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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 > December

Press Briefing on Board Plane En Route Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
December 7, 2001

SECRETARY POWELL: Okay, whoís first?

QUESTION: Can you tell us how your meeting with Foreign Minister Ivanov went? What did you decide? What were the issues that you discussed? Are they okay with the NATO thing? And did you talk about Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Foreign Minister Ivanov and I talked about the meeting that we had just concluded with the Permanent Joint Council, and he was very happy with the outcome of the NATO deliberations on NATO Russia at 20, NATO at 20. We reaffirmed what he had said in the bigger meeting, that they look forward to working with us and I know some of the questions youíve been asking relate to will we be ready by Reykjavik? That would be certainly something we should try to shoot for, and there was a general feeling within the room that letís work hard, put our ambassadors to work at NATO, get into the modalities and the details of how often they will meet or what they will talk about, and see if we can not have some proposals ready for the ministers to consider before Reykjavik so that we can trek our ambassadors, see if we can have NATO at 20 at the time of Reykjavik. But that is not a deadline, it is not a given.

One of the things that emerged over the last several weeks that I also know is of interest to you is how fast to go, some wanted to go so fast as to do it this week. It became clear that we really, letís make sure that we know what weíre doing, and letís think it through, and so we got a positive endorsement from the (inaudible) from NATO, from the Vilnius 9 and others who think this is a very significant step forward, and now we will instruct our ambassadors to go to work on the details, report to us in early spring so that we can make a judgment as to whether weíre ready to meet at 20 at the time of Rejkavick.

He also talked about the all issues Afghanistan, current state of thinking on an international security force in Afghanistan, discussed briefly with him the fact that I was going to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan. Discussed my own coming visit to Moscow, strategic framework, the usual issues. It wasnít a very long meeting, he and I were both on our way to somewhere else, knowing weíll see each other two nights from now.

QUESTION: Can you explain what the objection was that weíve heard about that caused Secretary Rumsfeld to want the "at 20" out of the opening sentence that we have decided to offer Russia, how it got back in, how NATO members reacted, and what the concerns were and how they got addressed?

SECRETARY POWELL: As we went through this over the last several weeks, weíve been talking about it for a long time, President Putin and President Bush talked about it at Shanghai, and we kind of came to a conclusion that itís not 19 plus one anymore, it really have to be NATO at 20. So go back to Shanghai and flow it from there, and then Prime Minister Blair had a strong marker open.

Mr. Robertson then went to Moscow two weeks ago and some of the question extracted the word veto from him, or veto was tossed into the equation. That caused everybody to say, well, wait a minute. As the result of a lot of discussions held within the Washington community and with our friends overseas, we had to make sure that we had this right. And that really sort of said, hey, wait a minute. We have to ask what does NATO at 20 really mean? We had to kind of get agreement among ourselves in order that there was no misunderstanding, that NATO at 20 meant that NATO had the right to decide what it wanted to take to 20, and that NATO could decide anything it wished to at 19, and if it decided something at 19 and then took it to 20, that when it got to 20 and there was a problem, we could take it back to 19 and decide it. And so we wanted to make sure that everybody understood that Russia would not have a veto. And as Minister Ivanov said this morning in his opening intervention, we understand perfectly that Russia does not have a veto. And then, comma, and by the way, you donít have a veto on us either, you know, just to cover all the possibilities. So they understand perfectly what that means.

And then there is a lot of discussion about what is that we will do at 20, are there specific categories, are there projects that come along? And to square that circle, he said, here are illustrative areas in which at 20 seems to make some sense: counterterrorism, crisis management, and other things youíve heard about. And that seemed like a good model to begin with without the closing that might be added to such a list or the guessing such a list, just to put these areas down as illustrative of the kinds of things that might be discussed at 20.

So thereís always this long line, those who spent a lot of time on statements and communiquťs were hard at work on it, and I guess about two days ago, my staff said, hereís where we are, here are the debates. I immediately got interested of course at that point and the only thing I was certain of was that however we worked it out, wherever it went in the joint statement or communiquť, at 20 was the key and at 20 had to be in there in no uncertain terms. It was in there at the end of a sentence and I think it ended up in the right place, because where it is at the end of that sentence kind of wraps the whole sentence and to whole paragraph into an at 20 context. There were some who wanted it 3 times, some who didnít care, the important point is at 20 was in there and (inaudible) no longer remember all the backs and forth of it. There was a concern to make sure that at 20 was in there, balanced against not giving too much emphasis on at 20 so that it suggested that there was some feel of authority or we were giving some authority to Russia by overstating the at 20 in the communiquť.

QUESTION: Just to follow, we took it out, and then we put it back in?

SECRETARY POWELL: As the Secretary who tables these things at the end of the day, at 20 was never out. There may have been drafts aroundÖat 20 had to be in there or else it wasnít there, I mean, we didnít have what we agreed to. And so at 20 was always an operating proposition. Itís where we took the President in Shanghai, where the President took us to in Crawford and Washington, so there was a lot of debate, but it was always understood that what we were talking about was not 19 plus one, but NATO at 20, and how do you capture that, and where it went in the document, this was the subject of a lot more interagency to and fro.

