Condoleezza Rice & UK Foreign Sec Margaret Beckett
Sharing a Vision of Peace, Justice, and Democracy for the World
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Remarks Following Meeting With UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett
July 10, 2006
(4:15 p.m. EDT)
SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon. It is really my great pleasure to welcome Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett to the United States and to the State Department. We have met on a number of occasions, but this is my first opportunity to welcome you to Washington, Margaret. And indeed we've had very productive discussions already concerning the wide variety of issues on which the United States and the United Kingdom cooperate. It's not surprising that perhaps there is no broader and deeper agenda than the one between the United States and the UK because we have no more important strategic partner than the United Kingdom.
We have had an opportunity to discuss the diplomacy and the upcoming diplomacy with Iran and our great hopes that the Iranian regime will give an answer to the very fruitful and very productive efforts that have been undertaken by the European-3+3.
We have had an opportunity to discuss the situation in North Korea. We have had an opportunity to talk about Afghanistan and Iraq, about the Middle East, and of course about a number of bilateral issues with the United States and the United Kingdom.
But more importantly, we continue to talk about how to make greater progress on the march of liberty and freedom and democracy worldwide, something that we of course share with Great Britain because we share values and we share a common desire to see those values spread because they are after all the basis for a permanent security, the basis for real security, the basis for real peace and the basis for real justice in the world.
And so, Margaret, it is really a delight to have you here and I look forward to many more conversations, including the fact that we will briefly, very shortly, meet again in Paris. And so welcome.
BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY BECKETT: Thank you very much. And it is a genuine and very real pleasure to be here again in Washington, but to be here for the first time as Foreign Secretary and with you, Condi. And we've talked, as you say, on many occasions and in many different cities but not, as it happens, before in this one. And I entirely share all the sentiments that you've expressed about the strength and the value of the relationship between our two countries, and in particular about that it is based on those shared values and that shared need to see the spread of peace and justice and democracy across the world.
And you've said quite rightly the range of issues that we've discussed together. I'd just like to perhaps pick up on particular on two: Iran and the position in the Middle East.
With regard to Iran, again I think I would wholeheartedly endorse what you said. The Iranians have said that they wish to be able to pursue access to civil nuclear power. Then if they do, I believe that the discussions that we have had, the proposals that have been put to them by the international community are proposals which should meet with a warm and a ready welcome. And we very much look forward -- all of us I think -- to hearing soon from the Iranians an official response to the proposals we've put to them. And if they have queries and concerns, we look forward to them being properly raised so that they can be dealt with so the international community can begin to have that reassurance about Iran's intentions that is very much an issue of concern.
And with regard to the Middle East, we are very mindful of the period of time since the Israeli soldier has been abducted. I spoke recently to President Abbas and shared with him our view, which I know you share, that we want to see that soldier returned unharmed and speedily and that we want to see the easing of those conflicts in the Middle East so that people can return to the path of negotiation, which is in the end the only way to any kind of peaceful solution.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: We have time for a couple questions. The first is Anne Gearan with AP.
QUESTION: A question for you both, please, on Iran. Last week came and went without the answer you hoped for. It's not clear what will happen this week or even by the time of the G-8. Do you sense a sense of drift here? Is Iran essentially stringing you all along? And at what point does their non-answer become an answer and what do you do?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we will have an opportunity to meet with our colleagues in Paris on July 12th, at which time, as the G-8 statement said, we will assess the situation. It is very clear that the Iranians have before them a very beneficial proposal, a proposal that would be beneficial for their energy needs, but a proposal that has wider-ranging implications as well for trade and other matters. And it is really time to get an authoritative answer to that proposal.
Nevertheless, when we were in Vienna, as Secretary Beckett was the host when she noted that there are really two paths here, we hope that the Iranians choose the path before them for cooperation. But of course, we can always return to the other path, should we need to, and that path, as described by the Secretary was, of course, the path to the Security Council. Now it's our great hope that we are going to get an authoritative answer, but this is something that we're going to take up and consider when we meet in Paris.
