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Remarks With Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Radisson Hotel
Nassau, Bahamas
March 22, 2006

Secretary Rice Attends CARICOM Ministerial

Secretary Rice with Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell at the CARICOM Ministerial.   FOREIGN MINISTER MITCHELL: Let me summarize. First, I want to say thank you to all colleague ministers and the Secretary of State for coming to the Bahamas, and it was certainly our honor to host what we considered to be a very important meeting in what I have called on many occasions the continuing conversation with the United States and the CARICOM region. It is important for the peoples of both countries to see that this is a relationship which is a good one and that we have not only a good one in words but at an actual working level. And the optics of this in all of our societies, I think, comes off quite well and I'm happy that the conference was good and successful. And all of the range of topics that came up for discussion, we came to an understanding on those topics and I think we have an agreement now to move forward in a structured way.

The next opportunity that we will have to review some of the matters which we came to an understanding on at this meeting will be in the margins of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States meeting which takes place in June in the Dominican Republic.

We, of course, recognize the common democratic values and traditions that historically link the peoples of the United States and the Caribbean and discussed key issues such as the support for the democratically elected government of Haiti; CARICOM integration, including the establishment of a single market and economy; and trade competitiveness; the link between development and democracy; security cooperation and disaster preparedness.

Secretary Rice speaks with the press  at the CARICOM Ministerial.   And all of us welcomed, as did the Secretary of State, the decision to reengage with Haiti and to provide assistance there for institutional development. And we've agreed on the importance of the international community remaining engaged in Haiti over the long term in order to promote stability and socioeconomic progress.

We reviewed initiatives to promote regional economic reform and integration, underscored the importance of free trade as an engine of economic growth and development, and noted significant progress made in restructuring the economies through the CSME. And there is a proposal to reconfigure the U.S.-CARICOM Trade and Investment Council as well as the convening of an early meeting of CARICOM trade ministers with the United States Trade Representative.

We discussed the important relationship between democracy and development, agreed to enhance cooperation to strengthen the capacity of governments of the region to continue to deliver the benefits of democracy to their people. And we agreed to support regional efforts to enhance law enforcement and security cooperation, air safety and surveillance and disaster preparedness. Both parties confirmed their intention to collaborate on arrangements against the illicit trade in firearms. The Secretary of State agreed that the United States would support the CARICOM preparations for the security of World Cup Cricket -- World -- well, since the Bahamas is not a cricket country, you would forgive me for getting confused on this. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Neither is the United States. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER MITCHELL: For the security of Cricket World Cup 2007, with particular focus on border security. And ministers welcomed the recent resolution of the U.S. Congress to commemorate Caribbean-American Heritage Month in June. The resolution is a recognition of the deep and lasting human ties that bind the United States and the Caribbean.

We underscored the desirability of regular dialogue between us and agreed to convene a conference on the Caribbean at a mutually convenient time in 2007. We, of course, expressed appreciation -- I'm sorry, appreciation was expressed to the Government of the Bahamas for the arrangements for this conference, and on behalf of the Bahamas it was our honor to host you and thank you all for coming. And as I said, we have agreed to review all of these developments in the margins of the General Assembly of the OAS in June 2007.

Joining me is the next chair of the Council of Foreign and Community Relations, the Deputy Prime Minister of Grenada, Mr. Albert Nimrod, and, of course, the Secretary of State on my right. And I'd now like, having spoken on behalf of COFCR, I'd like to ask the Secretary of State if she has any initial remarks.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. I'll just say very briefly that I want to thank the Government of the Bahamas for arranging this very fruitful meeting. It's been a productive meeting. It demonstrates that we intend not just to continue our relationship but to indeed deepen and broaden our relationship. We can do a lot together. We share common values. We share many ties of kinship between the Caribbean and the United States and I've very much appreciated the opportunity to look at a number of issues, all of which have been talked about by the Minister, especially the very fruitful discussions we had this morning on disaster relief and preparation on security issues. We've talked about energy cooperation. We have talked also, of course, about supporting the democratic Government of Haiti. This was a very fruitful set of discussions.

I would also just like to thank the Prime Minister for seeing me yesterday and for the bilateral discussions that I've also had with Bahamas. But this relationship with CARICOM is indeed deepening and broadening. This is our third meeting since I've been Secretary of State but it is our first extensive and comprehensive discussion and I look forward to many more. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MITCHELL: Minister Nimrod has corrected me. He says he's not the Deputy Prime Minister. I promoted him in his absence. (Laughter.)

