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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

Joint Press Availability with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine

Secretary Colin L. Powell

Washington, DC
March 26, 2001

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Foreign Minister Vedrine and I had a very, very useful meeting, which we continued through lunch. We met when I was in Brussels last month, but this was our first opportunity to really get acquainted and discuss the issues in some depth.

The Foreign Minister shared with me his valuable insights on many issues that are important to our two nations. Let me say that I appreciated the opportunity to talk so openly with him and so candidly, and we look forward to many, many more such meetings in the future.

The Middle East was high on our agenda. In that regard, we agree that Iraq must honor its UN obligations. The Foreign Minister and I discussed how we can ensure that the UN sanctions are targeted at the Iraqi regime's attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction while sparing the people of Iraq from any suffering.

Moreover, we are obviously concerned about violence between Israel and the Palestinians. We agreed that it is essential that the violence come to an end. The Foreign Minister and I also discussed the financial hardships facing the Palestinian people and what can be done to improve this situation. The European Union has provided generous budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority, which we appreciate.

European issues were of course also on the table for our discussion. The United States and France are committed to strengthening democracy and stability in Southeast Europe. We strongly condemn extremist violence in Macedonia, and through NATO and the European Union we are working to promote stability and end violence in southern Serbia and Kosovo, and continue to strengthen national institutions and democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I reaffirmed with the Foreign Minister President Bush's commitment to consult closely with our allies on the development of missile defense. Our policy is to deploy effective missile defenses that are capable of defending not only the United States but also friends and allies and deployed forces overseas, and to do it based on the best available options at the earliest possible date.

I also noted that the United States welcomes the development of a European Security and Defense Policy that strengthens NATO and increases Europe's capacity to deter and manage crises where NATO as a whole chooses not to engage. The Foreign Minister and I agree that ESDP can complement NATO. I repeated our position that there should be no duplication of planning or operational activities and that NATO members must be assured of the fullest possible participation in EU defense and security deliberations affecting their interests.

We also discussed Russia. Russia holds a unique position on the global stage. Its 11 time zones cover a broad strategic sweep that includes borders with Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Both France and the United States want to engage Russia in a dialogue on strategic issues and to cooperate in areas of common interest and concern.

The Minister and I had, as you have already noted, excellent conversations. The relationship between our two nations is very, very strong and has been for many, many years. We have areas of great agreement and occasionally areas of disagreement, but we will work through our areas of disagreement in the spirit that has kept us friends for over two centuries.

Mr. Minister, it's a great pleasure to welcome you, sir.

FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: Thank you. I have come to Washington to speak to the new Administration. I spoke to Vice President Cheney earlier and also I have spoken to, obviously, Secretary Powell and said that we embark on this relationship in a pragmatic and constructive way. We want to be as constructive and as cooperative as possible in a number of areas.

I will not give you a long list because the Secretary of State has already given it. We have spoken on all these very important issues and we want to work together to solve the problems, to solve the crises as they come, one after another, but also work together on a more comprehensive approach of today's problems and the problems of today as well.

We want to do this in a spirit of friendship, of candor, of very open and intense and dynamic cooperation. Indeed, the Franco-American friendship is not just a historical reference; it is something very concrete for today and a great idea for the future of the world. And that indeed is the spirit in which we want to work.

But as I said, I will not come back to the long list of issues that Mr. Powell gave, and I will expect and take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Friday you referred to political, military and economic measures to try to keep things in check. And I am wondering if you can tell us any detail what the US (inaudible) might do to take care of (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we're doing quite a bit, both individually and together, both as part of NATO and what the EU is doing. President Bush put out a very strong statement on Friday afternoon summarizing our views, making the point that we stand fully behind the territorial integrity and the independence of Macedonia, understanding their legitimate right to self-defense. We made the point to them that we hope that they would use proportionate military strength in order not to create an even more difficult problem to deal with, and encouraging them to take actions within this coalition government and through constitutional means to address some of the grievances that exist among their Albanian population.

We also have taken action within Kosovo to do what we can to interdict supplies and terrorists who might be moving through that area into Macedonia. Over the weekend I had long conversations with Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Ralston, with General Shelton, with my other colleagues in the national security community. I spoke twice with the NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, with Foreign Minister Cook, and with a number of others over the weekend. I spoke to the President of Macedonia yesterday -- all for the purpose of letting him know that we support him and we'll do what we can.

