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Remarks With German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer Following Their Meeting in Berlin

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Berlin, Germany
May 16, 2003

(9:00 a.m. EDT)

FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm pleased to welcome the American Secretary of State and my friend, Colin Powell, here in Berlin.

We discussed in great detail our bilateral relations and the international situation. We agreed upon the fact that we, together, have to look forward. We've had our differences, and we hold different positions regarding the use of force in the Iraq crisis, but I think that now, as we look forward, we need to try, as transatlantic allies, to achieve our common interest of peaceful change, an ending of terrorism, an ending of violence and regional conflicts.

We also talked about the Middle East conflict. We talked in detail about the necessity of moving forward along the roadmap. And we have great confidence in the efforts of President Bush who opened up this way so that we can move forward in the solution of this long and tragic conflict that is of great importance to us all.

Germany and the European Union will make their own contributions as part of the Quartet. We talked about the current negotiations in the Security Council, and we hope that we can reach consensus in the interest of the reconstruction of Iraq, and, in the interest of the people there.

On behalf of the federal government, I can say that we'll try to make our own contribution on the basis of our position in order to reach consensus. And after the talks, I'm quite confident that we'll make progress. A range of other international questions played a big role. And, finally, we also had a "birthday boy" among us whom I would like to extend best wishes to: that is the Ambassador of the United States of America, Dan Coats. I'd like to congratulate him again. We had a suitable present for him -- a big birthday cake -- that was very delicious.

The weather here today is an expression of good relations. They aren't always easy, but they are marked with frankness and openness, especially in cases where they are not always at ease, but at the same time also with deep bonds with the United States of America. We will never forget what the United States did for Germany, for Berlin. That is the firm basis of our relationship, also in those areas where we had differences. Many thanks.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, my dear friend Joschka, for your hospitality today, especially at this beautiful site. This is a house I know well. It used to be the home of the commander of the U.S. forces in Berlin, and I've been here previously at another time and another age when the Cold War was still upon us. And it is always a pleasure to return to this wonderful city, this city which is such a symbol of peace and the yearning of man's desire to be free. And so it's a pleasure to be back with you here in Berlin.

As the Minister said, we did have very open and candid discussions. Joschka and I can always speak our hearts and minds to one another. We talked about the disagreements that we've had in the recent past with respect to Iraq. But more importantly, most of our time on Iraq was spent not about the past, but about the future, looking forward to working closely with Germany and the other members of the Security Council as we put in place a resolution of the Security Council that will help the Iraqi people to achieve their dreams, allow them to acquire the kind of freedom that we see here in Berlin, the kind of openness for people to get together and form a government representative of all the people.

And I believe with the cooperation that I've seen expressed here today as well as the kind of cooperation we are having with other members of the Security Council, it should be possible to come to closure quickly over the next several days or weeks on a UN resolution that will lift sanctions and put in place the authorities necessary for us to begin helping the Iraqi people in a more direct way, ensuring that international members or members of the international community have an opportunity to participate in a work as we go forward and that the UN will have a vital role to play as President Bush has said he believes the UN should play such a vital role.

We talked about a number of other issues as the Minister mentioned, especially the Middle East and our hopes for the peace process and for steps on the part of the Palestinians and the Israelis, which will lead us to the President's vision of his speech of 24 June of last year.

And, Mr. Minister, just in conclusion, let me thank you again for your expression of support for the United States and for all the many expressions and speeches you've given over the years, which talk about the strength of our alliance and how we have been here for one another over the past 50 years. And even though disagreements are not uncommon among friends, and these disagreements can occasionally become quite contentious, we also know what draws us together: shared values, sacrifices together, and working in many parts of the world together now, whether it's in the Balkans, in Afghanistan or elsewhere. And so thank you, Mr. Minister, for your hospitality, and now we're prepared to take a few questions.

