s what we call on them to do.
We’re not looking for a confrontation. We’re not ordering anybody. We’re simply requesting, under a very normal procedure, for the transfer of somebody, just as we transferred to Russia seven people in the last two years that they requested that we did without any clamor, without any rancor, without any argument, and according to our sense of the appropriateness of meeting their request. And that’s what we would hope they would reciprocate with here today.
QUESTION: I have two questions. One is for Mr. Secretary and the other one for His Royal Highness. Mr. Secretary, I believe that there is a tremendous concern in the West and United States about – there was tremendous concern to arm the Syrian Free Army (inaudible) those are in relation to (inaudible). I believe that this concern has resulted in making Hezbollah and Iran more strong in the theater of operation in Syria. Now with the decision of the American Administration to arm the Free Syrian Army, I mean, are you going to arm them with the heavy weapons that could topple the regime or just to make the advance of power on the ground?
(Via translation.) Supporting the Syrian – the Syrian Free Army with (inaudible.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me just say very directly we never discussed the details of whatever class of weapons we might or might not be providing to anybody. That is not a matter of public discussion. And I think our goal, as I stated, is very clear. We do not want this to be a wider war. We do not want (inaudible) contribute to more bloodshed and a prolongation of the agony of the people of Syria. So our hope is to be able to speedily move to a place where the killing can end and the people of Syria will have a chance to choose their future. We believe that best is provided for through the Geneva process.
But we will continue to provide assistance to the Syrian military coalition and to the Syrian opposition in the interim and because we do not believe that it is appropriate for the Assad regime to have invited the Iranians and Hezbollah to cross international lines and to have their fighters on the ground. There are no United States fighters, there are no Saudi fighters, there are no Qatari fighters on the ground. The opposition was fighting. It is Assad who has grown this in its significance and global implications. And needless to say, we are responding appropriately and we will continue to respond appropriately as the President has said.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Via interpreter.) The Kingdom’s aid to Syria – just like I said earlier, Syria is facing two things: genocide, unprecedented genocide in this region and a foreign invasion. The Syrians are calling out for the conscience – the collective conscience of the Arab, Islamic, and international communities to help them out and defend themselves against this unbelievable attack on them. Just like the Secretary said, what led to this situation are simple and basic demands by the Syrians to make their lives a little better. But the reaction, the violent reaction of the regime by killing the opposition and murdering those it considers to be opposition, made it inevitable for the Kingdom, which is an Arab country that’s a sister of Syria and has mutual interests with the Syrian people – it’s left with no choice but to help that people defend themselves. And the only restriction we – there is on the aid we can give to the Syrian opposition is our ability to help, our --
SECRETARY KERRY: Your call. It’s up to you. You can do whatever you want.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Via interpreter.) The Secretary has an appointment.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Concerning the Geneva 2, how will you hold the conference when the Syrian coalition will not participate? And what’s Saudi Arabia’s stand on calls for jihad? And what measures has it taken to – concerning that? And now the Syrian rebels, there is a rift among the alliance of the Syrian opposition. What is Saudi doing to alleviate that?
And Mr. Kerry, about (inaudible) agreement between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.A. that (inaudible) between Saudi and Arabia and the Americans. Why has that not include in this agreement?
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, which agreement is that?
PARTICIPANT: The case of Hamid (inaudible), a Saudi citizen.
SECRETARY KERRY: I will have to investigate that. I can’t tell you exactly, but I will find out for you, and we’ll get back to you. Fair enough?
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Via interpreter.) A rift among Syrian – factions within the Syrian oppositions, this – it’s important for them to agree, so as to defend themselves better and to go on to rebuild Syria in a way that preserves the interests of everyone, of all sects and ethnicities.
What the Kingdom is doing in that regard, we are always trying to convince them to tell them to – to help them to understand that it’s in their best interest to agree. And we hope that these efforts continue so as we arrive at their goals.
Jihad is basically according to – determined by whatever one can achieve. One can do jihad with their hands or with their words. And we are doing it with all our efforts. Thank you.
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