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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

With Foreign Minister K.D. Knight, OAS Secretary General Cisar Gaviria, Foreign Minister Julian Hunte, Foreign Minister Bill Graham, and Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell after their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
February 13, 2004

(3:10 p.m. EST)

Secretary Powell, center with Jamaica's Foreign Affairs Minister Keith D. Knight, left; Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Cesar Gaviria; Assistant Secretary General of the Carribean Community (CARICOM) Colin Granderson (back); Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs William Graham; and St. Lucia's Foreign Minister and current United Nations General Assembly President Julian Hunte; after their meeting regarding the situation in Haiti at the State Department.SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We've just concluded a series of meetings here and over at the Canadian Embassy on the situation in Haiti. I'm pleased to be joined by a number of distinguished leaders this afternoon: the Foreign Minister of Jamaica who is also leading the CARICOM delegation and will give a statement in a moment; Mr. K.D. Knight from Jamaica and Julian Hunte, who is here from Saint Lucia, a Foreign Minister, but also occupies the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly at this time; my colleague, Bill Graham from Canada, the Fred Mitchell from Bahamas; and also CÚsar Gaviria, the distinguished Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

We, of course, are very concerned about the situation in Haiti. We all have a commitment to the democratic process in Haiti and we will accept no outcome that is not consistent with the constitution. We will accept no outcome that, in any way, illegally attempts to remove the elected President of Haiti.

At the same time, we believe both sides need to come together and find a political solution, a peaceful political solution, using the CARICOM proposal that the Minister will be speaking about in just a moment.

We are prepared to lend our good political offices to this effort. There is a mission in Haiti now, under the leadership of the OAS, consisting of humanitarian workers and some police personnel, who I ask President Aristide to work with more closely. And we have decided this afternoon that we would provide more financial, and perhaps other resources, to this mission so it can do its work.

And we have also concluded that we should stay in very close touch with one another in the weeks ahead and put in place a technical team that can assess the humanitarian situation in Haiti and are prepared to do more as the situation evolves. But what we need now is for both sides to fully support the CARICOM plan, but not just support it, take action that demonstrates that they are committed to that plan.

We'll issue a joint statement after this press conference. But at this time, I would like to turn the microphone and the lectern over to Minister Knight for his comments.

FOREIGN MINISTER KNIGHT: Thank you, Secretary Powell. I'd just like to say that since morning, the CARICOM team has had a meeting with the OAS Secretary General. We have had a meeting also with the Canadian Foreign Minister, and now with Secretary Powell. And we are very pleased, indeed, with the results that we have achieved at these meetings because we see that there is progress being made.

I'd just like to state CARICOM's position, which is that we endorse the full application of democracy in Haiti. We will not accept a coup d'etat in any form. Any change in Haiti must be through constitutional means. There should be no doubt about CARICOM's commitment to the democratic process and the constitutional authority in Haiti. This should not be construed as uncritical support for the President of Haiti. It is for democracy in Haiti.

CARICOM wants to support and nurture the fledgling democracy which has begun to be established in Haiti after decades of authoritarian, totalitarian rule in that country. We are engaged in a process which must ultimately lead to free and fair elections.

Both the Government of Haiti and the political opposition have obligations and responsibilities in this area. The CARICOM initiative seeks to establish a series of short-term confidence-building measures leading to this goal.

These include an end to political violence. Violence must not be used, neither to retain power or to obtain power. There must be compliance with the OAS resolutions. There must be negotiations of rules for demonstrations and the release of political detainees. There must be action taken to ensure the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms. There must be the disarmament of all strongarm groups. Importantly, there must be action taken to ensure the effectiveness of the police. And there must also be action taken to lead to the establishment of the electoral commission.

We are very pleased at the level of international support which the CARICOM initiative has received from all quarters and, importantly, what has happened is that all parties are now fully involved and on board with the initiative to move it from commitment to implementation.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Mr. Minister. I'd ask the OAS Secretary General, Secretary General Gaviria, to say a word.

SECRETARY GENERAL GAVIRIA: Thank you, Secretary Powell and ministers. We have worked, as the Minister told you, all through the day. All parties concerned about this meeting, Canada, the U.S., the OAS countries, CARICOM, are working with only one plan, the CARICOM plan, the action plan that the prime ministers of the CARICOM have been working with President Aristide and his government and -- and his government and with the opposition in Haiti.

We all fully agreed that the constitutional government is Haiti's (inaudible) in Aristide. And at the same time, we expect him to deliver on the many commitments he has made in the past about a political solution on bringing an environment of security that can take us to elections that are an essential element of any solution we found in Haiti.

So we have come today with full support of the CARICOM plan. We expect also, as Secretary Powell has stated, more support for the OAS mission that is working for the CARICOM initiative. We have some more (inaudible) responsibilities. We hope to comply with them, and we hope the full cooperation of the Government on Haiti on this matter.

SECRETARY POWELL: Foreign Minister Julian Hunte of Saint Lucia, who is the current presidency of the United Nations General Assembly.

