|Kerry trying a shawarma sandwich at an eatery in al-Bireh...|
|... followed by Nabulsi kenafeh (Photos are by AFP)|
Geneva-2 on Syria – inshallah
Israel-Palestine peace talks – in a bit
Shawarma – yummy
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said today both the U.S. and Russia are seriously committed to having an international conference on Syria and setting up a transitional government to end the bloodshed.
But he acknowledged the conference might not be possible until August or later.
Kerry spoke outside the U.S. Embassy in Brunei after a 90-minute-plus meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of an Asian security summit.
The proposed conference, which Kerry and Lavrov had planned for end-May, is known as "Geneva-2" because it follows a Syria meeting in the Swiss city in June 2012.
The secretary of state flew in for the ASEAN summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, after failing to achieve a breakthrough in setting up peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders despite an intense four-day round of shuttle diplomacy. Yet he left Tel Aviv at the weekend with a lot of optimism and promised that he is close to progress.
He met separately a total of three times with Benyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, spending a total of 13 hours talking to the Israeli prime minister and around seven to the Palestinian president.
Following one of his meetings with Abbas at the latter’s office in Ramallah, Kerry wandered the streets of the central West Bank city of al-Bireh, where he ate a shawarma sandwich and Nabulsi kenafeh at a local eatery.
Following are his remarks after meeting with Lavrov in Brunei today:
Hi, everybody. I thought the meeting I had with Secretary Lavrov merited saying a few words because I think it was constructive and very useful, and I think we both agreed with that. We discussed a wide range of issues, but we obviously focused mostly on the issue of Syria.
I did raise the issue of, obviously, [National Security Agency leaker Edward] Snowden, but that is not his portfolio. It’s being handled – nor is it mine directly because it’s being handled within the Justice Department. So it is fair to say that we didn’t discuss any substantive progress, but I certainly raised, from our point of view, how it fits within the context of our relationship. But again, not his portfolio, and so it wasn’t discussed in a way that he would be able to take any action on it, though I hope he will communicate the views that I expressed.
On Syria, we had a very in-depth conversation, and I thought it was important to note that Foreign Minister Lavrov believes, as I do, and as I think President Obama and President Putin believe, that there are two countries that can have the most significant difference on this question, and they are Russia and the United States. We agreed that we are both serious, more than serious – committed to the Geneva process, and we both agreed that our countries have an ability to be able to make a difference if we can pull together in that effort.
We made progress in talking through and building on some of the issues that were discussed in Geneva on June 25th by our Under Secretary Wendy Sherman and by their deputy, Mr. Bogdanov, as well as Lakhdar Brahimi. We narrowed down some of the options with respect to the potential of that conference. We both agreed that that conference should happen sooner rather than later, though we have a 2+2 meeting between Russia and the United States in July, and obviously August is very difficult for Europeans and for others, so it may be somewhere thereafter, but that’s being talked about.
What is clear to me coming out of this meeting and what we both wanted to really ascertain from each other is the level of seriousness and the capacity to be able to do this. Geneva relies on – the next Geneva relies on the work of the first Geneva, which calls for a transitional government with a neutral environment, by mutual consent, with the full transfer of power.
Whether the Assad regime is doing better or whether the opposition is doing better is frankly not determinative of that outcome because the outcome requires a transition government. And that’s why it is valuable to try to get to Geneva.
So we will continue to push. There are still things that have to be worked out over the course of these next days, but Foreign Minister Lavrov and I felt that this meeting was a very useful meeting. It was constructive, it was conducted in a constructive way, and our objective remains the same; that is, to recognize the notion that there really isn’t a military victory per se in Syria that keeps Syria as a country, and number two that we have an obligation to try to work towards a peaceful resolution because a peaceful settlement is the best way to save the state of Syria and to minimize the destruction. That commitment remains a solid one between both of us.
So I’m not going to take questions now because I’ve got a group of people waiting and we have a very, very tight schedule to move out of here.