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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2002 Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks

Press Conference at El-Mithaq Guest House

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Algiers, Algeria
November 6, 2002

U/S GROSSMAN: Good afternoon to you all. Let me first of all thank you for coming to visit with us today. I also on this first day of Ramadan wish you Ramadan Mubarak. I should say that many senior officials in Washington, to include Secretary Powell this afternoon, will hold an Iftar dinner and honor Ramadan. We are very proud of that. And we are very proud of the fact that millions of Muslims around the United States are also celebrating Ramadan and will have Iftar this evening.

I want to make a short statement about my trip to Algeria. I came to Algeria as part of a visit that I am making to Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. My purpose in coming to Algeria was to continue the close high-level consultations that we have between Algeria and the United States. My purpose was to come to discuss with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister what more we could do to enhance the relationship between Algeria and the United States. During the day today, I had a great opportunity with both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to discuss these issues.

You know that I am part of a large number of senior visitors to have come recently to Algeria, and from Algeria to the United States. We are honored that President Bouteflika has had two meetings with President Bush. My visit follows the visits of both Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bodman, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe General Ralston. You in Algeria will welcome Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns in the next week or ten days. And in fact as you know, on this very day, in Washington, DC, there is a summit called the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Summit, where Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, who I know has also visited with you in Algiers, and your Minister of Energy, Minister Khalil, and many other U.S. and Algerian participants, will discuss the future of LNG exports to the United States.

I should say that one of the key issues that I discussed with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister was the issue of increasing the amount of economic cooperation, the amount of economic integration, between Algeria and the United States. I think that it is well worth remarking on at this press conference that now in Algiers there is a functioning U.S.-Algeria Chamber of Commerce. And it is well worth highlighting that in Washington we have our very first U.S.-Algeria Business Council. I believe this shows the future, which is that there will be ever more investment by American companies in Algeria, and connections between Algeria and the United States in the economic field. We can expand our cooperation, not just in the sector of hydrocarbons, but in the rest of our economic life as well, in high technology, in pharmaceuticals, and in other areas.

A growing number of international investors are looking at Algeria. It is a large market. But one of the things I have learned in my trip over these last few days is that the Maghreb as a whole is a larger and more attractive market, and Algeria, with its abundant resources would be a key part of a strong North African economy. But to do that, and to draw in the investors that are interested, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia must tackle their economic and political differences. I think that if we can encourage that to be done, the economic rewards will be great.

The United States views Algeria as an important friend. We talked this morning with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister about our cooperation on counter-terrorism, we talked about our cooperation in the political field, and we also talked about your government’s commitment to political and economic reform, and our intention to assist Algeria where we can in all of these efforts.

Algerians of course have suffered from terrorism for a very long time and that is something that binds Americans and Algerians. I want to end my short statement by thanking you and through you the people of Algeria for the sympathy and solidarity that Algerians have shown to the United States since the eleventh of September, 2001. It is a very important part of our relationship and part of the relationship I know we have also to continue and to build. With that I would be very glad to take any questions anybody might have.

ALGERIAN RADIO: You made reference to your discussions with the Minister of Foreign Affairs promoting the U.S.-Algerian antiterrorist fight. What about the six Algerians held in Guantanamo despite the fact that the Bosnian government has cleared them? Did this issue come up in your meeting and what concrete steps does the U.S. intend to take to clarify the case?

U/S GROSSMAN: Thank you for your question. No, actually this did not come up in our meetings today either with the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister. I will not be able as you can understand to speak specifically to these six cases. Since we established this facility in Guantanamo, we have offered to all countries whose nationals are in Guantanamo the chance to send law enforcement officials there to have an interview, to make a connection, to see what law enforcement officials here or in other countries might learn. We offered that opportunity to the Government of Algeria. We believe that what we have done in Guantanamo is in defense of the United States. That facility has been inspected again and again by the International Committee for the Red Cross and has been found to be acceptable. We are also beginning to return some of those detainees back to their home countries, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. So you will understand that I will not talk about these six individuals specifically but I can give you that insight into what is going on in Guantanamo.

ALGERIAN RADIO: Did you cover during your discussions the Iraq issue and the resumption of the Middle East Peace process?

U/S GROSSMAN: Yes, we discussed both of those issues. I took the opportunity in both my meeting with the Prime Minister and in my meeting with the Foreign Minister to give them a report on where we stand on the effort by the United States to get a Security Council resolution passed in New York. I reported to them that since President Bush’s speech on the 12th of September to the United Nations General Assembly we have been working to try to get a resolution through the United Nations that does three things: first, that declares the truth, which is that Saddam Hussein is not in compliance with his commitments to the Security Council these past ten or eleven years; second, that there be a new, stricter inspections regime for inspectors when they go back into Iraq; and third, that there be consequences if Saddam Hussein continues to resist the Security Council. We believe that passing such a strong resolution is the way to avoid a conflict. So my message to the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister today was that everyone who wishes to avoid conflict with Iraq, which we certainly do, should be in favor of a strong resolution. Because a strong resolution will enhance the Security Council and get Iraq disarmed, and it is possible to do that without having a conflict. I reported further to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister that through the great efforts of our Administration and other members of the Security Council, we believe we are getting close to a resolution.