FOREIGN MINISTER HUNTE: Thank you. The Secretary General of the United Nations shares my concern about what is taking place in Haiti, as the United Nations continues to monitor what is taking place there. My presence here at this meeting gives effect to this concern.

As I have said to my colleagues, however, the situation in Haiti also challenges the international community to look more carefully at the principle of avoiding conflict. How do we, as an international community, look at a situation where we see conflict developing into something that is going to be very dangerous? How do we avoid it? Do we only look at post-conflict solutions?

It appears to me that the time has come when we need to be more actively involved in conflict prevention, in addition to whatever we are doing in terms of post-conflict solution so that the United Nations is, in fact, monitoring the situation in hopes that it will not reach the stage where it develops into something that is untenable, and that the UN will do whatever it can to assist in the process that is underway.

Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Foreign Minister Bill Graham of Canada.

FOREIGN MINISTER GRAHAM: Thank you very much, Secretary Powell, and thank you for bringing us together here. Canadians regard what takes place in Haiti with a great deal of concern at this time, and a great deal of seriousness. We have had a long tradition of working in Haiti to try to bring to an end the type of conditions that are there.

We believe, and Prime Minister Martin told the CARICOM prime ministers at Monterrey that they need to be supported because they have a balanced plan, a way of bringing the parties together in Haiti for a political solution.

We strongly believe in Canada that that plan has the best opportunity for international success. We support it. We support it through the OAS. We support it through the Francophonie. We believe that the international community through the UN as well, needs to come together and speak as one voice condemning violence, telling the government, President Aristide, that he must cooperate with the CARICOM nations, telling the opposition that they must cooperate with the CARICOM nations, come together for the benefit of their nation.

(In French.)

SECRETARY POWELL: And Foreign Minister Mitchell of the Bahamas.


FOREIGN MINISTER MITCHELL: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I just want to say the Bahamas is the closest country to Haiti, but for the Dominican Republic. And the crisis in Haiti will impact us severely if there is an implosion in Haiti. So we are committing all of the resources that we have, in concert with our CARICOM partners, and with the United States of America, Canada and all of the other nations of the OAS, to try and solve this problem.

I think the symbolism of this meeting is very important because all of us are gathered here and Haitian society can see that we are one on this proposal that is before them today. We are united to constitutional authority. But we are also saying that the government has its obligations that it must carry out and adhere to, in accordance with the Kingston plan, but the opposition must also join the process and the time to do that is now. Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: We'll take a question or two, but let me thank all my colleagues for joining me here today. It shows the international community and our hemisphere coming together, but beyond our hemisphere with the presence of the UN General Assembly President, as well as expression of concern and interest from Francophonie nations -- France, Senegal and others.

This really is a continuation of the process that was started at the Summit of the Americas in Monterrey when President Bush met with the CARICOM leaders and when Prime Minister Martin, as you heard Foreign Minister Graham say, also met.

And so I thank my colleagues for coming here this afternoon on this important matter.

Questions. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Administration has been critical of President Aristide for the past several days. I wonder if he has demonstrated any flexibility with respect to your appeals for a political solution and for institutional reform.

SECRETARY POWELL: He has expressed support for the CARICOM proposals and I hope he has been following these proceedings closely. What we need now is action. We need him to start taking action, to reach out to the opposition, to make sure that thugs are not allowed to break up peaceful demonstrations.

What we need from President Aristide now is action and not just expressions and words of support.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, less than a decade ago, American and Canadian troops stood ready to involve themselves in Haiti, to give democracy a chance. Is there the same degree of resolve today if, in fact, these fine hopes for the CARICOM initiative fail?

SECRETARY POWELL: We did more than just stood -- stand ready to do something. We did a great deal. U.S. troops went into Haiti in 1994, Canadians went in and a great deal of money was spent trying to get Haitian democracy going again. And we had some progress, but then it slipped backward on us and Haitian democracy is once again in danger.

At the moment, to get to the heart of your question, there is no plan, and we discussed no plan here, for military or other kinds of intervention at this point. We did discuss, as I mentioned earlier, beefing up the OAS mission that is there, and we also discussed what we might be able to do if the Haitians themselves came up with a political solution. And to help implement that political solution, additional outside support might be appropriate in the way of a modest number of police personnel or some financial assistance. And we are prepared to continue discussions in that kind of support, with respect to that kind of support.

Anyone else? One more.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Haitian opposition has always said that they would not accept any plan short of President Aristide's resignation. How do you hope to convince the Haitian opposition to accept the CARICOM plan?

SECRETARY POWELL: We think the CARICOM plan has opportunities for both sides. President Aristide was elected by the Haitian people and his departure from the scene as President can only be by democratic, constitutional means. And it would not be appropriate; it would be inconsistent with the plan to attempt to force him from office against his will. And that is what you've heard us clearly say today is an unacceptable outcome.

I think that's all we have time for. Thank you.

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