Rice Print Roundtable With Greek Journalists
Print Roundtable With Greek Journalists
April 25, 2006
SECRETARY RICE: So we can just start with whatever is on your minds. I don't need to make any statement.
QUESTION: I think I will start it then.
SECRETARY RICE: All right, great.
QUESTION: Okay, we'll start with, actually, I think Iran dominates, actually, I think, and you're arriving in a quite crucial moment in Greece. On the 28th, the date set for the Security Council expires. So my question is: Do you think that it's time for diplomacy runs out, what's next?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the time for diplomacy has certainly not run out. We have many other diplomatic steps ahead of us. In fact, we are in a different phase of the diplomacy because we're in the Security Council now. Greece is, of course, a responsible member and will have therefore an extremely important voice in this next phase.
I would hope that Iran would reconsider its position because it is very clear that the international community is prepared to see Iran have civil nuclear power. That's not the issue. The Russians have offered an arrangement. The Europeans have offered arrangements.
The one thing that cannot be done is to allow Iran to have the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon, so enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian territory is not possible. But there is a very good path there for Iran if it chooses to take it. If it does not choose to take it, then I think in the Security Council we will have to look at what action to take because there will have to be credibility to the statement that was made a month ago.
QUESTION: So you think it's possible to get a decision in the Security Council?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I do think it's possible to get a decision. The Iranians have thus far not demonstrated any willingness to accept the direction, the will, of the international community. And I was saying to someone yesterday, this is not American policy; this is the policy of the Security Council, the United Nations Security Council. And so Iran needs to adhere to that. But I think if we don't have adherence, we will get some decision in the Security Council. I can't begin to predict precisely what the Security Council will choose to do, but I'm quite certain it will choose to do something.
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, let's take the worst case scenario that you don't have a decision in the Security Council, that Iran is not flexible; and since you're not only in Greece, you're, let's say, in the wider area of Middle East or the Balkans, you're going to Turkey, you're going to a meeting in Sofia with your NATO colleagues. Would you rule out any possibility of a conflict?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, the President has made very clear that he doesn't take any option off the table, but he's also made very clear that there is -- that we're on a diplomatic course here and that that's what we believe will work.
It requires the international community to remain firm. That it does require. It requires the Iranians to recognize that there is no other course but to accept the will of the international community. In order to do that, the international community has to remain united.
But I do think that if the community remains united Iran will not have other options at its disposal. It is not a country --
QUESTION: That's a good case scenario.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's the -- I think it's the most realistic case scenario and I'll tell you why. Iran is not like North Korea, where the isolation is almost self-imposed. Iran is a country that is accustomed to diplomatic relations with most countries -- not with us but with most of the world; to travel for its leadership and for its people; for trade with the rest of the world. And what Iran is doing is it's risking -- the regime is risking isolation and an end to that kind of interchange with the international community. I don't believe that the Iranian regime can sustain that kind of isolation and so I suspect -- and the other thing is that the Security Council is the most important forum. It is true that others are considering what else might be done on the financial and economic side.
Again, I think we all -- and let me just go to the bottom line. Iran is not Iraq. This is a very different set of circumstances. We were in a state of hostilities with Iraq for 12 years after the end of the Gulf War. The Iraqis were practically every day shooting at American and British planes as they tried to patrol the no-fly zone. This was a different situation. But in Iraq, we did not over that 12 years maintain international unity. That's what we have to strive to do in Iran.
QUESTION: So at the end of the day, you don't have in mind any coalition of the willing to respond (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, coalitions of the willing are entirely possible. But let me --
SECRETARY RICE: It's a means. But let me be very clear. Coalition of the willing does not mean coalition of the willing to use military force. Coalition of the willing can mean that if, in fact, we cannot achieve reasonable steps in the Security Council to bring greater pressure on Iran, perhaps there are states that will wish to do that. But the only reason that I hesitate to use the word "coalition of the willing" is that people have in mind a certain thing.
SECRETARY RICE: Right. They mean the -- but a coalition of the willing is active in the North Korea -- that coalition of the willing is six parties that are involved there. And so it is entirely possible that if we cannot work within the Security Council, and I still think we can, that there are other options, diplomatic options, available.
