Kerry, Saudi FM Saud Joint Press Briefing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Office of the Spokesperson
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
September 11, 2014


Secretary of State John Kerry
Joint Press Statement with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal

September 11, 2014
Royal Terminal
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Via interpreter) In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, we have held today a regional meeting to combat terrorism with the presidents of all of our states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in addition to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and with the presence of the United States of America. This meeting comes in the light of our cooperation to face the threat of terrorism and with the increased activity of terrorist groups in the region.

This danger that is propagating in the region very fiercely, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques has always warned against this danger from a long time ago. The last time he warned against this was in last August when he said that it was a shame that these terrorists undertake these activities in the name of religion. They kill innocent peoples and they cut their victims and they take pride in this in the name of religion. They are killing souls that God has forbidden to kill, and they have disfigured the face of humanity.

His Majesty then called upon all the (inaudible), all the scholars of the Muslim Ummah to do their duty in the face of terrorism and hate and extremism, expressing at the same time that his disappointment about this vis-a-vis the silence of the international community with regard to what’s happening in our region. He also urged the leaders of the world and expressed a message towards these leaders when he received ambassadors on August 29th that it’s important to fight against this legion with force, wiseness, and speed. He warned that neglecting it will lead to its wide spread in Europe and America in a few months.

I would like also to refer to the statement of His Excellency the President of the United States Barack Obama and its various contents that reflect the seriousness in the fight against terrorism, including its stress on following terrorists, pursuing terrorists wherever they are.

Our meeting today was a good opportunity to discuss – we have listened today – an outline, explained outline of His Excellency Secretary Kerry about the strategy laid down by the United States to combat terrorism. The meeting today was a good opportunity to discuss this phenomena from all different aspects and perspectives, and to go deep in its roots and causes and reflected keenness to come up with a joint vision to combat it through military means, security means, and intelligence, as well as economic and financial means, and intellectual means also.

The meeting sought to deal with this phenomena from a strategic, comprehensive perspective not only limited to a single country, but extends to deal with this terrorism that strikes Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen – these countries that have become safe haven for these organizations and their networks, in particular with regard to the transfer of weapons and ammunition to them and among them. A case in point: The ISIL terrorist organization, through their – and their infiltration to the borders between Iraq and Syria and their cancellation of these borders, moving freely to Syrian territory with forces and military weapons as safe as they want.

Another important item that we discussed today is the importance of being clear in our plans and policies and to share responsibilities – this, in addition to being serious and continuous in our action to eliminate and wipe out all these terrorist organizations. Inaction and hesitation will not help to uproot this phenomenon. On the opposite, it might encourage its return, and we have learned at great experience in the past years, and this is the best example of this. It’s needless to say that any security action against terrorism to be fruitful and to bear fruit, it has to be accompanied by another action to combat this ideology – erroneous ideology – and also to cut the resources from the terrorists, whether the financial or in terms of weapons, including arms control of the flows from some country that are only interested in destabilizing security and stability of the region and to meddle in its affairs.

In this meeting, we also discussed the volatile political situation in the countries that are plagued with terrorism, which requires the intensification and the strengthening of political efforts in order to support addressing the condition in this countries – in these countries in a way to achieve unity and solidarity between the citizens, whether – and to protect them from racial and sectarian affiliations, and to give them equality of rights and duties.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that within the framework of the efforts required to combat terrorism, we have underlined the importance of maintaining the unity and the sovereignty of the different states, as well as their independence and territorial integrity.

Thank you very much, and I give the floor to His Excellency Secretary Kerry.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first of all, thanks you very, very much, Your Royal Highness. We are deeply appreciative to you, very grateful for your leadership, for His Majesty King Abdullah and Saudi Arabia’s commitment to this effort, and we thank you for bringing us together today in this very, very important meeting.

This meeting couldn’t happen at a more important time, and frankly, it couldn’t include a more important group of partners. Every single country represented here today, including – especially Iraq, will be a critical part of the effort to destroy ISIL’s ability to terrorize. We’re very grateful to His Royal Highness for helping to facilitate the invitation to Iraq immediately after the formation of the new government as a sign of recognition of the possibilities for a real transformation. And that in and of itself helped to make this meeting more meaningful and more comprehensive.

As all of us know, ISIL is an organization that knows no bounds. It is an organization that rapes and brutalizes women and sells even young girls as brides. They viciously and indiscriminately attack groups of all ethnicities, all sects, any religion, including vulnerable minorities like Christians and Yezidis. And they do so only because those people are not them, because they represent something different. They brutally murder innocent people, including most recently two Americans, whom they beheaded for the world to see in recent weeks. Their barbarity literally knows no limits and they have to be stopped.

Obviously, today is a particularly poignant day for this meeting. Today is September 11th. Thirteen years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the devastating consequences of extremist hate remain fresh in the minds of all Americans and so many of our friends and allies around the world. Those consequences are felt everyday here in the Middle East, where extremist ideology in groups like ISIL continue to tear apart communities, restrain growth, stop progress, pursue violence, and repress people, and ignore and oppose any sort of rule of law.