QUESTION: Did the Pentagon want it out?

SECRETARY POWELL: Iím not going to attribute views to the Pentagon, Iíll let you go talk to your old friends over there, Pat. It was never out as far as I was concerned, because I thought that was reflective of what the President and Putin had agreed to and the allies expected and what the Russians were expecting.

QUESTION: What can you add to the next three stops? Will you be putting in any new requests for help from the Central Asian republics on military and humanitarian stuff and also are you bringing new assistance, new aid to them?

SECRETARY POWELL: I donít have any new requests that are not already known to those governments, Kyrgyzstan's parliament approved a request that we made some time ago and Iím pleased about it. I have not been given anything new by the Pentagon that they have not already presented through diplomatic channels, through our ambassadors who handle it, and through the State Department pol-mil office. And Iím not carrying a booty bag filled with new money.

Weíll talk about what we have been able to do to help these countries, thank them for their cooperation, and just listen to them as well as let them know that weíre deeply appreciative of what theyíre doing, and I want to look beyond just whatís happening in Afghanistan, what this means to relationships with these countries as we move forward. Thatís important. When you think a few minutes ago about the sensitivity of those southern "Stans" to the Russians and to us, many of my early conversations with Foreign Minister Ivanov and others, they had concerns about the south, terrorism, drugs, trafficking, smuggling, and to think that since the 11th of September we have been able to talk so openly with them and with the Russians in a way that says we can have a better relationship with these countries without causing the Russians to be concerned about it, and we talk openly about these things now.

We also talked about, Mr. Ivanov and I talked about the Russians coming into Afghanistan, and here (inaudible) about it a little bit, because suddenly they were there one day, and two phone calls cleared it all up, and thatís the kind of transparency that exists in the relationship now between me and Igor, Don and Sergei, Condi and (inaudible), the President and Putin, so that these things donít spin out of control because of a little bit of confusion.

QUESTION: Could you reflect on the history of the change in the nature of the relationship between the United States and NATO and Russia and the bigger picture of things, not just, how important this event was into putting into concrete terms the nature of the relationship, and secondly, on Central Asia, the same kind of thing, how important is Central Asia beyond Afghanistan to the United States? This is a diplomatic backwater traditionally for the United States, are we moving into a whole new area, developing a whole new series of relationships for the long term as well?

SECRETARY POWELL: It has been something of a backwater for us. Twelve years ago, there were very few Americans who could tell you what they were or anything about these countries, and then after the cold war, they emerged, and theyíre looking for their place in the sun. Theyíre looking for a continuing relationship with Russia, neighbors of theirs, and also a relationship with the West, just as the Russians are looking for a relationship with the West, because when they look West, they see opportunity, they see investment, they see assistance, they see a value system.

Now these regimes, these governments are not where we would like them to be yet, far from it. We are rather candid with them about the nature of their political processes and the state of development of their institutions, but they are looking to the West because they know thatís where success lies, so we have new opportunities to work with and those opportunities I think are accelerated by the events of 11 September. You know, youíre plugging along, youíre having meetings, things are moving slowly, there is wariness. And then you have something like the 11th of September come along, and it just breaks through a lot of barriers. We need military help, we need access to your base, to suddenly open up other opportunities for further dialogue. The key here is not to just say thank you for the use of your base and weíre out of here, but to use that opening for other purposes of liberalization, democracy, putting their economies on a sounder basis. A lot of smuggling, and drug trafficking and terrorism, passes through this region Ė threats to them, threats to Russia, and ultimately, threats to us as well.

The evolution between NATO and Russia, in the ten, eleven months that Iíve been Secretary, this is the second PJC I think Iíve been at. The first one was kind of contentious, talking about Bosnia and Macedonia, the Russians werenít all that happy with some of the things that we were doing.

This one was smooth as silk, with Russia knowing what was going to be decided yesterday with respect to NATO at 20, and Foreign Minister Ivanov coming and taking the chair, it was kind of humorous. He sat there, Lord Robertson welcomed everybody and invited him to speak. Foreign Minister Ivanov spoke and gave a good intervention and the introductory intervention, he gave another one, and he gave his intervention and then he immediately says, I now give the floor toÖand he was directing the traffic, because heís the chair, the co-chair. It was a very mellow, a very comfortable setting, and everybody was supportive of what we were doing. The fact that youíre sitting there, in fact, one of the ministers looked back at Foreign Minister Ivanov and said, you know, itís rather amazing to be sitting here and to be recognized and given the floor by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation at a NATO meeting. Was it Joschka? I think it was Joschka Fischer. It was a light moment, there were a lot of light moments, it was a different kind of meeting. Theyíre coming West, they want to come West, this I think will help a great deal as we move into next year and start to set up the very different, very exciting and difficult process leading to a decision in Prague of who will be invited to join the alliance. The fact that Russia at 20 is kind of part of our whole discussion system I think makes it a little easer to deal with the challenges of NATO enlargement.