QUESTION: Well, is my country part of the coalition of the willing?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the most important thing that Greece is, is Greece is a member of the Security Council and --
SECRETARY RICE: Right.
QUESTION: It's also one of your colleagues.
SECRETARY RICE: It's one of our close allies. It's a NATO member. And --
SECRETARY RICE: A strategic partner, member of the EU. I mean, all of these are elements of the relationship between Greece and the United States. But I think it's too early to say that we will not achieve what we need to achieve within the Security Council because the Iranians continue to use language and to make speeches -- Ahmadi-Nejad did yesterday make a speech -- all of which continued to deepen Iran's isolation and to make the world wonder what is it that they are up to if this is the way that they are behaving.
QUESTION: You've just told that it's too early, but it seems to me the case of Iran that we have a risky game with time. Do you intend to put a deadline of some kind to Iranian regime to end all its programs?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's a very good point because, unfortunately, I think we can never know for certain what the state of Iranian nuclear programs really is. And usually in history we have tended to predict on the short side, meaning that we have tended to think that the programs were not as developed as they were. It was the case with the Soviet bomb, with the Indian program, with the Chinese program and the first time with Iraq.
And so you're right, there isn't any time to waste in a sense. But I also think that there is time to have the international community act and act in a very consistent fashion. But we're going to have to move along. It's not something that can go years in the Security Council.
QUESTION: A question (inaudible) from the former Soviet Union to the Western Europe. I believe that the American Administration does not promote monopolistic situation and the import of natural gas from Azerbaijan, for instance, would be considered under a positive light from the Administration. Is it true?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, in fact, we would favor very much for Europe as well as for ourselves the diversification both of supply and of type of energy. The fact is that the kind of search for energy based on hydrocarbons -- oil and gas -- has gotten to be very intense over the last several years and it has had an effect of distorting some aspects of international relations as well. I do not think that anyone wants to be in a position of having a monopolistic supplier of energy and so we are encouraging -- and we don't have to do much to encourage, this is a huge topic in the European Union, it was just a topic in the IMF meetings, the G-7 meetings. Everybody understands that diversification of supply is important. Azerbaijan is one source. I know that there are also discussions about alternative gas pipelines that may link Turkey and Greece for generation capability. These are all very good efforts and should be pursued.
QUESTION: You're going to have some talks here in Greece and I suppose mainly on Iran, then you're traveling to Turkey. This is an issue very high on the agenda in Turkey also in a much different way. Turkey is not a member of the Security Council, actually, but it holds frontiers with Iran and, frankly, Turkey's Government has a lot of difficulty to deal with this issue because the public opinion in Turkey reacts very much in the possibility of taking action against Iran. How do you plan to deal with this in Turkey?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, in Turkey, I will have, I think, the same conversation that we've been having around the world. But you do make an important distinction. Greece is a member of the Security Council and will very soon have to make decisions in that regard. But I know that the Turks understand that they, of course, are bound by the decisions of the Security Council. And again, let me underscore that the policy line that we are currently on, one that supports civil nuclear power for Iran but not with enrichment and reprocessing capability on Iranian soil, that insists on the suspension of current Iranian activities that are going on and a return to negotiation, that is the policy of the Security Council. And so I would expect that all responsible states, and Turkey is certainly a responsible state, will be a part of that consensus.
But let's me just say one thing. You said I'm here to talk about Iran. But we have many important issues with Greece. I also expect to spend a good deal of time on the Balkans. There are important decisions that will have to be taken about how to move forward on the Balkans. We are watching the evolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina toward a more normal state and trying to support that at the same time that we try and encourage the continued democratization of Serbia and Montenegro and try to determine how to think about the future of Kosovo. So that's another area of importance, as well as Cyprus and other areas that I would hope to have a chance to talk about.
QUESTION: And on the Balkans, what do you expect from Greece? What do you consider Greece role in the area?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, Greece has played a constructive role. Of course, when you think about where the Balkans were 15 years ago, it's night and day. And now there is still a good deal of unfinished business in the Balkans. As I said, continuing the process of democratization is extremely important. The issue of a European horizon for the countries of the Balkans is also at issue. And of course, Greece as a member of the European Union, has a role to play in that -- the support to the efforts to bring to justice remaining wars criminal from the Balkans wars.
