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Updated: 05-Dec-2003 NATO Speeches

NATO HQ

4 Dec. 2003

Press Conference

by U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell
following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council
at the level of NATO Foreign Ministers

Good afternoon. I'm very pleased to be back at NATO headquarters. And I'd like to begin my remarks this afternoon by thanking my good friend, George Robertson, for four years of visionary leadership to the Alliance.

Two weeks ago, President Bush recognized his leadership and honoured him with America's highest civilian honour, the Medal of Freedom, which he richly deserves.

This is George's final ministerial and his Scottish humour, I can assure you, will be missed. I'll never forget the day when he once observed to us that running a meeting of male ministers was like transporting frogs in a wheelbarrow. And I've never known anyone to do a better job of it than George Robertson.

I'd also like to congratulate George's able successor Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to whom we all look to continue NATO's historic transformation to meet the threats of today.

New threats to our common security have emerged. Just witness the tragic bombings in Turkey recently. With new members and new capabilities, NATO is changing to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It is an alliance that is in action, and never before has NATO committed so many troops to so many missions so far from their homes.

In Afghanistan, NATO has assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force and has decided to expand beyond Kabul. We must also consider the possibility of NATO taking over all military operations in Afghanistan at some point in the future.

In Iraq, NATO is supporting the Polish-led sector. Eighteen present and future NATO members have soldiers on the ground. We are mindful of their sacrifices and proud that they, like us, remain determined to succeed. And we are open, as you heard from Lord Robertson earlier, to an expanded NATO role in Iraq.

In the Balkans, Bosnia is a dramatic success for the Alliance. We welcome the EU's offer of a follow-on force, should NATO decide to conclude its stability force mission. This could be a successful example of co-operation between NATO and the EU under the Berlin Plus arrangements that the United States strongly supports. We believe that such co-operation under Berlin Plus should be the rule, not the exception for EU missions.

As NATO considers wider operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Alliance must ensure that it can field the troops and equipment to do the job. Progress has been made, but there is more to do to enlarge and enhance NATO's capabilities.

Next June, the Istanbul Summit will be the Alliance's first meeting with 26 full members. It will also mark the ten-year anniversary of the Partnership for Peace and the Mediterranean Dialogue. The Istanbul Summit will present a special opportunity to see how we can enhance these programs in areas like Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Mediterranean.

NATO's agenda is ambitious, it's a very ambitious agenda, but with ambitions that are up to the challenges before us. We're moving ahead full steam with collective missions, new partnerships, and transformation. The shared vision of 26 like-minded nations points the way... points the way forward to Istanbul and beyond.

Thank you very much and I'd be delighted to take your questions.

Questions and answers

Q: George Gedda of AP. Mr. Secretary, Lord Robertson just said that there were some expressions of support for your idea of an expanded NATO role in Iraq. Could you elaborate on that?

Colin Powell: Yes, there were. As you know, it's about a year ago when Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz was here and made reference to the possibility of NATO operating in Iraq if it came to that. I made the same point when I was here in the spring, and Don Rumsfeld, my colleague, made it earlier this week.

And what strikes me today is that as we've discussed about the possibility of NATO taking an enhanced role in Iraq, taking a new kind of role in Iraq, not a single member spoke against it or talked about reasons not to do it. The question really was: Should we not in the interim, in the immediate near term, focus on Afghanistan and think about what we might be able to do in Iraq in the coming months and sometime perhaps next year?

I remind you again that 18 of the 26 nations represented here are represented on the ground in Iraq now. And we are looking forward to consulting with our friends in the Alliance and with the Secretary General's Office here as to options for enhanced NATO participation in the Iraq mission.

At lunch just now, almost every NATO member, or about to be NATO member, at the table expressed support for considering an enhanced role for NATO in Iraq.

Q: Dmitri (inaudible), NTV Moscow. A few days ago, in Maastricht, you were very extremely critical towards Russian policies in Moldova and in Georgia. Do you plan to keep same temperature of criticism in your discussions with Igor Ivanov and what ways out you see in this sort of say conflict situation?

Colin Powell: I don't find that we are necessarily in a conflict situation with the Russians, and I'm sure that Foreign Minister Ivanov and I will have a good conversation later this afternoon.

