Rice Briefing En Route Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Briefing En Route Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
En Route Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
March 12, 2006
SECRETARY RICE: I want to start by nothing that I saw a number of people in the gym this morning, so people are getting into the spirit. Those of you who weren't in the gym know who you were. (Laughter.) But it was -- you work out hard. I was impressed.
Okay, so we're now on our way to Indonesia. We're taking a rather circuitous route to get there, but I think this is going to be a very important and interesting trip. I'm really looking forward to it. When I was with the President in 2004 in Bali, you could sense the extraordinary nature of this place. It was prior to their presidential elections and it's made even a further leap forward, I think, in its democratic process. If you look at where Indonesia was just a few years ago and the ability now to carry out repeated presidential elections democratically, the tremendous improvement in the relationship concerning the people of Aceh and increasing improvements in the relationship with East Timor, I think this is a state that has really made giant strides over the last several years.
The United States has -- as a result of those changes that are going on, the United States has been able to significantly change the nature of the relationship with Indonesia as well, and everything from the fact that we have now been able to reinstate military-to-military relations, the way that we were able to help the Indonesians in the efforts after the tsunami and the transnational cooperation that we have on everything from counterterrorism where the Indonesians are making a real effort to rid the region -- not just themselves but in cooperation in the region -- of the terrorist threat that has plagued Southeast Asia, all the way to the work that we are now doing on avian flu. I think that this relationship with Indonesia stands right at the heart of our strong efforts at cooperation throughout Southeast Asia.
So I'm very much looking forward to this trip. Indonesia is increasingly a real success story of a place that is stretched across an archipelago that is extraordinary for its distance, the distances that it covers, but where the people of Indonesia seem to be coming together around religious tolerance, ethnic diversity and democracy. And so it's a place that is making real strides forward and I'm looking forward to the trip there.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, as you know, countries in Southeast Asia with significant Muslim populations have a great interest in the Middle East issue, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. In the case of Malaysia, there are more Palestinian than Mal. What is your message going to be to them about the Middle East and have you seen anything in the last couple of weeks to make you feel any more comfortable about what happened with the Palestinian election?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I think this is still a story that's being written after the Palestinian elections and we'll see, I think over the next couple of weeks, what the messages are coming out from the various Palestinian elements.
But the first message that I would have to the Indonesians, who I know and the Southeast Asians who are very interested in this issue, is that democratic elections are a good thing and the Palestinian people are to be congratulated for carrying out those democratic elections. And yes, they had the effect of bringing Hamas to power, but I think it was the Palestinian people voting for change from a government that had not served their interests to hopes for a better future. But that better future has got to include a peaceful resolution of the conflict and that means that the Quartet requirements have got to be met by any governing Palestinian Authority.
The United States remains absolutely committed to a two-state solution. It remains absolutely committed to a better life for the Palestinian people. I'll emphasize that we are looking at ways to even increase our humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people during this period of time, but that there are important choices that the Palestinians are facing concerning the roadmap and the Quartet requirements.
QUESTION: Does Indonesia have input on this issue?
SECRETARY RICE: Indonesia does have input. I remember talking to President Yudhoyono and my counterpart at the APEC meeting just after we'd done the Rafah agreement and they follow these issues very closely and they have influence and so I would ask them to continue to influence those in the Palestinian territories that the choice has to be for peace.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Hamas is trying to form a coalition government right now. They said today that they hope it will be over at the end of a week. Will you ask the Indonesians to help not to get this kind of coalition government?
SECRETARY RICE: Our concern is that whatever government emerges in the Palestinian territories that it's one that commits to the consensus, and it's a consensus that is broad across the international community, including in the Arab and Muslim world, that the roadmap is the way for a better life for the Palestinian people. That's our concern. Whatever government they form needs to make clear to the international community pretty soon that that's going to be the policy of the government.
QUESTION: Last weekend, about 5,000 Muslims demonstrated in the street outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, calling Bush a colonialist and a terrorist and asking for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Does that kind of sentiment complicate your message in places like Indonesia and does the continued U.S. presence in Iraq strengthen the hand of political Islam in places like Indonesia?
