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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2001 > March

Press Availability with Her Excellency Anna Lindh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
March 6, 2001

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I was pleased to meet today with Foreign Minister Lindh, High Representative Solana and Commissioner Patten. In today's discussions we enjoyed a positive and constructive exchange as we addressed some of the most important issues on the United States-European Union agenda. These matters included fostering peace and stability in the Middle East, promoting democracy in the Balkans, combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and developing a European Security and Defense Policy that strengthens the NATO alliance.

We had a good discussion on the Middle East and were in strong agreement on all points. We believe that the violence must end immediately and that both sides must do all they can to accomplish this. We also call for an end to incitement and easing of the restrictions on economic activity. In this regard, I would like to express our appreciation to the EU for its generous budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority.

As far as our discussion on the Balkans were concerned, the United States and the EU reaffirm our commitment to help strengthen democracy and stability in Southeast Europe, where our goal is to foster the integration of this region into the transatlantic community. We deplore the recent violence in southern Serbia and Kosovo and welcome Belgrade's restraint. NATO and the EU are working closely together to facilitate negotiations and to stabilize this troubled region. We also reiterated our call on Belgrade to cooperate with the International War Crimes Tribunal.

We talked also about how we can combine our efforts to address the proliferation challenges that threaten our interests. We discussed how to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons and missiles and how to encourage North Korea to comply with its nonproliferation obligations. We also discussed our desire to engage Russia in cooperative efforts to resolve nonproliferation issues.

On Iraq, we discussed ways to ensure that Iraq honors its UN obligations. I told my colleagues today that one consistent message I heard during my recent meetings with Arab leaders is to modify the sanctions so their effect is reduced on the Iraqi people and strengthened as regards anything else that could contribute to the production or development of weapons of mass destruction. We agreed on this, as we did on the need for strong controls on weapons of mass destruction and the money used to acquire such weaponry.

And finally, as I did in Brussels, I made clear that the United States welcomes the development of a European Security and Defense Policy that strengthens the NATO Alliance and increases Europe's capacity to deter and manage crises. We agreed that we need to ensure that ESDP complements NATO, that there is no duplication of planning or operational capabilities, and that all NATO members are assured the fullest possible participation in EU defense and security deliberations affecting their interests.

And with this brief overview of our discussions, let me again stress my gratitude to my three colleagues and friends and to their associates for their visit today, and say how pleased I am to introduce them to you now. And let me begin with Foreign Minister Lindh.

FOREIGN MINISTER LINDH: Thank you very much, and I would also like to say that we had very good discussions today, and I think that shows the transatlantic partnership is really vital on both sides of the Atlantic.

As Secretary Powell has already said, we have dealt with a long range of issue, and it's very clear from what we've discussed on the agenda that we do have a lot in common. Europe and the United States are interlinked very closely, and we also have to be very closely coordinated when dealing, for example, with conflicts in the Middle East and the Balkans, where coordinated efforts means that we will be much more efficient.

On European Security and Defense Policy, we agreed that this is important for the EU as well as for the US. ESDP is really about better capabilities to have a crisis in Europe; it's not about duplicating NATO.

On nonproliferation, as Secretary Powell has said, we have discussed a number of measure to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And I have also reported from the Swedish contacts with North Korea and South Korea during the weekend, looking at the possibilities also for the EU to promote continued dialogue between North and South Korea.

And we have also listened with a great positive interest to Secretary Powell's ideas on sanctions on the Iraqi regime, not to damage the Iraqi people.

We look forward to a future dialogue and to future cooperation, and also to the summit later on during the Swedish presidency.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you just mentioned North Korea (inaudible) too much, could you tell us what you have in mind for North Korean policy?

SECRETARY POWELL: First of all, we want to make sure that our North Korea policy is totally synchronized with what our South Korean friends are doing. They have the lead. Kim Dae Jung has certainly earned his Nobel Peace Prize by what he started last year, and we will makes sure during the course of this meeting over the next day or so with me and with the President that he understands we support him and that we want to coordinate our efforts.

As I said previously, and especially in my confirmation hearings, we do plan to engage with North Korea to pick up where President Clinton and his administration left off. Some promising elements were left on the table and we will be examining those elements. We haven't begun that consultative process yet with the North Koreans because we thought it was important to first talk to our South Korean friends.

And so we are not avoiding North Korea. Quite the contrary, we think we have a lot to offer that regime if they will act in ways that we think are constructive, ways that reduce the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles, and ways that help open their society and give transparency into their society. And so in due course you'll hear about our plans, but all of that will flow from the meetings with President Kim Dae Jung tomorrow.

