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Daniel Fried Press Roundtable in Berlin

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs

Berlin, Germany
November 14, 2005

Robert Wood: Welcome this morning. We have of course, as I think many of you know, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Dan Fried. The Assistant Secretary will make some opening remarks and then take your questions. And, if you wouldn't mind, before asking your questions, if could identify yourself and your news organization, it would be greatly appreciated. I'll turn it over to Mr. Fried.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Good morning and, again, my thanks for coming out and my apologies for the ghastly hour. I've come to Germany -- or came to Germany -- last night from Bahrain, where I participated with Secretary Rice and the German representation, Klaus Schariot, and others in the "Forum for the Future," which is an effort by Americans, Europeans, to work with and support reform and reformers in the broader Middle East. I've come to Germany as your new government is taking shape and as the coalition agreement is now agreed -- if not, I gather, yet to be adopted by the two coalition parties, to have preliminary discussions with the incoming team and talk about the prospects for the German-American partnership in the future, in the coming period.

The United States has made it clear since President Bush's reelection -- before then, but very emphatically since then, that the United States wants to work in common purpose with a strong European partner -- Europe in general, Europe as such -- the European Union, and Germany in particular. The U.S.-European partnership is much more effective if the German-American partnership is active and productive, and it is that partnership I am here to encourage and discuss with some of my counterparts in the course of the day.

I have not read the full coalition agreement, but one passage in the agreement has been pointed out to me and struck me as very good news indeed: The coalition agreement says, and I'm not quoting but paraphrasing, Europe and the United States should be partners, not counterweights. It doesn't mean that partners always agree, but it does mean that the purpose of a partnership is to find common action based on common assessments, not to look over our shoulders at each other constantly. I think that that is excellent news, that that kind of language in the coalition agreement is very good news for the American-European partnership, for the American-German partnership, and it corresponds exactly to our view that Europe and the United States need to be strong partners.

Now, what is the content of this partnership, what are the United States and Europe, the United States and Germany doing with our partnership? In the political and security partnership there are two major directions. One is in the world at large, and in particular in the broader Middle East and its constituent problems -- whether Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel-Palestinian issues, Syria, Lebanon, and reform throughout that region. The United States and Europe have a responsibility to work together in common purpose for security, for reform, for the settlement of regional conflicts, working with partner governments and civil society in the region.

A second major direction of our partnership should be along what can be called Europe's frontiers of freedom, that is the Balkans, eastern Europe, the south Caucuses -- working with Russia wherever we can in cooperation and partnership -- and together to promote freedom, security, and development of these countries, so that Europe's "new neighborhood," as the European Union puts it, Europe's new neighborhood develops in peace and security, and in growing freedom.

We have a huge agenda, we and Germany, the United States and Europe, but it is an agenda which is outward-looking and positive, and it is my hope that Europe and Germany will be outwardly focused as well, good partners with the United States which, for our part, will be a good partner to Germany. So let me stop there with that outline and I'm happy to take all of your questions.

Question: My name is Rüdiger Moniac. I'm a freelancer here in Berlin and editor of Loyal, a monthly Bundeswehr magazine focusing on security and defense issues. Mr. Fried, after being very abstract in starting this morning, can you tell us please who are the persons you are meeting today, and then we can probably ask more questions after this?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, I thought Germans appreciated a start from principles and abstractions anyway (laughter) and I thought we Americans had been accused of being excessively operational without principles at all, so I was trying to show my sensitivity to European concerns. But, in any event, I'm going to see of course my old friend and colleague Michael Schäfer. I'm seeing my old friend Klaus Schariot. I had breakfast with Mr. Friedrich Pflüger. I'm doing a roundtable at the Aspen Institute. Wolfgang Schäuble later this morning, and then this evening I'm going off to Vienna for a conference. So, a good set of programs; of course I miss some of the Social Democratic leaders, certainly not by my choice but by unhappy collision of timing; alas, I would have been happy to, but of course Klaus Schariot and Michael Schäfer, although not political themselves, have been working in the previous government, so that will partly suffice. It's just the timing with the SPD party meeting today.