QUESTION: On Uzbekistan, whatís the status of the talks over Friendship Bridge, how does that look before your talks in Tashkent, and would you have expected that perhaps it would have been open in time for you to go there and usher the aid through?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I hope it will be open soon, but Iíve been saying this for the last week or so. I think it will be open soon, I donít know if they will try to open it before I arrive or after I leave or what. I wonít be able to get down there, the airfield wonít accommodate a trip. I would have liked to have done that, but it is no surprise coming out of a hat on that one. But I hope they will open it in the very near future so that we can start aid going across. The aid going across isnít the major issue right now, itís the distribution on the other side. The barges can handle the quantities that can be accommodated on the south side for the moment. But I would like to get it open so things, all kinds of stuff, can start going back and forth. But they still have some security concerns, thereís a lot of uncertainty south of the bridge and north of Mazar-e-Sharif. Itís not totally secure and stable, and the Uzbeks have always been nervous about that kind of instability just south of the bridge.

QUESTION: Iím just curious if youíre expecting to make any progress at all on the ABM front when youíre in Moscow. There seems to have been some frosty language after John Boltonís preparatory visits there.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, there was a frosty Reuters report, but when you read the Ministry of Foreign Affairs actual transcript, itís pretty much more of the same. Foreign Minister Ivanov and I talked about it some more this morning, Iím sure weíll talk about it extensively tomorrow night, or Sunday night, and Iíll discuss it again with President Putin on Monday morning. I think weíre fine on the strategic piece of it, and how to move all the verification pieces of START I and START II into some new framework, but the defense piece is still a challenge for us.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the situation in Afghanistan right now? Do you have any idea where Omar is? Are you concerned about whether Karzai might have tried to cut a deal to protect him? Is there a chance that he might cut such a deal, and would the United States consider any situation short of capturing him completely and bringing him to justice?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, let me go to the last one, because no, weíre not interested in a deal just as Secretary Rumsfeld said yesterday, and in backing up, Iím not sure if we know where he is, Iím a little removed from all of the intelligence and information centers back in Washington and I do not know if Karzai was really doing what it is being reported he was doing, I just donít know.

QUESTION: Do you know what the Turkish president said about his conversation with Ariel Sharon yesterday about wanting to get rid of Yasser Arafat? We'd like your comments on that

SECRETARY POWELL: He said to me yesterday that he had spoken to both Sharon and Arafat. I don't know if he had spoken to him yesterday morning or the day before.

He said he had a long conversation with him. I don't recall him saying that to me and I don't want it attributed to me, what he might or might not have said, or what Sharon might or might not have said to the Turkish Prime Minister.

QUESTION: Do you still consider Yasser Arafat as a valid interlocutor in the Middle East?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yasser Arafat remains the chairman of the Palestinian Authority and the recognized leader of the Palestinian people. I think he should do more as we've been saying to get the violence down. I hope this afternoon General Zinni is convening a meeting between the two sides. Mr. Sharon wanted such a meeting as did Mr. Arafat. So clearly both sides are anxious to see if we can put the pieces back together to start moving towards a cease-fire. But this is not going to occur under circumstances of violence that have not been brought under control.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you say if you have been able to find out if you have any loose change rattling around in your pocket for the new government or if you've had time to talk to the allies about any money they might have?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're just still looking for money. We'll find some. It's not going to take a lot to get them started. I think I've discussed with you before how even when we get into reconstruction, Afghanistan is not Western Europe after World War II.

The amounts aren't going to be comparable. You can do a lot with a lot less money than people might think. With respect to the international security force, still under discussion, I had a lot of discussions with my colleagues here. Many of them are interested and still debating who might be the lead of such a force. Last night they passed a resolution in New York that blessed the Bonn agreement. I talked to Ambassador Negroponte last night and they'll deal with the resolution on the international security force separately from that. There's a lot of discussion about mission, (lead), size, connection to the UN, connection to the interim administration, so we need more work on that resolution. There are a lot of conversations taking place now on who would be in, for what purpose, with what command and control arrangement. Rich and the guys back in Washington are working on that right now.

QUESTION: Now can you tell us any stories about the Italian refusal to endorse the Europol agreement? It seems quite interesting that you thought it was a little weak and they thought it was a little strong. Where does that stand now?

QUESTION: (Ö) separate agreement on law enforcement, not the Europol agreement. That's within the EU. That's not part of our agreement. 

SECRETARY POWELL: The issue you're referring to is just what Richard said. It's an extradition procedure within the EU and the Italians aren't ready to go along with it.

We've got nothing to do with it. I think I'll just stop there. Thank you.



Released on December 7, 2001

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