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Press Availability with European Union Officials

Press Availability with Greek Foreign Minister Georges Papandreou, European Union High Representative Javier Solana, European Union Commissioner Chris Patten

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
February 27, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, thank you all very much for being here this afternoon and I apologize for being a little late, but we got into some excellent discussions and didn't allocate enough time for those discussions. But we're going to find some time later this evening to get together and continue our discussions. I value greatly these semi-annual meetings with my colleagues in the European Union, and I would like to express my thanks to Foreign Minister Papandreou, to High Representative Solana, and to External Affairs Commissioner Patten for braving the blizzards of Washington, D.C. to be with us today.

This is a critical time for the United States and our European friends, our European allies. From our shared concern about Saddam Hussein's failure to disarm, to North Korea's prohibited nuclear program, our transatlantic agenda is daunting and it is global. Today we focused on four very important challenges: Iraq, the Middle East, North Korea and Cyprus.

On Iraq we all share the same objective -- Iraq's disarmament as required under UN Security Council 1441, Resolution 1441. The United States and some of our European friends do have some differences with regard to the next steps that should be taken and we are exploring those differences in an open, honest and candid fashion.

I was pleased to see the European Council's statement of February 17th which reinforced the need for Saddam Hussein to comply and to disarm. We are all hopeful for a peaceful solution, but we also understand that 1441 provided for serious consequences if Saddam Hussein did not comply. We and the European Union agree that it is important to keep the focus on Saddam and on his obligations to disarm. The responsibility and the decision to comply with the demands of the international community rest with him, and we believe it is time for him to come clean.

On the Middle East we discussed our commitment to moving forward as quickly as possible with the Quartet's roadmap. As President Bush said yesterday, "Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state." The President also, once again, last evening confirmed our commitment to the roadmap, his personal commitment to the roadmap, to the peace process, to ending settlement activity and to finding a way forward to achieve the vision that he laid out in his June 24th of last year speech, and which also reflects the views of my European colleagues, the Quartet and Crown Prince Abdallah and the Arab League's vision as they have articulated it.

On North Korea, as we said at our last U.S.-EU meeting in December, we share a deep concern over North Korea's continuing activities and weapons proliferation and its nuclear weapons program. North Korea, we believe, must honor its international commitments and completely and verifiably eliminate its nuclear weapons program; and the United States welcomes the European Union's effort to help resolve this matter. It is a matter of great concern not just to the United States, but to the neighbors of North Korea, and as evidenced by the interest that the European Union has shown in this area, it's a matter of interest to the entire world.

Even as the United States and the European Union work to meet formidable challenges in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, North Asia, we see an extraordinary opportunity to help the United Nations resolve the decades-long Cyprus dispute. Secretary General Kofi Annan is there as we speak, working with the sides trying to reach an historic settlement in the coming days and we firmly support his efforts. We share the European Union's hope that Cyprus can enter the Union as a united country.

Another example of our common efforts to resolve disputes is the joint announcement today in Brussels, Athens and here in Washington, of visa restrictions on the leadership of the secessionist Transnistria regime in Moldova. Together we are sending a strong signal to the secessionist leaders that they must negotiate seriously to bring this longstanding issue to a rapid settlement.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to commend the U.S. and EU negotiators who, in the last few days, reached agreement on the text of extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties. The agreements are now in their final approval process. They will greatly strengthen law enforcement cooperation between us. Minister Papandreou, High Representative Solana, External Affairs Commissioner Patten, the U.S.-EU agenda crosses the Atlantic and spans the globe. It encompasses matters of high moment, indeed, matters of war and peace. It is also filled with day-to-day issues of importance to our citizens and I look forward to our next ministerial meeting, and Chris and Javier and Georges, I thank you all for being with us here today. Georges.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAPANDREOU: Thank you very much, Colin. Here with both Javier Solana and Chris Patten, I think we can also say we value very much this opportunity to exchange views and discuss our cooperation on a very large number of very important issues. And certainly today was a very constructive and useful discussion.

Obviously, Iraq is on our minds, and we do stand united in purpose, that is, for full compliance by Saddam Hussein of 1441 and full disarmament of Iraq. We are very concerned, not only in Iraq but around the world, on the issue of weapons of mass destruction and proliferation. And this, of course, is why we also are ready to help in any way we can on the North Korean issue.

On Iraq, we were able to, again, bring the EU discussions we've had amongst my colleagues and also the heads of states and government to the discussion today where we have, again, as I said, reiterated we are at common purpose. We also have said that we need to -- we don't exclude the use of force, but we need to use all possible diplomatic means, every window of opportunity, in trying to resolve this crisis, even at the last moment, peacefully; and of course the importance of the UN role in this whole process.

I think we also had a very constructive discussion on the Middle East peace process which is an area of close cooperation and will continue to be. Again and again in our discussions in the European Union, we see this as very important for the wider stability of the region in the Middle East, and Europe of course, is, with the enlargement of Europe, coming much closer to the area of the Middle East.