It was not just the United States that expressed concern at Maastricht last week, it was almost every nation expressed concern about the situation in Georgia. We had had a transfer of power, President Shevardnadze stepped down. The constitutional successor took over and immediately called for quiet and stability in Georgia, and immediately set the stage for elections on the 4th of January for a new president. All done with no violence and all done in a spirit that I applaud: a spirit of accommodation, reconciliation within the country and calling for elections. And the OSCE and other nations have committed themselves to help the new leadership as they go through this challenging time.

I did call upon all nations to lend their good offices to the simple proposition that we should not encourage any secessionist elements or any secessionist efforts. And I'm sure that Foreign Minister Ivanov and I will have a good chance to talk about it later this afternoon.

We were not able to get a... agreed-upon statement out of the OSCE, but I think the president statement, delivered the chairman in office Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, pretty much captured the view of almost everybody who was attending the meeting.

Q: Yes. When your country does some military operation somewhere in the world, you don't tell NATO, all the European members, all the details about the operation. So why is it such a big problem that some European country want to have that autonomy that we're talking about planification headquarters. That's first question.

And second question about Iraq, is your country... will accept a new UN resolution in order to convince NATO partner to help you more in Iraq?

Colin Powell: On the first question, we are open and candid about what we are thinking about with respect to a particular crisis situation that may be emerging. And we now have a process in place which has been reaffirmed in recent days and reaffirmed again today, which we refer to in its short-hand, the Berlin Plus.

As one of these crisis comes along, and it appears that there could be a role for the Alliance, the first call goes to the Alliance and NATO makes a judgement as to whether, as the Alliance, it wishes to involve itself. And if for one reason or another, it believes it inappropriate for NATO to take on the mission then, the second tier is for the European Union to consider taking on the mission using assets provided by NATO. And if that also does not seem appropriate, and if the mission is within the capabilities of the European Union to do without drawing on NATO assets, then European Union would act in an autonomous way.

We have seen all of these models at work over the past year and the United States fully supports this approach to crisis management in dealing with the kinds of threats that we see around the world.

We believe strongly in the European pillar, we believe strongly in ESDP. We're having discussions about how best to operationalize that autonomous function of the European Union when they're acting alone. And we've had some interesting discussions about how best to put in place some planning elements that could make sure it's linked with NATO, and to make sure that the EU is prepared to operate when the time comes. And those discussions will continue and I'm sure we'll find a satisfactory solution in the not too distant future.

On the second question, with respect to Iraq, there may come a time when another UN resolution might be appropriate with respect to Iraq. We always keep our options open, but we are not drafting one now. We see no need for a new UN resolution at this moment. We believe that the last UN resolution, 1511, provides ample additional authority beyond the original authority in 1483 for any other contributions that individual nations or any alliance might wish to make. It was 1511 that designated the force in Iraq as a multinational force, so anybody wishing to make a contribution certainly could do it under that authority.

Q: Arshad Mohammed of Reuters. Mr. Secretary, have you now nailed down whether you're going to meet the co-authors of the Geneva Mideast peace proposals and whether that's going to take place tomorrow? And there have been some conflicting reports about whether Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz and other administration officials will meet them. Has the Bush administration figured out just who is going to represent them in these, you know, meetings despite the misgivings of the Israeli government?

Colin Powell: I will be meeting with them tomorrow. But let me put it in perspective. We are strongly committed to the road map. Why? Because the road map captures the vision that President Bush laid out in his June 24th speech of last year. The creation of a Palestinian state, living side by side, in peace and security, with the State of Israel.

In his June 24th speech, the President also spoke about the obligations that both sides had. And then, when we had the Akaba Summit meeting later that summer, both sides acknowledged that they had these obligations and we'd carry forward with the accomplishment of their obligations in accordance with the road map.

The President also intended in his speech to send a clear message to the Palestinians that terror must end. We will not go anywhere, either on the road map or any other plan that someone might have, unless terror is brought to an end. And this is the clear and consistent message we have been giving to the Palestinian leadership ever since, and this is what we've been trying to get moving on.

He also made it clear in his June 24th speech, and it was inherent in the road map, that transformation within the Palestinian authority was a necessary feature of moving forward, greater accountability, new institutions coming up that represented honestly and faithfully the will of the Palestinian people. That remains our plan, the President's vision as reflected in the court-set road map.