Q: Mr. Secretary, a question regarding the situation in Macedonia. Can you tell us what is the US policy there, and also your reaction to the initiative by the Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Papandreou, to travel there today?

SECRETARY POWELL: I spoke to Mr. Papandreou the other day and supported his efforts to go there and to help with that troubled situation. I spoke to the President of Macedonia last week and we have been in constant communication with the NATO allies, the NATO military command, as well as with our EU partners, on the situation.

We know that the EU is anxious to move some observers into the region, and we want to see if we can be helpful in that regard. We are calling on both sides to show restraint. We are examining how we can begin to transfer the ground safety zone back to Yugoslav authorities over time -- not all at once, but perhaps beginning with the most difficult area in the south.

We are also using KFOR assets to monitor the situation and to report on what's going on and, in effect, to be more of a presence in the region. We hope that both sides will realize that this is not the solution to any problem and that Macedonia should be free to live in peace without being attacked from across a newly defined border.

So I think we're doing everything we can on a political, diplomatic and military level to respond to the situation, working closely with NATO and with our EU colleagues.

Q: Secretary Powell, I was interested in your thoughts on the revelation that a tunnel existed under the Russian Embassy here in Washington. The Russians reacted about this. They want an explanation.

Do you think this will have any negative impact on US-Russian relations, and what will you tell the Russians in response to their request?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have no comment on this item. It's best dealt with by other agencies as an intelligence item, so I think I will just take what is known as a full swan dive. (Laughter.)

Q: Secretary Powell, as you are aware, the Chinese Government has just announced that it plans to increase its military budget by almost 18 percent. Considering the fact that China in recent months has made very clear that it sees the United States as its chief military threat, what does that say to you about the US-China relationship and about the stability in Asia? Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: I've tried to convey, and President Bush has tried to convey, to China that we do not view them as an enemy; we view them as a trading partner, we view them as perhaps a regional competitor from time to time. We have areas where our interests coincide and areas where our interests do not coincide, but we are not an enemy of China, nor need China view us as an enemy.

We will be watching their build-up carefully, see how they spend this money, see if it in any way is threatening to our interests in the region or whether it's just modernization because they need modernization or they've been lagging behind. We will also be especially sensitive to how this build-up relates to its situation with Taiwan, whether it presents any new threat to Taiwan, and we'll look at that carefully.

In our discussions with the Chinese, which begin very shortly, we will also try to see if they would not give greater transparency into their defense budget and to the kind of force structure that they are creating so that we can see this for what it is. Is it just a defensive build-up on their part? Is it just a modernization? Does it have some offensive potential? All of these are questions I think we should ask the Chinese, but I am not prepared to say this creates a new system or a new -- let me put it this way -- a new state of conflict. I think we have to learn more about it, we have to monitor it, and we have to ask the Chinese about it when we have that opportunity.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the European Union has called for a special effort, with the United States and Canada, to help Ukraine with its economic and political reforms. Can you tell us what concrete steps you're taking in this regard? And also could you comment about recent developments in Ukraine concerning a crackdown on political opponents and reports of corruption and crackdown on media freedoms?

SECRETARY POWELL: Obviously we are very concerned, and we discussed this during the course of our meeting about the situation in the Ukraine. There has been a crackdown on political opponents and dissidents. There has clearly been a crackdown on the press, in a very horrible, potentially horrible way. And all of this has sidetracked economic reform, it has sidetracked the agenda of the Prime Minister, and it is a source of considerable concern.

The United States and the EU are standing by wanting to help Ukraine, but they've got to get these kind of political difficulties beyond them and show that they're worthy of that kind of investment. I think the Foreign Minister might wish to say another word on that.

FOREIGN MINISTER LINDH: I can just add that we were in Ukraine on a troika visit from the EU two weeks ago, and we could clearly see that there is a very difficult situation. We, of course, discussed the media situation and the Gongadze case, the disappeared murdered journalist. We got no good answers. So obviously they do have a lot of both political and economic problems, but at the same time it's important to continue to cooperate with Ukraine, not to let them fall down even deeper.

Q: I have a question for Foreign Minister Lindh. A couple of weeks ago, you said that the United States should abandon its plans to build a missile defense. I wondered whether the Secretary has told you anything today which makes you change your mind or reconsider your opinion.

FOREIGN MINISTER LINDH: I haven't changed my mind, but I was talking with my Swedish hat on in the Swedish parliament. When standing here, I'm talking with the hat of the EU presidency, and the position of the presidency, of the EU has been that we do see the ABM Treaty as very strategic and we don't want this ABM Treaty threatened.

Q: Foreign Minister Lindh, according to Swedish newspaper reports today, the United States Government believes that the Swedish EU presidency has not reacted strongly enough to information about Russian tactical nuclear warheads in Kaliningrad. Was this something you discussed today, and do you have any comments on it?

