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Remarks at U.S.- EU Ministerial Joint Press Conference With Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, EU High Representative Javier Solana, and EU External Affairs Commissioner Christopher Patten

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
March 1, 2004

(2:00 p.m. EST)

Photo of (from left to right) External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten; Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen; Secretary Powell; and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana at the U.S.-EU Ministerial Joint Press Conference.  State Department photo/ Michael Gross.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's always a great pleasure to welcome my European Union colleagues to the Department of State -- Foreign Minister Cowen, High Representative Solana, and External Affairs Commissioner Patten and I have had a wide-ranging set of productive discussions and it reflects our rich agenda, a rich agenda that, in turn, reflects the dynamism of the US-EU partnership and our commitment to work together to meet regional and global challenges.

I want to express my appreciation to Foreign Minister Cowen for the excellent cooperation we've had during the Irish presidency of the Union, and I look forward to continuing our cooperation over the coming months.

This is an eventful year for the European Union. The EU will formally enlarge to embrace ten new member states, and the Union will reach out to countries in its wider neighborhood, the Mediterranean, the Caucasus and the Balkans. The United States strongly supports these new and enhanced relationships.

All of us hope that democracy and prosperity continue to spread across the European continent. And that is why the United States has so strongly supported Turkey's accession to the European Union. And today, I reiterate our support for Turkey membership.

My colleagues and I also discussed our shared efforts to make it possible for Cyprus to join the European Union as a united nation. We also expressed our joint interest in helping the peoples of the Balkans establish a more prosperous and stable region.

As part of that effort, we will work together closely as NATO's Stabilization Force in Bosnia ends its mission. And I expressed U.S. support for the European Union's desire to establish a mission there under Berlin Plus rules.

In all of these ways and more, the US-EU partnership contributes to freedom, prosperity and peace in Europe. And increasingly, our partnership also is contributing to freedom, prosperity and peace beyond Europe.

We had a useful discussion today on how we can best work together to support indigenous voices for reform in the Greater Middle East. All of us seek to expand political, economic and educational opportunities there. President Bush spoke in November of the urgent need for a forward strategy for freedom in the Middle East, and the European Union has an extensive program of its own with Mediterranean countries.

We see great opportunity and scope for cooperation on a Greater Middle East Initiative in the run-up to the G-8, US-EU and NATO summits this June.

We also remain committed to the Quartet's work with the parties to achieve progress on President Bush's two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As the world's largest donor communities, we discussed the upcoming Berlin conference in Afghanistan and we focused on ways to enhance our support of Iraq's reconstruction and transition to sovereignty.

We discussed the new European Union strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The strategy contains many ideas that the United States endorses, and it reinforces our joint commitments under the June 25th US-European Union Declaration on Proliferation.

We look forward to enhanced cooperation on export controls, on meeting the goals of the G-8 Global Partnership on Nonproliferation and on addressing regional proliferation challenges.

Regarding arms sales to China, I expressed concern that the European Union might lift its arms embargo. We and the European Union imposed prohibitions for the same reasons, most especially, China's serious human rights abuses, and we believe that those reasons remain valid today.

The strong and growing partnership between the United States and the European Union not only serves the fundamental interests and common values of Americans and Europeans, our partnership also contributes greatly to well-being across the globe.

It is in that spirit of partnership, and out of a shared sense of responsibility, that we sit down together regularly, as we have done today. We discuss and we debate, but above all, we demonstrate our abiding mutual commitment to a vibrant transatlantic relationship and to a better world. And I thank my colleagues for being here with me today.

Please.

FOREIGN MINISTER COWEN: Thank you very much, Colin.

I want to thank the Secretary of State and his team for the very full and constructive discussions today, which the EU troika composed of myself, High Representative Secretary General Solana and Commissioner Patten had today with our U.S. counterparts.

On the evidence of today's discussions, European Union-U.S. relations are in good shape, and we are determined to further improve them going forward.

The European Union and the United States are deeply engaged in addressing most of the key issues on the international agenda, and with a very good dialogue on many of those issues today.

