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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 > November

Briefing by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
November 24, 2004

(1:00 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, everyone. A dozen years ago, Ukrainians chose freedom and independence, setting their country on a path of democracy and prosperity. The United States has been a consistent partner with Ukraine in this journey. Similarly, today the United States stands with the people of Ukraine and their effort to ensure their democratic choice.

Indeed, this is a critical moment. It is time for Ukrainian leaders to decide whether they are on the side of democracy or not, whether they respect the will of the people or not. If the Ukrainian Government does not act immediately and responsibly, there will be consequences for our relationship for Ukraine's hopes for Euro-Atlantic integration and for individuals responsible for perpetrating fraud.

The Central Election Commission has just announced official results and declared the current prime minister the winner. We cannot accept this result as legitimate because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse. We have been following developments very closely and are deeply disturbed by the extensive and credible reports of fraud in the election. We call for a full review of the conduct of the election and the tallying of election results.

During the election campaign, the Ukrainian authorities at the highest level repeatedly sent a message about the importance of free and fair elections. We deeply regret that they did not take the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to democracy and to be a model for the region and the world. It is still not too late for Ukrainian authorities to find a solution that respects the will of the Ukrainian people.

Countries around the world are watching the actions of Ukrainian leaders. We urge them to seize the moment. Both Mr. Yushenko and Mr. Yanukovych have suggested today that there may be a way to resolve this. Hopefully, this will give us a opening to find a solution.

I have spoken this morning with President Kuchma to press him to take advantage of these kinds of openings and also to caution him against the use of any kind of force against the demonstrators, and also encouraged him to use the legitimate means available to him to examine these election results and these allegations of fraud and abuse.

Also this morning I have spoken with EU Commission Chairman Barosso and with High Representative Javier Solana about the situation in Ukraine, and I can assure you that we share a common goal and perspective of the situation.

We have also been in touch with the Polish Government and support the offer of President Kwasniewski to mediate.

I have also spoken this morning to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov about the situation. I underscored our strong support for a fair investigation of the election and the absolute importance that no violence is used against the Ukrainian people.

Tomorrow is the EU-Russian summit in Europe, and I am confident this will be a subject of discussion between the EU leadership and the Russians. We call on all sides to work to achieve a fair and just outcome without the use of force. We remind the Ukrainian authorities that they bear a special responsibility not to use or incite violence.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, given the Russian role in the election process, do you see any negative consequences for U.S.-Russian relations in view of the fact that they have overtly support Yanukovych?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I had a good conversation with Minister Lavrov. What we are both interested in right now is finding a solution to this problem, a solution that is based on the law and using legal procedures to resolve these allegations of fraud, well-substantiated allegations from Senator Lugar and OSCE monitors and other monitors, and what we are trying to do now is to use diplomacy and use political actions to resolve this.

We're not looking for a contest with the Russians over this. We're looking for a way to make sure that the will of the Ukrainian people is respected and when we get an outcome that will truly reflect the desires of the Iranian* people for who their next leader should be.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when you talk about a solution, do you think that the election was so tainted, the results so compromised, that there should be a new vote? And when you talk about consequences to the bilateral relationship, are you talking about reducing some of the about $150 million that the United States gives Ukraine each year?

SECRETARY POWELL: At the moment, we're not taking any actions. We want to see what the ultimate results are so we're not getting into any specifics. One suggestion that has been made is another election but there are other suggestions out there. This is the time for all alternatives to be examined, to be examined carefully, to be examined in light of the law, and hopefully, the parties acting reasonably and doing everything to avoid any use of force can find a way forward. They'll get a lot of assistance from the European community, from the United States, from President Kwasniewski of Poland, who is playing an important role. And right now, we are looking at a way to move forward, not a way to punish or to do anything else but move forward peacefully to get a result that reflects the will of the Ukrainian people in a free and fair manner so that it can be accepted by the Ukrainian people and by the international community.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you've -- this Department has talked in the past about the importance of allowing nations to conduct elections without outside interference. My question is, does the Ukrainian election represent an example that goes against that principle, specifically Russian interference in the process?

SECRETARY POWELL: What we stand for is free, fair, open elections, and we do not believe we have seen that in this instance, and what I would rather do is concentrate on how we get out of, and how the Ukrainians get out of the difficult situation they find themselves in. At a later time, one can talk about how we got into this situation, but right now we want to focus on how we get out of it.

One more, and then I have to go.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Middle East? It's a question --


QUESTION: Okay. Abu Mazen just told the Palestinian parliament that he endorsed the right of refugees to return. Your comment on that. And secondly, the popular Palestinian leader, Marwan al-Barghouthi, said that he will say next week whether he's going to nominate himself as an independent candidate. Do you think that will complicate the matters, or do you think the more candidate we have the better for democracy?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I've only seen a press report of Mr. Abbas' statement. I think he's stating a longstanding position of the Palestinian leadership and we'll have to work through this as we go forward.

With respect to Mr. Barghouthi, I won't comment on what he might or might not do, but at the moment, he is in legal custody of the Israeli Government, having been found guilty of offenses. And I don't know whether he will decide to allow his name to be put on the ballot or not, and so I wouldn't comment on it.

Anything else? Okay. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. How do you assess your meeting with the Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk in Sharm el-Sheikh?

SECRETARY POWELL: It was a good meeting. He and I meet on a regular basis. We had very candid discussions. We see that the Syrians have taken some action with respect to border infiltration. We would like to see more action taken. And we talked about more that they might do within Syria to identify and to see if we can help them identify those in Syria who might be taking advantage of Syria to raise money or provide funds across the border to insurgent elements or terrorists in Iraq.

And so it was a good, solid discussion. There is more that we think Syria can do and I also know that the Iraqi Government wants to work more closely with Syria to seal that border from infiltrators, from financing, from arms and equipment that might go across the border to insurgents and terrorists.

Thank you.

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