Question: If I may ask a follow-up question. What are the concrete expectations of the U.S. government -- you mentioned Afghanistan and Iraq -- what can Germany do?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, we'll be discussing the way ahead, how it looks. The United States certainly does not expect Germany to send in combat troops to Iraq, that is not the issue. The issue is what Germany can do to help the Iraqi people as their political process, as their democratic political process advances. The way ahead in Iraq -- and this is true no matter what position one has about the decision to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003 -- the way ahead in Iraq needs to be a political way ahead, where the Iraqis and their democratic institutions gain strength, the government deepens and broadens its support with Iraqi society, and, as that take places, and as Iraqi security capacity grows, the insurgency -- and we've got a good idea, a clearer and clearer idea of just what these people are -- will become more and more isolated. The strategy, as Secretary Rice put it, is "clear, hold, and build" -- clear the insurgent strongholds, hold the ground you've taken with Iraqis, and build the institutions of the future Iraq. And we hope Germany will be able to participate even more than it has.

In Afghanistan, NATO is taking over more and more of the security responsibilities in the country, that is, the security responsibilities that are the problems, for now, of non-Afghans. Germany is playing major role, with over 2,000 troops in the country. We very much appreciate that, and Germany is both in ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom), which should not be forgotten. And NATO needs to do what it has offered to do, which is to expand its security presence. Now this is going to take greater capacity; it's going to take more coordination of the various contingents, and better coordination between ISAF and OEF, not a merger, but a kind of linkage and coordination between the two of them. We've understood the German position that merger is difficult and we've managed a solution that takes into account German views. I expect we will be discussing Iran, especially with Michael Schäfer; I imagine that we will be discussing questions of Belarus in particular, because this has been called Europe's last dictatorship; it is on the borders of the European Union; it's a place where, increasingly and sadly, Soviet levels of political repression are becoming more and more apparent. This is a tragedy for the Belarusian people, and Europe and the United have a responsibility to do what they can to help. So I expect a very good set of discussions. All right, I hope that was specific enough (laughter)? I could go on, but, in mercy, I will not try.

Question: Andreas Rinke from Handelsblatt. I want to continue with two other subjects. One is China. Is that a topic you will be talking about as well, because one of the problems between especially Germany, or the German chancellor, and the U.S. was the arms embargo? Since you mentioned that in the coalition treaty there is maybe new wording, partners not counterweight. Is that the attempt of the American government to form a common strategy toward this emerging superpower?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, I think in general, the United States and Europe should consult intensively on every strategic question in the world today, and wherever we can we should develop common assessments, and, on the basis of those common assessments, decide how we can act together in common purpose. The United States and Europe together constitute a critical mass of democracy, economic strength and power, but it is based on common values and common purposes. If we have the ability to help advance freedom, security, and prosperity in the world, then we also have the responsibility to do so.

With respect to China, I do not expect that the arms embargo will dominate discussions; I think that quarrel was an unnecessary one because we ended up quarrelling about tactics without having had a common strategic assessment of China and a discussion of our common purposes. And if you have first a strategic discussion and a serious one, then the tactical questions are much easier to resolve because you're proceeding from a common assessment of the issue. We have indeed launched a U.S.-Europe dialogue about Asia, including China; it held its first session in May, its second session was earlier this month. It will continue, and it is very useful. I don't expect my discussions today will be dominated by the arms embargo, because very largely we've put that aside in favor of concentration on the critical issues, which is how can we encourage the develop of China in a responsible direction in the 21st century.

Question: My second question was Syria. European countries like France seem to be willing to put more pressure on the Syrian president. Is that a topic which you are going to discuss with your German counterparts, and is there a special role which Germany could play?

Assistant Secretary Fried: I expect Syria will come up. It's good to take stock of where we are. Certainly, the success we have had in focusing the world's attention on Syrian interference in Lebanon and the success we've had in getting Syria to remove at least its overt military presence in Lebanon has been a testament to the power of the United States and Europe when they act together; and, in this context, a great deal of credit is due to the French. I think the image in the world of the United States and France working so closely together came as a surprise to some and certainly to the Syrians. But the effect proves the point, that when the United States and Europe act in common purpose, it is extremely powerful.