Well, thank you. I haven't been quite told how this is agreed. It's two and two? Okay. So, well, we begin.

QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary of State, Minister Mitchell and Minister Nimrod. My name is Jerome Sawyer (ph). I'm from Island FM Radio and Cable 12 here in Nassau. My question is to the Secretary of State. Is the United States concerned about the growing relationship between the CARICOM countries, specifically the Bahamas, and countries like Cuba and China, and particularly the Petro Caribe deal that is currently being discussed with Venezuela?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course, the Government of the Bahamas is a sovereign government that will make its own decisions on its international relations. I might just note that we have an extensive relationship, of course, with China in trade and in our relationships. We've also, by the way, had over history very good relations with Venezuela and would hope that that might be possible again.

Everyone knows that we have a special set of circumstances with Cuba. I would just note that I would hope that one day Cuba would be able to take its rightful seat at the OAS as a democratic state.

But we are here because the United States has positive and deep relations with CARICOM. It is not to be our concern for what other relations there are; it is our responsibility, our obligation and indeed our intention to deepen and broaden the relationships of the United States with the countries of CARICOM.

We have a lot to work with. We are all democracies. We are strong democracies. It's very interesting in the discussion that one doesn't do what one does around the world, which is to raise questions about concerns about the democratic process in the countries of CARICOM or concerns that democracy is somehow not being upheld. These are strong democracies and that gives us a very firm basis for our relationship.

We also share a number of common concerns. We launched some time ago a Third Border Initiative because we have security concerns in common, we have disaster preparedness concerns in common. One of the ministers noted that a couple of years ago when Florida went through a particularly bad hurricane season, the Caribbean was also going through a particularly bad hurricane season. So it's natural for us to have common principles and common work together on disaster preparedness.

No, I am here to talk about the positive agenda with the United States, not about relations with other countries.

QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary. Talks over a UN Security Council presidential statement on Iran have stalled over China and Russia's refusal to support it. What are you and the Administration doing to try and break that impasse?

And secondly, since this is our first opportunity to speak to you since Monday, on a lighter note, your dream job has come open as NFL Commissioner. It only comes open once every 16 years. Are you interested?

SECRETARY RICE: Unfortunately, it came open at the wrong time. (Laughter.) Obviously I'm very busy as Secretary of State and intend to continue to be Secretary of State as long as the President of the United States will have me.

Let me go to the Iran situation. Obviously we've always said that we needed to work within the Security Council and within the -- with the members of the Security Council to come up with a vehicle that will express to Iran the international community's desire and indeed demand that Iran live up to its obligations under the NPT, Nonproliferation Treaty, that Iran heed the just calls of the international community that the development of its civil nuclear program would be in a way that does not have proliferation risks given Iran's history of lying to the IAEA and noncompliance over the last 18 years.

We will come up with a vehicle. I'm quite certain of that. We have work still to do. This is the natural course of diplomacy. If it takes a little longer, I'm really not concerned about that. But I do believe that the best way to get Iran to know that it is going to have to see to the just demands of the international community is for the international community to speak and to speak strongly to Iran that it has no other course but to return to negotiations, suspend its programs and agree to a civil nuclear arrangement that would not put enrichment and reprocessing capability on Iranian soil. That's what we're working toward. We are in constant contact with our colleagues. And again, I would just note that sometimes diplomacy takes a little bit of time, but we're working very hard on it.

QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary. Enrico Wilford (ph) from Capital News in Georgetown, Guyana. In the interest of good governance and hemispheric security, Madame Secretary, would the U.S. consider rendition of drug kingpins in the region as an option as against extradition in some countries where security and justice systems might be inefficient or corrupt?

And while I'm on that in terms of national security and security issues, could I ask you whether there was a meeting of minds on the issue of deportees from the United States where they've learned their trade and then sent back to the Caribbean and create problems in the region?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, on the issue of how to deal with drug kingpins, I think we have a very strong agreement that everybody wants to deal with drug kingpins. Nobody wants to have policies that are tolerant of or light on what is really one of the great scourges of this entire area and indeed one of the scourges of the international community as a whole.

