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Burns: Remarks to the International Crisis Group

Remarks to the International Crisis Group

R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
April 1, 2005

(5:50 p.m. EDT)

I want to welcome all of you to the State Department, and for those of you who are not American, to the United States. And on behalf of our Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, I want to thank you all for being here. She had a chance to talk with the members of the International Crisis Group earlier today. I thought it was a good session. She had a chance to hear from you as well and she asked me to convey her thanks to all of you for that. I want to welcome my friend, Les Gelb. You're going to hear from him in a minute. Chris Patten, Lord Patten is here, and my very good friend, Gareth Evans is here as well.

I have just spent the last eight years of my life as an American diplomat in Europe, the last four of which were in Brussels. Gareth and I lived in the same city, became good friends. I developed a real appreciation for what the International Crisis Group stands for and what it does around the world. And I think if I look back at my own career, going back 25 years, probably the biggest change in the way that we conduct foreign policy is the rise in influence of nongovernmental organizations as important actors in the international arena.

I think from an American perspective, given what we're trying to do in Kosovo, in Bosnia, in Afghanistan and Iraq, there's probably no better example of collaboration that we've had, and sometimes we agree and sometimes we disagree, but the collaboration we've had with the International Crisis Group. I want to thank Gareth especially for all the cooperation. I have great respect for him.

I don't want to give you a speech. I know that you have spent today listening to Secretary Rice and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. I thought I should say a few words about how Secretary Rice and our Administration are approaching issues of interest to you and to what you've been doing around the world. I know Ambassador Levitte is here. I want to welcome Jean-David Levitte, my friend from France.

We have had a turbulent last few years in the transatlantic relationship and many of us in this room have participated in many of those events. But I think if you look back at our President's trip to Europe in mid-February and his meetings with President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder and President Putin, and with the NATO and EU leadership, and if you look at some of the events since then, I think there is reason to be optimistic that we're facing forward in the transatlantic relationship, as we face these very important challenges in the greater Middle East, in the Balkans, in Afghanistan and beyond.

And if you think of what we were able to accomplish in that February summit and what has happened since then, the United States has decided to support the efforts of France, Germany and Britain as they engage Iran to try to make sure that Iran does not become a nuclear power. All of us agree on that objective. But now the United States is lending diplomatic support to that effort.

I think on the Middle East peace negotiations, which is an abiding concern of our President and of Secretary Rice, we have excellent collaboration with our European partners.

Last evening, in New York at the United Nations Security Council, the United States was able, after many days of negotiations with France and Britain and other countries, to abstain on a resolution, a resolution by the Government of France, that allows the International Criminal Court now to become the court of jurisdiction for those people who should be tried for atrocities and war crimes committed in Sudan.

We've had three resolutions pass in New York over the last week, two sponsored by my country: one to establish a UN peacekeeping force in Sudan; another to impose a sanctions regime on the parties to the conflict should that be necessary; and a third proposed by the French Government that will now provide an international mechanism for the very first time and allow the international community to speak with one voice for justice in Sudan.

We've had a very good week in the United Nations and we've seen developments in the United Nations that point the way forward for the necessity of reform to strengthen the United Nations, and our Administration is committed to that. Look beyond that to Kosovo and to Bosnia. The very first question that Secretary Rice received today from Les Gelb was about the Balkans. And the question was: Is the United States Government committed to finish the job that people like Dick Holbrooke, who's with us, started so well, Bernard Kouchner, who is not here, but others did so well on in the 1990s?

And the answer is yes, and I think you'll see when the Kosovo Contact Group meets in London in four days time, a united European and American position that we ought to use 2005 as a year to make progress on Kosovo as we review how the Kosovars have done on the standards that have been established by the United Nations and as we point the way forward towards the eventual objective of final status negotiations, I could go on and on. I could tell you, based on my recent experience at NATO, I think how well NATO has done to come to an agreement to band together in Afghanistan to become the centerpiece peacekeeping organization, as it will be for many years to come.

And we hope now in Iraq to get to the most difficult issue, that after January 30th the abiding question that you ask in your group and that we ask in government will not be to debate what happened two years ago, but to face forward and to be determined that all of us have a stake in the success of a new Iraqi Government on the ground in Iraq itself.

So, we are -- if you look at those issues, if you look at the challenges in the Great Lakes region of Africa, if you look at the Zimbabwean elections that were held yesterday and the promise, we hope, of a democratic future for Zimbabwe, the issue of North Korea that we've talked about today with the International Crisis Group, we have an amazing array of challenges before us. But I have a very palpable sense that the transatlantic community is increasingly united, not perfectly aligned, but increasingly united to face those concerns. And I thought I should say that to a group that is not exclusively, of course, European or American, but since Europe and America need to be aligned to be effective in our orientation in the Asia Pacific region, in South Asia, in Latin America, the Middle East or Africa. I think that our Administration starts this second term with a reasonable degree of confidence that we can move ahead in these very difficult issues.

And I guess I'd just circle back to say we want to have a continuing association with the International Crisis Group. It's very important for us to have the injection of ideas and creativity from the nongovernmental sector and we get that from your group. And as I said before, we don't always agree and sometimes we disagree violently on these issues, but we respect your role and we appreciate it and we look forward to future collaboration.

The last thing I'll say before I hand off this microphone to Les is to ask Ambassador Carlos Pascual just to raise his hand so you all see him -- and there he is right in the back. Ambassador Pascual was an outstanding Ambassador of the United States to Ukraine for President Clinton and President Bush. He's now the very first coordinator for the United States Government for our Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization. It became abundantly clear to the Congress of the United States, to Senator Lugar and Senator Biden and others, but also to President Bush and Secretary Rice, Secretary Powell before her, that in addition to a great diplomatic corps, in addition to our military power, we need to have one part of our government focusing on what happens after the military intervention has been effected. How can we best put forward the energies and resources of the United States Government to work with other governments, the United Nations and the NGO community to rebuild countries that have been torn apart by warfare?

And Carlos is leading an office which has the strongest possible support from Condi Rice to build a capacity in the United States Government, drawing on multiple agencies to be ready to inject a civilian corps of people to work alongside NGOs, the United Nations or our military or other militaries to bring about stabilization and reconstruction. I just wanted to point him out to you. I hope you'll talk to him this evening about what he's doing. He sponsored, with the U.S. Institute of Peace last week, a great conference where we convened the NGO community in Washington and New York and he presented his views on how he's trying to establish himself. But I think he and I both realize that he cannot succeed, we cannot succeed in his endeavor without the support of the NGO community. So I wanted to give him some free advertising in saying that.

Let me just conclude by welcoming you, again, to the Ben Franklin Room, to the State Department. I haven't had a chance to get around to meet everybody. I'll try to do that after I stop speaking. It's a pleasure to have you with us. I think it's been a good day and we look forward to continuing good work with your organization.

And now, it's a great pleasure to introduce someone who doesn't need an introduction to this group, but an esteemed former colleague and someone we respect very much, Les Gelb.

(Applause.)

ENDS

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