Question: Peter Blechschmidt, Süddeutsche Zeitung. I would like to ask for some more specifics regarding the German participation in helping develop democracy and freedom in Iraq. Could you give us some more concrete ideas of what you expect the Germans to do?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, I think it's a poor practice in general to discuss specifics with the press before I've had an opportunity to discuss them with my German colleagues; so let me decline to go into the specifics, but let me say that we hope Germany will be able to continue the direction it has gone and do even more to support the Iraqi government and the emerging democratic institutions in Iraq generally. There are various channels in which German support can be made. It's also important to remove, if I can put it this way, the asterisk from the *Iraqi* government. There are many Europeans who, because of their disagreement over the way in which Saddam Hussein was removed, continue to cast doubts about or at least act is if there is a shadow on the new Iraqi government. That government has been elected democratically. The people of Iraq have adopted a new constitution, they have made provisions for further revision of that constitution; it is one of the most democratic; in terms of democratic legitimacy, this is one of the most democratically constituted anywhere in the region, and it should not be treated as a pariah, and its leaders should not be treated as if they are second-class citizens. Now, I'm not accusing Germany of doing so, but there is nevertheless a kind of asterisk often put near Iraq and the government and that needs to be removed. Again, without prejudice to the different views some Europeans have and had about 2003, it is now almost 2006, and no one will conclude that, if Germany enthusiastically supports the development of democratic Iraqi government, that it somehow means you are retrospectively changing your position about 2003. No one expects that of Germany, but the Iraqi people deserve support, considering what they are up against and what they are going through.

Question: Louis Charbonneau, Reuters News Agency. I wanted to go back to one issue, that at your meeting with Michael Schäfer you will be discussing Iran -- and we've got the IAEA board of governors meeting coming up, and just over the weekend there was quite a bit of discussion coming out of Iran, reports of this potential deal in whatever form, or call it an idea of something that could be done, which Iran came out and quickly rejected, while also denying that it existed. The Iranians have been putting out a lot of bluster over the last few weeks, so that's one issue, and it's a top foreign policy issue for the Germans as well as for the Americans. So, what do you hope will come out of the IAEA board meeting as you discuss this with the Germans? Second issue is terrorism, which is also top of the foreign policy agenda for the Germans, and will you be discussing that?

Assistant Secretary Fried: With respect to Iran, it is important that Iran meet or be met with solidarity in the world and particularly the democratic world with respect to its nuclear weapons and with respect to its general posture in the world. Ahmedinejad's enthusiastic call for the destruction and eradication of Israel should certainly frighten anyone as we contemplate the prospect of a nuclear-weapons-armed Iran. The people of Iran deserve better than that. And, by the way, too often we use the phrase "the Iranian problem" or "the danger from Iran." Well, it is a problem of this particular government and this regime. What Iranian society thinks -- what the people of Iran think -- I couldn't say, because I don't think they have had a chance to express themselves. I don't want to get into the specifics of what we expect out of the IAEA board of governors, but we have -- the United States and Europe -- have to be prepared to make known the strength of our view that Iran not be allowed to continue its search for and its program of developing a nuclear weapon, and that the world needs to act with strength and consistency in this regard, and not be thrown by bluster, threats, bluff, or truly chilling calls for the destruction of Israel.

With respect to terrorism, I am not myself an expert on terrorism and technical discussions between intelligence officials, law enforcement officials about various programs are continuing and should continue. But, in this context, I should mention the Bahrain meeting of the "Forum for the Future." Germany had a major role in launching this initiative, and I'm thinking of Foreign Minister Fischer's speech at Wehrkunde in 2004, where he called for efforts to support reform and democracy in this region. Terrorism is, as has been pointed out, an expression of an ideology, and it is the action of an ideology, it does not exist in a vacuum. Terrorism is not content-free. The content and the political objectives of the terrorists are as abhorrent as their methods. Fighting terrorism requires of course intelligence, law enforcement; it requires us to go after the terrorists, but it requires more than that. It requires the world to work for reform and with reformers in the region so that this ideology is not allowed to stand, nor is this ideology allowed to speak for the region. There are voices in the broader Middle East demanding reform. Civil society representatives were present in force in Bahrain. They are voices of liberalism in the region; they should not be regarded as marginal or somehow inauthentic or unrepresentative. They are voices who express political values similar to ours, although democracy in that part of the world, when it comes, may look as different as democracy in Taiwan or South Korea, and yet it is democracy. It is our obligation to work for this, and the Bahrain "Forum for the Future" meeting did launch two very important initiatives: the Foundation for the Future, which is going to provide support and funding for civil society in the region, and the Fund for the Future, which will support entrepreneurialism in the region. Both of those were launched, and we hope for greater German support for both of them. Specific enough, I trust?

