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Report: The Elders in Washington DC and London

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In a report for The Carter Center, Jimmy Carter provides a detailed account of the Elders visit to Washington DC and London last month. Holding public debates and private meetings, the Elders met with senior officials and experts to discuss Middle East peace.

The purpose of this trip was to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and British Foreign Minister William Hague to explain the work of The Elders and The Carter Center, to offer our assistance when needed, and to learn as much as possible about the policies of the two governments regarding Syria, Egypt, Israel-Palestine, Sudan, and North Korea. We wanted also to begin a series of Elders' sessions with leaders of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. In London I was also raising funds for our Centers' work.

I acted as Chair of the Elders' delegation in Washington, accompanied by Martti Ahtisaari, Mary Robinson, Ernesto Zedillo, and Lakhdar Brahimi. We had a fine briefing from Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street. He feels that there have been a few positive developments in the United States regarding Israel-Palestine objectivity – even in the Congress, where 27 senators called for a two-state solution in the Middle East, and 131 House members said, "give Iranian President Rouhani a chance." This might be of help for Kerry's initiative. Jeremy also expressed support for Martin Indyk (US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations) as negotiator in the peace talks.

Jimmy Carter speaking at one of the private meetings in Washington DC, July 2013

Our first official meeting was with National Security Advisor Susan Rice. We explained our various interests and told her about our invitation to visit North Korea, provided we have "authorisation from the US government" for the trip. She assured us that the White House was fully supportive of John Kerry's peace efforts in Syria and the Middle East.

After a discussion with about 30 guests at the Brookings Institute (including with Martin Indyk), we met with John Kerry and his aides, following my private session with him. We discussed the same issues mentioned above, and he gave us insights into his planned peace talks between Israel and the PLO. We mentioned to both Rice and Kerry that either Robert Wexler or Mel Levine, former US congressmen, might be helpful in arousing more Jewish-American support for the peace talks. We expressed our support and admiration for Kerry's noble efforts to renew this effort after several years of relative inactivity from Washington. That evening, Lakhdar, Martti, and I participated in a heavily attended forum at the Carnegie Foundation.

Jimmy Carter, Lakhdar Brahimi and Martti Ahtisaari on stage with Marwan Muasher for a public debate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The three of us travelled to London for similar meetings with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and, not surprisingly, found a similar position on major foreign policy issues with strong support for Kerry's peace initiative. As we were leaving, Hague told us that his major new effort for the year is to address the largely unpunished sexual abuse of women in combat zones, and he shared some information that I might use in my book on the subject. After a series of interviews for CNN and BBC, we had another program at Chatham House, almost exclusively focused on all aspects of Israel's occupation of Palestine and the real threat of a one-state solution by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition. We were able to describe the concentrated work of The Carter Center and The Elders during question time from the large and lively audience. Between these scheduled events, I met with some potential donors to The Carter Center.

Lakhar Brahimi and Jimmy Carter discuss Middle East peace and the conflict in Syria during an interview with CNN.

Later that evening and all the next day, Lakhdar and I met with key Palestinian leaders and representatives of the United Nations, European Union, and the United States to discuss prospects for the scheduled peace talks, Palestinian reconciliation and their future role as a member of the United Nations, and other issues in the Holy Land. These sessions were moderated by the Elders' Chief Executive Officer Lesley-Anne Knight and Policy Director Andrew Whitley and the Carter Center's Conflict Resolution Program Director Hrair Balian. All of us are pleased with the mutually beneficial partnership between the two organisations. We felt that we reached all of our goals and are planning our next similar visit to Russia.

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