QUESTION: Well, thank you. Mr. Secretary, a bit of old business if I may -- the situation in Saudi Arabia: It isn't clear at least to some of us whether the United States asked the Saudis to improve the security of those three housing complexes and whether the Saudis went ahead and did anything about it. The Minister spoke of working together to counter terrorism and, I guess, enhanced security is one way to do it.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I can't answer whether or not we specifically identified those three compounds. I do know that we had been in touch with the Saudis a week or so earlier, maybe two weeks earlier about an increased level of threat. And, of course, the Saudis themselves found a cache of explosives just a week before not far from one of the compounds, so they were hard at work looking for terrorists, but whether we gave them specific information about those three facilities, I don't know.

The difficulty that the Saudis would have or we would have is that there are so many facilities in Saudi Arabia that could have been a target of an attack. And no matter how much security you put out and how diligent you are, and one should be as diligent as one can be, you always run the risk of a terrorist organization determined to do so, able to pull off an attack that will take innocent life such as we saw in Saudi Arabia.

QUESTION: Mr. Fischer, did you also discuss a NATO role for Iraq in your talks? Does the Federal Government have any such plans for a NATO role with Germany participating? And also, Secretary of State--Secretary Powell, do you foresee a NATO role in Iraq, and would you welcome a German participation here?

FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: We didn't talk about a NATO role in Iraq. We very much focused on the security issues that, as Colin Powell said, have to be decided very soon. I think it's necessary to move these forward. Anything else lies in the future.

SECRETARY POWELL: No. We didn't talk about a specific role for NATO, although I would take note of the fact that in previous discussions that I've had within the North Atlantic Council, NATO at least in principle has expressed the willingness to consider such a role. And I think, once we've finished the work in the UN on this resolution, which should provide sufficient a basis for regional organizations to make a judgment as to whether they wish to contribute troops or not, I think NATO will then examine and see whether or not there is such a role that might be performed by the Alliance.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Fischer, can I ask you to be a little bit more specific about Germany's position on the new UN resolution? Can you tell me whether Germany is prepared to accept the resolution as it stands, or whether it wants modifications in regard to weapons inspectors or the organization of oil for food and oil revenues? And to Secretary Powell, do you have any reaction to the announcement that Saeb Erekat has resigned as chief negotiator for the Palestinians? And do you think this is going to make it more difficult to make progress on the road map? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: The draft resolution is a good basis on which we can start discussing. And also the talks today have made it clear that we are on our way to reach agreement. That refers to the whole spectrum of the resolution. We, for our part, can only say that we are interested in reaching a successful result. We have to wait and see whether this can be reached also in the talks with the other partners in the Security Council. But I'm very optimistic here.

SECRETARY POWELL: I've only seen press reports concerning Mr. Erekat's resignation, so I'm not quite sure, 100 percent sure, as to why he resigned and I don't know if it would enhance or take away from the prospects of successful discussions between Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon or how it might affect the peace process as we move forward.

QUESTION: The last question. Mr. Minister, please allow me to clarify the last question. The German position is, if I understand you correctly, no participation in the reconstruction unless it happens with a UN mandate. How are we supposed to understand this? Has the German position in this respect changed? Would you participate anyway in the reconstruction also if the UN doesn't gain a political role in Iraq?

FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: Well, I think you are proceeding on wrong assumptions. For us, in fact, a UN "roof", as it is called by Chancellor Schroeder, plays a vital role as far as our national position is concerned. And that is being worked on in New York. And for this reason, I can only strongly recommend to wait for the results. I can only point out again that we are trying on the basis of the proposal to find a common position and if possible a position that brings the Security Council together. We've got to wait and see if that can be achieved. This is not only about the position of the United States and Great Britain, but also of the other members of the Security Council. We'll do what we can do proceeding from our position that hasn't changed. We want to cooperate constructively to find a common solution, and I'm quite optimistic that can be achieved.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Joschka.

Released on May 16, 2003

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