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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2006 Secretary Rice's Remarks > March2006: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Remarks With Foreign Secretary Derbez of Mexico

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
March 24, 2006

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(2:00 p.m. EST)

Secretary Rice and Mexican Foreign Secretary Derbez speak to press. Washington, DC, March 24, 2006. State Dept. photo.SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon. I am delighted to welcome Foreign Secretary Derbez of Mexico. We have just completed a meeting of the Binational Commission between the United States and Mexico, a Commission that has been in place for 22 years now. The Minister and I have not been here for 22 years of the Commission. Indeed, it is my first as Secretary but, Luis Ernesto, you've had several as the Secretary -- Foreign Secretary for Mexico. We were joined also by Mike Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary here in the United States and by Minister Abascol and Minister Medina Mora from Mexico.

This Binational Commission looks at a range of issues. There are indeed ten working groups of this Commission that examine the full range of relations and issues between the United States and Mexico. It is, of course, a relationship that is deep and broad, based on common values, but also a relationship in which there is a lot of contact between our people in which there are day-to-day issues of trade and prosperity and migration to be dealt with. And so this Commission provides an opportunity for the secretaries to get together and to review the progress that we're making on systemic answers and resolutions of problems that exist in our relationship. But we're always able to do so on the basis of friendship, on the basis of colleagueship, with respect for each other and a deep desire to have our people live in peace and prosperity and to share these borders in a way that makes us both more secure and more prosperous.

We also had an opportunity to review bilateral relations between the United States and Mexico, in terms of foreign policy. And it's just a delight to have you here. We've had many meetings over the last several years when I was National Security Advisor and now as Secretary and so it's very nice to have you here, friend. The floor is yours.

FOREIGN SECRETARY DERBEZ: Thank you. I want to thank Secretary Rice because, in fact, before she came to be the State Department Secretary, it felt like 44 years on my tenure and now I only feel like one year, so I really want to thank her for her support on that one. I think that the relationship between Mexico and the United States proves very well that not only do we have geographical ties but also friendship ties. That we are working very closely in trying to solve the problems between our two nations and that we have a tremendous common idea what has to be done in this new globalization process that is taking the world, that we are working together on those issues.

Many of the items that were discussed today relate to those specific aspects. I think that we have come out of this with a clear idea of what Mexico and the United States will have to continue to do in the coming years, so that we can progress more and more in this friendship and this relationship of strong, you know, points of view that are common between our two nations. I also have to say that I appreciate the time that Secretary Rice took to discuss a little bit the meetings that will take place with President Bush, President Fox and Prime Minister Harper next week. It was an important item, something that we were looking at the agenda, the discussion on the possibilities of looking at what we call now, in Spanish at least, the ASPAN, the Security and Prosperity management process that will bring our three nations together -- stronger -- to make of North America a stronger area, more competitive and more efficient in worldwide issues. So I really want to thank her for that opportunity. I want to thank her for, you know, hosting this meeting and the generosity of all the different items, including a delicious luncheon that we have right now.

Thank you very much, Condi.

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll take some questions. Two from the American press, two from the Mexican press. We’ll start with Peter Mackler from AFP.

QUESTION: Yes, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY RICE: Peter. Microphone.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. Madame Secretary, yesterday when you were speaking about Iran, you expressed some impatience saying that this is not a time for stalling in the talks. Are you saying that China and Russia are doing the stalling and did you make any progress in this area in your conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov?

And on another aspect of relations with Iran, last year you authorized Ambassador Khalilzad to reach out to the Iranians. Last week, they took up the offer, but so far we haven't heard -- haven't had the least sign that anything is going on. Are you having second thoughts? Is there anything holding up the process?

SECRETARY RICE: Right. Well, on the second point, those meetings will take place, I'm certain, at an appropriate time. It's an authority that has been there for a while. And the issues are not going to go away. I'm quite certain that at some point, they will meet. It has been the case that Ambassador Khalilzad has been able to do this in Iraq for sometimes. He did it in Afghanistan, we think to good effect, and indeed Ambassador Neumann has the same authorities in Afghanistan. So in this narrow set of issues about security in places where we find ourselves in a sense on their border, it's important that we not have any miscommunication or misinformation and so it's important that we have a chance to talk about our concerns.