The stalled Middle East peace process remains of deep concern to all of us. We had a very frank exchange of views. We need to make early progress on the implementation of the Quartet roadmap. I emphasized the importance of helping the parties to take small, concrete and visible steps to begin implementation of the roadmap, and we agreed that an early meeting between Prime Minister Sharon and Abu Alaa would be very helpful in that process.

We also discussed the wider Middle East. The European Union already has an extensive partnership with the countries in this neighboring region of ours, and the European Union is already working on proposals to enhance this partnership throughout the region. We see consultation with the countries in the region as being of central importance in further developing our relations with them. Progress on the Middle East peace process remains essential for regional stability.

The European Union is ready to work with the United States in assisting the countries of the region in their efforts to make the region a zone of peace, prosperity and progress. We want the countries of the region to come forward with ideas for addressing the desire of their people for economic development, and political and social reform, and we are ready to help them in whatever way we can.

We also discussed developments in the Iraq. The handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people will be an important milestone, and we welcomed the role the United Nations is playing in the transition process.

European Union and the United States are in full agreement on the importance of a sovereign, stable and unified Iraq for the whole of the international community.

On Afghanistan, we stressed the importance of holding presidential and parliamentary elections at the earliest opportunity. We look forward to the Berlin conference at the end of this month, as an opportunity to reconfirm our shared commitment to its successful reconstruction and development. We discussed our shared concerns on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Secretary of State briefed us on the outcome of the recent six-party talks in Beijing.

On Iran, we agreed to work closely in the run-up to the IAEA Board of Governors meeting. We agreed on the need for the international community to work together to eradicate proliferation networks.

On Haiti, we agreed on the importance of working together to stabilize the situation as soon as possible. This unfortunate nation desperately needs our help and support.

On economic issues, we covered a wide agenda including transport security, the Galileo project, a strengthened security dialogue and further efforts on combatting HIV/AIDS. We will work closely together to see how we can take forward our cooperation on these issues in preparation for the summit.

I want to thank the Secretary of State, once again, for a very extensive three hour discussion on all of these matters.

SECRETARY POWELL: Christopher or Javier, would you like to add anything?

Questions?

QUESTION: Mr. Cowen, your reference to Abu Alaa, I want you to -- you know what I mean, you called for meetings -- does that mean the Europeans have now accepted the reality that Israel will not deal with Yasser Arafat, who the Europeans have been insisting is the real leader of the Palestinian people?

The Americans have long past that point and are not dealing with Arafat. Or is it -- does it - or does not have any special import, your reference to wanting Sharon to meet with Abu Alaa?

FOREIGN MINISTER COWEN: Well, I think the point is that, obviously, we don't have a completely agreed position between the United States and the European Union, in respect to that particular aspect of the matter.

But there has been a call since the reformed Palestinian Authority has nominated Abu Alaa as Prime Minister. And there is a need for a meeting to take place between he and Minister Sharon, as there was in the past between Prime Minister Sharon and Abu Mazen, who is the predecessor of Abu Alaa.

We think it's important, in the context of creating momentum, in creating a renewed dialogue between these parties, and that such a meeting should take place. We think they should have prospects for an outcome to that meeting and the Quartet group is working to see, to facilitate a meeting as early as possible in that respect.

QUESTION: So the Europeans have not changed their position on Yasser Arafat?

FOREIGN MINISTER COWEN: No, we haven't.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, two questions about Haiti, sir. One, there have been accusations, including some by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, that Aristide was actually handcuffed and turned over by the Embassy to military officials and kidnapped out of the country. Secretary Rumsfeld referred back to the State Department to respond to that, so, if you would.

And on a broader level, I wanted to ask you, especially given the State Department's annual report on corruption in the Haitian Government involving the drug trafficking and the other problems in finding channels for international aid. What needs to be done to make this a viable country? How do we get aid in? What steps would you recommend be taken, even before there is a functioning government?

