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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2005 Secretary Rice's Remarks > February 2005: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Remarks With Dutch Foreign Minister Bot After Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
February 18, 2005

(11:42 a.m. EST)

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. I've had the honor to welcome Foreign Minister Bot to discussions with me about the really excellent relationship that the United States and the Netherlands enjoy. It is a relationship that is – It’s a historic relationship based on values, based on a longstanding relationship in NATO that has a wonderful history of having faced down tyranny and having engaged in the spread of freedom.

Secretary Rice and Netherlands Foreign Minister, Washington, DC, February 18, 2005. State Department photo.

We had wide-ranging discussions of the contributions that we together have been able to make to Middle Eastern peace, and our desires for the continuation of what now seems to be momentum in the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We had an opportunity to talk about Afghanistan and Iraq and I want to thank the Minister for the contributions of the Netherlands in both cases, especially in Afghanistan, where the Netherlands is looking to see what more it can do, and in Iraq, where there are pledges of cooperation to help the Iraqis build their own capacity.

We had good discussions of the President's forthcoming trip to Europe. The Netherlands has just come out of the EU presidency, and was steadfast in using that presidency to advance both European-U.S. relations and transatlantic relations as well. And I want to thank you for that, Minister.

I look forward to seeing you in a few days. Thank you very much for the friendship of the people of the Netherlands and for the government's activities and efforts on behalf of peace and freedom.

FOREIGN MINISTER BOT: Thank you very much for these kind words and for the reception which I and my delegation got here today. I must say that the frank and the open discussion with you, Dr. Rice, and also with other people I met yesterday on the Hill, have proved that relations, first of all, between the Netherlands and between the United States are excellent, as you have said, and I'm absolutely sure that they will continue to blossom, given the fact that there is, on so many issues, unity of view as to how to, let's say, reach certain common goals.

Secretary Rice and Netherlands Foreign Minister, Washington, DC, February 18, 2005. State Department photo.

I was very happy that I had the opportunity today to discuss in, also, in the light of the coming visit of President Bush and you yourself to Europe, a number of issues. You have mentioned already the Middle East and Afghanistan where I think we are both, Europe and the United States, but also the Netherlands, let's say, working in tandem, trying to, let's say, realize the same objectives and I think we do so in a very constructive way and we try to contribute as well as we can.

I was also happy that we were able to discuss a number of other issues where the European view may differ slightly as to the message to be utilized, to be used, but I think we're also, we are well agreed as to the effect that we want to, let's say, realize as quickly as possible peace, stability and liberty in the world, and that, let's say, only by joining forces can we reach those goals. And I am very happy that we will do so in the context of existing fora. I am referring particularly to NATO, which I think is functioning very well and which should be used increasingly as a transatlantic forum for discussion.

I also think that we might consider the possibility of occasionally meeting in a more informal setting between ministers of foreign affairs because I discover again, as I always do when I am here, how useful it is to have such open and such frank conversations as we had today because I think that is the best way to overcome possible, let's say, differences of view, as I say, rather about the message than about the goal. And that is very important. And once again, I thank you for the trust, for the help, and for the way in which you have received us today. That is of great help and it certainly will continue to strengthen our excellent relations.

Secretary Rice and Netherlands Foreign Minister, Washington, DC, February 18, 2005. State Department photo.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, apologies for an out of the area question. But there is word from Tokyo -- and, of course, the Japanese will be here to see you and Secretary Rumsfeld tomorrow --that they are prepared to recognize Taiwan as an issue of security concern, a rather, obviously, bold step. Is this something you welcome? And what is the import of this, do you think?

SECRETARY RICE: We and the Japanese, of course, enjoy very deep and broad relations in an alliance to try and help bring and maintain peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. Japan also, of course, has more recently taken on broader roles in their humanitarian efforts in Iraq and also in the cooperation that we enjoyed with the tsunami. So, in fact, this is already a broad and deep relationship that addresses most of the issues of concern.

Of course, the Cross-Straits issue is an issue of concern in the Asia Pacific. The policy of the United States is very clear. We have a One China policy we recognize on the basis of three communiqués. We also have responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act. And we have cautioned all parties that there should be no attempt to change the status quo unilaterally; that means no attempt by China to change the status quo unilaterally, no attempt by Taiwan to change the status quo unilaterally, and our efforts to maintain stability in the region count very much on American adherence and that of our allies, which Japan is certainly an ally, that the Cross-Straits problem would be resolved peacefully.

