(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)
President Shimon Peres, this afternoon (Monday, 8 April 2013), met with US Secretary of State John Kerry; the two held a diplomatic working meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the threat of a nuclear Iran and the strategic relationship between the two countries. At the beginning of the meeting the two delivered joint statements to the press and then conducted a small meeting in the president's private study.
President Peres began the meeting by welcoming Secretary of State Kerry and reflecting on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day: "I welcome you here today to the State of Israel on behalf of all the people of Israel. We appreciate you being with us today, on Holocaust Memorial Day, and for taking part in the memorial ceremony this morning. We paid a heavy price and lost one third of our people. Yet from the ashes of the Holocaust, we re-built the Jewish State with the capacity to defend ourselves, the energy to rebuild our land and with the heritage of justice for all." President Peres ended on a personal note and said, "We have a long friendship, I've never been disappointed and when I've been surprised it's been for the better."
Secretary of State Kerry, who attended this morning's Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony said, "It's really such an honor to be here today and to share in Holocaust Memorial Day. To be there in Yad Vashem, to lay a wreath on behalf of the American people but most importantly just to share in the uniqueness of that expression of sorrow and honor for this remarkable moment in history which we mark. I was standing there listening to the siren wail and thinking of the stories people have told me of everybody in Israel stopping, if you're in a car you get out and you stand to attention. The whole country freezes. And I know it's one of only two moments when that happens. For Holocaust Memorial Day and for the fallen in battle. That wailing had a profound impact on me, it was impressive and I think the lesson of today is underscored in your comments about the possibilities for peace, the possibility for people to live together without hatred and finding the common ground. I believe in that and I know you believe in that."
On the peace process with the Palestinians President Peres said, "There is a new wind of peace blowing through the Middle East. President Obama's re-election and his successful visit to the region. Your appointment as Secretary of State, total dedication to the cause of peace and faultless record in tackling complex international affairs. The new government formed here in Israel. All these elements have combined to create a new sense of optimism, a belief that peace is possible. And peace is possible. I believe that the gaps can be bridged, the disagreements overcome through negotiations. The two state solution is the best solution and the parameters for that agreement already exist, two states for two peoples – a Jewish state, Israel and an Arab state, Palestine."
Secretary of State Kerry also addressed the peace process and said, "It’s a great privilege for me to be representing President Obama and the American people in this effort to try and get us over the line. We all know it's not easy but as you said yourself it can be done. It has been expressed by your leaders and others for years that people believe in the possibility of the two state solution, I am convinced there is a road forward. I would say to everyone that I have no illusions about the difficulties, we've seen them. But you have to believe in the possibilities to be able to get there. You and I believe in them and I'm convinced there is a road ahead. I'm confident that we'll be working together and seeing more of each other in these next months."
President Peres addressed the threat from Iran and said, "Although our skies are secure today, the Iranian threat remains. The Iranian regime with its hegemonic ambition is the greatest threat to peace, security and regional stability. Today of all days we should condemn that regime which denies the Holocaust and threatens another one. We have full faith in you, in President Obama and in the global coalition which is committed to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. I have no doubt that when President Obama and you say that all options are on the table, you mean it."
Secretary of State Kerry also addressed the issue of Iran and said, "I'm very pleased to confirm to you what you know and what I hope the people of Israel know after the historic visit of President Obama here. You have a friend in President Obama, you have friends in this administration and in congress. We understand the threat of Iran and as the president has said many times, he doesn't bluff. He is serious and we will stand with Israel against this threat and with the rest of the world who have underscored that all we are looking for is Iran to live up to its international obligations. No options are off the table and no option will be taken off the table. I confirm to you that we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution but our eyes are open and we understand that the clock is moving. No-one will allow the diplomatic process to stand in the way of whatever choices need to be taken in order to protect the world from another nuclear weapon in the wrong hands."