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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Interview With Reuters and Agence France-Presse (U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE) Washington, DC 02/01/05 (4:35 p.m. EST)Source: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/41460.htm U.S. STATE DEPT. U.S. STATE DEPT. Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
QUESTION: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. I think we all appreciate it. To start with the Middle East, then, looking ahead to your trip: Palestinian President Abbas has, you know, as we all know, deployed security forces in Gaza, but they don´t seem to have actually done very much to go after any of the militants, who seem to be in a truce of their own sort of making. And yesterday the security forces failed to stop the mortar attacks on a number of Israeli settlements. Do you believe Abbas has the will, let alone the capability, to actually go after these Palestinian militants?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let´s just step back and look at where we are in the Middle East because we are clearly more hopeful that certain steps will be more helpful: The Palestinian election of President Abbas and the Israeli decision for the Gaza withdrawal. There are a lot of circumstances that are coming into place that should give us greater opportunity to progress back onto the roadmap and then, hopefully, on to a two state solution.

It´s obviously extremely important that the Palestinians take seriously the obligations that they undertook in the roadmap -- to fight terror, to unify their security forces, to use their security forces, to make certain that no terrorist acts take place on their territory, and I think they have made some progress in this regard. It´s not perfect, but they have made some progress. And there are good discussions going on between the Israelis and the Palestinians about how to move forward on some of the security concerns.

And what I hope to do when I go there is to try and sustain -- help to sustain the momentum that they have clearly developed over the last several weeks. There is a lot of work to be done on the Palestinian security forces. They have to be unified. They have to be put under central control. They have to be better equipped and trained. All of those are elements with which the United States can be helpful, as well as other countries in the region like Egypt or Jordan.

And so we have a long way to go to fully capable Palestinian security forces but there also has to be a will. And I do think that Abbas showed will in acting quickly. We hope they´ll continue to act and to act more effectively over the next few weeks.

QUESTION: If I can just follow up on that. One of the remarks that´s been made is that Abbas needs some gestures from the Israelis to bolster his credibility with the Palestinians, particularly the militant groups. Do you see -- at what point do you see that Israel would have to make some gesture, with either the wall or prisoners or?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the determination to fight terror and to reestablish law and order is something that the Palestinians need to do, period.

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY RICE: And I think they understand that because one of the problems has been lawlessness in the Palestinian territories that has -- there´s been great suffering of the Palestinian people from that lawlessness. And so the unification of the security forces and the use of security forces is going to be good for the Palestinians, as well as for the Israelis.

The Israelis have made clear, I think, that they are prepared, for instance, to begin to turn over towns to the Palestinians, as they are able to perform security functions. So that is the kind of -- I won´t call it a gesture -- that´s the kind of move by the Israelis that I think should give some confidence to the Palestinians that they are going to eventually be in control of their own affairs; that there will be a partnership here between Israel and the Palestinians for moving forward for security for both the Israelis and for the Palestinians.

I´m certain that they will have many discussions about the issues that you raised about how to think about prisoners, how to think about opening of checkpoints. We have asked the Israelis frequently to do whatever they can to improve mobility for the Palestinians, to remove checkpoints where possible, because mobility is, of course, an issue for Palestinian livelihood, for people to be able to work and to, to carry out just the daily tasks of life. And so mobility is another area in which, as this moves forward and as the security improves that you would hope there would be -- the Israelis would be responsive.

QUESTION: Can we move to your trip to Europe?

SECRETARY RICE: Sure. Of course.

QUESTION: So you´ll be in London the day after tomorrow. Could you give us a, kind of, maybe, a preview of the speech you are going to deliver in Paris next week? And why did you choose Paris for this speech?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I´ll come back to the speech. And I -- I don´t want to preempt my own speech (laughter) but I´ll come back to the speech.

QUESTION: Just an idea.

SECRETARY RICE: I´ll come back to the speech. It fits into the context of the larger trip.

This is an opportunity to go to Europe to talk about the agenda that we have before us, to talk about the great causes that we have before us. The -- this great alliance, which has first stood the test of time in winning the Cold War, then expanding to the freed nations of Eastern Europe, and now is standing the test of time in the war against terrorism. This great alliance that has faced very grave threats now faces really remarkable opportunities in the world. And I want to go to talk about those opportunities: The opportunity to support the parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to try and find a two state solution; the opportunity to see the spread of democracy and freedom in places where it´s never taken hold before, and the evidence that we´re seeing that the values are, indeed, universal. When we see what happens in Afghanistan when people line up for miles and miles and miles on dusty roads and walk for miles in order to vote, or in Iraq where they vote despite the threats and the intimidation and the violence; and to have an opportunity to talk about how we support the people of the broader Middle East that are now seeking the blessings of liberty that we all enjoy.