We did also speak about the Middle East peace process. When you say, did we speak about a resumption of it, I would say that in fact we are heavily engaged in a process now: the President, Secretary Powell, Assistant Secretary Burns who will be here in a week or ten days. Our view is that the President of the United States gave a speech on the 24th of June which laid out a vision for two states in the Middle East, one Palestinian, one Israeli. It laid out a series of requirements for Israel and for the Palestinians which we believe would have to be met before these two states could peacefully be living side by side. We believe that if you take the ideas that Saudi Arabia proposed that were endorsed by the Arab League Summit in Beirut, the President’s June 24 speech and the UN Security Council resolutions, that these ideas put together will provide a road map toward the creation of a Palestinian state and also toward peace in the Middle East. I reported to the ministers on that perspective, and I certainly heard from them their deep concern about what is going on in the area from the Algerian perspective.

EL WATAN: The U.S. has put the GIA and GSPC on its list of terrorist organizations. What will it do to help Algeria fight them more efficiently and will the Algerian government work with the U.S. in promoting democracy and boosting economic reforms?

U/S GROSSMAN: Let me answer your question in three parts if I could. First, we want to do what we can to support Algeria’s fight against terrorism. We are doing that with some joint training and also with other help that we can provide. And I believe sir that that assistance will grow. So with training and assistance we believe that we can be of some use to, not just the Government of Algeria, but to the Algerian people, as they pursue peace and pursue this war against terrorism. Second, in terms of how to end this terror and what Algeria does to enhance its democracy, I think that here again we want to participate in a way that is useful to the people of Algeria. I will give you an example. During my conversation with the Prime Minister today, he was very eloquent on the question of revising the judicial system in Algeria. One of the things we talked about was how to train judges so that judges are independent, judges are courageous, judges can make decisions on the basis of the law. The Charge d’Affaires and I said that we would be glad to participate if it was useful to the Government of Algeria, and if there were programs like that in the United States, in the training of judges. So I believe that there are areas in the enhancement of democracy, and in the enhancement of the rule of law, where the United States and Algeria can do more together. Third, on the economy, as I tried to say in my statement, I believe there is considerably more that the United States can do with Algeria in the economic area. First, we want to pay attention to the U.S.-North Africa Economic Partnership, which I think you all know of as the Eisenstadt plan. Ambassador Eisenstadt was of course the Undersecretary for Economic Affairs. He is now back in private life. But his idea lives through the U.S.-North Africa Economic Partnership. We want to pay attention to that. Second, we want to pursue the idea that Algeria has to get into the World Trade Organization. We support that. We want to make sure that the U.S.-Algeria Trade and Investment Framework comes alive and brings more investment and trade to Algeria. We want to, as I said sir, see if we can increase the participation in the Algerian economy of American companies that are not in the hydrocarbon sector. So I believe that with training and assistance on counter-terrorism, with training and assistance in the area of enhancing democracy and the rule of law, and with true commitment to the right kind of economic relationship between Algeria and the United States, we can do more and we can essentially take our relationship to the next level. I would make one other point if I could. That is that one of the things where the Prime Minister and I agreed is that all of these points are related, that you cannot just work on security, you cannot just work on enhancing democracy, you cannot just work on enhancing our economic relationship. These things are related to each other. A truly free economy requires the rule of law. A truly free democracy requires a free market. Both of those things require security so that people can live their lives. So we agreed. I certainly admired his presentation in this regard, that you have to deal with these issues simultaneously.

ALGERIAN TV (ENTV): Are there U.S. initiatives to settle the Western Saharan Problem?

U/S GROSSMAN: We did discuss the questions of the Western Sahara with both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. I was pleased to hear their views. I reported to them that our position is that we support the efforts of former Secretary of State James Baker, who is the United Nations envoy. His mandate, his term, has been extended. We hope that he will continue to have ideas, and we hope that all the parties to this dispute will take those ideas seriously. Secretary Baker has our full support. He is one of the world’s great diplomats. We believe that we ought to take the chance to solve this problem. If I might just connect that answer to the answer I gave to the gentleman just before, this is not just a political problem. It is an economic question as well. As I said in my statement, I believe that if there was more regional economic integration across North Africa, more investors would come, more business would come. One of the obstacles to integration across North Africa is of course the question of the Western Sahara. It would be a good thing to solve the Western Sahara issue for the politics, and for the people, but it would also be a very good chance to increase regional economic integration, and I believe do more for the economies of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

ALGERIAN RADIO: Bush made a speech stating that the U.S. will go it alone against Iraq. What will the U.S. reaction be if the UNSC fails to vote a tough resolution regarding Iraq?

U/S GROSSMAN: Our president has spoken on this as you have said. Our Secretary of State has spoken on this. Our position is that the question of Iraq is not a question between the United States and Iraq. It is a question between the United Nations and Iraq. This is a chance for the United Nations to act. We want the United Nations to act. That is why we have worked so hard these eight weeks to encourage the United Nations to act. But as you have said as both our President and Secretary Powell have said if the United Nations fails to act, then we would have to consider our options, because the armament in Iraq - chemical weapons, biological weapons, radiological weapons, and perhaps nuclear weapons - are a threat not just to us but to Algeria as well. But I do not want to end my answer there. I want to end my answer by returning to the basic point, which is the President gave us the job of trying to get a Security Council resolution. That is the job we are working on. I believe we are close to that and I believe that the best way to avoid a conflict with Iraq is the passage of a very strong Security Council resolution. That is our goal. That is our object. And we have made no other decisions except to pursue that objective.

 


Released on November 6, 2002

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