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Rice With German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Remarks With German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier After Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
December 8, 2006

(4:35 p.m. EST)


SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon. Let me welcome my colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany, to Washington. Frank and I have met many times and we've had very extensive discussions today.

Frank, if you will permit me one moment though of personal privilege, I would like to take note of the death of Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Jeanne Kirkpatrick was someone whom I admired enormously. I thought of her in many ways as a kind of role model. She was someone who was an academic, who brought great intellectual power and weight to her work, a deep commitment to the values that we hold so dear and the values of democracy and freedom in foreign policy as well. And personally, she took the time to talk with me and get to know me a bit when I was a young professor, and she was well known as someone who mentored young people. The country will miss her. The world will miss her. We've lost a really fine public servant and a great intellect.

Frank-Walter and I have had extensive discussions of a range of issues and we will continue tonight over dinner. We discussed the Middle East in quite a lot of detail. In particular, we discussed our concerns about events as they are unfolding in Lebanon, the need of the international community to speak loudly that the Siniora government has the support of the international community. This democratically elected government is under great pressure from a combination of extremist forces and outside forces, including Syria and Iran, who seem intent on trying to destabilize this young democracy. And it simply cannot be tolerated and we talked about the importance of support for the Siniora government.

We talked about a range of other issues in the Middle East, about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and about the potential now that there may be an opening to try and move the process forward toward a two-state solution and at least to begin to address some of the immediate concerns that Palestinians and Israelis have.

We talked also about Iran, and let me say that I think we are making some progress on the Iranian -- the resolution in the Security Council. We're not there yet, but I do think we're making some progress.

Finally, we spent some time discussing with our colleagues the upcoming EU presidency for Germany, which we're very much looking forward to and also which will mean that Germany will also be the chair of the G-8. And we felt it important to have an opportunity to look at that agenda. So it's been wide-ranging and, as befits friends, we have a large agenda but we address it from common values and common understandings. And so it's been a pleasure to be with you thus far and I look forward to our dinner tonight.

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Secretary. Thank you very much indeed, Condoleezza, for the very friendly reception that greeted us here today and also for the fact that you're hosting dinner for us tonight. Germany, as you pointed out, will in about three weeks' time assume the presidency of the European Union and at the same time the presidency of the G-8. And we've come here amongst others to have an early opportunity to talk about how best to coordinate for that presidency.

I would like to at this early point in time thank our American friends for this opportunity to talk about those issues that we at this point in time can define as being on the agenda for next year. And I believe that we need a very strong partnership between the European Union and the United States of America if you want to be capable of tackling the tasks lying ahead of us. We had a very intensive and a very friendly discussion of the agenda items and I'm looking forward to continuing that discussion over dinner today.

This visit is, of course, also marked, without that being planned in any way, by the ongoing debate about the future policy on Iraq. But we've not come here to proffer advice. We are following the debate with a great deal of interest. The Baker-Hamilton report indeed contains many interesting proposals and recommendations that will also keep us busy in the upcoming year when we have to talk about the Middle East process in the framework of the G-8, say, or in other international fora subject matters such as the future role the Quartet, for example.

But of course, after that brief period of time that has lapsed since the report by the Baker-Hamilton international study group has been published, it's far too early for the American Administration to have developed a final position on this report and therefore consider our meeting and our exchange here today a friendly exchange of views.

Of course, we also talked about other issues like Afghanistan and we will continue to talk about how best to stabilize the Western Balkans. The decision on the final status of Kosovo is going to come up next year. Mr. Ahtisaari is going to present his decision at the beginning of next year and we will have to join our efforts in order to help stabilize the region once that decision has been announced. Europe will participate in the biggest civil mission ever.

And finally dear colleague, I would also like to share with you that we discussed the fact that we should not exclusively focus on the crises regions that dominate the present agenda, but that we also intend to develop a transatlantic cooperation, a cooperation between the Europeans and the Americans on a number of other issues such as how to reduce the negative consequences and how to deal with the consequences of climate change, how to prepare for technological generation of the production of energy and how to see to it that we become less dependent on fossil fuels.

Finally, I am looking forward to cooperating with you during the two presidencies of the Federal Republic of Germany. They will keep us very busy indeed. The agenda will be full, I trust.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Sean, are you going to call?

QUESTION: One for each of you. Madame Secretary, the Iraq Study Group report this week was not kind either to your policy in Iraq particularly or in -- and in the wider Middle East. Do you agree with its assessment that the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating? And if someone was supposed to have been doing some deep thinking about how to change or avert that, should that not have been you?

And for the Foreign Minister, do you believe the United States should at this point engage Iran and Syria in wider diplomacy to avert chaos in Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, I think it's a very good report and it's done by people that I admire and have known for a very long time, a number of them. And I think they've done a great service in pointing out through both analysis and recommendations how they see the situation in Iraq. None of us see the situation in Iraq as favorable. We all see it as extremely difficult. We see it as having, I think, taken a very different turn after the events of February with the Samara mosque bombing, which al-Qaida actually intended to use to set the Iraqi groups against one another, and to a certain extent that strategy has succeeded. But I also recognize that the Iraqis have made a commitment to a unified Iraq in the political leadership, that they have a number of structures at their disposal to try to address this, and that we need to give them better tools including particularly on the security side to address their difficulties.