But that is not to say there are not other ideas out there that people have. This is a very difficult issue. And so, as ideas emerge from whatever source, it seems to me not inappropriate to listen to the authors and proponents of these ideas, to see what they are saying and to take it into account. I think it's a quite reasonable thing to do, a quite appropriate thing to do for me as Secretary of State, and I'll be doing it tomorrow.

With respect to who else would be seeing the gentlemen who are coming, there will be other members of the administration staff, a lot of people will be seeing them. I don't know what Mr. Wolfowitz's schedule is.

Q: Barbara Slavin of USA Today. Mr. Secretary, I'm still a little confused on the Iraq question. Lord Robertson said that... made it sound as though you were told quite firmly that the Alliance is going to focus on Afghanistan and is not interested in any greater role in Iraq at the present time. And I'm wondering if that is indeed the message, and was it France and Germany in particular saying that they were certainly not about to contribute.

One other point on that. Are they waiting for sovereignty to be transferred to an Iraqi government before they're willing to provide more assistance?

Colin Powell: I heard Lord Robertson's answer and what he said was nobody spoke against... a role for NATO to play beyond the kind of support it's giving to the Polish division. But he also said that our principle focus right now has to be in Afghanistan because NATO is there now. It is assuming added responsibilities with command of the ISAF and with the expansion outside of Kabul, and with more PRTs hopefully being created.

So the point was, NATO is busy, it's got a lot of things going on. Eighteen of its 26 member states or states to be have troops in Iraq. We're focusing on setting up an expanded mission in Afghanistan, so let's not lose sight of that particular vital mission.

And at the same time, let's begin examining what we might able to do in Iraq beyond support of the Polish division. Various options are well-known and out on the table. Maybe at some point we could consider that NATO would take over the responsibility for the sector that the Polish division is currently managing. But that's at some point in the future. There may be broader things that NATO could do.

And so, the important point is that NATO and not one single NATO member here today or including the new countries that are about to become members of the Alliance spoke against the possibility of an expanded role for NATO in Iraq. And that includes the two you mentioned, France and Germany.

Q: (inaudible) Youssef from Nile News, Egyptian Television. Mr. Colin Powell, do you have a specific request you did ask NATO to help in Iraq, do you have an idea exactly what do you need them to do in Iraq?

Colin Powell: We did not put a specific request to NATO today. I just wanted to let my colleagues know that we believe that there are opportunities for NATO to do more in Iraq, and everybody is anxious to continue the discussion as to what might be done.

One alternative is the one I mentioned, which is to take over the divisional sector that the Poles have, but nothing was decided. What you heard from this Ms. Slavin's previous question, focus in Afghanistan and now let's start doing the contingency thinking and planning as to what we might be able to do in Iraq. And as the various options are examined, then it'll be brought back, they will be brought back to the... NATO authorities for consideration.

Q: Thank you very much Secretary for giving me a chance to address a question. Slobodan Tomic for NTV Macedonia. Secretary, do you think that it's the right time the power country just like... power country just like America to if he wants honest to help the small country, just like Macedonia, to save the economy because it's a very deep recession, because the (inaudible) from NATO is utopia from Macedonia now, not just the promises and the words. In (inaudible), we need support and financial support to bring in this millennium Macedonia, afterwards, we can realize the reform because we have to sacrifice our economy. Thank you.

Colin Powell: Thank you. I have been deeply involved in the situation in Macedonia since my first week as Secretary of State in 2001, in January, during a very, very difficult time. And I'm so pleased at the progress that has been made in Macedonia over the past almost three years. And now, we've come through a period of crisis and by the middle of this month, there'll be no longer foreign troops, per se, in Macedonia. Macedonia can stand on its own two feet.

But as you quite rightly note, people now want to see will their lives be better, will they have jobs, will the economy improve? And so, I think the United States and all of the nations that have capacity to help should help with aid, should help with... working with international financial institutions on loans and debt relief and other problems that may exist.

The simple answer to your question, without getting into specific details, is that yes, now that we are on the move in Macedonia and we've gotten past the crisis of the past few years, we have to focus on improving the economy, making sure the institutions of democracy are firmly rooted and are thriving in order to give hope to the people of Macedonia that they have moved in the right direction, they have done the right thing.

Thank you.

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