And so what we have done is to work through law enforcement cooperation, intelligence. I think we have very good law enforcement cooperation. One advantage to something like the Third Border Initiative, which obviously people tend to associate with terrorism or with border controls, is that it also helps with issues concerning narcotics and the drug trade. And so I don't -- we don't need to get into specifics about what methods we need to use. What we need to do is to enhance, as we have, our law enforcement cooperation, our justice department cooperation. We have extremely tight links between our officials on these matters and we're working very hard to make certain that this scourge of narcotics doesn't continue to afflict this region or the United States as well.

As to deportees, we had a very good discussion of the deportee issue. I understand that the CARICOM is doing a study on deportees. We look forward to the outcome of that study. The United States believes that the deportees are not necessarily responsible for many of -- for the rise in crime that has been experienced here, but we are open to conversation on it. I just might note that it's American law that deportees are sent back.

One thing we did discuss is the need for better coordination when this happens. The governments need to be given an opportunity to know what is happening, to make preparations. And I will take that back for discussions with my colleagues and this is something that will be discussed undoubtedly between the Homeland Security Secretary and the officials here in the Caribbean.

QUESTION: Hi. Farah Stockman with the Boston Globe. Good morning. This is a question for both the Secretary and the Foreign Minister and it's regarding Haiti. I was wondering what specific, concrete measures the United States has asked CARICOM to do with regards to reengaging in Haiti and what CARICOM has agreed to with respect to specific measures. And also additionally for the Foreign Minister, whether the United States has made any pledges or promises that what happened in Haiti with a democratically elected leader being ousted, that that would not be repeated.

FOREIGN MINISTER MITCHELL: Let me say that it's been somewhat of a misnomer in my view or mis-description that CARICOM has not been involved or continued to be engaged in Haiti. This is really an ongoing process for us and we already have established a number of initiatives between Haiti and ourselves. First, we have always said that Haiti continues to be a member of CARICOM, a valued member of CARICOM, and that we'd always contribute to the development of the Haitian people.

And in terms of concrete measures, that has meant electoral support, support for the electoral process in Haiti. Jamaica, for example, and certainly my own country, the Bahamas, has sent people there to observe the elections, to help organize the elections. Trinidad and Tobago has had an energy initiative which has been going for some time between -- to assist in the energy needs of Haiti. There's also been some developments in terms of interface between the university systems of Haiti and the Caribbean region to try and strengthen and develop education at the tertiary level in Haiti.

The question is not what has happened in the past so much at these meetings. I think we all understand what our respective views have been on the past. The question is: Where do we go in the future? And it was decided at our last heads of government meeting that once there were democratically elected and accepted elections to the international community, that Haiti would immediately be asked to retake its seat at the tables of CARICOM. That has happened and we expect that President-elect Preval will be taking his seat in July when the heads meet at that time, the heads of government meet from CARICOM.

So on Monday I expect to represent also COFCR at the open debate of the Security Council in Washington to state what CARICOM's position is on these matters and how we will continue to be engaged in that process.

So that's our answer to that. We have to move forward. There's an agreement on how we move forward: that we remain engaged, that we will continue to review the matter and that we'll support each other's efforts in trying to ensure that Haiti is fully integrated into CARICOM and to a democratically -- a democratic community.

SECRETARY RICE: We clearly welcome the steps that CARICOM is taking in regards to Haiti and in particular the work that will be done, has been done and will be done, in technical assistance, electoral assistance, police training assistance and many other kinds of technical assistance that I am sure will be rendered to Haiti.

The United States, of course, pledged over $400 million at the last donor conference and we have been disbursing that over the last couple of years. And the United States is a part of the Core Group for Haiti and I do believe that the next step is to work with Haiti on the reform -- further reform -- of some of its institutions so that the new Haitian democratic government can be stable.

As you know, I met with President-elect Preval when I was in Santiago. We had a very good discussion of what is required for a stable Haiti. And I think we will want - in the Core Group as well as with our friends and colleagues here in CARICOM - to design, in a sense, for Haiti an international technical and other assistance package going forward that accords with what the new Haitian Government wants to do. We have to remember now that we do have a freely elected President of Haiti. We will soon have a parliament. And I would think that we will want to talk with them about how to knit our plans and our assets to support this new democratic Government of Haiti.

The one thing that we all agreed very strongly -- and we agreed on a lot about Haiti but one very strong point -- is that we all have a tremendous stake in the development of a democratic Haiti that can be self-supporting ultimately and that can reach out to its people and deliver on the quite considerable needs of its people. Because the stability of Haiti has had a long history of having an effect on this region and, in fact, an effect on the United States. So we share a very strong interest in a stable and democratic Haiti.

Released on March 22, 2006

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