Yes, in fact, I think I told you when I was with you that I'd been doing some deep thinking about Iraq which, if you don't mind, I'll share first with the President as he begins to think about what new course we need to respond to these realities that I really do think come out of -- largely out of the rise of sectarian violence. There have been problems in Iraq for a number of years, but I do think that the sectarian violence is a kind of new chapter and it's something that has to be dealt with first and foremost by Iraqis. But we certainly can help them as they try politically first and foremost to deal with national reconciliation and secondarily to deal with people who are operating outside the law and punishing innocent civilians.

As to the Middle East more broadly, the fundamental issues in the Middle East I think have been clarifying themselves for some time that there really is a divide between extremists and moderates. There really is a divide between those who wish to see a Middle East, for instance, in which a Palestinian state can sit side by side with an Israeli democratic state and live in peace and security. It's very clear who favors that and who doesn't. I think that there are very clear -- there's a very clear divide on what becomes of Lebanon, this young democracy that after 30 years is finally rid of Syrian forces, thanks by the way to the will of the Syrian people, but also the very strong support of the international community in insisting that Syrian forces leave; and finally, extremists who want to undermine the democratic developments in Iraq by stoking sectarian violence, but also by continuing to try to establish the old order.

Now, there are lots of ways to approach those circumstances, but I think one of the most important fundamentals to get right is that the Middle East has suffered for 60 years from a freedom deficit. It has suffered from the absence of legitimate channels for political expression. It has suffered from the absence of democratic change at a time when the entire rest of the world, in a time, a timeframe in which the entire rest of the world has moved to democratic structures. And the absence of that democratization in the Middle East led both to the kind of gap in human development that was noted in the Arab Human Development Report and to the maturation of extremist political forces at the expense of moderate political forces who had no legitimate channels. That means that as we address the future of the Middle East, the importance of the democratic reforms, the importance of empowerment of women, the importance of giving people a voice in their own futures continues to be very important and will continue to be a centerpiece, or perhaps the centerpiece, of the Administration's foreign policy.

Let me say just one other thing because one of the elements of the Baker-Hamilton report that we did have a chance to discuss, not in the context of the report but in the context of the events there, is that I do think that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is one that has now perhaps an opening to move that process forward. And I've said over the last several months that my own commitment and that of the President to trying to resolve this conflict is very deep and very strong.

We need to remember that this is a conflict that has not been resolved despite multiple, multiple efforts to do so, and we have to ask ourselves: Why is that the case? Why have we never been able to resolve this and create two states living side by side in freedom? Well, I would suggest to you that one very interesting development is that in 2001 when we came into office, when the intifada had begun raging again because of the -- despite the extraordinary efforts of the Clinton Administration, the failure of Camp David and then the second intifada and the election of Ariel Sharon, which most people assumed would forever kill the idea of a peace process; despite that, the President went out and he proclaimed that it would be American policy to have a two-state solution, a Palestinian state called Palestine. That was a shift in American policy.

It is now the centerpiece and the essence of the policies of both Israel and the moderate Palestinians that that is the formula that should resolve this conflict. It's very easy to lose sight of the fact that that is a radical change in the system, a radical change in people's views. We now say very easily the establishment of a Palestinian state, but when the President of the United States said it, no American president had ever dared say it as a matter of policy. I think we can begin to deliver on that promise and my own commitment to doing so is very, very strong.

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: I want to begin with the latter point, really. Let's not understate the progress we've achieved at the core conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We have indeed been able to perceive encouraging developments of late. I myself had the opportunity to talk with parties in the region a couple of days ago and I took home with me the very sincere impression that it is no longer the question of stabilizing the ceasefire that is at stake now, but that the two partners have taken this one step further. Abu Mazen and Prime Minister Olmert seem to have an interest in taking further steps.

I think that we, the United States of America and Europe have a common interest in seeing that this process, which does show first signs of hopeful developments, is a process that can be stabilized. And that is based on all elements contained in the roadmap. We intend to support that process. You're all aware of my position. My position is that I believe that the Quartet is a suitable format to be used in this context.

As for the rest and to add to what has already been described by the Secretary of State, I can only say that I am convinced that the American Government in developing its position is going to use all opportunities after the presentation of the Baker-Hamilton report to help make it contribute also to stabilizing the conflicts -- the other conflicts in the region. Of course, which recommendations contained in that report the American Administration is going to take up and make an element of its policy is completely up to the American Administration to decide.

SECRETARY RICE: The German press.

QUESTION: The question has already been asked about engaging Iran and Syria but it has not been answered yet, so let me ask again. Is it the position of the U.S. Administration to engage Iran and Syria, as has been recommended in the Baker study report?

And one more question, if I may.

SECRETARY RICE: Okay.