Now, as to the issues that are being dealt with in the Security Council in New York and the timing of that, I think it is extremely important that we not have delays. We need to have action by the international community in the Security Council now that the dossier for Iran is there because we need to send a very strong message to Iran that the Security Council is going to support the calls of the IAEA for specific Iranian actions under the February 4th board resolution.

That's what we're doing is we are taking up what the IAEA has asked Iran to do in the February 4th resolution and then adding the weight of the Security Council to that to make certain that it gets done. The Security Council, of course, has at its disposal tools that are not there for the IAEA, but in this first order of business is to get a presidential statement that will make very clear that it is the international community's very strong demand of Iran that Iran adhere to these requirements.

I did have a conversation with Minister Lavrov. It was a good conversation. We agreed to ask our negotiators to work again over the next couple of days, really deciding that maybe they won't even have a weekend because we need to work on this text. And we've taken into account, or the EU-3 has taken into account, comments from the Russians and the Chinese as well as comments from the United States, and I think they will turn in a draft and at that point we hope that our negotiators can go back and see if we can agree on a draft.

I don't think there is any difference of view that the February 4th -- I know there's no difference of view that the February 4th resolution embodies the requirements of the international community for Iran and that Iran needs to act on those requirements. So on that we have very, very broad agreement.

QUESTION: Do you think they're stalling?

SECRETARY RICE: Look, I think that everybody just needs to get to work and let's get this done so that the Iranians have a very clear message about what's going on.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Mexico recently joined the International Criminal Court and as a result was sanctioned with cutbacks in military and aid for development from the United States. I was wondering if you discussed this issue during your meetings and how it's affecting the bilateral relationship. Also, I would like to ask you if -- is the Bush Administration considering the possibility of a waiver for Mexico under this situation, perhaps declaring the country as a major non-NATO ally? Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, we have had this discussion on a number of occasions. I think it's important to understand that this is not our first meeting. We meet a great deal. In fact, with our -- the last time I saw you was when we had a couple of other friends from Latin America here with us. And so this issue has come up from time to time.

The U.S. position on the International Criminal Court is well known. We are determined to protect our people from the possibility of prosecution by unaccountable prosecutors in the international community tied essentially to no state. We're determined to protect our people and we have legislation that embodies that determination to protect.

We have been looking at issues of how it affects certain elements of our cooperation and what might be appropriate to make certain that as we carry out the principle of protecting our people against prosecution that we also keep our cooperative relationships in place. And so we are continually looking at that. It didn't come up today but it's come up on any number of occasions.

MR. MCCORMACK: Next question, Andrea Mitchell.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'm Andrea Mitchell, NBC News. You and the President have very broadly spoken -- you and the President have spoken broadly about the U.S. support for democracy and particularly in Iraq and in Afghanistan and what has been accomplished in Afghanistan. How does the death sentence against a man for wanting to be a Christian undercut the Administration's argument that you are succeeding in spreading democracy around the world? And what does President Karzai need to do to fix this problem and fix it quickly?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the first point that I would make, Andrea, is in the case of Afghanistan we actually have an Afghan constitution to appeal to now that enshrines the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. That is in stark contrast to the Taliban which, of course, was signed on to no such principles. We also have an Afghan Government that has made very clear that it wants Afghanistan to have an Afghanistan in which individual rights and liberties are protected. So we're in a very different circumstance than if there were simply a dictatorship there. That's why the democratization process and the President's plan and program for encouraging democracy around the world is so important, because when you have a constitution that enshrines those rights, you have something to appeal to.

Now, I've talked to President Karzai, as you know. I've talked to the Afghan Foreign Minister. We've made very clear in the strongest possible terms that this principle of religious freedom and the right to religious conscience is at the core of democratic development, at the core of democracy. We are working with the Afghans and we look to a favorable resolution of this case. It needs to be favorably resolved. And "favorable resolution" means that the Afghans need to do this in a way that preserves the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And so we will see. We're working with them. It is a young democracy. I think that's worth saying. But it is a democracy and that is very different than had we had this case come up in the context of the rule of the Taliban.