SECRETARY POWELL: On the first question, the allegations that somehow we kidnaped former President Aristide are absolutely baseless, absurd. And it's rather unfortunate that in this sensitive time, when we are trying to stabilize the situation in Haiti and when we're sending in a multinational interim force to help bring about that stability and we're trying to put a political process on track, I think it's very unfortunate that these kinds of absurd charges are leveled at us.

I was intimately involved in this situation all through Saturday night. The first call we received from security people of President Aristide, people who work for him who contacted our security people, and there was a question about their ability to continue protecting him. And he wanted to discuss with our Ambassador the possibility of departure and he had several questions that he put to our Ambassador.

The Ambassador consulted with me and Assistant Secretary Noriega by telephone. We told him he could take the call and see what President Aristide had in mind. And he talked about protection of property, protection of his personal property, his -- property of some of his ministers, and would he have some choice as to where he was going if he decided to leave.

We gave him answers to these questions, positive answers. And then in the course of the evening, other conversations took place. He said he wanted to think about it, he wanted to speak to his wife, which he did. And he came back to us and said that it was his decision, based on what his security people were also telling him about the deteriorating situation, that he should leave. And we made arrangements for his departure. He was -- he wrote a letter of resignation. I think he might have been in touch with other people. And a leased plane was brought in and he departed at 6:15, thereabouts on Sunday morning.

He was not kidnaped. We did not force him onto the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly. And that's the truth. And it would have been better for Members of Congress who have heard these stories to ask us about the stories before going public with them so that we don't make a difficult situation that much more difficult.

The first destination that he wanted to go to would not receive him at this time, and so we went through about an hour and a half of difficult negotiations with various countries and with friends of ours to find alternative locations that he might go to -- while the plane was in the air.

And I'm very pleased that the Central African Republic showed a willingness to accept him on an interim basis, and that's where President Aristide and members of his family went, accompanied by his own personal security. Some 15 members of his personal security detachment were with him from his house to the airport, on to the plane with him, on to the refueling locations, and on to the Central African Republic. And that's what's happened, notwithstanding any cell phone reports to the contrary.

With respect to your broader question, Haiti is a nation that must build some basic political institutions that function, that work, and that are answerable to the people. It's been tried a number of times. You will all note very well that I was part of a delegation in 1994. I went down there with President Carter and with Senator Nunn, and if I'm not mistaken, Ms. Mitchell, you were there. And we succeeded in getting the generals out and President Aristide back in.

And I have watched over the last ten years, through his first administration, through the interim administration which he had a lot to do with controlling, and then his coming back into office. And I saw a man who was democratically elected, but he did not democratically govern or govern well, and he has to bear a large burden, if not the major burden, for what has happened.

And now we are there to give the Haitian people another chance, and we will be working with Haitians to help Haitians put in place a political system, and we will support it to the best of our ability. And I'm pleased that the international community has responded so quickly with a unanimous UN resolution.

I might also say that as this crisis was unfolding over the last several weeks, we worked very hard with the opposition leaders in Haiti, with the Haitian Government, trying to find a political way to move forward. We were in the closest possible consultations with our CARICOM friends and with our French colleagues and Canadian colleagues and others, other interested parties, the Secretary General of the United Nations. Daily consultations. So we all knew the positions of the others and we were all trying to reinforce each other's position.

It became clear last week that the kind of political solution we hoped for was not to be there, and increasingly it seemed that President Aristide would ultimately be the impediment to progress. And you know the rest.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Minister Cowen and Secretary Powell, the Taoiseach has asked explicitly for there not to be protests when President Bush comes to Ireland in June. He has rebuked those who are already trying to amass support for those protests.

Do you look forward -- would it please you for there not to be protests when the President goes in June? And do you think it's appropriate to ask for them not to take place?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President is very much looking forward to his trip. We understand that in democratic societies protests can occur. We always hope that protests and demonstrations do not ruin the meeting or ruin the event, as has happened in the recent past. And I think it's quite appropriate for the Taoiseach to give that kind of suggestion to those who might be protesting or demonstrating. But the President is very much looking forward to his visit, with or without protests.