QUESTION: Also on the report, the report recommends stronger involvement of Germany when it comes to Iraq. Do you support that idea and what specifically could it be?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, on the latter point, I very much support the idea of greater international involvement. In fact, Germany is a member of the International Compact for Iraq, which is a vehicle not just for economic development but for political economic issues too like hydrocarbon law and so forth. And so I think we will want to look at different recommendations about how to structure greater international involvement with the Iraqis, recognizing that Iraq has to be in control of that process. This is, after all, an elected government that has a national reconciliation plan, and whatever the international community does needs to be in support of that.

As to Iran and Syria, let's remember that the issue here is behavior. It is: Can you change the behavior of these states? I have to believe that if the assumption is that Iran wants a -- does not want an unstable Iraq, for whatever reason, or that Syria does not want an unstable Iraq, that they will act on that, because it's in their interest to do so. If, in fact, they're looking for compensation to stop helping destabilize Iraq, that's another matter altogether because one would have to ask: What compensation are they looking for. And the fact is that if they want to help stabilize Iraq, they will.

Now, the Iraqis are very engaged with their neighbors. We will support their diplomacy in ways that they find useful and that we find useful. We will look at how Iraq's neighbors should be more involved in trying to stabilize Iraq. But I think we should not be at all unclear here about what is really going on. In both Syria and Iran you have states that have chosen to be on the side of the divide that is fueling extremism, not moderation. And that is the essential problem. That's the problem we have to deal with. I should mention that, of course, we have offered to Iran to change 27 years of American policy and to indeed sit across the table from Iran to discuss their nuclear issue and anything else that they would like to discuss, should they simply verifiably suspend their enrichment activities so that they can't keep improving those enrichment capabilities while we talk. That's the reason for the suspension. I will repeat what I've said many times: I will meet my Iranian counterpart under those conditions anyplace, anytime, anywhere. That's the offer. It's still on the table.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, is it not conceivable to you that given the investment of blood and treasure by the United States Government in Iraq that it is worth making yet another -- you know, taking a stab at a more direct and active engagement with Iran, even if it involves some measure of compensation, simply because the Iraq situation might merit that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, the problem with Iran is that it's not just an issue of Iraq. First of all, let's be realistic. The answer to the stabilization of Iraq actually rests within Iraq. It rests with dealing with the sectarian violence. It rests with getting a national reconciliation plan as a political basis to do that. It rests with dealing with the al-Qaida forces that are there. It is dependent on the ability to defeat the Saddamists. The bulk of the problem of stabilizing Iraq and securing that young democracy lies in Iraq. Its neighbors should do everything that they can to stabilize that young state. And in fact, the Iraqis have made approaches recently to their neighbors and Prime Minister Maliki has said he will do more.

But I want to repeat, we have a serious problem if Iran continues its current course toward the development of technologies that will lead to a nuclear weapon. That is a really serious problem for us, for the neighborhood and for the international community. And the appropriate way to deal with this is to get to the negotiating table about that most serious problem, to have the Iranians suspend so that they're not improving those technologies, and then we can talk about anything.

But let us not be unclear about the following. I don't think the Iranians are going to be prepared to neatly compartmentalize our discussions -- the stabilization of Iraq over here, the nuclear program over here. The Iranians have a set of interests, and that's what I mean by compensation. Thus, it's best to do this within the context of trying to deal with the nuclear program.

QUESTION: Thomas (inaudible) with the German Public Radio. Ms. Secretary, you told us a little bit about why you obviously disagreed with Mr. Steinmeier's visit to Damascus, but let me ask you this: Why was it wrong during all those decades to talk to the Soviet Union during the Cold War? Why is it not right to talk with Syria and Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, it's very interesting. I'm, of course, a Soviet specialist and spend a lot of time thinking about the Soviet Union. And I've spent a lot of time thinking about how we won the Cold War and what our policies and interactions with the Soviet Union were like.

The first thing to remember is that, frankly, we talked principally to the Soviet Union about not annihilating each other. That's really principally what we talked about. Every summit between an American president and a Soviet president was -- the great moment was when we signed an arms control agreement that reminded us and also reminded the rest of the world that we did not want to annihilate each other. I don't remember having many discussions with the Soviet Union about securing Western Europe or securing the democratic process that we wished to take place.

Now, we also had other elements to our policy toward the Soviet Union while we were talking. We had in place the most extensive set of sanctions that the Western world could muster against the Soviet Union, a system called CoCom that denied to the Soviet Union technologies that could improve not just its military power but its entire technological infrastructure. And it is one of the stories of why the Soviet economy was so far behind at the time that the Soviet Union finally collapsed.

We also had in place a grand alliance of democracies to resist Soviet aggression and to provide an umbrella for the democracies. That alliance was, of course, called NATO. And we maintained with Soviet dissidents, with what nongovernmental organizations could agree with, "refuseniks" as they were called, extensive ties and discussions about their difficulties in the Soviet Union and how to change their lives.

So you see, when we talked to the Soviet Union it was in the context of a broad policy that was aimed at really changing the behavior of the Soviet Union. And in fact, it ultimately led, of course, to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Western victory in the Cold War. So I think it's a rather -- unfortunately, it's a rather -- I'm not accusing you of this because I've certainly heard it from lots of people, but I think it's a rather facile comparison that, when you actually look at the history, doesn't work.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: Thank you.

2006/1102

Released on December 8, 2006

ENDS


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