The PJ Tatler

Kerry Focused on Israel as 'Almost Medieval' Islamist Attacks Rock Pakistan, Australia

Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in London today that international alliances are needed to battle the “almost medieval vision” of Islamist terrorists that attacked in Pakistan and Sydney this week.

“As a father, I know exactly how hard it is when you send kids out of house into the world, to school or anywhere, and particularly in today’s world,” Kerry said of the attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar, in which at least 131 were killed.

“The images are absolutely gut-wrenching: young children carried away in ambulances, a teacher burned alive in front of the students, a house of learning turned into a house of unspeakable horror,” he said. “…This act of terror angers and shakes all people of conscience, and we condemn it in the strongest terms possible. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. And we pledge our full support to the people of Pakistan in this difficult hour and we will help them in any way that we possibly can.”

Noting the cafe siege in Sydney by an Iranian cleric that left two hostages dead, Kerry noted the U.S. “has come face to face with horrific violence on our own soil, and we have seen our citizens held hostage and murdered in faraway places for the most nihilistic, devastatingly negative purposes.”

“So we know in a very personal way what our ally Australia is going through at this very moment. And we grieve with Australia and with the families of all those terrorized, injured, and killed,” he said. “The attacks in Peshawar and Sydney underscore that threats locally are also threats globally. In today’s world, next door is everywhere. And that’s why the United States is engaged in more places with more partners on more issues than ever before, and we are committed with all those allies and partners to standing up to extremism and to the extremists themselves.”

Kerry said he’d had “very candid and constructive conversations” over the past few days in Rome with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and others. He sits down with Palestinian representatives in London today.

“Now obviously, a focus of these conversations has been our deep concern about the situation on the ground in Israel and in the West Bank and the mounting calls from the international community to pursue diplomatic measures to try to address it,” he said. “…All of the reasons that we engaged so intensely one year ago, a little more than that, and all the reasons that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas were willing to engage — those reasons are even more compelling today. The status quo is unsustainable for both parties and for the region.”

Kerry condemned an acid attack on an Israeli family last week and “indefensible price tag attacks, so-called price tag attacks” against Palestinians, “including the recent burning of a mosque near Ramallah.”

“The cycle of violence leads to more violence and to nowhere,” he said. “Peace is the only prospect, and people need to fight for it.”

A Palestinian resolution is coming before the UN Security Council on Wednesday to demand Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and declare the formation of a Palestinian state.

“It’s a particularly sensitive moment because we understand the frustrations of Palestinians. We understand the frustrations of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and those who are pushing hard, because they don’t see another course at this moment,” Kerry said. “So the key is to try to find out whether or not there are other options, other ways, other courses; could something be done that helps to respect the process that the Israelis are about to undergo, simultaneously respecting the needs of the region to de-escalate the tensions and avoid confrontation?”

“That’s what we hope to achieve, that’s what these discussions are all about, and we will continue to have these discussions this afternoon and on into the next days. But we’ve made no determinations other than that about any — about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that. We haven’t made any determinations.”

Pressed further about the fight against extremists staging attacks like those in Pakistan and Australia, Kerry replied “the threat is what the threat is.”

“If somebody decides they want to die, it’s very hard to prevent every situation from occurring,” he said.

“…I know that our friends in Pakistan and in Australia are tough and strong and prepared to stay the course. So it’s very unfortunate when this happens, but it is done precisely for the kind of effect that it gets, which is questions at a press conference and fears that are spread in various parts of the world.”