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Remarks With Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Brasilia, Brazil
March 13, 2008

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MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Without further ado, I would like to give the floor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Brazil, Ambassador Celso Amorim and the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for their introductory remarks to the press, following which, four questions will be taken and answered from the press attending the event. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER AMORIM: Well, first of all, I wish to welcome the U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice, with whom I have sustained very frequent contacts over several occasions, above all as part of the bilateral presidential meetings, but also as part of previous bilateral visits and meetings that we have held between the two nations, both in Brazil and in Washington.

A working session has already been held earlier this morning in which we addressed a number of global and regional issues, such as, for example, the Middle East. We also talked about the Region and this Hemisphere. We also talked about issues such as, for example, the reform of the United Nations system. And during our luncheon, later today, we will be discussing other bilateral issues, regarding the joint agreements we have in the field of bio-fuels, amongst others. The Secretary of State also visited President Lula a few minutes ago. I understand the Secretary of State will be traveling to Bahia next, which is of course very important since it allows her a better knowledge from Brazil instead of visiting only the capital.

I think it is important to stress that our dialogue and cooperation on the international front has been very broad in all areas. We have always kept the best relationship with the United States. This has happened regarding the Middle East, as I mentioned, the Annapolis process, which we highly encourage to be continued; other issues such as the OMC — soon I will be welcoming my colleague and American interlocutor Susan Schwab. And in all these different forums and topics we have sustained the highest and best levels of cooperation. More often than not, we agree. And when we don’t, we voice our views very clearly in a spirit of friendliness and trustworthiness.

And this is very much the framework behind this visit. We plan to take steps forward as part of our cooperative links. To that effect, an important cooperative agreement has been signed on racial equality — a topic of utmost importance for both nations — and we are also issuing a joint-communiqué which addresses a number of important matters, including economic cooperation, and so forth. I won’t dwell on details at this point because you will have a copy of the communiqué for your reference.

Once again, welcome, Madam Secretary of State. It is always a pleasure to have you in Brazil.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much, Celso. The Minister and I have had very productive discussions, as we always do. We have talked about the list of topics that the Minister has mentioned. I just want to say on the Middle East that I appreciate very much the support of Brazil and of Celso Amorim, in particular, for the Annapolis process. You were good enough to be at Annapolis for that meeting and you’ve since made a trip to the Middle East and we’ve been able to compare notes on the Middle East.

We have talked about the issues of the region, in particular, our desires for a region that is peaceful, prosperous, in which there’s social justice and economic prosperity as well as consolidated and strengthened democracy. We’ve had a chance to touch on our bio-fuels agreement, but of course, we have more work to do there; and also on the joint desire of our presidents to see a Doha round that can be concluded successfully because, in many ways, there is nothing more important that we can do for developing countries than to have a world trading system that supports development and sustains markets for both developed and developing countries to prosper.

Again, thank you very much for having me here, and I look forward to the remainder of our discussions.

MODERATOR: The journalists present will ask four questions now. The names were indicated by the journalists themselves. May I call Arshad Mohammed, of Reuters to ask the first question. You can use that microphone, if you please.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, could you give us an indication of how seriously the United States is considering the possibility of Venezuela possibly being put on the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list? And would not such a move potentially disrupt Venezuelan oil supplies to the United States and potentially strengthen President Chavez by allowing him to portray himself as a victim of the United States?

And Foreign Minister Amorim, yesterday President Bush had some fairly harsh comments about Venezuela and President Chavez. I wonder if rhetoric like that is -- helps or hurts as you try to win Venezuelan cooperation within the region on matters like counterterrorism and so on, so that one doesn't see incidents like the March 1 Colombia-Ecuador incident.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me start by saying that we are obviously very concerned about the situation that emerged here in the region, and we appreciate very much the efforts that President Lula and other leaders in the region made to bring about a reconciliation, in many ways, or a lessening of the tensions. We were, ourselves, involved through the OAS, which I think is an appropriate forum, and I believe there will be further work through the OAS on this issue.

Obviously we’re going to follow this situation closely and we will see what emerges. We do have to be concerned about terrorism. We have to be concerned about the safety and well-being of countries in the region, that they should not be subject to terrorist activities or terrorist attacks that are either within their borders or beyond their borders, and this is a perfect opportunity for cooperation on a regional basis to make certain that terrorists cannot threaten innocent civilians. There is after all a UN obligation that all states have undertaken to do everything that they can to prevent terrorists from actively using their territory, from being engaged in terrorist financing. And so these are obligations that all responsible states have taken, and we expect responsible states to live up to those obligations. And as I said, we will watch the situation and the United States will act accordingly.

FOREIGN MINISTER AMORIM: Well, in response to your question, which was addressed to me, I would like to say that Brazil and the United States — both incumbent Presidents, and also I and the Secretary of State— have sustained a very constant ongoing dialogue. There as been an important cooperative effort regarding the OAS Resolution, which prepared the groundwork to ensure that this recent incident was successfully overcome. Naturally, there are deep-rooted causes that operate in one way or another to influence the matter at hand, but we do hope and expect that we will be able to solve, if not all, at least most of the pending issues in the region through dialogue. And I am sure that we will always be in a position to rely on the receptiveness and openness on the part of the United States to support our ideas.

MODERATOR: Second question: Eliane Oliveira, O Globo Newspaper.

QUESTION: My question, Madam Secretary, is: Brazil’s actions, the Brazilian diplomacy actions in this last incident between Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia, and in Haiti, do they give credit to Brazil to pitch for a seat at the permanent Security Council? What is you position regarding this issue? And if Minister Amorim wishes to comment on it, he is welcome.