Question: Yes. You talked about China, Syria, Iran. There's another country of common interest to the U.S. and Germany, and there might come up a change regarding this relationship -- to Turkey. In the coalition paper, you read about privileged relations rather than privileged status for Turkey. Is that okay with the U.S., because the U.S. all the years promoted closer ties between the EU and Turkey, and you probably still do. And another question would be, coming back to the security meeting in Munich this year, there was quite a bit of talk about where to consult closer, where to consult more between the U.S. and the rest of NATO, and really consult rather than just taking orders from the United States. So where should that happen?

Assistant Secretary Fried: To answer your second Question: First of all, NATO itself is the principle institution of the transatlantic community. It's the institution to which the United States belongs, and we do agree that NATO's role as a consultative mechanism should be strengthened, and, in fact, that isn't simply talk. In the past six or eight months, we've started to use NATO more as a vehicle for consultations. We've sent senior officials over to NATO to discuss issues that were not up for immediate operational decision. Our purpose was to discuss critical issues in the NATO forum to help build the basis for common decisions later on if those become necessary. So NATO is one vehicle that we should make more use of. But there are other vehicles, as you say. We want to use the U.S.-EU channel; we want to also use less formal channels. Secretary Rice met in a very informal session in a lunch in New York with her counterparts from Europe -- EU members, NATO members, and, I believe, Switzerland. It's a very useful discussion. It's a very useful informal, non-institutional format, and we hope that that continues. During the period of the Cold War -- the classic period of U.S.-European harmony often trotted out now as a golden age -- Wehrkunde played an important role; I don't doubt that it will, as well, as well as various informal institutions.

What was the first question?

Question: About Turkey.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Turkey, yes. The European Union made a decision to begin accession negotiations with Turkey. The goal of those accession negotiations was accession. That's the European Union decision. It was made. We supported it, we continue to support it. We also recognize that these negotiations will take some time, they will take years. The Turks know this, the Europeans know this, we know this. So there is not much point in having a debate, or continuing the debate, about membership of privileged partnership. The membership negotiations have begun, let them proceed, and I suspect that when the debate in Europe resumes, when these negotiations have developed, the debate will have changed its character because Turkey will have, I trust, continued its reforms, its democratic evolution and its economic development; and so the question of Turkey's membership in the EU, its relationship with the EU, will be seen in a different light. So there is no sense in obsessing about minor word differences. The EU made its decision, we support that decision, and now is it up to the Turks, and they're in negotiations with the European Union, to make progress. We hope they do.

Question: Ambassador Fried, my name's Craig Whitlock, with the Washington Post here in Berlin. I want to follow up on some of your comments about terrorism. As you may know, there has been an increasing level of discomfort as of late in Europe with some of the tactics and methods the United States has used in the war on terrorism. There's a German prosecutor who's been investigating the alleged rendition of a German citizen from the Balkans to Afghanistan. A few days ago, Italian prosecutors from Milan filed extradition requests for 22 CIA operatives involved in kidnapping in (inaudible), and in the last couple of weeks there have been a number of (inaudible) in Europe, including the Council of Europe, who have said they're going to investigate reports of the CIA operating secret jails for terrorism suspects in eastern Europe. What sort of response have you been hearing from your European allies in regards to the U.S. methods like these in the war on terrorism? Are you hearing a lot of complaints, and is this affecting relations in terms of security methods and tactics in the war on terrorism?

Assistant Secretary Fried: I have not heard a great deal from my European colleagues. I'm aware of course of the press reports. I'm not going to discuss the allegations either way. It is true that these issues are debated in Europe; they are debated in the United States. The recent terrorist bombings in Amman, Jordan -- the suicide bombings of the hotels -- remind us, as if we needed reminding, of the kind of terrorist enemy we face. I suppose I'm glad I live in a country where these issues are debated. We act, the United States acts, and will act, consistent with the law and with international norms. These are difficult issues; it is a difficult enemy we're fighting. I wish that we didn't face an enemy that obeys no rules, but we do have rules to obey and we will obey them.

