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Press Availabilty in Santiago, Chile

Thomas A. Shannon, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Ambassador's Residence
Santiago, Chile
March 14, 2008

QUESTION: How could this visit to Chile be defined, Mr. Assistant Secretary?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: For me, I think it’s an opportunity to highlight the importance of the bilateral relationship between Chile and the United States. A bilateral relationship that, from our point of view, is very fruitful, very open, very constructive, and which has at its foundation excellent relations between the Presidents and the Foreign Affairs Ministers. And the opportunity for Secretary Rice to dialogue with Foreign Minster Foxley and President Bachelet, from our point of view, is fantastic. And to show that we have a positive agenda with sights on the future, where we are trying to link our economies and show that, with this positive agenda, we can build bilateral relations between Chile and the United States that benefit people from both countries. This also helps show the region that, with a bilateral relation of this nature, it is possible to construct economies that adapt well to global markets and to promote democracy, open markets, and economic integration as the foundations of prosperity.

QUESTION: And in this relationship, how do you see the nuclear issue, which has been discussed in the last days? What proposals do you have for Chile?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: I was a little surprised when I read the articles about nuclear energy, because it is not on this visit’s agenda. We have had a series of conversations with Chile about forms of alternative energy sources, particularly in the area of bio-fuels. But we know that nuclear energy is a very controversial subject in different parts of the world, even in the United States, where we have not constructed nuclear plants in a very long time. So, all I have to say is that I’m not here to talk about that.

QUESTION: The central point of the meetings, I understand, is completely political. In that sense, how is this agreement between Chile and California defined? The agreement you are working on to deepens a relationship that’s not only centralized in Washington?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: The idea of constructing a relationship between Chile and California, from our point of view, is very interesting, because it shows both countries are relating, not only through their governments, but also through their regions and states. We know that Chile and California historically have had important ties. And what we are trying to do at this moment it is to revive that relationship and to modernize it. That is, update it. And I believe that this pursuit of educational, cultural, social and commercial relationships between Chile and California, is going to benefit California, the United States and especially, Chile.

QUESTION: So, what is this relation going to focus on first? The education field, the commercial field...

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: Well, I think it has already begun in a certain way, in the educational field with the educational opportunity programs that we and Chile have launched some months ago. And what is interesting, is that Secretary Rice and Chancellor Foxley, months ago, began sketching a bilateral agenda based on educational exchanges and later on the creation of the Chile-California Partnership. The two Foreign Affairs Ministers have obtained something substantial, something concrete, in a very short time. And again this is an example, from our point of view, of the capacity of both governments to identify specific concrete goals, design and implement them.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary, the OAS meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers will be held next Monday in Washington to analyze the report of the commission. From that point of view, you spoke with President Lula; will you speak with President Bachelet about the conflict between Colombia and Ecuador?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: It would be natural to include that subject because it is a very important matter in the region, for the OAS and for Latin America. We had a chance to talk with Foreign Minister Amorin and also with President Lula and I expect we will discuss that matter here. It’s an important matter because this region, which has a desire for peace, has the ability of solving conflicts in a peaceful way. And we would like to use the OAS and other institutions to achieve that.

Well, thank you very much.

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