QUESTION: But despite the constitutional provision, there is a conflict within their law, which is the Islamic law, and they now say that it will require a new supreme court, new justices, to even determine how to resolve that conflict.

SECRETARY RICE: Andrea, let's -- first of all, we really do believe that the case of Mr. Rahman needs to be resolved. That is what we are focusing on right now. It is also the case that Afghanistan is in its evolutionary state as a democratic state and will have to work to resolve these contradictions as they move forward. But we've been very clear. The freedom of religion is a fundamental principle of democracy. Freedom of individual conscience is a fundamental principle of democracy -- the fundamental principle of democracy on which this country was based. And so we will continue to speak out for that principle and we will continue to work with the Afghans in their evolution in democracy to speak for those who wish to -- who need to enshrine it.

QUESTION: Have you heard reports --

QUESTION: Did President Karzai give you any assurances --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Wait a second. We've got -- the Mexican press has the -- no, I've not -- I've just heard the reports but I've not heard anything official or even, you know, we have kind of heard rumors around, but nothing that I can report to you.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, we're going to have elections in Mexico on July 2nd so it is fairly fair to say that next time the Binational Committee meets you will have a different counterpart. But I wanted to ask you if you have any concerns whatsoever that the next administration, especially if the polls prove to be correct and the next president of Mexico would be Andrés Manuel López Obrador if you have any concerns that the next administration in Mexico would not be as cooperative and forthcoming as the Fox Administration in terms of the U.S.-Mexico relation.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me start by saying that obviously this is a terrific thing for Mexican democracy that there's about to be another election with multiparty candidates in which there's obviously a spirited campaign going on in Mexico and a spirited debate. That is a matter for Mexico to decide.

We will, of course, be prepared to work with whatever new president and whatever new government comes into place. I'm not going to put my friend out to pasture just yet. We'll see what happens there. I thoroughly -- am thoroughly enjoying working with Luis Ernesto. We, I think, have had a very good relationship and it's been a relationship that's been good for U.S.-Mexican relations.

Similarly, the President and President Fox have had a very special relationship. It's a relationship that goes back to when they were governors in Mexico. I can remember that the first time that I actually met President Fox was before President Fox was inaugurated. He'd been elected, but not inaugurated and before President Bush had even been elected, they met in Dallas. And they talked then about how they wanted to broaden and deepen U.S.-Mexican relations. They talked about immigration policy. They talked about strengthening NAFTA. They talked about the need to have regular and systematic ways to address the problems in U.S.-Mexican relations which is the genesis of much of the work that we've done on border security, post-September 11th, as well as the work that we've done on the Partnership for Prosperity, which along with work that we've done with our Canadian counterparts, I think has really improved the possibilities of a more competitive North American continent. So yes, it's been an excellent relationship with Mexico and with this president, in particular. But Mexican democracy will produce a new president and I'm certain that U.S.-Mexican relations will continue to strengthen.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

QUESTION: En Español?

SECRETARY RICE: En Español? Do you want to say anything about the relationship -- the U.S.-Mexican relations?


SECRETARY RICE: If you like, whatever. Sure. If you translate it; I don't speak it.

FOREIGN SECRETARY DERBEZ: (Via interpreter) I simply wanted to reaffirm what my colleague just said. And I think that both our presidents and our administrations are in agreement. We have been working together very strongly. We both believe in the work that we need to do along the border to ensure the concerns of everyone involved. But I also want to state very firmly what the Mexican Government said recently. It was a very firm statement with regard to the issue of border security with regard to the issue of immigration, where we believe that both parties are co-responsible and Mexico is very clear on what it needs to do.

But I also want to be very clear on this. This is an issue of concern and it's not just a concern for the Fox administration. This is an issue that has been passed by both Houses of our legislative, by all the parties concerned and so, therefore, this is an issue that's been decided on by the entire country with regard to the future of Mexico, no matter who the next president of Mexico may be.

And therefore I share the idea that was just expressed by my colleague that it does not matter who the next president of Mexico will be. The United States and Mexico will continue working together and continue to resolve their common problems.


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