FOREIGN MINISTER LINDH: No, we have not discussed that issue today. And what I have said is that we have raised the issue, and I raised the issue with my Russian colleague, Igor Ivanov, a week ago, two weeks ago. He denied it. Then we cannot really do anything else concerning Kaliningrad than to claim that it's important that we continue to discuss the tactical nuclear warheads in general, because we do have a lot in the region, not only a discussion about Kaliningrad but also about other regions. And therefore, it's important to include tactical weapons, tactical nuclear arms, also in the future international negotiations and in START III. And that I will also raise with Igor Ivanov when he is coming to Stockholm on Friday.

Q: Does Secretary Powell have a comment on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know what reports you're referencing that said we took issue or attacked on this. I glance sideways to my colleagues, and they seem not to know the report either. But if we did issue such a report or made such a statement, I will recover it, look at it, and then have a chance to discuss it with the Foreign Minister.

Q: Mr. Powell, after your trip to the Middle East, you said that you had received positive indication from the Arab leaders that they supported your idea of tightening some of the sanctions on Iraq and easing some of them on consumer goods. But the reports in the press, that are given by the Arab leaders, have been, on the whole, negative to your trip and still saying that the main problem is Israel and the Palestinians.

Can you assure us that you still feel that the Arab leaders support your moves to tighten the sanctions on oil exports, and have there been any indications that you've gotten any cooperation, either with Syria or Turkey or Jordan or any of the Gulf states, on tightening the smuggled oil?

SECRETARY POWELL: The expressions of support that I received there remain intact. I still feel that there is support for this kind of a change. But as you noted from the article you are citing, or the articles you are citing, there is linkage to the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And as I think you heard me report on previous occasions, this is now a regional situation; you have to look at it regionally; the issues are linked.

But I am still optimistic about the support that I received, and I think that support will become public in the days and weeks ahead as they consider how to support the initiatives we will be taking with the United Nations to bring such a change in policy into effect. And we will have to see whether I was overly optimistic or I was -- we'll see. I'm fairly confident that this is the right policy.

Frankly, the alternative was just to keep on a downward path crashing into a hillside. The sanctions policy was collapsing before our eyes, and this is an effort and I think it will be a successful effort -- to stabilize it and get it to a new altitude that will serve our purpose, an altitude where we know at that altitude we will keep them from moving toward weapons of mass destruction, and we will keep them from developing their military capability again, just the way we have for the last ten years, but we will not be the ones to blame because the Iraqi people, it is claimed, are not getting what they need to take care of their children or to take care of their needs. And I think it is a sensible policy to move to, and I'm still moving in that direction, and I'm reasonably assured of support as I move in that direction.

Q: My first question is to Secretary Powell. Regarding the European force and the NATO, could you discuss more carefully how this kind of transparency would work? And my question is also to Ms. Lindh, if the collaboration would include any visit from the United States, including Powell or the President, Bush.

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sorry, the first part was transparency within the ESDI?

Q: Yeah, with the force -- the new force that the European Union is creating. And NATO -- it's been before in discussion if NATO would be sidestepped or --

SECRETARY POWELL: I think when a crisis arises or a pre-crisis situation arises or a humanitarian crisis arises, or something of that nature, NATO, as the major military alliance in Europe, would take it under consideration and a judgment would be made as to whether this is something NATO felt it was best for NATO to get involved in; and because it rose to the level of capacity that only NATO had. And if for one of many, many reasons NATO chose not to involve itself in this one, then the EU at that point has the option to use a capability that is developed within the ESDI to respond to that. The planning could be done in a common way between the two headquarters, and NATO would stand ready to provide assets to the European Union as it undertook the mission. And I think the way in which this is all being developed, there will be full transparency because, in effect, it will be the same group of planners who are working on this all the time.

FOREIGN MINISTER LINDH: On the second question, we have of course invited, as you know, Secretary Powell and the President to come to the summit, and we will come back to the question.

Q: Secretary Powell, could you tell us what you know about the statues in Afghanistan that are being destroyed, whether the destruction is complete, what this means and your thoughts about this?

SECRETARY POWELL: The second part is easy. It's horrible, it's a tragedy, it's a crime against humankind, and I deplore it. I don't know the extent of damage at this time. I simply haven't been briefed in the course of the morning because I've been in other meetings, and so I don't know whether the two major Buddhas have now been taken down totally. I don't know, and I'll have to ask Richard Boucher to follow up with you later. He has been in meetings with me all morning as well, so we'll get the information out to you as soon as we can.

Thank you all very much.


Released on March 6, 2001

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