FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter) Good morning. It’s my pleasure to welcome U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry here in Cairo. This visit comes at a very critical time and in the midst of intensified Egyptian efforts to broker a cease-fire agreement on the basis of the plan it has proposed and in the midst of intensified contacts between the various Palestinian factions and the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
I would also – Mr. John Kerry met today with our president and we held bilateral meetings at the foreign ministry. And I welcome Mr. Kerry’s and the U.S. Administration’s efforts to broker a cease-fire agreement based on the Egyptian proposal. Our visions are – we have reached a common vision, which is to push the Palestinians and Israel to reach a cease-fire agreement and to put an end to the bloodshed and the killing of innocent women and children, and also to respond rationally to the initiative which has received wide and broad international support, and it has – it addresses all aspects and all needs of the various parties.
And I would also like to seize this opportunity to urge both sides to reach a cease-fire agreement and to lift the suffering of the Palestinian people and allow for humanitarian efforts and aid efforts to enter – or to proceed on the basis of the Egyptian initiative which has received wide support. And also I would like to refer to the U.S. contribution in this regard and the – its announcement of the contribution of $47 million in humanitarian aid.
And our discussions have addressed several issues of – several regional issues of common concern, and in this regard we welcome the U.S. condemnation of the terrorist act that took place in Egypt and in which 21 of our border guards were killed. It reflects our agreement and common understanding that we should intensify our efforts to fight this phenomena that not just threatens regional peace but also international peace and security.
And without much ado, I will now give the opportunity to Secretary Kerry to speak, and I would like to note that there will be no questions or answers afterwards, but he’ll be making a statement.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Foreign Minister Shoukry. Thank you for your welcome. Thank you for your very constructive efforts and work together not just with the United States, but with the United Nations and many other countries that are interested in trying to find a way forward to achieve a cease-fire, and ultimately to achieve peace and stability for the region.
As the foreign minister said, we’re just going to make statements now and not take questions at this point because we are continuing to work and there is more work to be done. But I want to thank President Sisi and I want to thank my counterpart, Foreign Minister Shoukry, for his very generous welcome this morning, for the time we spent together, and now for the time that we have just spent with the president of Egypt, during which we discussed not only principally the crisis with respect to Gaza, but we also talked about counterterrorism efforts, our mutual interests; we talked about Libya and the region.
I want to extend on behalf of the United States our deepest condolences to the people of Egypt and to the families, particularly, for the soldiers who were lost in the Western Desert. And it only underscores the reasons for our cooperation and the significant challenges that we all face.
I want to thank the people of Egypt for their hard work in transitioning to a democracy through their election and in making difficult choices with respect to their economy and the future today. And I particularly thank them for supporting their president in the effort to try to find an end to the conflict in Gaza and particularly to try to bring an immediate cease-fire. The United States is very grateful for Egypt’s leadership and we’re here today – I am here personally at the request of President Obama – to immediately try to find a way to support Egypt’s initiative.
Since I landed in Cairo last night, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with President Sisi, Foreign Minister Shoukry, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon late last night, the Arab League Secretary General al-Araby, and the intelligence chief for the Palestinian Authority, Majid Faraj.
INTERPRETER: I’m sorry. Okay.
SECRETARY KERRY: I’m just challenging her to see how much she can – (laughter) –
INTERPRETER: I think I can take care of this. Okay.
SECRETARY KERRY: And over the past several days, I’ve also been keeping in close touch with President Abbas, with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and with others. And while we still obviously have work to do, it’s also clear to me from each of the parties that I’ve met with that there is a framework available to end the violence, and that framework is the Egyptian initiative that has been put forward.
For two weeks now, we have seen Hamas launch rocket after rocket at Israeli neighborhoods and use an intricate set of tunnels that they have created in order to kidnap and try to kill Israeli citizens. And for two weeks, we have seen Israel respond, as any country has the right to do when it’s under attack, and we support Israel’s right of self-defense. But tragically, trapped in the middle of all of this are people, civilians, and we have seen hundreds of civilians in Gaza lose their lives in the conflict.
So the international community comes together and we’re here working because we’ve seen too much blood shed on all sides, including the death of two American citizens. And we have watched the humanitarian crisis in Gaza grow worse day after day – people losing their homes, all of their possessions, their access to food and water, their entire way of life.
Yesterday the United States committed to delivering $47 million in humanitarian aid, and yes, we know that much more will be needed from us and from the international community. We also understand the importance of long-term reconstruction, and once a cease-fire has been reached, we are certainly ready to discuss and work through the incredibly complicated underlying issues that have led to this crisis.
The loss of lives and the humanitarian impact is really heartbreaking, and we’re joining our international partners in reiterating our call for an immediate end to fighting and a return to the cease-fire that was reached in 2012. But just reaching a cease-fire clearly is not enough. It is imperative that there be a serious engagement, discussion, negotiation regarding the underlying issues and addressing all of the concerns that have brought us to where we are today.
Hamas has a fundamental choice to make and it is a choice that will have a profound impact for the people of Gaza. And the Egyptians have provided a framework and the forum for them to be able to come to the table to have a serious discussion together with other factions of the Palestinians. And President Abbas has been here in Israel, other countries, talking with leaders in order to try to encourage the Palestinian people to be able to come together around a solution to this crisis.
So we wanted to bring you up to date as to where we are here. We’ve had constructive meetings thus far, and I intend to be continuing our conversations through today and into the next days in order to work to see if we can find a way forward, a way that ends the violence and then addresses the underlying causes of this crisis.
So that’s where we are right now, but we know with clarity where we need to be. And for the sake of thousands of innocent families whose lives have been shaken and destroyed by this conflict on all sides, we hope we can get there as soon as possible. Thank you.