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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay and Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Patricia Espinosa

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Ottawa, Ontario Canada
February 23, 2007

MODERATOR: Good afternoon. My name is Ian Burchett. I'm the Director of Media Relations here at the Department of Foreign Affairs of International Trade. I'd like to welcome you to this press conference on the Security and Prosperity Partnership ministerial meeting.

(Via interpreter) And I'd like to invite Peter MacKay, Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, to make a brief statement.

FOREIGN MINISTER MACKAY: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. Welcome everyone.

I'm very pleased to be here with my dear colleagues, Secretary Espinosa and Secretary Rice, and our other colleagues here in Ottawa today on this balmy Ottawa afternoon.

I think it's fitting that, for the first time, the three of us would meet under the same roof. It's in the context of the SPP, the Security and Prosperity Partnership. It's all about cooperation amongst our neighbors and that's what we have sought to do today is to further that cooperation.

(Via interpreter) The main line of our discussions has been the promotion of an improvement in the cooperation environment and a greater knowledge of the ties joining us as parts of governments and citizens in the same continent.

And continuing this common thread in our discussions as to how we promote greater understanding and greater appreciation for what binds us together, as governments, as citizens, on a shared continent. We all recognize the unique relationship that Canada, Mexico and the United States enjoy and we share the objective of making North America the most desirable place to live, the safest place to work, to raise a family and to (inaudible). It's for practical reasons that we want to maximize the benefits that flow to the citizens of all three countries.

Our discussions today also touched upon what's happening elsewhere in the hemisphere. We talked about the contribution that we make as democratic governments with market-based economies and we talked about how we can address common challenges and achieve common goals. Finally, we talked about global issues and we talked about how we must continue to share this cooperation and sense of working together in the areas and on issues that have common cause and offering ways in which we can collectively make a contribution to the world.

And I would now conclude by giving my colleague, Patricia Espinosa, the opportunity to say a few words as well.

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: Thank you, Minister. Thank you very much.

(Via interpreter) Hello, I'm very pleased to be here in Ottawa today. Thank you very much. I am very pleased to stand here with the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, Peter MacKay, with whom we held a very frank and open and respectful dialogue within the framework of the Third Ministerial meeting of the Security and Prosperity Partnership.

And in particular, I'd like to thank Minister MacKay and the Government and the people of Canada for their hospitality and generosity in the manner in which we have been welcomed. And with this meeting then, we complete one of the one hundred actions for the first one hundred days of the government of President Felipe Calderon.

I would like to say that the issues dealt with in this meeting coincide fully with the priorities that the President of the Republic established as the objectives of his mandate. The SPP is a very important instrument in our trilateral framework in order to help further the creation of jobs, fighting organized crime, fighting poverty, which are fundamental objectives of President Calderon.

The foreign ministries are going to continue with these activities and achieving progress in the prosperity agenda which also dealt with security issues. In this way, we will be dealing in a very balanced manner with the complex agenda arising out the interaction between our three countries. Trilateral dialogue between foreign ministers will also be very relevant in order to identify joint efforts fostering development in our Caribbean and Central American neighbors as well as the attention being given to critical issues such as the case of natural disasters.

In addition to creating systems at higher levels to achieve better living conditions for our populations, we recognize today that the issue of security is intrinsically linked with economic and trade flows and movements. The President of Mexico has reaffirmed on a number of occasions that the foreign policy is a very valid instrument for the positioning of our interests throughout the world. We would like to see more world in Mexico and more Mexico out in the world.

SPP meets the highest interests of Mexico, which I reiterate here, are attracting capital for job creation, security, and head-on fight against organized crime. And I -- to take advantage of this opportunity to say that this day in Ottawa has been extremely productive. Within our meeting we had other meetings with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, Honorable Mr. Peter McKay and with the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Both meetings we have established basis for a new phase in the foreign relations between our three countries in an atmosphere of respectful and frank and open dialogue. And I would like to here underline specifically the teamwork being undertaken with the Secretary of the interior Francisco Ramirez Acuna and the Secretary of Economy, Eduardo Sojo.