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) Well, let me begin by saying we highly value the active efforts of Brazil in times of crisis and in times of calm. I have mentioned the activities that the Minister himself has been involved in the Middle East, and we’ve had a full discussion of how that might support the Annapolis process. I believe that a model for Brazil’s engagement was indeed Haiti, where we could not have done what we did in Haiti without Brazil’s leadership of the UN forces there; but it was not just the forces, it was the active diplomatic engagement. I think we met with our counterparts from Canada and the OAS probably two or three times during the period in the lead-up to Haiti’s elections, and we will continue to do that. And yes, Brazil played a very positive role in the recent events here in the region. So Brazil, which is a large multiethnic democracy, should play a major role, not just in regional affairs but in global affairs.

Now, the position of the United States on UN Security Council reform, I think, is well known. We have committed as a country over several administrations to Japan as appropriate for a permanent seat in the Security Council. But I think you might note the President’s remarks at the recent General Assembly, where he said that the United States is open to Security Council reform; recognizes the need for Security Council reform. The world has changed from 1945 and we are in consultation with other permanent five members, but also states like Brazil and others. And I believe that we will all, with enough effort and enough creativity, we perhaps can try to move forward. But the President has been very clear that he’s open to Security Council reform.

Foreign minister: Well, I really don’t have anything else to add to the remarks made by the U.S. Secretary of State. If I may say, I thought they were, without being patronizing, very appropriate. But earlier in the morning, when Secretary Rice, my friend Condi Rice, asked me how the Security Council reform should be spearheading this, I said that I would tell the media that you were the one who brought the issue to the floor, and you smiled and apparently acceded to it.

SECRETARY RICE: I did. (Laughter.) I did.

MODERATOR: Third question from the France Press journalist Maurício Rabufette

QUESTION: Good morning. My question is for Secretary Rice. What’s your opinion about the Brazilian initiative to create a South American defense council to prevent and solve regional crises? And if you can clarify if you are considering to include Venezuela in your terrorist list, it would be great. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I am all for regional cooperation at the regional, subregional, whatever level we can attain it. Obviously, the Organization of American States is a hemispheric means of coordination and cooperation. But of course, the United States -- the President of Mexico and Canada-- will meet very soon with the President of the United States, because we have North American cooperation. I think it's only going to be natural that you have many different fora in which to press cooperation and to press ways to expand both the ability to deal with crises, but also the ability to find opportunities on a regional and sub-regional basis. So I not only have no problem with it, I trust Brazil’s leadership and look forward to coordination with it. What we don't want, of course, is that the hemisphere as a whole cannot cooperate. But I think we have many means by which that can happen. And I’ll leave to Brazil and others who the members of those efforts might be.

I might just note -- the question has come up a couple of times -- the United States doesn't have enemies and permanent enemies. What we have is the effort to work well with any state that is acting responsibly on matters of democracy, on matters of security, on matters of economic development and trying to provide social justice for their people. That's our positive agenda for Latin America. And we pursue it without an ideological litmus test because the President -- President Bush has worked well with presidents from the left side of the spectrum, like President Lula, President Bachelet of Chile, and well with presidents from the right side of the political spectrum. For us, the question is what can we do to promote democratic values in our hemisphere, what can we do to promote prosperity, what can we do to promote free trade, what can we do to promote social justice.

I'm delighted that we were able, with Minister Santos, to sign the agreement on promoting racial equality. Brazil and the United States have a kind of common heritage where we have had to overcome problems of racial equality. And that's the kind of positive agenda that we can work on, as we work on everything from biofuels to racial equality. I think you’re going to find that the United States is interested in good partners, and we do have a positive way forward in this hemisphere.

MODERATOR: Last question from journalist Júlio Mosqueira, da Rede Globo.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Madam Secretary. I would like to hear your views on the role of the FARC in Ecuador and Venezuela. Do you think that the conflict has been overcome? Is it behind us? And in the specific case of Brazil, do you have any suspicion that the FARC may be operating in Brazilian territory? And if so, does the U.S. government expect say a different stance to be taken by Brazil in that regard?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I believe that Colombia has been very clear in praising Brazil’s efforts to keep the region free of those who might kill innocent civilians, so I don't think there's any question of Brazil’s activities.

As to the FARC, the United States classifies the FARC as a terrorist organization. And the reason for that is that they have killed many, many, many innocent Colombians. It got to a place that it was difficult for Colombia to maintain law and order. Colombia has reestablished that law and order through the democratic security plan that the democratically elected President of Colombia put in place, put before his people. The Colombian people have supported that plan. And I was just in Medellin, and I have to tell you that Colombia is a better place for being secure and able to protect its citizens. And the United States has been proud to be a partner of Colombia in helping Colombia to develop the means to protect its citizens against narco-trafficking and against narco-terrorists.

So I believe our position is clear. And as I said to the first questioner, there is an issue that the UN has, in fact, identified. There are certain obligations to be certain that you are doing everything that you can to prevent terrorists from using either territory or financing or any of those means. Because borders are important, but borders cannot be a means by which terrorists hide and engage in activities that kill innocent civilians.

And so I think that the efforts that the OAS made over this last few weeks are important efforts. They need to be followed up. This may be a time when the region needs to look again at how it can make certain that security is extended across borders, and the United States will be a partner in that. Thank you.


Released on March 13, 2008

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