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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Deputy Secretary of State > Former Deputy Secretaries of State > Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage > Remarks > 2003

Remarks With European Union High Representative Javier Solana After Meeting

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State
C Street Entrance
Washington, DC
December 17, 2003

(11:30 a.m. EST)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, good morning. I want to take this opportunity to tell you how happy I was to have Dr. Solana back in the Department of State for two reasons. First of all, he's such a dear friend of our Secretary of State, and second of all, he's such a strong supporter of the transatlantic alliance.

We've just had a good talk. We've covered many subjects -- the recently completed EU summit, Iran, Iraq -- and we talked about the Middle East peace process. And I, for one, am much better for the conversation.

Dr. Solana.

MR. SOLANA: Thank you. Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to see my good friend, Richard Armitage. I want to once again, through you, send our friend and colleague Colin Powell all the best and know that he is recovering, he is recovering at a good speed, and we hope to see him around as soon as possible.

But we want to continue this contact between the European Union and the United States, and in particular with the State Department. As Mr. Armitage has said, we have covered the most important topics of the agenda of today, from the European Union's last summit to the events in Iraq, the events in Iran, the Middle East peace process, and I leave very pleased to have had the opportunity of exchanging the views with Richard Armitage.

I will be coming back and we will be seeing us pretty soon at the beginning of the next year. So to continue this process of communication, of relationship which we hope is fundamental for the transatlantic relationship.

I also would like to underline that the visit of Jim Baker to Europe has been very constructive, as you have known already, and I think that often in these matters that sometimes people do think that we do not have a common position. We are beginning to have a very good common position that will be for the benefit of everybody.

Thank you very much, Richard.

QUESTION: You don't wear a NATO hat right now, but what do you think should be the response to the appeal Mr. Powell and Mr. Rumsfeld made that NATO should take on some combat operations in Afghanistan and give the U.S. a little relief? The U.S. gets very little help in Iraq, but Afghanistan doesn't seem to be so controversial. Should NATO contribute?

MR. SOLANA: Well, for me, it's very difficult to speak on behalf of NATO. I mean, I would have done it four years ago, but not now. But let me tell you that the important thing is that NATO is taking every day more important jobs and tasks, what we used to call out of area. Remember that three years ago, two years ago, it would have been impossible to talk about this.

Now we have NATO out of area in Afghanistan, and it's doing a very good job and nobody closed the possibility that when necessary, if it's necessary, the possibility is not closed to go some other places, including the one you have mentioned. But at this point, I cannot go any further.

But it's very important to underline that NATO is already in Afghanistan, which I think is something that three years ago, for most of us, would have been something very difficult to see.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you give us a quick update on Secretary Powell's condition, if you have one? Is he still full of "spit and vinegar" as he was yesterday? (Laughter.) And also, could you give us an idea of what the thinking was behind delaying the bidding conference for Iraqi reconstruction projects?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Regarding Secretary Powell, he is still full of spit and vinegar. I say that very carefully. I announced yesterday that he'd called me twice before 7 a.m. as a sign of his vitality. This morning he called at 20 minutes till 6 a.m. (Laughter.) So I think you've got your answer there.

The question, as I understand, of delaying the bidding for the contracts is just a matter of making sure we have all of our ducks in a row. This is a lot of money. It's a very important process. We want to make sure we do it absolutely correctly. That's my understanding of the delay.

QUESTION: It has nothing to do with the Baker mission?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It has nothing to do with the Baker mission.

QUESTION: Mr. Armitage, do you have any kind of a readout on the talks about trying to secure a new ceasefire by the Palestinian militant groups, and what do you think about the ideas that have been floated by a lot of Israeli officials over the last week or ten days about the possibility of their taking unilateral steps in terms of perhaps pulling out of some settlements.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I've seen some press reports about the ceasefire talks being on the verge of breaking down, but, of course, that seems to be the norm. I have no specific new information on it.

On the question of speculation, mostly in the Israeli press about what may or may not be said tomorrow, we'll just wait and see what the speech at Herzliya indicates and then we'll be glad to comment on it.

QUESTION: You talk about Baker, James Baker's trip, about reaching out to the European nations. The Secretary -- the President said yesterday, "We're reaching out to them." How much of it is simply securing easing Iraq's debt and how much of it is an effort of this Administration to kind of repair some of the divisions that have happened since the war?

And Mr. Solana, do you think that James Baker's trip has gone in any event to heal some of these rifts between the EU and the United States?

Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We did have, one would have to admit, some neuralgic discussions surrounding the question of Iraq and our activities there. Secretary Powell and the President of the United States has been keen for some time to put that behind us and move forward, and we're attempting to do that.

And I think the capture recently of Saddam Hussein is a perfect opportunity for us to pivot a bit and really let the past be the past and move forward to a much better transatlantic future. It's one of the things the High Representative and I spoke about this morning. And I'll let him comment on whether he thinks the so-called rift can be healed.

MR. SOLANA: As you know very well, the visit of Jim Baker has been constructive and positive, and been well received in both the report that you get from capitals in Europe and the report that you get from him, from Jim Baker, is very -- both are constructive and positive. And no doubt that he is going to contribute to the aligning which we are working together between the Europeans and the United States.

I think we have to look forward, not to look to the past, but to look present and to the future. And this is what we are trying to do.

QUESTION: Do you think the --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I might, if I may, I might just note, at least, that Secretary Powell had a very successful, from our point of view, visit to Brussels. Secretary Rumsfeld did as well. I think as far as I'm concerned, they played to rave reviews because we're really moving forward with this transatlantic relationship.

QUESTION: Mr. Solana, do you think the Pentagon's handling of prime contracts is constructive for the relationship?

MR. SOLANA: I think that if I were the responsibility, which I don't have have, I would try to coordinate better the statements about contracts and the visit of Secretary -- of Jim Baker. But this is in past. Don't -- don't -- things are going well. Don't worry about that.

QUESTION: Don't? Thank you.



Released on December 17, 2003

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