I could not conclude without expressing publicly my full conviction that through this well established framework our three countries will be able to strengthen our agendas which include economic cooperation and further understanding in all fields of activity.

MODERATOR: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Minister McKay. Thank you, Peter and thank you very much for the gracious way in which you and your colleagues have welcomed us here and to the city of Ottawa for hosting this wonderful event. I'm one of nine cabinet ministers here today. We have been reviewing our very close cooperation through the security and prosperity partnership of North America, the cooperation between Canada, Mexico and the United States. It's very clear when you sit through these meetings that we have the broadest range of issues and the deepest range of relationships and indeed, it's more than just sharing borders or increasing trade.

Today we've talked about things that really matter to the lives of Canadians and Mexicans and Americans. We've talked about how to meet public health problems, how to resolve environmental threats, how to respond to natural disasters, how to secure dependable supplies of clean energy and how to combat criminal organizations. This is a broad agenda that is going to make life better for our people. It is the only way that we can achieve security and prosperity for our people is through this cooperation. We've also had a chance as foreign ministers to talk about how we cooperate in the region, and indeed in the world, because we share values as democracies and wish to see democratic principles upheld in our hemisphere and throughout our globe.

I very much look forward to the further work of the SPP and I was delighted to be joined here by my colleagues, Secretaries Chertoff and Gutierrez. It has been a very good working year for us since our heads of state met and I think we have a very good agenda ahead of us and I look forward to continued work. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Ministers. I will now take questions from the journalists. I would please ask that you address your question directly to the ministers.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Minister Mackay, if you can answer in both languages, Madame Secretary, Maher Arar is still on your watch list in the United States. I'd like to know what you would tell to Canadians who have an impression that when Canada -- the U.S. are asking a collaboration in the fight against terrorism, this is a one-way street? If Mr. Arar is a threat in your country, is he not a threat in Canada? And therefore, are you concerned that he's still a free man in Canada?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we respect the decision of the Canadian Government concerning Mr. Arar. The United States, of course, makes decisions based on information that we have and based on our own assessment of the situation.

But I just want to underscore the excellent cooperation that we have with Canada on issues of terrorism. We have cooperated, I think, to bring to justice and to take off the streets terrorists on a number of occasions and we're going to continue to do that. Part of the reason that we are here is to discuss how to make our borders more secure, but also to keep them open to people and commerce so that we can continue to enjoy the excellent relations that we have, the excellent prosperity that we have.

But sometimes, we will have different assessments of situations. It should, by no means, diminish the excellent cooperation that we have and, I think, the very clear standard that we both have for keeping our people on both sides of the border secure.

FOREIGN MINISTER MACKAY: I really can't add a great deal to that other than to say that Canada took a very clear decision on this and this is probably, I suppose, a question more for my colleague, Stockwell Day, but what we have done is obviously to compensate Mr. Arar, to act on the recommendations of a very public inquiry that made recommendations. We've accepted and acted on all of them.

The United States of America takes a different view and look, on many issues, we respect the sovereignty of the United States just as they clearly respect ours. We agree to disagree at times. We'll continue to voice our opinions. I think the important thing to underscore here is that we have such an open line of communication where we can have these discussions in a manner that relays information. And I think I would underscore what Secretary Rice has said; we've had tremendous unprecedented cooperation particularly in the areas of security, which is very much encompassed by the very reason, the raison d'etre that we're here.

Now I'll repeat in French. (Via interpreter) It's clear Canada takes a different decision from the United States and sometimes it is necessary to respect the decision taken in the U.S.; however, it is up to the Government of Canada to support Canadian citizens, and that is exactly the position of the government.

And with this case, Mr. Arar has been offered compensation which respects the decisions and recommendations made by Justice O'Connor and it is necessary for us to look at the big picture and continue with cooperation regarding security threats.

Thank you very much. Mr. Ricardo (inaudible) de Mexico.

QUESTION: This is for Secretary Rice. Madame Secretary, there's a growing perception in Mexico amongst public opinion and Congress that the U.S. it's putting way too much emphasis on security and very little on prosperity when it comes to this alliance. Can you please tell us specifically how the United States will address this in the future?

