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

Remarks With French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier After Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
May 2, 2005

(1:10 p.m. EDT)

Secretary Rice with His Excellency Michel Barnier, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the French Republic spoke to the press after their bilateral and working lunch. SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome very much Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, who has been good enough to fly across the Atlantic for a meeting with me, and it has been a very good meeting with the Foreign Minister of France. I think that our discussions, befitting our broad and deep relationship, were wide-ranging. We talked about the challenges ahead of us in the Middle East. We talked about the challenges ahead of us in the Balkans. We have issued a joint statement on Lebanon and our joint desire to see complete implementation of Resolution 1559. We noted the progress that has been made and the fact that we will be supportive of the Lebanese people as they move now toward elections at the end of the month.

We have a number of other discussions about issues of nuclear nonproliferation. I reiterated to the Foreign Minister our support for the EU-3's negotiations with Iran that are aimed at getting Iran to give confidence to the international community that it is prepared to live up to its international obligations not to seek a nuclear weapon under cover of civilian nuclear power development.

We had a number of other discussions, but I think I will turn now to the Foreign Minister. Thank you very much, Michel, for being here. I think that the U.S.-French relationship is demonstrating that we are able to deal with broad and deep issues.

FOREIGN MINISTER BARNIER: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon to all of you, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for your attention. I, too, would like to express my delight at the excellent relations which our two countries entertain and which I personally entertain with Condi Rice and have done for several months now. She had the courtesy and the grace to thank me for crossing the Atlantic. In fact, it's the second time I've come over to meet with her here. I might add, it would be difficult for me to meet with her here if I didn't cross the Atlantic, but that being the case, she too also has made that same move in the other direction and has come over to Europe, where we have met on several occasions, and more recently on the occasion of a meeting in Vilnius where recently we were together.

Now, we have, as I have already said, in fact, as I said when Condi came to Paris, many different reasons for working usefully together. We share values, we share a history and we share a same approach to the many challenges which our countries are indeed facing and which we will only face successfully if indeed we face them together.

Now, today, we had opportunity to discuss some of these challenges, some of these difficulties, some of these issues, which we address from perhaps our own perspective but always in a spirit of cooperation, always in a spirit of listening to one another and of showing real respect for one another's point of view and which, I repeat, I think we only stand a chance of truly taking up and working through if we do so together, standing side by side.

Well, Condi knows this, but I'm not here simply as a French minister but also as a European minister at a time when there is a wide-ranging debate, as you know, in Europe on the issue of the European constitution. What is the constitution about? It's about setting and agreeing together on a certain number of rules applying to the co-ownership of this European -- this Europe that we have constructed and we continue to construct together, but which is workable only if we have rules for this new membership of 25.

Therefore we need to speak with one and the same voice and we need to do things together as Europeans, and this is the sense of the great European debate that is taking place right now. And it is important that we succeed in this thinking and in this debate because not only is it important to us as Europeans, it is important to the Americans because, coming back to the point we were making earlier on about the great challenges that lie ahead of us, we will only succeed in facing up to these challenges if we, as Europeans, also speak with a single voice and address these issues as a continent.

And to conclude I would say, as indeed President Bush said in his statement when he came to Europe, to Brussels, and made his speech there, at the top of the agenda is -- on all our agendas -- is peace in the Middle East because peace in the Middle East is key to not just the region but to solving many conflicts throughout the world and many issues that we're facing throughout the world. And this, the conflict and the difficulties in the Middle East have a considerable knock-on effect on not just the region but many other issues.

And what we are doing in this respect simply is also supporting, as you are, the Israelis and the Palestinians in their attempts to find a solution to their difficulties. Likewise, we are doing other things together successfully. I'm thinking of the difficult and necessary negotiations with Iran in the broader context of nonproliferation. I'm thinking of willingness to endorse and support the reconstruction of Iraq, in which we are participating. I'm thinking also of what has been achieved successfully in helping Lebanon move back or move on to regaining its sovereignty. The procedure is moving ahead -- the process is moving ahead successfully with forthcoming elections at the end of May and the full implementation that we have called upon, both of us, of Resolution 1559.

Lastly, also, we addressed the important issue of Africa, how we can help the Africans help themselves; in other words, through their own regional organizations, affording them the support that they request from us when they request it from us.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. under threat from North Korea? And even if you can get the six-party nuclear talks going, how do you address the missile situation, which seems to be getting ominous as well?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have been very clear that the nuclear issue is not the only issue, although the six-party talks have been focused on the nuclear issue with North Korea. And let me just say, Barry, I don't think anyone is confused about the ability of the United States to deter, both on behalf of itself and on behalf of its allies, North Korean nuclear ambitions or gains on the Peninsula. We have, after all, a very strong alliance with South Korea and a very strong alliance with Japan and, of course, the United States maintains significant -- and I want to underline significant -- deterrent capability of all kinds in the Asia-Pacific region.

So I don’t think there should be any doubt about our ability to deter whatever the North Koreans are up to, but that does not mean that it is not a serious problem and that the North Koreans shouldn't come back to the six-party talks, because all of their neighbors consider this to be a problem. This is not just between the United States and North Korea. And yes, missiles will, at some point, have to be a part of the discussion.

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, you may know that in the big debate there is in Europe about the EU constitution, and especially in France, there are some in the "yes" camp who argue that a "no" vote would be a vote for Bush. How do you respond to that and how would you vote if you had a chance?


SECRETARY RICE: Yes, for -- yes. I don't have a vote so it doesn't matter. But let me just say that the United States has been, from the very beginning, supportive of European integration, going all the way back to the coal and steel community. And the United States remains supportive of the European project. I think, in Brussels, the President made very clear that we believe that a united Europe, a Europe that is strong and capable, a Europe that is clearly at its core democratic and that has a long tradition and heritage with the United States, can only be good for the march – the forward march of progress and democracy in the world.

And so we want to see the European project succeed because a strong Europe will be good for the forces of democracy. We would hope that a strong Europe would be outward looking, that it would continue to bring, as it has new, more members. It is been an important magnet for the East Europeans. I think it continues to be an important set of incentives for countries that are still in the transition to democracy. And with NATO, the European Union forms the two pillars of a Europe whole, free and at peace.

MINISTER BARNIER: (Through interpreter) Well, when President Bush came to Europe in February, he made a very important gesture by meeting for virtually for the first time the members of the European Council, in other words, the heads of state and government of the European member states. And he said on that occasion, as I myself said to Condi Rice when I met her last time in Paris, that we needed -- America needed a strong Europe. And as I said in a slight quip to Condi when we last met in Paris, "We, too – Europeans -- need a strong Europe."

It's not just the rest of the world that needs a strong Europe and that the Europeans themselves have the key to this. They have it in their hands right now. Not just the French when they go to the polls on the 29th of May, but other Europeans as gradually, one by one, the countries ratify or at least go to the polls on the subject of the ratification of the European constitution, because Europe, for us, is more than a simple or very large, very extensive and powerful market. Europe is more to us than that. It is a political force. It must speak with its own voice and have its own identity for it to count in the world. That is what Europe is about for Europeans.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.


Released on May 2, 2005

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