Margaret, do you want to --
SECRETARY BECKETT: Not really. I think all I can do is really to say how much I agree with that. We have -- we went to a great deal of trouble. The original proponents of these moves were the EU-3, but Secretary Rice and our other colleagues were very keen to see that we had a stronger set of proposals as possible. We worked on those proposals and we had actually pretty much the basis of agreement when we met in New York, but we decided we wanted to put further work in to deepen and strengthen the proposals that we could put to Iran so that there was a real incentive for Iran to return to the path of negotiation. And we all very much hope that they will do so, but as Secretary Rice says, we will be meeting again in Paris, hopefully to discuss how we take those negotiations forward.
QUESTION: Do you feel, though, that you're being strung along?
SECRETARY BECKETT: Well, let's see what comes in the next few days. The Iranians have now had good time to look very carefully and in depth what is, to be fair, a detailed set of proposals. They have said on a number of occasions that there are, although not to us but they have been reported as saying in the media that there are ambiguities, there are questions. Fine, let's get those ambiguities and questions resolved so that we can move towards negotiation.
MR. MCCORMACK: Jonathan.
QUESTION: Thank you. A question for both the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State. Britain has just announced sending an extra 900 troops to Afghanistan. Is this evidence that the coalition has seriously underestimated the strength of a resurgent Taliban? And on the wider point, coalition forces have now been in that country for five years yet the security situation seems to be getting worse, not better. People will be wondering: How long does it take to build a nation, to restore Afghanistan to some security?
SECRETARY BECKETT: Well, that's a good stab at asking an unanswerable question: How long does it take to build a nation? But no, I think it wouldn't be right to say that we had seriously underestimated the difficulties that would arise in the south. I think clear indications have been given that there is perhaps a slightly stronger reaction, stronger force coming forward again from the Taliban than people had perhaps anticipated quite so speedily. But one of the main reasons, as I understand it, and of course my colleague has been making this statement in the House of Commons only today, is that there has been an increasing recognition that actually it would be good to do more infrastructure and on some of the concrete deliverables on the ground, so to speak, in order to help to underpin people's personal security and improve their daily lives in Afghanistan. And the bulk of the forces who are intended now to go in are people like engineers, with all their expertise in terms of such issues as infrastructure.
With regard to the general position though, yes, you're right, it is five years. But it is also true that the position was extremely difficult, that the Afghan people were in really pretty dire circumstances. President Karzai and his government are doing a tremendous job trying to bring together national unity, trying to create a greater degree of confidence. And as I say, these extra troops are going in to try and help put some of those -- better services, better support available on the ground. And I think that will be welcome. It doesn't mean the job is almost done. It will take time. But we are getting there.
SECRETARY RICE: I would only add that it was a country that has been through 25 years of civil war, including the period of the Soviet invasion, including of course the absolutely brutal and extraordinarily destructive reign of the Taliban, including a period of time in which that territory then became a base for al-Qaida which went then to attack the United States and others. And so the question that I would have is: Why wouldn't we spend five years securing a democratic Afghanistan, a country that has now through the Bonn process that was launched by the international community, a process that has led to the election now of a parliament, the election of a president of Afghanistan, the unification of the country, the building of Afghan national forces, the beginning of the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the deployment of forces to provincial reconstruction teams that are out around the entire country helping to extend the writ of the central government, the involvement of NATO in very large numbers to help and bring security. And yes, Afghanistan still has determined enemies, but this -- I would take this Afghanistan any day over the Afghanistan which we found when we, the British and others liberated the Afghan people from one of the worst regimes of the 20th and 21st centuries.
And so yes, it will take some time. Yes, there are still security problems in the country. But I would also be very careful not to confuse what is happening in the south with a strategic threat to the Afghan Government, that this is of course a group of Taliban that, yes, may have come back a little bit stronger, as Margaret said, than people anticipated. But they are being fought and fought fiercely and they are losing hugely in having confronted now coalition forces in that part of the country.
And to the degree that more forces are needed for construction, reconstruction or even for security, I think what this shows is that the coalition is prepared to do what it takes to completely secure Afghanistan. Because an Afghanistan that is a secure and fierce fighter in the war on terrorism, as this Afghanistan has the potential to be, is going to make a very big difference not just to Afghanistan but to all of South Central Asia; and indeed, as we found when al-Qaida had Afghanistan as a base, it will make a very big difference to international security and world peace as well.
Released on July 10, 2006