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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 > 2004 > February

Remarks with Netherlands Foreign Minister Bot After Their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
C Street Entrance
Washington, DC
February 9, 2004

(12:45 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: Great pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Bot for his first visit here to the State Department as the new Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, and we covered a full range of issues.

The Foreign Minister is a dedicated transatlanticist, having served in the European Union and in NATO, Ambassador to Turkey, and served his nation so very, very well. And I look forward to working with him in the same spirit of friendship and cooperation and mutual respect that our two countries have for one another and the support we have given to one another over the years in his new capacity.

I thanked the Minister for the support they have provided to efforts in Afghanistan, also troops in Iraq, and I look forward to finding more areas of cooperation. We talked about the Middle East Initiative and talked about a variety of regional issues -- Sudan, Turkey and other similar matters.

And so, Ben, it's a great pleasure to have you here and I look forward to many more such occasions.

FOREIGN MINISTER BOT: Thank you very much, Colin, for your, first of all, kind words, and also for the very warm and kind reception that I received here. We had a very constructive dialogue about, as you say, practically all important issues that are preoccupying us at the moment.

We discussed, first of all, of course, the fact that we continue to maintain excellent relations between the Netherlands and the United States. We have been old friends and, as you know, it is always very good that old friends tell each other the things that they have on their minds and on their hearts in an open and a frank way, and I think we did so in a -- also in a very constructive manner.

I also pointed out, of course, that we have the Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the coming six months, from July till the end of December, that allows us to play a constructive role also in the European transatlantic relations, the relations between Europe and the United States. And I think that as President we can also be a bridge-builder in that sense.

As I just said, you know, also on that respect, that is to say, the European-United States relations, they always have been, I think, basically good. We have had our little spats and our little differences of opinion, but I think that in the coming period we will do everything to improve that relationship as far as that is necessary. And again, as President of the European Union, we will certainly contribute as much as we can.

And I know, Colin, that you are, as always, a positive thinker. I was very happy that I was able to discuss so many subjects -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, and, especially interesting, the greater Middle East Initiative. But I think we have to elaborate a little bit on that. We have three summits coming up, so that gives us ample occasion to continue our dialogue. And I thank you very much for this very -- for this first, but a very nice, very warm reception, which you have given us.

Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Ben. We're running short of time.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did you request any kind of commitments from the Dutch, for example, in Iraq and Afghanistan? We have troops in both countries already. Did you request any new initiatives on the part of the Dutch?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we discussed the status of their efforts in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq. As the summer approaches, the judgment will have to be made by the Government of Netherlands as to whether they can continue to stay in Iraq with their troops. And with respect to Afghanistan, they will be making decisions concerning the support that they are getting ready to provide in the form of Apaches. And they are other -- there are other forms of support that I know they're considering, but I would leave that to the Minister to discuss.

FOREIGN MINISTER BOT: No, no, we -- I think we had a, there, two-week, let's say, discussion of the situation in the field as it is at the moment, the security situation, and Secretary Powell brought to my attention, let's say, the opinion of the United States as far as Afghanistan and Iraq is concerned. We took note of it. We will take your wishes, I will take that along and that will be a matter for discussion in the Netherlands with the Netherlands parliament.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary -- can I have you reaction -- oh, I'm sorry. I have to defer to George. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: George. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I forgot.

QUESTION: Are you happy with the export controls that Pakistan has? I understand the military is exempted from some of these controls. Are you working with Pakistan to strengthen them?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are always looking for ways to strengthen export controls that will prevent the slippage of items and equipment that could lead to the production of weapons of mass destruction. I've had many conversations with my Pakistani colleagues over the past several years, and President Musharraf and I have discussed it on a number of occasions with respect to countries like North Korea and others.

So I look forward to working with them, continuing to work with them. I don't know the specifics of the military versus civilian controls that you touched on, George.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I'd like your reaction to the letter that was found in Iraq that linked al-Qaida to encouraging attacks on minorities in Iraq. And does this go back to your, the connections that you made with Al-Zarqawi last year at the UN?

SECRETARY POWELL: It certainly lends, I think, some credence to what we said at the UN last year, that he was active in Iraq and doing things that should have been known to the Iraqis. And we're still looking for those connections and to prove those connections.

With respect to the letter itself, it's very revealing. They described the weaknesses that they have in their efforts to undercut the coalition's efforts. But at the same time, it shows they haven't given up; they’re trying to get more terrorists into Iraq and they’re trying to create more terrorist organizations to try to defeat our purposes.

But they will not succeed. But it was a very revealing letter into the thinking of at least one part of this insurgency.

Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER BOT: Thank you very much.

Released on February 9, 2004

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