SECRETARY RICE: First of all, what that shows is that Indonesia is a vibrant democracy and people can protest and people can speak their minds, and that's something that this President has stood for all over the world. And we don't believe that people should protest only when they have a pro-American or pro-U.S. Administration message. They have that right.
I would hope that those who protest anywhere in the world recognize that what is happening in places like Baghdad and Kabul and Lebanon is that those people now also have a right to speak their minds and to protest. And yes, it's a very difficult situation in Iraq. I understand why as people watch their television screens and the continued violence they worry about, you know, the future of Iraq. But the future of Iraq simply has to be brighter than the past of Iraq in which Saddam Hussein oppressed every group, including Sunnis.
So I recognize that there are people who disagree with what we did in Iraq, but I would hope that they would look forward and encourage the Iraqis to come together around a national unity government that can represent all Iraqis. But no, it doesn't make our diplomacy more difficult to stand for democratic choice for people all over the world.
QUESTION: If I could just jump ahead a little bit to the next stop, what factor --
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. What factor will -- how will China factor into your discussion with the Australians and the Japanese specifically?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, the discussions are with the Japanese and the Australians because we're longtime friends and allies in any number of areas, and with both we have important defense relationships in this region. So that is the core basis, that and our common values, from which we proceed.
Obviously the changing situation in East Asia, China's rise figures in these discussions, and we all have a view that it's our obligation to try and help create conditions in which China's rise is going to be a good thing for the international community, not a bad thing for the international community, that China has incentives to be a responsible actor in international politics.
Now, I think we all look to our relationship to help and promote exactly that outcome. We have good relations with China, we've encouraged better relations between Japan and China, and Australia has good relations with China. So I think we're all pulling in the same direction here, but obviously when you have a factor as large as a rising China and a country that, by the way, is still very much in transition in terms of its own domestic circumstances as we're even seeing now as they debate these issues in the National People's Congress, I think it's a good thing for solid allies to get together and to talk about the future of the region.
QUESTION: If I could change topics, Madame Secretary. On Milosevic, do you feel with his death that justice was cut short at all?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's interesting. I've been listening to a lot of the commentary, including Carla del Ponte this morning and a number of people who were victims of his horrible reign, and I do think there is a sense in which some feel that they wish he had -- that there had been an opportunity to bring him to justice and to have the final verdict of history be in the courts. But I think the final verdict of history about Milosevic is pretty clear: He was one of the most malign forces in Europe in quite a long time, I think undoubtedly responsible for the deaths of many, many, many people and responsible for policies that led ultimately to the breakup of his country and the estrangement of it from -- the estrangement of parts of it from the international system for quite a long time.
The good news is that even on that basis, that malign foundation, good things have started to rise. We want to see and are working with Serbia and Montenegro toward a better future for Serbs. I listened to Javier Solana saying to the Serbian people that they have a future in Europe; they have a European horizon that they should be now moving toward. So yes, perhaps it would have been better, but history is going to move on, times are going to move on, and I think the direction that they're moving in, the direction they're moving toward, is the resolution of these crises in the Balkans and the evolution of the people of the Balkans toward their European identity.
QUESTION: The Indonesian Government would like to have access to Hambali and they're going to bring this up in their discussions with you. What is your response going to be to that request?
And then some human rights groups believe that the United States moved too quickly in terms of restoring full military-to-military contact and that, in fact, you're sort of giving them a free pass.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, on the latter, we had good cooperation in the Timika case which actually led to the arrest and indictment of some people. We have had -- I think the FBI tells us -- excellent cooperation with the Indonesians. And we felt that it was important to reestablish this very critical military-to-military relationship.
Now, it's always kind of a double-edged sword. I think Don Rumsfeld was talking about this in his testimony. You want to be careful not to cut off contacts with the very people who are going to be important to the restoration of democracy in countries. And if you look at the President of Indonesia today, President Yudhoyono, this is somebody who was a graduate of our International Military Education Program, and that just says to you that I think you want to be careful to keep your contacts with the population and with important parts of the population, and most usually a lot of our military education and training is at the lower levels of officer corps where you still have an opportunity to influence the positions and ideas of those people. And so the military is an important institution in Indonesia. It's by no means completely made its reforms, but we believe those reforms are underway and that we can have a more positive effect on those reforms by being connected to it.