We are also looking at things that the United States might be able to do to enhance the capability of the Macedonian armed forces to deal with this crisis. As you know, they have launched an attack and it seems they have had some success getting part way up that hill. I don't think the battle is anywhere near over or the crisis is yet resolved, but I think we are doing a lot. The United States alone, but especially working with NATO and working with our French colleagues.

The Minister and I had a long conversation about it. He has been deeply involved and has also been visiting the region and has a great deal of experience in the region, so he might want to say a word or two.

FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: The French position is exactly the same. The comprehensive European position is exactly the same one, and it is exactly what we said at the European Council in Stockholm over the last few days.

As for the bilateral assistance given by France to Macedonia, we have helped the Macedonian armed forces. We have provided them with a number of drones, and I think that they needed those.

QUESTION: My question is for both of you (inaudible) with Iran. It seems that France and United States are not following the same track in sanctions, ILSA and so on. My question is that, first of all, did you talk about Iran in your discussions? And second, how do you want to reconcile your different positions toward Iran?

SECRETARY POWELL: We did not have occasion to talk about Iran in our discussions this morning. We will have more discussions later this evening, and perhaps we can discuss it at that point. So we did not try to get into that at this time.

QUESTION: First, Secretary Powell, I was wondering if you could tell us whether there was discussion of what I understand is the French support for the US and Britain ending enforcement of the no-fly zone over Iraq and what response you may have given to him on that.

And for the Foreign Minister, what response you may have given to the Secretary on the call for the proposed European defense force to share planning, or actually be under the planning auspices of NATO.

Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: We discussed Iraq at some length, but our concentration today was on what I have used with this audience before, the first basket, and that has to do with the UN sanctions regime directed toward weapons of mass destruction. So all of our discussion this morning was on that and not on the no-fly zone.

FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: Well, I can indeed confirm what the Secretary has just said about Iraq. We have spent some time on it. And in the context of the new period of reflection on sanctions on Iraq and the review of the sanctions policy, what assessment can be made of it, indeed we didn't go any further on the specifics of Iraq.

On the other issues, indeed things are changing very fast and changing a lot over the last two or three years. The contradictions between and the differences between the operation of NATO on the one hand and a European defense on the other, all these differences have been overcome. They have been overcome because Britain has changed, because the British position has changed, and also because the French position has changed. So we now have a new original position on the part of Europe, which is trying to find a sensible, a clever conciliation of Europe, European defense and NATO.

All this is done in a very transparent and friendly process. And I can say that the previous administration was very much involved in the designing of these mechanisms, and I can tell you also that the current administration is already very much involved. At 15, we are finding new mechanisms. We have listed the forces and the troops that we could pull together if we needed to, and what we now have to do is to settle the practical details.

But I think I can say that the theoretical differences have already been overcome and that the 15 are convinced that by taking this approach we will further the dynamism of the Alliance.

QUESTION: I wondered if you discussed the upcoming deadline for the United States to decide whether to continue its funding to Belgrade, Foreign Minister, and what your message to Secretary Powell was. And Secretary Powell, if you could also address this issue.

FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: Well, there is indeed an American approach to this. Indeed, the deadline that has been set has been set by Congress, so this is the object of a discussion between the Congress and the Administration so I wouldn't want to interfere within this domestic discussion.

But what I have said, and what we do say, is that I have shared our approach, our assessment of things in Yugoslavia, our assessment of Kostunica, the President, and the Djindjic, the Prime Minister, said also that we want to support democracy, the strengthening of democracy in Yugoslavia and in all the countries of the region also.

So I told Secretary Powell that we in France believe that we have to reaffirm and stress once more the international obligations of Yugoslavia, whatever they are, including full cooperation with the Tribunal, and at the same time, have a policy that will consolidate the work of President Kostunica and Prime Minister Djindjic to support democracy in their country. And we know that there are still a few stages to be accomplished before we get to democracy in Yugoslavia, but we shouldn't underestimate and forget that they were the ones who brought down Milosevic. That at least is my point of view.

SECRETARY POWELL: We did have a full discussion of this issue, and I said to the Foreign Minister that in the course of this week I would be examining all progress, or lack thereof, toward the requirements of the law and we would make a judgment and make a decision at the appropriate time, the end of the week.

I'm sorry, we do have to go. We're running late. Forgive us. We'll be much, much longer next time.

(Laughter.)

[end]



Released on March 26, 2001

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