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P5 FMs & UNSG Joint Press Briefing

Joint Press Briefing with The P5 Foreign Ministers and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

ENGLISH VERSION (Partially Translated)

Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, was accompanied by Li Zhaoxing, the Foreign Minister of China, Dominique de Villepin, the Foreign Minister of France; Igor Ivanov, the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation; Jack Straw, the Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom, and Colin Powell, the Secretary of State of the United States.

SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I hear you had a power failure in the room where we had intended to meet and we could not believe it because here also when we discussed Iraq we talked of the power shortages and water and all that only to see that we have it in Geneva as well.

We have had a very good meeting this afternoon. The meeting with the five permanent members of the Security Council today enabled us to conduct a thorough review of the main issues of Iraq and to do so in a constructive atmosphere with a view to identifying the points of convergence.

A unified approach by the permanent members would make it easier for the Security Council as a whole to devise an effective policy. Consensus is essential and achievable. But consensus is not enough. The Council's approach must be coherent and well defined. We all share the aspiration to transfer power to the Iraqi people as soon as possible.

We discussed the security situation and I conveyed the concerns of the humanitarian community - as you know I met them here yesterday. I conveyed their concern and that it requires both adequate military deployment and a clear political horizon for the transfer of authority to Iraqi institutions. Questions of a future multilateral force, authorized by the Security Council were also discussed. Discussions today were not intended, and I repeat, not intended to devise specific solutions. They will contribute to building a consensus towards the future of Iraq, including the definition of UN role.

We also had a chance to discuss the situation in the Middle East. The [permanent] members reaffirmed their commitment to the Quartet's road map. The permanent members of the Security Council recognized that both sides have obligations under the Quartet's road map and must fulfil them and that it is now essential to go ahead with its implementation. The Quartet principals will meet in New York. We have agreed to meet in New York later this month to consider all relevant aspects of the issue and determine how best to help the parties move forward with the process. We will now take your questions.

Q: All of you, between the French proposal for sovereignty and the US and UK positions and other positions in the meeting. And have you discussed the French proposal to send troops to Palestine and Israel in order to be a buffer between both sides? Thank you.

SG: No, we discussed all aspects of the issue and as I said we came here to have a frank discussion with the determination to continue the process in New York and all these issues have been discussed. The question of what we do in Middle East and the need, perhaps, to take bolder steps, were also discussed.

Q: Question for Minister de Villepin. You had a discussion with Secretary Powell, I was wondering whether the possibility of a veto arose with respect to the US resolution and if not, what is the French position on exercising France's veto power?

Mr. de Villepin: [translated from French] We are here in Geneva, the permanent members with the Secretary General of the United Nations, to try and find solutions, not to create new problems, and the discussion has thus taken place in a constructive spirit, the aim being of course, to help us move things forward on the ground in Iraq. This is our common concern, and I think I can say - speaking for all of us - that we have the same objective here. So, given this common view, of how to be more effective in Iraq, that was the sense of the discussion we have had. There are difficult questions: you have raised the questions of sovereignty and transfer of responsibility - those are processes. We are aware of the difficulties; as regards transfer of responsibilities, we are aware of the need for a gradual, progressive approach. We think it is important to try and satisfy the principles of sovereignty as soon as possible so that Iraq can genuinely shoulder its responsibilities, but the Secretary General has said: we are in a process of discussion and dialogue, so you will understand that I will say no more on that here. We want to continue this discussion in New York so we can really move ahead on possible solutions for Iraq.

Q: This is a question for the Secretary of State, Mr. Powell. Sir, which signals do you get from the other nine members of the Security Council for your draft resolution and which signals do you get especially from the German Government? Thank you.

Mr. Powell: We have received positive responses from everyone but of course there are differences of opinion on certain aspects of our draft resolution and you are well aware of those differences. Dominique de Villepin and I have discussed our differences and have discussed differences that we have with Germany. The important thing is that we spent our time today looking for points of convergence, and there are many, and we have gotten a better understanding of our views which we can communicate to our permanent representatives back in New York for them to pursue the work next week. It is also important, we thought, that we involve the other 10 members of the Council and we will instruct our permanent representatives to do that as well. I am taking seriously all the comments that I receive from my colleagues on the Security Council. It is always the intent of the United States to listen to others and hear ideas put forth as we put our ideas forth, and that is the way resolutions are developed. So I will leave this meeting encouraged with the points of convergence but also recognizing that there are still some difficulties and differences that have to be worked out. What we are all committed to, as the Secretary General said, is to put authority back in the hands of the Iraqi people for their own destiny, for their own future, as fast as is possible, but do it in a responsible way.

Q:[translated from French] I have two questions to ask. First to the Secretary General, to ask whether, after this meeting with the members of the Security Council, there is a hope, a glimmer of hope, that the United Nations will resume its efforts, its work, I mean its activities on the ground? The second question is for the Secretary of State of the United States: do Mr. de Villepin's fine words chime with the Americans' good intentions on Iraq and show that you are going to be moving on Kuwait and Iraq? Will we see concrete results from this meeting on the ground? Thank you.

SG: [translated from French] First, the United Nations has not abandoned Iraq. We have taken steps to protect our staff, we have reduced our staff numbers but we are still working. We are of course considering the security situation and as soon as that improves we will conduct an operational survey. Thank you.

Mr. Powell: Dominique and I had excellent discussions. We have learned enough about each other's positions that I think both of us would say, if I can speak for both of us, that there is a basis for our representatives in New York to undertake discussions next week to see if we can find a consensus.

Q: [translated from French] My question is for the Secretary General. Mr. Secretary General, what we gather is that everyone agrees to transfer sovereignty and authority to Iraq. The Secretary of State said in Berlin that the United Nations is not in a position to take this task on, and did not ask for it. The question I want to ask you is, after your discussions with the different organizations here that could manage that sovereignty, are you going to ask for it? Thank you.

SG: [translated from French] I do not think the question is whether sovereignty should pass to the United Nations: it is the population and people of Iraq who should assume authority, but the United Nations is ready to work with them and help them. There are many areas where the United Nations can help. So the question whether the United Nations is seeking to take power and run Iraq, that has never been the case, it is not correct. We are ready to work with the Iraqis and ready to help them set up a national government as you have just heard, everyone agrees on that goal. We will be working towards that.

Q: [translated from French] Concerning the resolution, do you think it is urgent to discuss this area or not?

SG: [translated from French] Concerning the vote in the Security Council - I think there are five men here who should answer that because they are the ones who will set the schedule and they are the ones who will vote. Clearly, though, the vital thing is not just voting but having a solid and workable resolution, a resolution we can put into effect and will help us in our efforts on the ground and may also help convince the people in Iraq that we are handing government back to them and working with them. To put it in English, to win the minds and hearts of the Iraqis should also be a part of the process. Not just what military assets are needed. Thank you very much.

For the UN official translation of the entire press briefing :


Released on September 17, 2003

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