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Remarks With Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Manama, Bahrain
April 21, 2008

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s an honor, of course, always to welcome Secretary Rice to Bahrain, and this is an opportunity to hold a meeting for the 6+2+1. As I understand, and you corrected me earlier today, I thought it was the fourth meeting and you said it’s the seventh meeting so far. And we always discuss important matters, but the achievement today, we have reached for the first time more of a sweeping declaration of principles that will guide us through in the next meetings and in our endeavors to bring peace, stability and security to the region.

We have issued a declaration that has a vision of regional stability, peace and prosperity, and affirmed our commitment to work together and to consult as partners and friends as we continue to make a vision of this reality.

We affirmed the value of these meetings and pledge to continue meeting at regular intervals in order -- and consider common approaches to key issues another way -- another shared vision of regional stability and development.

As you have noticed, an important development took place today that we invited the -- our colleague, the Foreign Minister of Iraq, to join us today in this meeting. And as we’ve discussed and as we’ve agreed, we -- Iraq will continue and Iraq will always be an anchor member of this group and will continue to participate with us in the upcoming meetings of the 6+2. So now you may want to call it a 6+3+1, as you like.

And we discussed other issues. We will hand you copies of the declaration. We have discussed many other issues. We have discussed Gulf security. We have discussed the peace process. The Secretary of State gave us an overview of where it stands today, and I understand she will be making some comments. And also, we’ve discussed the developments in Lebanon. If you allow me, I will invite the Secretary of State to say a few words. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much, Sheikh Khalid. Thank you very much for arranging this meeting here in Bahrain. It’s always great to come here. And it was a very good meeting of the Gulf Corporation Council plus two plus one plus Iraq, and I’m very pleased that, in fact, it is the view of the members of this group that Iraq should become a regular participant in its discussions and its meetings. I think that’s a very good step forward for the integration – reintegration of Iraq into the regional affairs.

We did have a very good discussion not only of Iraq but, of course, of the situation in Lebanon. We will discuss that further as the “Friends of Lebanon” tomorrow on the margins of the neighbors meeting in Kuwait. But there was a very strong commitment to a Lebanon that can discharge its affairs in an atmosphere of sovereignty and democracy without outside interference.

We had a discussion of the Annapolis process and the importance of progress along all of its tracks. And I was able to report that I will, of course, return soon to the region. But before that, of course, Abu Mazen will be in Washington, and we look forward to his meeting with the President as we push forward the very important Annapolis process with the expectation that the parties would reach agreement by the end of this year.

We discussed multiple other issues, but I – the importance of this group is that it has become one in which we can have the most candid discussions, the most far-ranging discussions, but I would underscore what the Foreign Minister has said: The issuance today of this declaration, which is a broader declaration than just an accounting of the issues that we discussed, it really does show that there is a firm foundation for cooperation, for the work toward regional stability and prosperity and peace, and that we have a common vision of how this ought to be carried out.

So thank you very much, again, for your stewardship of this process.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Thank you. Thank you very much. We will take a few questions. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sue Pleming from Reuters. Your Excellency, does the recent crackdown against Shiite militias boost your confidence in Iraq’s government?

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Excuse me. It was inaudible for me.

QUESTION: I said, does the recent crackdown against Shiite militias boost your confidence in Iraq’s government? Some Arab nations have seen that government as an arm of Iran.

And Secretary Rice, and also Your Excellency, did you – did you get any further Arab commitments for debt relief and also for opening up embassies in Baghdad?

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: We have – we have always seen that any action – we have never seen the Iraqi Government as an arm of Iran. We have always seen it – their actions to bring stability and to fight terror and to fight thuggery in Iraq as a step towards stability of Iraq. And we do support the Iraqi Government in its endeavors to bring peace.

Regarding opening our embassy, yes, we are now in the process of choosing our ambassador and we are in discussions with our brothers in Iraq regarding that matter.

Secretary Rice.

SECRETARY RICE: I would only add that a number of countries around the table talked about their desire to have permanent representatives in Iraq and the necessary arrangements that would need to be made. And Foreign Minister Zebari agreed to take certain inquiries that the countries have about how that process might move forward. And so I do believe that it is a process that is moving forward. There was also a discussion of the importance of debt relief, and we had an extensive discussion of the activities that the Iraqi Government is undertaking toward reconciliation and dealing with militias.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the terms toward which we’re working on debt relief have long been known. And I believe the Saudis, for instance, made that announcement, if not in Istanbul, maybe in Sharm el-Sheikh, but certainly in Istanbul. So I think the terms have long been known. This is just a matter of getting the negotiations done.

MODERATOR: Mohammad.

QUESTION: Mohammad Fadhel from AFP. First, His Excellency Sheikh Khalid. Did the Arab side put some demands or proposal to the American side in this meeting?

On the other side for Secretary Rice, what is your agenda? What’s your priority now in Iraq and what did you ask your partners here in this meeting?

Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Well, let me use your last word, “partners.” We are partners and friends, as you will read it in our declaration. So we do not put demands, but we do discuss. When we first started this meeting today, we had questions of the ambiguity of the picture in Iraq, the political picture. And the Secretary of State and our brother Hoshyar Zebari gave us some very good explanations. The other point we are concerned about is security situation vis-à-vis sending our diplomats to Iraq. And we got good assurances and we will continue to work in that regard. So there were no demands in that meeting.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. It’s not a matter of demands. It really is a matter of coming to common positions about how we can move things forward. And I think in each one of these sessions we’ve been able to do that today. We had pretty detailed discussions, thanks to Hoshyar Zebari’s being here, of the political conditions in Iraq and what is happening toward national reconciliation. I don’t think that there was anyone around the table who was in a position to deny that a lot of progress has been made. I think one of the participants said Iraq is now on the right path, and the question is how do we continue to sustain Iraq on that path. And part of sustaining Iraq on that path, of course, is its reintegration into the region, its reintegration into its Arab identity. And that’s why I think it’s a very good step to have Iraq be a permanent presence at these meetings that we’ve had; and therefore, Iraq is not just an object of these discussions, but really a participant in regional stability. When we talked about Lebanon, when we talked about the peace process, Hoshyar Zebari was there. This is not all about Iraq. It’s about a series of issues that the region faces.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Go ahead. You.

QUESTION: Your Excellency, the Bush Administration has talked about stronger Arab support

for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process through Annapolis. Do you see any progress in that process, and what can the Arab states do to promote it further?

And Secretary Rice, I wondered if you'd comment on what President Carter said today after his meeting with Hamas that he received assurances that they would abide by an agreement with the Abbas government with Israel, as long as it was put to a referendum of the Palestinian people.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Regarding the peace process, we've supported the peace processes since even Madrid, and even before. And of course, we participated in the Annapolis conference and we supported the Annapolis process. And we -- regarding whether there are any progress or not, we can feel, as long as they are continuing to meet, as long as there are no pointing fingers at each other, I think, as long as things are being done behind the scene, which is more helpful, I think there is progress. There is progress in that regard. But whether we will be -- at what speed we are going, maybe the Secretary of State will be able to answer better.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, I'm hopeful, as Sheikh Khalid knows, that there will be progress along the Arab-Israeli track because it needs to proceed alongside the other tracks of Annapolis. I was very pleased that the Foreign Minister of Israel was in Qatar. It makes sense for there to be candid discussions when that takes place. But there are now partners for peace -- Israel and the Palestinians. I believe that Arab Peace Initiative is a framework in which we can think of this as a regional partnership for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I hope it will be fully pursued. And we talked about some ways in which that can be done, and I think we'll continue to do that.

As to the comments of President Carter, I haven't seen them. I'm not going to try to take them out of context. I'll just say the following. Hamas can do several things. They can release the Israeli Corporal Shalit. They can stop rocketing Israeli citizens in Sderot and Ashkelon. They can stop holding hostage the people of Gaza with their own coup d’état against the legitimate governments of -- legitimate governance structures of the Palestinian Authority. And they can accept the longstanding obligations of the Palestinian leadership to a number of steps, including those that Yasser Arafat even undertook more than a decade ago.

So the -- it seems to me that what Hamas needs to do is pretty clear. Renouncing violence would be a good step toward showing that you actually want peace.

Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Thank you very much. Can we take one more question?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, sure. Sorry. Sure.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: The last one. Sorry, we'll be happy to take one more.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from al-Hayat newspaper. I have got to ask are we now -- do we see any chance of a new organization that will be more prevalent, or only permanent meetings? And the other thing, about the economic cost of such meetings or an organization. I understood that Secretary Rice has come here to advise the GCC to bear the cost, and that's what I understood. So do you have some comments?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm happy to invite the GCC to the United States and I'll be happy to foot the cost, although, the Egyptians will tell you the last time I served water and I plan the next time to serve as good a lunch as we had today.

Look, these are very important meetings and this is an opportunity for the Gulf Cooperation Council, with Egypt, with Jordan, now with Iraq, and with the United States, to talk in an atmosphere in which we can put our joint efforts together toward trying to bring together a Palestinian-Israeli agreement, trying to support the democracy in Lebanon, the democratic Government of Lebanon, and trying to make sure that we have regional peace and stability that can resist influences that are indeed backing extremism. I think that is work that is worth doing. Whether it's a permanent organization or not, I don't care. I think we've had a number of meetings and we will have others.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Ladies and gentlemen, you'll find every other answer in the declaration. But before we leave, most of you don't know that the Secretary of State and myself we have a shared common hobby. We both love football, but it's American football. But here we have a different kind of football, which you call soccer.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Let me present you with a shirt of our national team.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, fantastic.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: It says Condi, 6+2+1. (Applause.)

Actually, that's about national football. And I think you're still a Cleveland Brown fan.

SECRETARY RICE: Goodness, gracious.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL KHALIFA: Here we go. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: He’s a Dallas Cowboy fan, by the way. (Applause.)

FOREIGN MINISTER KHALIFA: I'm a very tolerant person. (Laughter.) Thank you.

2008/T13-6



Released on April 21, 2008

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