FOREIGN MINISTER COWEN: Can I say that it's very important to emphasize the very positive relationship that exists between the European and the United States. We, as presidency during this six months when the summit is due, we're delighted that the President and Secretary of State and their delegations will be coming to Ireland, where we will be having that meeting. It will be a very substantive meeting that will improve the prospects for all our people, both in the United States and the European Union.

We have so much in common, so much interdependence economically through trade, technology transfer, political issues, shared values. We are global actors in the world -- the United States and the European Union -- and we work and cooperate in so many areas, as you've just heard, to try and bring greater peace and stability to a troubled world.

So I look forward to this meeting having a productive outcome, enhancing the relationship between the United States and the European Union, and we will use our term as presidency to confirm the strategic nature of this relationship and confirm the wide and comprehensive context in which we cooperate; and where we have differences, we will discuss them as democrats and seek to find common solutions to problems not yet solved.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, today the European Union is beginning the imposition of sanctions against the United States. It could eventually lead to $4 billion; it's the largest amount ever imposed against the United States. But the United States doesn't appear to be in any rush to change its law.

What do you say to those who say that by taking your time, not making it a priority -- it hasn't been mentioned once today, for example -- that you're basically flouting the rules of the World Trade Organization and, in fact, you might undermine it?

SECRETARY POWELL: Not at all. We very much support the rules of the World Trading Organization, and trade disputes will come up from time to time and we'll try to work our way through. And in this particular case, the Foreign Services Corporation problem is a difficult one for us and it will take more work on our part, with the Congress and within the Administration, to find a way forward. And we understand why the European Union took its action. We regret it, but we do understand it. And we talked about it at the beginning of our meeting, but we did not linger on it because we pretty much know what -- we knew what all the facts were and we had other things to talk about.

FOREIGN MINISTER COWEN: Commission Patten might like to say something.

COMMISSIONER PATTEN: Can I just add that I don't think anybody can accuse us of rushing impatiently at this. We've been involved in discussions for three and a half years, most directly for a couple of years, and we very much hope that the very limited measures that we've taken will help to encourage the completion of the legislative process.

My colleague, Pascal Lamy, was here last week talking to members of the cabinet and talking on the Hill, and we very much hope that in the next few weeks we'll be able to put this behind us, that we'll be able to see compliance with the WTO, and we'll be able to get on with a trading relationship which is spectacularly comprehensive, which is extremely important for the whole world, and on the whole, despite one or two difficulties, is pretty problem free.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary and -- excuse me -- also to the Europeans, if you have an answer. What are your -- what do you think the prospects are for the basic law? That has now gotten its framework on the ground in Iraq with Ambassador Bremer staying up all night, much like you were here.

Do you think this is going to hold? And do you think there remain problems with some of the issues that the Kurds didn't get everything they wanted, and if the Europeans have any -- any speculation on that basic law, as well?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is a tremendous achievement that Ambassador Bremer, working with the Iraqi Governing Council and other interested parties in Iraq, were able to pull this administrative law together as quickly as they did and satisfy all the parties to this point.

There are still outstanding issues, and I think as we go forward and get to the actual writing of a final constitution in due course, whatever outstanding issues remain have to be dealt with. The Kurds continue to have some issues and I'm sure there are other issues that I haven't had a chance to talk to Ambassador Bremer about today. But we should not in any way undercut the achievement of getting this administrative law in place, and it's only one day later than we hoped it would be, and it sets the stage for moving forward with our other steps and actions leading to sovereignty on the 30th of June.

So I think it's a major accomplishment. There are outstanding issues. The process by which we got to this law is a good one -- democracy in action -- and democracy will take care of these remaining problems as we move forward.

FOREIGN MINISTER COWEN: So we welcome the interim constitution, having been agreed, Javier may have words he wishes to say.

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE SOLANA: I could agree with what Secretary Powell has said. It is a very, very important achievement. And it's true that there still are remaining issues, but they will be solved in the coming months, in the coming weeks. But I think I want to underline that a very difficult law has been solved, and solving the basic elements, which creates the possibility of complying with the timeframe that has been set.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.



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