Last night, in response to ISIL, President Obama outlined a clear, unified global strategy to support the Government of Iraq in taking on and destroying ISIL wherever it is found. That strategy is centered in a global coalition of nations, and as I understand – underscored in the meeting that we had today, Arab nations play a critical role in that coalition – the leading role, really, across all lines of effort: military support; humanitarian aid; our work to stop the flow of illegal funds and foreign fighters, which ISIL requires in order to thrive; and certainly, the effort to repudiate once and for all the dangerous, the offensive, the insulting distortion of Islam that ISIL propaganda attempts to spread throughout the region and the world. ISIL attempts to tell people that what they’re doing is somehow based on their notion of Islam and their view of religion. No religion, certainly not a peaceful, great religion like Islam, ever condones the kinds of activities that ISIL engages in.

I’m very pleased to say that the countries that were here today that joined in the communique that is being issued today have all, each of them, committed to play a role in achieving this mission. In the days ahead I will continue to meet with leaders in the region and beyond as we work to build the broadest coalition possible. Developing this global coalition will also be a primary focus of the UN General Assembly later this month.

As my partners here and I discussed today, the world is obviously in the midst of an enormously challenging time. Nothing is easy right now, but the truth is we are moving in a direction that people in countries all across the world can understand in an effort to try to bring peace and stability and prosperity and opportunity, dignity, and respect to the lives of the people in our countries. This is a moment which is one of those rare opportunities in history where leaders making the right choices can actually bend the arc of history in the right direction in the goals – the direction of the goals that we share: peace and prosperity and security for all.

And if we take advantage of this opportunity, what we are doing now could actually become a model for cooperation. It becomes perhaps even a model for addressing extremism and isolating it, as it should be anywhere where it exists. We believe that we’re all up to this task, and we believe that this is what our citizens are asking of us. We believe we will beat back the evil of ISIL and we will fight for the peaceful and secure world that people of all nations, ethnicities, religions, and sects deserve.

And I’m very grateful for the leadership that Saudi Arabia has exhibited in bringing us here for this meeting, and I look forward to continuing to work with all of the colleagues who are part of today’s meeting. It was important; we made progress; the coalition is growing and it now has a clarity of purpose within this region which is essential to our possibilities of success.

So thank you very much, Your Royal Highness. We appreciate it.


QUESTION: I have two questions. My first question is for Mr. Secretary. Immediately after American President announcement with regards to the strategy, there was three reaction. First, the Russian who said that any military operation, even against the fundamentalists in Iraq and Syria, it has to get the UN mandate. The Bashar regime said any military operation without coordination with the regime —

MODERATOR: Your question, please. Your question.

QUESTION: So do you think that this will be a (inaudible) on your operation against the ISIL?

(In Arabic.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first of all, Iraq, the Government of Iraq, has invited the United States of America and asked for help. It has asked for help from the United States and has asked for help from its neighbors, from other countries in the region. And under international law, when a country is invaded and a country invites somebody to come in and help them, we have every right in the world to respond to that request.

And I must say if it weren’t so serious, what is happening in Ukraine, one might almost laugh at the idea of Russia raising the issue of international law or of any question at the UN. And I’m really rather surprised that Russia would dare to assert any notion of international law after what has happened in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Via interpreter) Regarding Turkey – and indeed there was no difference at all between Turkey and any member of this meeting. As for the training of the free army, it has areas of training where it conducts its training in all neighboring countries.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My question is for you from Al Arabiya. What is the role required from the regional countries, especially for Saudi Arabia, especially with regard to this coalition?

My other question for the foreign minister of – no, the Secretary of State. What are the (inaudible) that you (inaudible) to engage (inaudible) any ground force intervention apart from airstrikes? Or what can be done as far as land intervention is concerned?

FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Via interpreter) Yes, there are efforts undoubtedly from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has always taken initiatives with regard to a firm position towards terrorists and against them. So there is no limit to what the Kingdom can provide in this regard. So this is the position of the Kingdom. I have not heard from any party to this meeting today, they have not expressed any reservation with regard to the role required from them. So this shows that the Kingdom is determined to face and overcome this scourge.

SECRETARY KERRY: Did you ask about ground troops in Syria or in Iraq? What was your question?

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Yes, my question is: What are the (inaudible) that the American Government can support, or at least this coalition, as far as ground troops intervention?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the current plan, as the President said, no country is talking about placing ground troops, nor do we believe there’s a need to. Iraq has a very sizable army. Some of it needs to be reconstituted and retrained. There will be major efforts to do exactly that. But the current plan of the President is not to engage with foreign troops engaging in this fight. This is a fight where the Syrian opposition and the Iraqi forces themselves have significant capacity. Some of it has to be retrained and refocused; but we are confident that together with the efforts of other countries involved, that will happen and it will be sufficient to the task.

Thank you.

QUESTION: One, Foreign Minister, from the American press? Will you take a question, sir?


QUESTION: Your government has been quite critical of the United States over the last year or so for not entirely seeing things – the crisis in Syria – the way you did, and I know you were deeply disappointed by President Obama’s decision last summer not to move ahead with airstrikes then. In light of that, do you feel that President Obama and the United States now see the situation as dire – as being as dire as you did then?

FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: I only see agreement. I don’t see disagreement. (Laughter.) I see the agreement that we have about the present situation.

Thank you.