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Powell IV With Sergio Cantone of EuroNews TV

Interview With Sergio Cantone of EuroNews TV

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Crown Plaza Airport Hotel
Brussels, Belgium
December 8, 2004

QUESTION: Russia is raising its rhetoric against the West over the Ukrainian events. How do you deal with this increasing tensions with Moscow?

SECRETARY POWELL: I wouldn't call it increasing tension. I would say that we have some differences of opinion. But with respect to the Ukraine, the Ukrainian people have spoken. They have made it clear than they want a rerun of the election. And their Supreme Court has said that the election should be rerun. The run-off should be held again. And now today the Rada has put in place the legislation to do this. So this is a victory for the Ukrainian people. All we ever wanted was for the Ukrainian people to have the opportunity to have free, fair, open election that is observed by international observers so that it can be seen as credible. That's all we wanted.

QUESTION: Moscow was considered so far a cooperative country in the fight against terrorism. Is there a double, can I say double, track with Moscow? In the fight against terrorism is it a reliable ally while in the rest of the world, like in Europe, it could be the sort of country that could compete with the US interests?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't see it that way. We cooperate very closely with the Russian Federation on the war against terrorism. It's in their interest, it's in our interest. Look what happened in Beslan, A tragedy that struck the Russian people. Or what happened in the theatre, some time ago when all those people lost their lives. The United States and Russia understand that we have to cooperate closely on terrorism.

But we also cooperate in many other areas. We have the NATO-Russia Council, where NATO works with Russia. We have very strong bilateral relations with Russia. We speak to each other candidly as friends and as partners. Because we sometimes disagree about an issue, or we may have some observations about things that are happening in Russia that concern us, we don't hide them, we don't just go into a dark room and talk about them, we present them to our Russian colleagues. It's a mature relationship. And in a mature relationship between two nations we should be able to speak about things that are going well, where there are areas of agreement, and where there are areas of concern or disagreement.

Let me make one point clear: we're not in the least bit that concerned that Russia is somehow going back to the days of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because Russia realizes it in its interests to have good relations with the West and we feel the same way about Russia. But it doesn't mean that there won't be disagreements from time to time.

QUESTION: Russia feels threatened sometimes by certain speeches or declarations from the West. Especially when they concern the places like Ukraine, but even other places like Georgia.

SECRETARY POWELL: Why is there the suggestion that they are threatened? I don't think threatened is the right word. In places like Georgia, places like the Ukraine, the only interest that the West has, the United States has, is for these nations is to be able to choose freely how they will be led, by whom they will be led. And there is no reason for this to be seen as a competition between the West and Russia.

Georgia, Ukraine, other nations who are fighting their way forward on the path of democracy should have good relations with Russia, and should have good relations with the West. It is not a zero-sum game if I have good relations with the West, I can't have good relations with Russia. Not at all. An example is what happened when we expanded NATO. The first three expansion countries, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. There was a great deal of nervousness then, but after the expansion, and they became members of NATO, their relationship didn't deteriorate with Russia, it improved. Economic relationship, political relationship.

And so I don't think one should see these as threatening activities. These are free, sovereign, independent countries. They don't belong to the West and they don't belong to Russia. They are standing on their own two feet. We should help them.

QUESTION: Yes, but don't you think that the Ukraine is a more vital and important for example than the Czech Republic or Slovakia?

SECRETARY POWELL: Ukraine is a very important country. It occupies an important geo-strategic position. It has a large population. And it is trying to find its way forward. and the only thing the United States has asked for is for good, open, fair and free elections that the international community can recognize. What the Ukrainian people want and to help them.

But there's no reason for there to be a contest between the East and the West. I don't see it in those terms. We don't see it in those terms. And I just hope that we can all come together now that the Rada has spoken. And Mr. Putin the other day said that he also understood the role of the Rada as well as the Supreme Court of the Ukraine. Hopefully we can all come together now and support this run-off, the second run-off.

QUESTION: Do you think that Moscow leadership tried to manipulate in some way the election in Ukraine?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think that anyone is served now by going back over what happened last month or the month before that. I think what is important now- we're not looking for ways to increase tension- is for all of us to reach out to the two candidates, to the President Kouchma, to the leaders of the Rada and to the Ukrainian people and say "your voices have been heard. You have handled this in a peaceful way, there have been no riots, no violence whatsoever. You have demonstrated a maturity, a maturity that reflected itself in people being able to peaceably assemble and present their views to the world and to their government. And now the Ukrainians have found a Ukrainian way forward, and that's what we should be focusing on. And I hope that's what all parties are focusing on.