Question: But isn't it a little confusing that it needs an initiative of a Senator to maintain those rules? I mean, it's discussed here quite a bit, at least in the public, the problem of maintaining the common values -- the rules, the rules of law, the international conventions. There are doubts, increasing doubts, that America couldn't care less about it.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, we care very much both about international law and about our own laws with respect to the treatment of detainees. These are issues that we are working through in the United States, and, as I said, I'm glad I live in a country where these issues are debated. Any American government has an obligation to protect the American people from terrorists who kill as many and as brutally as they could possibly manage. This is a real world challenge, not an abstract one. Nevertheless, as President Bush said, we act in ways consistent with international law, and, as the struggle develops, we will continue to look at the best course of action.

Question: Ambassador, with all due respect, I guess that (inaudible) the argument here in Europe is that the U.S. does not act in accordance with international law, as evidenced by a number of these investigations going on. You know, when these prosecutors and governments here say, look, we have concerns that you're not adhering to these values and democratic principles that we hold in common, what is your response?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, when they ask us, we often have good discussions about this. But, as I said, I've not been approached by European governments with respect to this latest spate of press stories. These issues are debated. I remember the debate in Germany in the 1970s, when Germany was facing domestic terrorism. That seemed very dangerous at the time. In retrospect, well .... We have good exchanges and we're always open to discussing these issues with our German colleagues or anyone else, any of our friends who asks.

Question: Another try to get more specifics, going back to ...

Assistant Secretary Fried: Oh, I thought I was doing so well ...

Question: ... going back to Afghanistan. I got that right that you are no longer pursuing your aim of merging OES and ISAF, but you want to have better coordination. Could you specify how this could be worked out?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, we understood some time ago that Germany had trouble with a complete merger, for constitutional reasons, and we've been working toward a kind of linkage in the command structure between ISAF and OEF which would achieve both the purposes of closer coordination, greater efficiency -- especially as ISAF expands into the south and the east -- as well as respecting German constitutional and other sensitivities, and we think we've made good progress. This is an issue that NATO has worked carefully over a long time -- that is months -- and for which there is a high degree of consensus. So linking, not merging, is the buzzword, and command arrangements are being worked out.

Question: What does that specifically mean, linkage?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Oh it means that command arrangements will be made so that the command structure for OEF and the command structure for ISAF are linked up rather than being completely separate and stove-piped, so there will be much better coordination.

Question: Does it mean a commander with two hats?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, it could, that's right. The details will be worked out and agreed, but we've made good progress in ways that satisfy, I think, everyone's fair interests.

Question: Just to clarify, that means one commander for both forces?

Assistant Secretary Fried: No, not necessarily. You could have a linkage at different levels, like deputy commanders.

Question: May I follow up on that one as well? Is the decision made on the NATO defense ministerial on November 21st?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, we'll see. I don't want to get too specific about decisions that haven't been made, but this is proceeding pretty well.

Question: Steve Graham, from AP. On Iran, would you be surprised to hear any repetition from the German government of some of the statements made by the outgoing German government that anything other than a negotiated solution is out of the question in Iran?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, the point should not be to debate among ourselves and to negotiate with ourselves. I remember in February, last February, when President Bush was in Brussels, when he talked about the need to be very clear and send clear messages to Iran. There was an immediate nervous buzz in the European press, particularly the German press, that the United States contemplated a military solution. That really does -- that did -- and similar concerns rather miss the point. The point is that the Iranian government is a problem in the way it has approached this issue and the way it supports terrorism in the Middle East -- the way it seeks to undermine efforts to make Palestinian-Israeli peace. Iran is not a helpful force in the region, and Europe and the United States need to work together to send clear messages to Iran. We shouldn't be negotiating with ourselves, or looking nervously over our shoulders at each other. Any progress we've made in Iran in the past year has come precisely because we have been working more together and looking less over our shoulders at one another.

Question: Could I possibly follow up with just one more? What's the latest state of evidence that suggests that Iran is actively supplying technology, weapons, to the insurgency in Iraq, particularly with this debate about (inaudible). Coalition forces then face the more sophisticated suicide bombs, etc?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Oh that, I don't know enough about that to comment specifically, about the transfers; so, with your permission, I will duck, since I like to handle specifics only when I know specifics. Well, thank you very much.

ENDS


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