On Cyprus, I want to say that, yes, this is again an important area of cooperation where Kofi Annan being on the island today, is bringing great hope of a possible solution after many decades of impasses and aborted attempts. I think that our cooperation has been paramount in moving forward the possibility of a peaceful solution where we will have, if we can do so, two communities, two sides, the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, living under one roof in a united island and in a united Europe where the principles of peace, of democracy, of human rights, of tolerance, and of progress and stability have been achieved over the many decades.

I think this would be a great moment for both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. It'll be very important for Greek-Turkish relations, and it will be very important for EU-Turkish relations, also. So I think that this is a great opportunity to make it a showcase of multiculturalism, a showcase where Muslims and Christians, Turks and Greeks can live peacefully together, side by side.

Finally, I think that in our discussions on the transatlantic relationship, a very important relationship in the past, today, and in the future, we have shown with these two specific examples you mentioned, Colin, that there is much room for further cooperation and coming up to the summit in June with President Bush and Prime Minister Simites, I think it's very important that we work to see how we can complement each other in dealing with these difficult issues of weapons of mass destruction, of security around the world. Thank you very much again for this discussion.

SECRETARY POWELL: Questions. George?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, George Gedda of AP. Concerning North Korea and the news from yesterday. Do you see any circumstances under which the United States would acquiesce in North Korea's possession of more than a few nuclear weapons?

SECRETARY POWELL: We would rather see North Korea not have any nuclear weapons. We believe they may have one or two. And I think we join with all the nations in the region in our desire to have a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula. So we will continue to work closely with China, with Russia, with South Korea, Japan, as a group, as well as with our friends in the European Union and other interested nations around the world to do everything we can to persuade North Korea that it should not go forward with its nuclear weapons development program.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, yesterday when you made two very important phone calls to Secretary General Annan and Foreign Minister Yakis of Turkey regarding Iraq and Cyprus, the Greek Turkish side on the Cyprus issue is very willing to comply with the Secretary General's proposals, but we don't see the same from the Turkish Cypriot side. If you can give us some more details of the positions you expressed to this, to the gentlemen. And for the Foreign Minister Papandreou, Mr. Foreign Minister, can you tell us how you manage as the presidency to bridge the differences between the two important countries, Germany and France, inside the European Union and some other European countries with the United States?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to my phone call with Kofi Annan last evening, he was giving me a report on his discussions in Cyprus. I told him we continue to support his efforts and if there was anything in addition he would like us to do in the days ahead we stand ready to help. I've seen reports this afternoon that he is now looking at March 10th as a potential date to shift the deadline for a meeting in the Hague; and I'll be in touch with him again in the next day or so to see what we might do in this period to encourage both sides to be willing to yield, somewhat, in their positions in order to achieve an agreement that has been long coming and is very badly, badly needed.

In my phone call with Foreign Minister Yakis, it had to do with the upcoming vote in the Turkish parliament and did not relate to Cyprus. And we were just discussing some of the remaining details with respect to the documents that we've been working on.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAPANDREOU: Well, again, I would stress we are united in purpose of disarming Iraq and for full compliance of 1441. Secondly, I think it's very important to again stress that we are democratic countries and that we have a very open public debate in Europe, in the United States, on all these issues with a wide range of views on how one deals with situations such as the one in Iraq, and obviously you'll be getting different views.

But that should not undermine the common will that we have for solving this problem. And secondly, this democratic debate is, in the end, our strength. This is what represents us. This is the value, these are the values we cherish as democratic societies. So we should not see this as a weakness, but we should see it as our basic strength. In the end, the international community, of course, will have to decide the UN Security Council, how it will move. But I think we will be enriched by the debate we've had.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary and the other gentlemen as well, if you could comment on this. Hans Blix's report, which has been filed, reportedly does not come down either way. It has something for everyone and no real ammunition for any side. If Iraq proceeds to destroy the Al Samoud missiles in the next day or so and begins to meet that deadline, how will the United States and Great Britain persuade the rest of the Security Council that there shouldn't be more time before facing serious consequences and taking military action?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think I'll wait and actually see the Hans Blix report in due course and not only see it, but I'm looking forward to watching and hearing what he has to say when he and Dr. ElBaradei report on the 7th.

With respect to the missiles, it doesn't change our view of the situation in the slightest. Those missiles were prohibited in the first place. They should have been destroyed long ago. They were told to destroy them some days ago and they've been stringing it out until the very last minute, and we will see what this letter they are going to send in within 48 hours actually says they're going to do. It's not entirely clear yet. But I think it's just more indication of the reality that we have been trying to convey to the world that Saddam Hussein is trying to string it out, trying to divert attention, trying to pretend he is cooperating when he is not cooperating, trying to use process as an excuse for not cooperating, and not complying with the will of the international community. It is just further chaff that he is throwing into the system to try to divert attention. And that is our view right now and that's the argument that we would take into the Security Council when we have the next debate on the resolution.

QUESTION: May I ask Mr. Solana or any of our other European visitors to comment on that?

FOREIGN MINISTER PAPANDREOU: Would you like to, Javier, would you like to say something?