QUESTION: Mr. Putin said that the elections in Iraq maybe won't be that credible because it is de facto an occupied country. What do you answer to this?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a country that is in control of its own leader. It has an interim government. It has a prime minister. It has a president. It has ministers. It has a government that is slowly starting to function.

We are there by authority of resolutions now. And the government exists because of a UN resolution, endorsed by a UN resolution. And so we are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government to help the Iraqi people put down an insurgency. Occupation suggests that somehow we are occupying this land because we want to or have a desire for control over this land. All we are doing is to help the Iraqi people build up their own armed forces, their own police forces and deal with this insurgency. Criminal and thugs and murderers who don't want the Iraqi people to vote, who don't want the Iraqi people to have what people in Russia have, the people in the United States have, the people in Georgia have, and now the people of Ukraine have. And we can't let that happen.

But we are there with the concurrence of the Iraqi interim government to help them as they find their way forward to free and fair elections. We want these elections to be on the 30th of January. No reason they cant be. The Iraqi leadership and the Central Election Commission has responsibility for this; it is moving toward the 30th of January. And it is not because we are pressed that that is at risk. The only thing that puts that at risk are these murderers and thugs and terrorists, and we're not going to let them keep us from moving forward with these elections.

QUESTION: Yes but the presence of the US troops could in some way influence the decision of the Iraqis or some external observer could say the US troops have influence in this election- not only US troops, I mean the coalition troops.

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not sure what you mean by that because what they will be there to do is providing a secure environment for the people of Iraq to move forward and have their election. Those troops are not insisting on who should be voted for. We are not selecting the candidates. The Iraqi people are working through this now; they are coming up with their candidate lists. And we're trying to provide a secure environment to so they can have free, fair and open elections.

The alternative to what you just said if that, well we leave and just let the insurgents take over, let's let terrorists and murderers and thugs decide the fate of Iraq. And nobody can want to see that happen.

QUESTION: After the death of Arafat, do you think that the peace process can start again?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think there are some new opportunities in this new post-Arafat era. I went to the region. I met with Prime Minister Sharon. I also met with Palestinian leaders. And I sense both sides want to take advantage of this opening.

The key issue right now is to have free, fair elections on the 9th of January for a new president of the Palestinian Authority. If that election takes place and it is a successful election, then the Palestinian people have spoken as to who their leader is, and Prime Minister Sharon will have a partner to work with.

And if the Palestinian leadership now and the elected leadership are able to end the incitement to violence, end the violence, end the terror actions and speak out clearly against terror, then Israel will be in a position where it will have to respond to this and have to start taking more steps in the presence of a calmer situation.

I'm pleased right now that both sides seem to be working to create the right conditions for the election. The Palestinians are had at work on security issues, working with the Egyptians. And the Israelis have indicated to the Palestinians- and to me- that they are prepared to be flexible with respect to opening up the towns and villages and cities of the territories so that there can be a campaign, people can get around, people can get around to register and people will have the flexibility of going to their voting places on the 9th of January.

QUESTION: It sounds good maybe Mr. Barghouti be a [inaudible] leader for the Palestinians.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well Mr. Barghouti of course isn't available. He's in jail serving a sentence, and it's not clear what his final position is going to be, as to whether he is a candidate or not. I hear different points of view from Mr. Barghouti's associates every day. Right now he is a candidate, two weeks ago he was not a candidate. So we still have to wait and see what happens between now and the 9th of January.

QUESTION: What about the role of the European Union?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the European Union has always played an important role in supporting the Palestinian people. Political support as well as economic and financial support. Those needs will be greater in the future. And I'm pleased the European Union plays such an important role in the work with the Quartet, along with the United States, the Russian Federation and the United Nations.

QUESTION: Just last question. Please. Just one. Last question. Is about the relations with the European Union, transatlantic relations [inaudible], what about the future?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the future is good. Yes there were some bad weather, we'll put it that way, last year at the time the decision was made to go into Iraq. But now everybody has an interest in seeing that Iraq is put on a stable footing, and it has its elections. And I think we can all come together again to support that. NATO is setting up a training academy in Iraq. The European Union is making its contribution with financial means and other means.

And so the president has made it clear that in a second term, he will be reaching out to Europe and we want Europe to reach out to us. That's why he made his first overseas trip, he's going to be coming to Europe in the very near future. And he's looking forward to that trip, looking forward presenting his positions to his European colleagues and hearing from them.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you. 2004/1319
[End]

Released on December 8, 2004

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