And very, very quickly on Iran. Now that the UN nuclear deadline has expired, can you tell us if military action against Iran is on the table for the remaining of the Bush Administration? Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, on the first question, I think that if you look at everything from NAFTA on, including our extensive trade relationships, our extensive economic relationships, you can see that the United States and Mexico have been deeply concerned about one another's prosperity. We have an extraordinary trading relationship. Mexico is one of our most important trading partners, and indeed we understand that when one talks about security on the border, that is, of course, extremely important.

But as the President has said, ultimately when one talks, for instance, about the issues of immigration, we want very much to see a Mexico in which Mexicans can find work and can take care of their families in Mexico. And so prosperity in Mexico is also something of great interest to the United States, and I think you would see that the relationship is based principally on trying to make people on both sides of the border more prosperous. If you live along the border towns in the United States, then your prosperity is very much linked to the border towns in Mexico. They are inextricably linked in that way.

As to the question of Iran, we've been very clear that we're on a diplomatic path, that we believe the diplomatic path can succeed if the international community stays unified in confronting Iran with the consequences of its continued defiance of the international community. It is the international community, not the United States -- it's the international community on a vote of 15-0 in the Security Council that has said that Iran must suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities.

And so we are joined with the international community in showing Iran that this activity, this path that they're on, is one of isolation, but that there's another path. We have with our partners in the European Union, Russia and China put forward a proposal for widespread economic and political cooperation with Iran through a negotiated process, and we continue to hope that Iran will take that path rather than the one of confrontation.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Our next question is from Charles Alexander, Reuters, from the United States.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, you met with Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday in Berlin. Did you come away from that meeting with the sense that the Russians are willing to accept a second UN resolution with tougher sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't want to speak for my Russian colleague, but as you know, after the 60-day deadline and after the report of the IAEA to the Board of Governors which will take place on March 5th, we would expect to continue to pursue our Security Council track as well as to pursue a track that would hopefully lead to negotiations. But our envoys, our political director level officials, will meet in London next week to examine the prospects for a Security Council resolution. I believe that everybody understands the importance of continuing to show the Iranians that there is both a Security Council track if they will not adhere to international standards and a negotiated track if they will. And that was the nature of our discussions in Berlin, and I expect that on that we're all on the same page.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Our next question is from Mike Blanchfield, CanWest, Canada.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, Minister MacKay -- and Minister MacKay in French as well as English perhaps, if you can -- I know you've been busy in meetings all day, but you're no doubt aware that the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down provisions of Canada's anti-terror law this morning having to do with detention, tribunals. This follows similar rulings in the United States.

We know you're not aware of the specific details of this ruling, obviously, this morning. But generally speaking, can each of you comment on whether or not you think the courts are making it too difficult or raising too high a bar for your governments to protect your people, their safety, their security, their prosperity and to fight terrorism?

FOREIGN MINISTER MACKAY: I think that's what we in Canada call a loaded question. (Laughter.)

Let me put it this way, you're absolutely right. We haven't really had a chance to digest all of the information that would come from that decision. And again, I would defer very much to my colleague, Stockwell Day, and in fact, Minister Rob Nicholson as a Justice matter. But I think Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian Government have made it very clear that we place a very high priority on protecting Canadian citizens. We feel the provisions found in the Anti-Terrorism Act are necessary tools for our police community, our security forces, to do their job to protect Canadians. The preventive hearings, or preventive arrests I should say, and investigative hearings were provisions that were introduced in the bill originally by the previous government. They've taken a different view now. They appear to be going in another direction.

This ruling does include, I understand, a one-year period in which the government will have the opportunity to react and to respond accordingly. Clearly, we will take the time to do just that. But in the meantime, we will very much remain vigilant in our pursuit of measures necessary to protect Canadian citizens.

(Via interpreter) So it is the intention of the Government of Canada to follow up on the decision of the Supreme Court today and there will be a possibility of responding after one year if necessary. And we stated that we intend to protect Canadian citizens with the necessary provisions regarding the criminal code and the police forces and security forces in our country. It is clear now that our government will be taking the necessary actions, both legislative and with -- and those supporting the police in order to protect our citizens.