REPRESENTATIVE SOLANA: I'd be glad to, but we do have, we do share our responsibilities here. I can say just something that, we obviously will be following the reports and what Hans Blix will be handing over to the Security Council. It's not the European Union per se that is going to make the decision, it's the Security Council. We have members of the Security Council that are members of the European Union, and we do exchange views and discuss amongst ourselves -- sometimes agree, sometimes disagree.

But what we have said as a European Union is that first of all, we want to exhaust all means. I think all 15 would prefer, if possible, a peaceful solution. Then there are different approaches as to how you, when that limit is exhausted, of course, different ideas on this. But we have also said that this is an issue for the Security Council. So we will have to wait to see what the Security Council says.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is there a role for the presidents of the European Union and the Arab world, in this last moment, to do something before the inevitable war? And I'm saying that because, in the weekend we are having an Arab League summit, and actually the Greek Foreign Minister will be visiting Cairo for that. Is there something the Europeans in conjunction with the Arab world can do to avoid, maybe get a message to Saddam Hussein?

SECRETARY POWELL: I never see war as inevitable. But time clearly is running out. Saddam Hussein is trying to use time to his advantage to avoid the consequences of his failure to comply. And I would encourage the European Union, I would encourage the Arab League, I spoke to the Secretary General of the Arab League this morning, and I would encourage them to issue the strongest possible statement to Saddam Hussein that he must comply, and time is running out in which he can comply.

He's, frankly, running out of time. Or suggest to him that perhaps to avoid what might flow in terms of serious consequences, it might be in his best interest to step down and get out of the way and let some responsible leadership take over in Baghdad and allow the international community to help that responsible leadership disarm itself of its weapons of mass destruction as required by 1441, and work with the international community to provide a better life for the people of Iraq. And I hope that's one of the messages that might come out of the summit meeting. With respect to the European Union, the Minister can speak for the Union.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAPANDREOU: Well, I just don't have to add much to that than other that we will be there and that certainly we'll be conveying the discussions we've had here in Washington. And I think that the Arab world has a very major role to play as being part of the region, neighboring Iraq, and of course, a number of other countries, Turkey also has taken initiatives vis-à-vis Iraq with a regional initiative. We're in touch with both these initiatives, and I think it's, it is important and it, there is an opportunity to get a very strong message to Baghdad and if it's understood, to possibly have a full compliance, and therefore, as the Secretary said, war is not, in the end, inevitable.

COMMISSIONER PATTEN: Can I just add this, that the Foreign Minister and I were at, in Cairo for the Arab League Foreign Minister's meeting almost a fortnight ago. And we sent both the Arab League Foreign Ministers and the European Union sent very clear and strong messages to Baghdad. The problem is, I'm not sure whether Saddam Hussein has the radio switched on.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a question involving diplomatic math. We may have, perhaps, a week or two to get -- for the U.S. and Britain to get nine votes. Do you think you can get the remaining votes needed, perhaps five at a minimum? And do you think you can persuade those with vetoes not to use them?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are in contact with all of the members of the Security Council, both the permanent members as well as the elected ten. We're presenting our point of view why we felt it was necessary to put down a second resolution. And depending on what Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei report, and depending on what the Iraqis do over the next week or two, we will see where we are with respect to support for such a resolution.

I think we have a good case, a solid case, and it's all, frankly ad ref until we do hear from Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei, but I'm confident that if we don't see the kind of improvement that I think we must see in the form of compliance, in the form of full cooperation, in the form of answering all the questions that have been there for years; we don't need a new list of questions, we don't need new benchmarks. Everybody knows what Saddam Hussein should be doing.

And if he isn't doing it and shows no indication he's doing it, I think we can present a strong enough argument for the second resolution that we put down that will be able to get the support needed to pass it.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, given the events of North Korea over the last few days it seems very, that it's certainly working towards a nuclear program. Why is North Korea not a more imminent threat than Iraq and why do we see a little bit of a downplaying of this as Iraq is, as you say, is a more imminent threat?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're not downplaying it. We are spending an enormous amount of time. We spent quite a bit of our time this afternoon talking about North Korea. It's just, we're dealing with them in two different ways at the moment. We still feel strongly that North Korea's a problem not just for the United States, it is a problem for the region and a problem for the world. And the region and the world have to be involved in finding a solution and being part of that solution. And we can't simply allow North Korea to make threats, present demands from a position of disobeying the will of the international community. They are the ones who are in violation of a number of years' worth of obligations.

We finally found out about their violations. We've called them to account, and now they are placing demands on how we have to meet their needs. And I don't think that's the way to solve this problem.

We will continue to work with the international community, but we are not downplaying it and we're not ignoring it. We're hard at work trying to find a diplomatic solution.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAPANDREOU: Chris, Javier, did you want to say something on North Korea?

COMMISSIONER PATTEN: They are both dangerous -- since you asked me -- they are both extremely dangerous problems. And In tackling both of them we have to maximize the amount of international cooperation and international consent if we're going to deal with them successfully, but maybe we have to apply that cooperation and consent in slightly different ways because of the different circumstances on the Korean Peninsula and in Gulf.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.
[End]


Released on February 27, 2003

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