But Greece has been a very active and constructive partner in all of this and we look -- I look forward to those discussions. As well as, of course, we'll talk about broader issues, too. NATO is involved in Afghanistan and we have the training mission in Iraq. We have work to do in the broader Middle East. And so this -- we have a lot to talk about, not just Iran.
QUESTION: Since we are in Balkans, do you see the future of Kosovo in independence that certain part of Serbia, because you know --
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. No, I know. And I think what we need to do is to support Special Representative Ahtisaari in his work. I know that these are very delicate issues and we want both a democratic and a stable Balkans. That's the real goal before us. That is going to require a realistic assessment of what the final status can be. But I think it is appropriate to have discussions go on for a while to see what the parties can -- the interested parties can come to on their own.
We have appointed to help with that work with American Special Envoy Frank Wisner, a very dedicated and experienced diplomat who is working with Mr. Ahtisaari and consulting the parties, discussing with the members of the -- the states that have been active in the situation. I've talked with my Russian colleague about this and I think we're going to have many other conversations, but the goal here has to be a final status outcome that is -- that contributes to a democratic and stable Balkans.
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, there has been a lot of (inaudible) I mean, the United States and Greece have worked together regarding the issue of terrorism on the global aspect after the September 11th and also regarding internal terrorism in Greece. Regarding internal terrorism, it was a good outcome after --
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, the 17 November. Right. Yes.
QUESTION: Yes. We have the kind of terrorist organization of 17 November. The trial is going on now. But there seems to be a different way of looking at things. Your Ambassador in Greece in several interviews seems to believe that members of the organization have not been captured and should be captured because perhaps they could go do more killings. That's not the feeling of the Greek Government. What do you have to say about that?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's certainly something that we can discuss. Look, vigilance is always the most important goal that we have because what we do know is that over the last several years, local terrorism has -- localized terrorism has linked up in important ways with international terrorism and used many of the same vehicles, many of the same weaknesses in border controls or in law enforcement, which we all have, by the way. This is not something that is unique to any one place.
And so I think we do have to continue to be vigilant. But we were all very pleased for Greece and very admiring of the effort that has gone on for many, many years and finally with the arrest of members of 17 November. But I think vigilance is probably warranted because it's -- you wouldn't want to find later on that there are still elements. So we'll continue to work with the Greek Government in this regard.
QUESTION: What do you believe is the biggest obstacle for winning the war on terror?
SECRETARY RICE: The biggest obstacle. That's a very good question. I think that there is one short-term one and then one long-term one. The short-term obstacle is that this is a very -- al-Qaida, in particular, which is the sort of archetype of international terrorism, although by no means the only international terrorist organization. But they exist as a kind of shadowy virtual network that can use the modern technology like the internet to communicate, that is effective at linking across vast spaces, using vast financing networks. And frankly, it doesn't take very much in the way of resources, financial resources, to carry out an attack. I think we believe that the attack on the United States, this devastating attack on the United States, probably cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's just extraordinary when you think about it.
So in our free society -- societies, finding ways to have appropriate information to stop them before they act is the most -- is the biggest challenge because the problem with international terrorism of this kind is that its entire purpose is to kill innocents. It's not that innocent people are collateral damage. It's that you go after a Palestinian wedding party in Jordan or --
QUESTION: There is a prime target.
SECRETARY RICE: There's a prime target. Innocent people are the prime targets. And that's very different than a criminal environment. And you can't, therefore, wait until they have committed their crime or thousands of people or hundreds of people or school children in Beslan, Russia, die. And so you -- the hardest challenge is to get information and intelligence to stop them before they act.
The big long-term challenge is to deal with the environment that created this extremist threat. And here, the extremist threat that has emerged out of the Middle East, a region which for decades now has had a freedom deficit, an absence of legitimate political channels for the exercise of political activity, has spawned this ideology of hatred. And I think if you had more channels for legitimate political activity, you would have fewer people turning to these extremist channels.
