Photo by Amos Ben Gershom, GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry, in Rome, issued the following statements before their meeting:
US Secretary of State John Kerry:
"Good morning, everybody. I’m delighted to welcome the Prime Minister of Israel, my friend Bibi Netanyahu, to the American residence here in Rome, which he is very familiar with. We spent quite a few hours here in the garden and in this room and elsewhere talking.
We had a very long meeting last night in which we discussed many different issues, but we focused significantly on the challenge of beating back terrorism and beating back terrorism specifically with respect to Israel’s challenge in the Sinai, in the Golan Heights, where ISIL is now visible, positioned in places, and also the challenge of violence stemming from extremism in Gaza and the West Bank.
We had a very productive conversation about that, and we talked at some length about ways in which we might be able to try to work and move things in a more positive direction. We also talked about the progress being made, the significant progress being made by the Prime Minister in his discussions with Turkey, and we obviously have been encouraging a movement towards the resolution of the differences between Turkey and Israel.
And finally, we did talk at some length about the economic challenge, and particularly some of the countries in the region which are witnessing a transformational kind of set of hurdles – Egypt particularly, with respect to its economic transformation, which has to come at the same time as it is fighting back against terrorism, and we discussed how we can work together with other countries in the region in order to deal with those issues.
And of course, finally we talked about Brexit – impossible not to – and how that might or might not affect all economies, and I think we came to the conclusion that, managed properly, with leadership and effort by all of the parties to calm the waters and move in a steady way, that we can get through this – also another transformation, transition, and do so hopefully minimizing any kind of collateral negative effect.
Most importantly, Israel is, as everybody knows and we reiterate again and again, a critical ally and friend of the United States, and Israel continues to be facing significant challenges. We talked about those, and the ways in which, hopefully, with good effort by all leaders, we can try to change the direction and find a positive way to affect the lives of everybody – Israelis, Palestinians, people in the neighboring countries – and move towards a more stable and peaceful future."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
"Thank you, John, for dinner and breakfast, and for our conversations. I welcome the opportunity to have the, I would say, probing talks on the region, on the challenges and on the opportunities with my good friend John Kerry. There are serious talks by two committed allies, Israel and the United States.
We discussed everything that the Secretary spoke about – the challenges in the region from ISIL, east, west, south. We discussed not only American-Israeli security cooperation, but security cooperation in a larger regional context. We discussed how we can advance the process with the Palestinians, difficult though it may be. We discussed regional implications for stabilizing the Middle East, moving into a place where it will be less convulsive. And we discussed some bilateral issues between us. This was a far-ranging discussion that I think was meant to bring us both in a common direction for common purposes, and I find it very valuable, so thank you.
I updated Secretary Kerry about our agreement with Turkey, which we will show at noon. I think it’s an important step here to normalize relations on one side. It has also immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I use that word advisedly – immense implications for the Israeli economy and I mean positive immense implications.
A lot of other things were discussed and will be discussed today, but I remember a meeting that I had with Secretary Kerry quite some time ago when we discussed it, and with Vice President Biden, whom I called yesterday, who met me a couple years ago in Davos. Rod is an oil expert, he’s a gas expert, and he said, "This will create the foundations, part of the foundations, of the future of your economy." That has been uppermost in my mind, and I’ll say more about that today at lunch.
US Secretary of State John Kerry: Because I wanted, I wanted the Prime Minister to say something about it and it shouldn’t have come from me. But first of all, we welcome, the United States welcomes this step. It is something we have talked about for several years, as the Prime Minister has said. I’m proud to say that the Vice President’s oil expert is the State Department’s oil expert. Amos Hochstein did a great job on this too, and the Vice President’s been pushing this all along. So, we are obviously pleased in the Administration. This is a step we wanted to see happen. I think when President Obama came to Israel, there was a famous phone call on the tarmac of the airport to Turkey, as we tried to move things forward. So this is coming full circle, and Mr. Prime Minister, I congratulate you. I know your team has been working long and hard at this. I think it’s a positive step, one of, I hope, the beginning of others. Thank you. Appreciate it."