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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 Briefing With Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Hilton Hotel
Algiers, Algeria
December 3, 2003

FOREIGN MINISTER BELKHADEM: (in French) Thank you very much. I would like to welcome you this evening to this conference. Indeed, after our meeting in New York, I had the opportunity to invite Secretary Powell to visit us in Algeria. This is indeed his first visit to Algeria, and during our conversations we had an opportunity to discuss bilateral issues. Our political relations are at the best that they have ever been. We talked about economic cooperation, technical cooperation between the United States and Algeria. We talked about the upcoming Open Skies Agreement that we will be signing with the United States. We talked about our various investment agreements. We talked about the recent experiences of Algeria, the fact that the United States is supporting Algeria’s accession to the WTO. We talked about various issues in the region, among which the fact that Algeria will soon occupy a seat on the Security Council of the United Nations next January, and we talked about the various issues that will be on the agenda of the Security Council. Among other issues that we discussed were Western Sahara, Iraq, the problems in Palestine, and other world problems to which Algeria could provide its contribution. But, now I would like to allow Secretary Powell to make his introductory remarks.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. It is a great pleasure for me to be in Algiers for the first time. Not only did I have a very productive discussion with the Foreign Minister, I had an excellent meeting with President Bouteflika. I was pleased to convey to the President, President Bush’s appreciation for the progress that we have made over the last several years in developing our bilateral relationship, which, as the Minister noted, has never been stronger than it is today.

We especially appreciate Algeria’s exceptional cooperation in the war against terrorism, and we look forward to strengthening that cooperation even more in the months and years ahead. Democratic progress and economic modernization are also fundamental to the interest of Algeria and to our expanding relationship. Press freedoms, broad political participation, and respect for human rights are important pillars of this process. So, too, is preparation for free, fair, and transparent elections in Algeria next year, and the President and I had a good discussion on these issues.

Our bilateral economic relationship is growing. We are actively encouraging opportunities for increased trade and investment, and, as you know, we do have a trade and investment framework agreement with Algeria. We are strongly supporting, as the Minister noted, Algeria’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization. The United States is proud to provide technical assistance for Algeria’s reforms of its tax, budget, judicial, and commercial law systems. As I did earlier today in my meeting with King Mohammed, I emphasized this evening to President Bouteflika our interest in a political solution to the problem of the Western Sahara. The United States continues to support the efforts of the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy, former Secretary of State Jim Baker. We do not seek to impose a solution on any party. I encouraged President Bouteflika, as I urged King Mohammed this morning, to continue their bilateral dialogue on this issue and on ways Algeria and Morroco can work together.

As the Minister noted, the President and I had a good opportunity to review a full range of international issues: the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and, as the Minister noted, once again, I look forward to working with Algeria when they become members of the Security Council early next year. I thank the Minister for his hospitality and the President for his hospitality. My only regret is my visit is too short, and I look forward to returning.

MR. BOUCHER: We only have a brief time for questions. We will start here in the third row.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, your visit to North Africa, to Maghreb, coincides with various other events which are taking place currently. There is, for example, the recent meeting, which took place in Naples between the Foreign Ministers of the Maghreb region and the European Union. There is the 5+5 meeting, which is occurring in Tunis, and is also the upcoming visit of President Chirac to Tunisia. So my question to you, is the United States in competition with Europe in the Maghreb region?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, there is no sense of competition between us and our European friends. I planned this visit because I was able to be in the Maghreb between two European meetings I have, and I will be leaving tonight for Brussels. There is no need for us to have competition. Maghreb is an important part of the world, and I am pleased that President Chriac is visiting here. And, I am also pleased that a variety of meetings will take place this week that includes the 5+5. I think it really shows the importance of this part of the world, rather than the basis of competition between the United States and its European friends.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we will go over here to Reuters.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have spoken a lot during the course of this trip about the importance of democratic reform and human rights in the region. I wonder if, in retrospect, you think that the Algerian authorities should not have cancelled the elections that they did back in ‘92, and perhaps avoided this long and painful period of bloodshed, if you think the FIS party and its leadership ought to be allowed to participate in this broad political participation that you have talked about, and if, as part of your growing cooperation with Algeria, whether you foresee growing U.S. support for the Algerian military?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I do not have the benefit of going back a number of years to determine how the future might have been different if the events had been different back then. I have to deal with the present and future, and the message I gave to President Bouteflika earlier was that we encourage full and open participation for all who wish to participate in the political process. And that had to include free, fair, full, transparent election procedures, and it had to include access to the media so that those who wish to compete in an election have the ability to take their message to the people. And I was pleased with the assurances I received from the President that he understood that, and that was his goal as well.

With respect to the military, I am sure that we want to have good relations with the military. There is no reason we should not. We work hard to have good relations with the military of friendly nations around the world.

MR. BOUCHER: For the last question we will go to El Khabar, fourth row.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we seem to understand that you are establishing a link between economic cooperation and cooperation of the United States and improvement in human rights in these various countries. Is this due to the fact that you are receiving more pressure coming from non-governmental organizations, such as the recent letter that was sent to you by Human Rights Watch, asking you to apply greater pressures on Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco in the issue of human rights?

SECRETARY POWELL: We always take into account letters we receive from various organizations around the world. The United States on its own though, without being pressured by human rights organizations, always conveys to those who want to have a better relationship with us, the need to have the highest standards of human rights behavior within your society. We believe, as the President has said very, very often, that all people in the world, in whatever country, in whatever system, and of whatever faith should enjoy those rights given to all people by God. And to the extent that there are governments that are still finding their way forward to having a solid human rights policy that encourages openness, that encourages freedom, we are open in speaking of such values to those countries. They are our friends, and because they are friends, they can accept candid advice. And we hope that they will think about the advice we give them and make their own decisions as to the directions in which they move.

All of the countries I visited today and yesterday are in different states of development with respect to democracy, with respect to political development, social development, and economic development. The President and I just had a candid conversation a few moments ago about the difficult times Algeria has gone through in the past twenty years. And now in the last several years they have had the conditions that allow them to move forward economically, and to move forward with respect to political reform, and with respect to human rights issues. And I am confident that with our continued support and help, Algeria will continue to move in the right direction.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. I am sorry we couldn’t stay longer.


Released on December 4, 2003

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