And so the longer term goal has to be a more democratic, more open Middle East in particular, but in other places, too, so that there are legitimate ways to pursue political goals, rather than using -- rather than ceding the ground, rather than giving the ground over to extremists.
QUESTION: Talking about relations between Turkey and Greece, do you think that that (inaudible) for the Republic of Cyprus? And two years after the referendums for Annan plan, do you think that Annan plan is still alive or (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I certainly hope that we will return to the point at which we found ourselves almost two years ago now where the Annan plan appeared to have a good chance. I talked a lot with Secretary General Annan. I think he believed and we believe that it was a fair plan and that -- you know, not everybody wasn't going -- everyone wouldn't get everything that they wanted, but that's the nature of a plan of that kind. And unfortunately, it did not pass the referendum in the Greek Cypriot area.
I would like to explore, both here and in Turkey, whether there is and, if there is, what kind of basis there is for perhaps a new try at moving toward a comprehensive settlement for the Cyprus conflict. But I think we have to explore whether there really is a basis. I don't think we want to go through another circumstance in which there is a major international effort and it fails. That's not good for anyone.
In that regard, I would hope, too, that the parties, the Greek Cypriots who are, after all, members of the European Union and therefore have an obligation to use that membership in the European Union to help smooth the accession of Turkey, not to block it. Because one of the concerns when Cyprus was admitted to the European Union as a divided island was that there would be an effort to use that platform to make it difficult for Turkey to accede.
Now the -- Cyprus has always said that would not be its policy and so I think it has to act in precisely that way. And yes, it requires some give and take with Turkey and with the Turkish Cypriots as well. But everybody has to act in good faith here and I will have those discussions about how we might move forward on questions having to do with Cyprus and Aegean.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we have time for one more question.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: What (inaudible) be having discussions (inaudible) colleagues would be waiting for you outside. A couple of (inaudible) saying that you should go home and several others (inaudible) say that you should go home. The police will be blocking them and not allowing them to go to the American Embassy. And I was wondering, how do you feel about that? Not how do you feel as an American when they say Americans go home, but how do you feel when they say, "Rice, you're not wanted"?
SECRETARY RICE: You have to understand, I have seen protests before. It's not the first protest I've ever seen. It's not going to be the last protest I've ever seen. I'm a university professor. I've seen plenty of them. So look, it doesn't concern me.
QUESTION: Have you ever protested yourself?
SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) I'm not telling. (Laughter.) Look, this is a democracy and people have a right to say whatever they please. As long as they do it peacefully, I have no objection. And as long as they protest in a way that allows others to have the conversation with the United States, I have no -- with a representative of the United States, I have no objection.
I would just say that this is a right that has been denied to an awful lot of people around the world and that now, because of some of the actions that the United States has taken, is actually now available to people around the world. I was -- you know, Europe, for instance, when it was challenged with totalitarianism and with world war, in World War II, Americans fought in that war and we lost thousands and thousands and thousands of our young men defending liberty in Europe. As a result, Europe is now whole and free and, of course, the United States played a major role in defending Europe, the other part of Europe, until communism in the Soviet Union collapsed, making Europe now truly whole and free, so that when Greece sits at the table at NATO with the United States, we also sit there with Poland and Lithuania. That's a remarkable outcome.
But now we also have just had in Afghanistan the President of Afghanistan putting his cabinet before a freely elected Afghan parliament after the vote of millions and millions of Afghans who can now think whatever they think about their President. And even in Iraq, where the road to democracy is certainly very rocky -- I was just in Iraq -- and when the government wasn't forming quickly enough, there were editorials and cartoons and television shows criticizing the leaders of Iraq for not forming that government and dealing with the problems of the people of Iraq. Can you conceive of that under Saddam Hussein?
So when we speak for freedom and free speech, let's speak for freedom and free speech, not just for ourselves who are fortunate enough to have had it for many years. And Greece, of course, has had a more recent experience with not having it than most Americans. But let's not speak just for ourselves. Let's speak for, you know, people who are finally attaining it, as well as for those who don't yet have it.
QUESTION: Great. Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much. It was a pleasure.