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Remarks at NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Brussels, Belgium
March 6, 2008

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Secretary Rice holds press conference at the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers. Photo credit: NATO

Good afternoon. It has just been a very good discussion in the NATO Council. We had a really wonderful ministers discussion of the upcoming Bucharest summit. Lots of work still to do before Bucharest. But we had an extensive discussion of Afghanistan, of Kosovo. We talked about the vision statement that has been drafted that we are all working on so that we can give a clear indication of how strongly committed NATO is to Afghanistan’s future, to fighting the terrorists there and to helping Afghanistan to establish a democratic peace.

We had a discussion also of the issues concerning enlargement of NATO, reviewed the progress of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia. Obviously, on none of these issues was today a decision-making meeting. Those decisions will be taken at Bucharest. But I think that it’s fair to say that even though we believe that the aspirants must sprint to the finish, so to speak, that there was a general view that they have made a lot of progress, and people were very upbeat about it. These frank consultations will continue.

We talked also about other states that are in other degrees of cooperation with NATO, about the Ukraine and Georgia, and about Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Those were also very good discussions. And finally, we had an opportunity to talk about the importance of closer coordination and cooperation between the European Union and NATO. And so all in all, it was a very good discussion and I’m now happy to take your questions.

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll have time for about four questions. Let’s start first with Sue Pleming from Reuters.

QUESTION: Madame, do you think that Ukraine and Georgia are ready -- will be ready for MAP by the Bucharest summit, or do you think it would be better to delay a decision so as not to antagonize Russia?

And then secondly, Colombia’s Vice President is in town today, and are you planning on seeing him? And with escalations rising between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, do you fear a full-out war?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me start with the second question, Sue, which is about Colombia. Unfortunately, I will not meet the Colombian Vice President today. It was simply not scheduled. But the United States stands strongly for the diplomatic resolution of this recent set of circumstances. As you know, we have good friends and allies throughout Latin America. We have a very good friend and ally in Colombia, and we are very supportive of Colombia’s efforts to consider -- to continue its democratization, to continue its economic progress. We are fighting hard in the United States for a Colombia free trade agreement that we believe will send the right signal to a country that has made good choices from the days when it was really considered almost a failed state in 2000-2001. This has been a bipartisan consensus in the United States beginning with the Clinton Administration’s efforts to launch Plan Colombia and going through this Administration’s intensification of those efforts. So Colombia is a good friend.

I do hope that there will be a diplomatic outcome to this. The Organization of American States has been involved. We have been involved bilaterally. The regional states have been involved. But of course, it does really ask -- it shows that everyone needs to vigilant about the use of border areas by terrorist organizations like FARC. The UN and other states have talked about the importance of being vigilant on these sorts of issues. And so the FARC is a terrorist organization, and it’s extremely important that they not be able to continue their efforts which have led to the loss of life of many, many, many innocent Colombians.

As (inaudible) that we’ve had about the MAP for Georgia and Ukraine, we continue our consultations. The principles are very clear here: NATO is an organization with an open door to European democracies. It is a nation that is performance -- an organization that is performance-based, believing that we look to the readiness of states for various stages of engagement with NATO. And in that regard therefore, there isn’t any veto by any country on whether a state is ready for a particular level of engagement with NATO; that is a NATO members’ decision. And we’re going to continue to have discussions about these cases and the other cases. Those decisions, of course, will not be taken until Bucharest.

MR. MCCORMACK: Janine Zacharia from Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, after the vote at the United Nations on the third tranche of sanctions on Iran, the P-5+1 issued a statement that they’re prepared to future – “further development,” rather, of a package of incentives for Iran. Will you be discussing that tonight with the EU-3? Can you give us any – shed light on that?

And along the lines of Iran, today, in Egypt, the Saudi Foreign Minister met with the Iranian Foreign Minister, the Qatari Prime Minister, the UAE Prime Minister, both in Tehran recently. Is this Arab rapprochement with Iran undercutting your efforts to isolate Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would not, Janine, try to label anything in terms of rapprochement, non-rapprochement. I think it’s a mistake. These are all countries that have varying degrees of interaction with Iran. But Iran’s isolation is that it sits under three Security Council resolutions, Chapter 7 Security Council resolutions, that say that Iran is in violation of international obligations and in violation of the will of the international community. That is the clear indication of Iran’s isolation.