On Hambali, we are cooperating with the Indonesian Government on this issue and I will seek to continue that cooperation.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, could I ask a question about democracy promotion? Among other things, the Administration has certainly prompted a lively debate in the United States on this issue and some of the dissenters, if you will, say it's not that they're against democracy but that in societies that lack civil institutions democracy will produce distorted results. I wonder if you find that it's now difficult to address those issues in the United States whether you -- because of -- I wonder if you could address those issues among critics or dissenters in the United States, and what do you feel about this debate?
SECRETARY RICE: You're right, there is a debate, and I think it's a debate that's healthy because this is obviously a really big change in American foreign policy to put the promotion and securance of democracy at the center of it in the way that the President did in his Second Inaugural. And it just shows, I think, that it matters and that people take very seriously what this President is doing and intends to do.
I have to say just as an analytic matter I don't quite understand how you get the development of civil society and the habits of democracy under practices of authoritarianism. I witness our difficulties even in places that are -- where I think you could say that you don't yet have full democracy but trying to get civil society recognized and established. You know we've had our problems with Russia on this issue, the NGO law. We've had our problems in Egypt with this issue.
There's an assumption here that somehow you can neatly build civil society, neatly build the habits of democracy, then you take off the authoritarian hat and everything's in place for democracy to rise. I just don't think it works that way in the real world. Rather, I think what you see is that you have to unleash the forces of democratic change -- that's very often through elections -- recognizing that you may not fully have in place the institutions to create the kind of moderate states in the middle that you would like, but you have to unleash those forces and then you have to work very hard to continue to build those institutions of civil society.
We're working both ends of it. In places that are still authoritarian, even a place as authoritarian as Belarus, we are working with people to build party structures, people to build nongovernmental organizations, and to say to the Belarusians, okay, that means now, you know, in 2010 or 2015 maybe you'll be ready to hold an election if these nice structures come into place before you hold your elections. I think in the real world it just doesn't work that way. It's going to be a kind of iterative process between the practices of democracy like elections and freer press and freeing people to speak their minds, the development of those institutions. It's going to go back and forth. And yes, there are going to be some outcomes that we don't like. But to assume that you simply therefore keep pent up people's desire to have a say in their future, I think it's just -- it just doesn't work. It works in theory, perhaps. Doesn't work in practice.
QUESTION: Apparently, the Iranians have said today that they completed rejected outright the Russian proposal. I just wondered whether you had any comment on that. And also, there seems to be a movement towards having discussions among the P-5 in Vienna, or that's the discussion among ambassadors in Vienna.
SECRETARY RICE: I think the discussions are now in New York and that the understanding when we were in London was that after March 6th to 8th we would go to New York, and so we're in New York and those discussions are taking place in New York.
As to the Iranian rejection of the Russian proposal, you know, I don't think it was surprising. I think the Iranians have said a number of times they were interested, they were interested, but they've really never demonstrated that they were interested in the Russian proposal as the Russians had actually put it forward. And so I don't think it's a great surprise.
QUESTION: Thank you. On ASEAN, what is your grand strategy to strengthen relationship with whole ASEAN? I mean, there is some perception or image that in Southeast Asia that they have not got enough attention from United States. And could this trip to Indonesia be a major opportunity for United States to strengthen the relation with ASEAN?
SECRETARY RICE: In the last year, the President has met with ASEAN, I've met with ASEAN, I've met with ASEAN officials in Washington. We've developed within ASEAN an approach on the avian flu pandemic. We have worked with ASEAN on issues of trade. I think the agenda with -- and issues of security. I think the agenda with ASEAN is full and active and we're going to continue to do that. It's a very important organization and we take it very seriously. But the United States has been extremely active with ASEAN and in the Asia Pacific region more generally. I think this is my fourth trip to the Asia Pacific region as Secretary, so I think we're very active with the organization. 2006/T8-3
Released on March 13, 2006