SECRETARY RICE: I, of course, can't comment on the Canadian case, but I think it's important to understand what the Supreme Court did in Hamdi, which was to say that there needed to be legislative action concerning the tribunals. That legislative action has now been taken and we are proceeding to write regulations that would be in accordance with that legislation. And so in that sense, I think it's a democratic process that has worked as one would envision a democratic process to do. The President is determined to do everything that he can within the law, but everything that he can within the law to protect the citizens of the United States. And I might say that very often in the actions that we take, we find that we're protecting not just the citizens of the United States but the citizens of other countries as well. As we find information about plots against our neighbors or plots against our friends around the world, that's an important contribution to the security of everyone.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. The next question comes from Mexico. (inaudible) Televisa.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Secretary Espinosa. I would like to know whether you had the opportunity to speak with Secretary Chertoff regarding the incidents of the videos, photographs which shows him (inaudible) in the -- on the Mexican side. And I was wondering whether you spoke to him about the images and found out exactly where he was located and what was the message of those (inaudible).

(Inaudible) -- increased drug trafficking activities and also of the organized crime in both of our countries at the same time that there's a decrease in the CIA's budget, and I would like to know if that affects the security conditions that both countries are so eagerly seeking for.

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: Yes, with pleasure. Of course, in the conversations that we had today we had the opportunity to discuss with Secretary Chertoff as well as with Secretary Rice regarding this issue which you've referred to; in other words, the distribution in Mexican media of these images. And I would like to draw your attention to the declaration made yesterday by Ambassador Antonio Garza, the Ambassador of the United States in Mexico, in which he clarified with great detail that in no way was Secretary Chertoff on Mexican territory and he also expressed that there was full respect on the part of the United States Government for the sovereignty of Mexico.

Now having said this, I would also like to state that we have had discussions on the position of the Government of Mexico in the sense that we feel that this construction of this fence is a way of dealing with the migration issue and problem, and at the same time we've restated the conviction of President Calderon that the true solution to this problem resides in the creation of jobs and work opportunities and possibilities for a dignified life in Mexico.

SECRETARY RICE: We have excellent cooperation with Mexico and I think we can always both improve our cooperation because we don't want our populations to be threatened by narcotrafficking and by the crime that it often produces. And in fact, I would just take note that the Calderon government, I think, has been particularly dedicated to and determined on these issues since taking office, and we want to cooperate as fully as possible. And the security of our people cannot be put at risk, and I think we are trying to put adequate resources against the task.

I would note, too, that we had a discussion here about cooperation as well through the SPP on issues of narcotrafficking and combating crime, because since we actually occupy one physical space, North America, it's very often that cooperation is needed between the three of us to deal with these issues.

But I think this is an area that has -- where we've improved a lot over the last few years and I really want to thank the Calderon government for the strong signals that it has sent about law enforcement and drug trafficking, and we'll continue to work equally hard.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Sylvie Lanteaume, Agence France Presse.

QUESTION: For Secretary Rice. Madame Secretary, the chief of the IAEA, Mr. ElBaradei, announced today that he has been formally invited in North Korea to discuss implementing the agreement, the nuclear agreement. Is it for you a good sign and would you be ready to go to North Korea yourself if the condition were right?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's a little early to answer your second question, Sylvie, but we are really very pleased that the IAEA is now receiving the initial steps to be able to go back into North Korea to be able to verify compliance with the agreement that is to take place over the next 60 days that would shut down the Yongbyon reactor and would seal it so that we can move on to the next phase, which is the disablement of the nuclear facilities of North Korea on the way to the full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

It is indeed a good sign that it's happened as quickly as it has. I've not had a chance to talk to Dr. ElBaradei, but I know in the past that he's been very willing, indeed anxious, to try and make the IAEA available for this task.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Minister MacKay, Secretary Espinosa and Dr. Rice. Ladies and gentlemen, that ends this afternoon's first press conference.


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