The letter to which you – or the statement to which you referred is simply an affirmation of the fact that the EU-3 plus the United States, China, and Russia continue to follow a dual-track strategy, which means that there is, of course, the track of Security Council resolutions, the one that we’ve just passed that will continue to impose consequences upon Iran for its continued defiance of the international community and, at the same time, offers a path should Iran decide that it wishes to take it that would be a path of negotiation, a path of engagement with the international community, including a path that would lead to a change in 28 years of American policy, so that with the suspension of Iran’s enrichment and reprocessing activities the United States as a part of the group of six could sit down with the Iranians face-to-face. And we’ve made very clear that we are prepared to do that, I’m prepared to do that, at any time that those conditions are met. So Iran is isolating itself, and it remains isolated because those Chapter 7 resolutions are a very clear indication of that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY RICE: We are continuing to talk about what the path would look like for Iran should it choose the path of negotiation. But I think that if you looked at the document that was – a June 2006 document, you would see that there is a lot on the table with Iran. To the degree that the Iranians want to know more about it or want to know in greater depth what those elements mean or how they might unfold, I’m sure that people are prepared to talk to them about it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Next question, Nick Rigillo from DPA.

QUESTION: In what ways do you think that the new strategy for Afghanistan might help bridge divisions within the alliance? And do you think Europe and Germany, in particular, are doing enough in the south? Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first, let me say that I would not talk about divisions in the alliance on Afghanistan. I think the alliance has a very clear, commonly shared view that the NATO mission, which NATO took by consensus, the decision to enter this mission in Afghanistan, is a core mission of NATO, it is an essential mission of NATO, it must be successful. That means helping the Afghans to defeat the Taliban and other terrorists. It means helping the Afghans to build a decent and more prosperous and more democratic society. It is – since NATO is a military alliance, that there is a requirement that we be able to meet the obligations in a military sense. And not all nations contribute in exactly the same way. We have been concerned, and both Secretary Gates and I have made clear that we have been concerned that there be a sense of burden-sharing in the alliance that shares all of the burdens of what is a difficult fight, again, in a country that has experienced 30 years of conflict and more than 20 years of civil war.

Germany, like others, is contributing to the effort, and that is greatly appreciated. What we have to be able to do is to make certain that we can fulfill all of the requirements. We can't just fulfill the requirements having to do with reconstruction and development. We can't just fulfill the requirements that have to do with governance and rule of law. We can't just fulfill the requirements that have to deal with the hearts and minds of the population. We also have to win against these insurgents -- help the Afghans to win. We have to train the Afghan army. We have to mentor and provide help to them. And it is SACEUR’s view that he needs more help in that regard, and there's been a significant effort to do that.

Let me say one word also about the Canadians in this regard, who have made it clear that they desire a partner in the south. And we believe that the alliance has an obligation to deliver on that because this is a NATO mission. This is not a Canadian mission or a Danish mission or an American mission or -- it's a NATO mission, and we have to respond as an alliance.

MODERATOR: Let's go to Marina Estivez from EFE.

QUESTION: Thank you. Are you confident on the solution of the problem with Macedonia's name with Greece?

A second question, if I may: What's your opinion on the accusation of Colombia to President Chavez to be involved in FARC activities?

Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: I'm sorry, I didn't get the last part.

QUESTION: To be involved in FARC, in the guerilla activities.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, in FARC? FARC in Colombia?


SECRETARY RICE: I'm sorry, I just didn't hear that.

As to the issue of Macedonia and the name, the United States has been supportive of the efforts of Ambassador Nimitz, the UN envoy on this. He is continuing his efforts. We support those efforts. This is going to be a circumstance in which we would hope that Greece and Macedonia will be able to accept a way forward because, as I said, we're looking at Macedonia as one of the potential aspirants. To the degree that Macedonia meets the criteria -- and I think there's a general sense at least for the United States that they are doing so; they still have some work to do before Bucharest, but they are doing so -- then they ought to be admitted to the alliance. And I hope that we can resolve this name issue. I believe that with goodwill we can.

As to Colombia, I really don't have anything to add. The FARC is indeed a terrorist organization. And frankly, no one should be dealing with them in a way that is at all supportive of their efforts. We just have to remember that there are an awful lot of people who have died, an awful lot of people that they have kidnapped, an awful lot of bombs that have gone off in central Colombia over the last several years. I would remind that if I were standing next to my colleague, the Foreign Minister of Colombia, I would be standing next to somebody who was in captivity by FARC for six years. That ought to say something about the FARC and about the need for the Colombians not to live in terror of it.

Thank you very much.


Released on March 6, 2008

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