But we look very much forward, Secretary Rumsfeld and I do, tomorrow, to discussions with the Japanese, my counterpart and his counterpart, about how we continue to promote peace and security in this region.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, how do you feel about the withdrawal of the Dutch troops next month from Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, let me say how very grateful the coalition has been, the multinational force, and, I believe, the Iraqi people, for the contribution of the Netherlands to the stabilization efforts in Iraq. It has been a forthright and excellent example of the Netherlands' commitment to peace and freedom and to the spread of liberty and the support of people who are seeking that liberty.

We have talked about the need to restructure that commitment. We've talked about the fact that this was coming for some time. I can say without any fear of contradiction that the Netherlands has done this in a way that has allowed the multinational force to account for that. It has been a completely coordinated effort and will continue to be a completely coordinated effort, and I want very much to thank the Minister for what -- for the continuing commitment to Iraq in training and in helping not just on the security side, which, of course, the Netherlands will, but also in the capacity building for other sides.

So this in no way diminishes what has been a very excellent contribution. Of course we want the coalition to remain as large as possible and people to stay as long as possible and we encourage members to do that. But the Netherlands has served well in Iraq and I think will continue its efforts to stabilize Iraq.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, if I could ask about Russia and Iran. Today Russian President Putin said that he is convinced that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. And I'm wondering if you could address that. Does this imperil the U.S.-inspired international pressure to get Iran to meet its nuclear commitments?

And also, Russia, as you know, is arming Syria with missiles at a time when the U.S. is trying to isolate Syria. If you could respond to that as well.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me just speak to the second. We're not trying to isolate Syria. What we're trying to do is to get Syria to engage in more responsible behavior. And that responsible behavior includes agreeing to investigation, to participate in investigation of what happened to Prime Minister Hariri. It includes working against the insurgency that has some operations out of Syria that are, indeed, endangering Iraqi stability. And it means stopping its support for terrorism, which endangers the very peace process in which we are all -- hope to be engaged between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

So Russia is a party to the Quartet and I am certain that the Russians would be interested in sending a very strong message to the Syrians that whatever the Russians are willing to do with Syria is not in support of Syrian policies that are contravening Russia's own interest in, for instance, a Middle East peace or stable Iraq.

On the matter of the Iranian nuclear program, the question is: Is Iran prepared to live up to its international obligations and is Iran prepared not to seek nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons components under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. And on this score the IAEA has had suspicions about Iranian activities; the European Union has had suspicions about the Iranian activities, which is why the EU-3 are engaged in the talks that they are; and indeed, the Russians have said that the Bushehr nuclear reactor would have to be accompanied by additional protocol and by Iran's willingness to return fuel so that you could not -- so that you could, so-called, close the fuel cycle and diminish the proliferation risk.

So I think the behavior of everyone suggests that there are good reasons to be suspicious of what the Iranians are doing. We have our views. But the world appears to be concerned enough about this to be engaged in a variety of activities that would diminish the capability of the Iranians to build a nuclear weapon under the cover of a civilian nuclear program.

QUESTION: We heard Madame Secretary speak about the restructuring of the Dutch effort in Iraq. What should we think about them? What would be your suggestion?

FOREIGN MINISTER BOT: As the Secretary has explained, she has said United States understands the Dutch position as far as the withdrawal of troops is concerned. I have said that we continue to be active both as far as training matter is concerned. We have sent already 25 officers, and yesterday in my discussions also with Mr. Wolfowitz, I said that if there is an additional request for enlarging the presence that we are willing to consider it, in a general context.

So the Netherlands, as always, acknowledges the need for training Iraqi security forces because as they say, Iraqis should take care of Iraq and of Iraqi security. So we are willing to help there. We also are endorsing this NATO training mission and the EU mission, which we initiated during our presidency in order to train both police forces help the Administration reconstruct the judicial situation.

So I think that the Netherlands continues to be active in Iraq, acknowledging and recognizing the need for a very quick -- for, let's say, speeding up stability in the country. And again, we think that the best way to do it is to see to it that Iraqi troops, Iraqi security forces can take care of their own security.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER BOT: Thank you.

2005/213



Released on February 18, 2005

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