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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 > 2003 > December

Press Availability at the 11th Ministerial Council of the OSCE

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Maastricht, The Netherlands
December 2, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: (inaudible) OSCE meetingÖ(inaudible) conversations within theÖ(inaudible) Georgia. The OSCE is a very important and vital organization, continuing the work that was set out in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, which is perhaps one of the most profound documents on the rights of individuals that has ever been promulgated. And I am so glad that OSCE continues to do vital work, not only in holding conferences, but much more in sending teams out across the Euro-Atlantic region to assist with elections, to assist with finding resolution to issues, to represent people with respect to their human rights and to help nations find their way to a better life for their people. The OSCE has been playing a vital role in the 21st century. I expect OSCE to continue to play a very, very important role in the transatlantic family.

One of the issues of intense interest during this conference was the situation in Georgia, and Iím pleased that the Acting President has committed herself to elections: free, fair, open and honest elections next month. And a decision will have to be made as to whether that will include both presidential elections and parliamentary elections. But Iím confident that OSCE will be able to play an important role in helping with those elections, and the United States also intends to play a role in providing technical assistance and financial assistance. And Iíll be sending a team there later this week to work with the Acting President as she organizes for the election.

As I said in my prepared statement, all of us must respect the territorial integrity of Georgia and work with the Georgian people as they go through this challenging time in their history. And the Georgian people can be assured of the friendship of the United States of America, and I think every OSCE member that I heard this morning and others who have spoken are also committed to a constitutional process in Georgia which will lead to a new government that will have been brought into office by free, fair and open elections and will be worthy of the name of an honest government that represents all of the Georgian people. With that, let me take a couple of questions that might be on your mind.

MR. BOUCHER: Weíll start back there with Mr. Gedda.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you give us a rundown on you meeting with (inaudible)Ö.

SECRETARY POWELL: One, that Iím very pleased that the constitutional process that is being followed, it was a difficult situation for them. President Shevardnadze, I think, took the right action in deciding to step down. And she assumed the Presidency in accordance with the constitution and has immediately now called for an election, so the people can make their own judgment as to who their new president should be. And I told her that she would enjoy our support in that regard and I also indicated that weíll provide financial support, as well as technical and other support. I told her that we look forward to working with her, and weíll look forward to working with the new government as well. The United States has been a major contributor to assistance programs for Georgia and we will continue to do so in the future. But it was a message of support and solidarity and offering our help to work with her as they work their way through these challenging times.

MR. BOUCHER: Can we go to Netherlands TV over here?

QUESTION: You talked to Chairman Hoop de Scheffer. Did you talk about future, Dutch or NATO involvement in Iraq? And are you are still concerned about common EU Defense plans in relation to NATO?

SECRETARY POWELL: We focused on OSCE issues and later in the week Iíll have an opportunity to discuss with my NATO colleagues in Brussels NATO activities in Afghanistan and possibly in Iraq at some point in the future. Iím pleased with what NATO has done in Afghanistan to date in assuming responsibility for ISAF. I know that they are still facing some challenges to give that mission all the resources needed to conduct the mission in an efficient way.

With respect to Iraq, this has been a subject of discussion for a number of months as to what NATO might or might not be able to do. And Iím sure itíll be discussed with the Foreign Ministers later this week as it was with the Defense Ministers yesterday and today. There are options, such as NATO assuming responsibility for one of the divisional areas, but that is nothing more than an option and an idea that is on the table. It hasnít gone beyond the idea stage. But NATO is increasingly taking a more expansive view of its mission out of area and I think this is encouraging and this is good. And I look forward to getting a complete report from my colleague Don Rumsfeld on his discussions over the last two days. And Iíll continue those discussions in Brussels on Thursday.

With respect to EU defense, I know this was also discussed in Brussels over the past day and a half.. And Iíve had a number of conversations with my French, German, British and other colleagues over the past couple of weeks. And I think we all agree, and there is no question about this, that NATO must remain the primary agent for transatlantic security. The EU has a role to play and I think that we are all in agreement that NATO first. When a mission comes along, if NATO for one reason or another is not prepared to accept that mission, then the EU should consider it first drawing upon NATO assets. But if that also is not appropriate and the mission is within the capacity of the EU to handle alone without drawing on NATO assets, then the EU should certainly take a look at that. But only after youíve gone down to whatís called a ďBerlin PlusĒ road.

The issue that we are still having discussions about is what does the EU need in the way of some additional cell or structure. We are interested in hearing the ideas that are percolating around within the EU. But the one thing that we feel strongly about is that we should do nothing which would, in any way, put at risk the established structure of NATO or how we do planning within NATO. And so, I look forward to continuing conversations later this week in Brussels, flowing from what Secretary Rumsfeld has been discussing with the Defense Ministers in Brussels yesterday and today.

MR. BOUCHER: Letís go to USA Today.

QUESTION: How concerned are you about the political process, the transition process in Iraq? How much of an obstacle is Ayatollah Sistani demand for an elected body and are you perhaps to turn this process over somehow to the U.N. or to others to help make it more acceptable to the Iraqi people?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the Governing Council has submitted a plan to the United Nations in accordance with 1511 and my understanding of the situation this morning is that the Governing Council has re-affirmed its commitment to that plan. Whatís exciting about all this is that you have different points of view in Iraq now. You have different political bodies and religious individuals and religious bodies speaking out openly. So, there is a debate taking place as to how to go forward to create a democracy in Iraq. And I think this is exciting, even though as Iíve said to some of the Iraqis Iíve spoken to, democracy is not always the tidiest system in the world but it will get you where you need to go. And, so, let the discussions continue between the Ayatollah Sistani and other leaders with the Governing Council, but the Governing Council has re-affirmed its commitment to the plan that it submitted to the United Nations a few days ago.

MR. BOUCHER: Letís go to a question in the back over here.

QUESTION: How can the United States tell RussiaÖ(Inaudible).. military bases in Georgia.

SECRETARY POWELL: We believe that Russia should fulfill its obligations, its Istanbul obligations, and as I said in my statement earlier, I regret that Russia will not fulfill those obligations with respect to removing its troops by the end of this year. And we are concerned about the indefinite presence of Russian troops are n the Transnistria (sp?) region, as well. The Chairman in Office, when he makes his statement later today, I think will touch on these points because they were major points of discussion within the conference.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, do you support the Geneva Peace Accord?

SECRETARY POWELL: (Inaudible) Öwill not destroy the state of Israel, more importantly, it's destroying the dreams of the Palestinian people. It's hard to move forward. I can assure you that now that we have a new Prime Minister on the Palestinian side, Mr. Abu Ala. we are prepared to work with him if he- through his actions -makes a commitment to end terrorism emanating from the Palestinian community and we see him perform in that way. We are confident that the Israelis are ready to respond and the United States is going to use its influence to make sure the Israelis do respond in accordance with the requirements of the Road Map.

QUESTION: Would you say Mr. Ariel Sharon is doing the right to start the peace process?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well I'm encouraged, but I've learned not to be too encouraged in the Middle East until you see things actually happen. But I'm encouraged that Prime Minister Sharon's first response and the first response of my colleague, Silvan Shalom, the Foreign Minister is that they are going to be reaching out to the Palestinians leadership and begin having meeting in the future. I'm not sure what level yet, but certainly Prime Minister Sharon indicated that he wishes to meet in the not too distant future with our Prime Minster Abu Ala. And thatís encouraging, thatís encouraging. It's a start. What we have to do is get the two sides talking. Once they start talking to one another, once they start to realize the Road Map is the only way forward, they will find the United States there ready to work with both sides to encourage and to cajole both sides to meet its obligations that they have under the Road Map.

Released on December 2, 2003

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