I hope to talk about the fact that we also share an obligation to try and build great prosperity. We´ve had many discussions, for instance, in the G-8 about how to work with a development agenda that looks at foreign assistance, but foreign assistance that is going to countries that are involved in good governance and care about the health and education of their people and fight corruption. And so that´s another element of the opportunity, of course.

So the reason to go to Europe at this point is that we have number of meetings coming up. The President will go there. We have a G-8 ministerial with the Arab League. We have a number of meetings coming up. And I would hope that we are going to begin to further unite around a common agenda for the next several years, one that is firmly rooted in our values, our shared values; one that is aware of the challenges that we face in nonproliferation and in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, but that´s also ready to take advantage fully of these historic opportunities before us to build a different kind of Middle East; and the speech in Paris, I think, will make that argument that we are looking at a time of opportunity with this alliance.

QUESTION: Even though, as you say, that there are great opportunities before the alliance and the United States, there are also irritants that remain. The Europeans are about lift the arms embargo on China, which some people in this town feel is a real problem for the alliance. Are you resigned, as some other officials are, that this is going to happen? Do you see any way that the Europeans can fashion their code of conduct so that it´s satisfactory to the United States and will mitigate the fact that the embargo is being lifted?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, fortunately, we´ve had good dialogue about this matter of the arms embargo. And I think at this point, we´re -- we need to continue to discuss it and to continue to understand why this is a problem for the United States, and to understand the European motivations for wanting to go down this road.

I have to say that in a circumstance in which the embargo was levied, because of human rights concerns out of Tiananmen, one has to be very careful not to send the wrong signal about human rights. And of course, we do have concerns about the strategic military considerations of doing so. So I think we´re not resigned to anything. I think at this point we need to continue to discuss it and work it out.

QUESTION: One other thing. There´s been talk in Congress of some sort of retaliatory action if, in fact, the Europeans do this, the United States would somehow circumvent or impose restrictions on transfers to Europe. Do you see that -- is that something the Administration could support?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I wouldn´t want to speculate. I think at this point we still need to continue to discuss this. I´ve found the Europeans open to our concerns and willing to try to understand them. And so we´ll see how we can address it, but I don´t want to speculate on what might happen if the arms embargo is lifted.

QUESTION: If I can go back just to your speech again a second, from Paris, there. I don´t think I´d be telling you anything new if I said that probably two things the Europeans are interested to hear from you is (a) what is an exit strategy from Iraq, because either they opposed it or a lot of them are under pressure to get out? And (b) what sort of assurances that you would give that you wouldn´t launch a venture like that again without more, what they consider more consultation on the international level? Do you have anything to offer on either of those two points today?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would hope that we´re all at the point that we want a success strategy in Iraq, a strategy that is going to leave an Iraq that is stable and on the path to democracy. Yes, there were differences about whether or not it was time to hold the regime of Saddam Hussein accountable for 12 years of defiance of the international community. I don´t think there was much disagreement that Saddam Hussein was a horrible presence in the Middle East and that there was much disagreement -- or that there is much disagreement that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.

And so if we start from that point of agreement rather than going back to look at the question of the timing of the decision, we all have to now unite around a road to a stable Iraq, an Iraq that is no longer a weapons of mass destruction threat, that´s no longer a threat to its neighbors, and that is democratic. And what we saw Sunday was that Iraqis themselves are willing to literally -- ordinary Iraqis -- literally risk their lives for the vote.

And that should remind all of us who are lucky enough to have been -- to be on the right side of the freedom divide, that we have an obligation to them to support the efforts that they are making now to build that democratic future. And so I don´t think we want to talk in terms of exit strategies. Of course the goal is to have a self- sufficient Iraq that can sustain itself in terms of its security as well as all other aspects of its political life.

We are -- the coalition is there under UN auspices, UN resolution. There is a mechanism provided for continued discussions with the Iraqis about the status of those forces. And I´m sure that we will have discussions with the new Iraqi Government once it´s in place about the right mix of coalition forces, Iraqi security forces, to be able to make Iraq secure. So I don´t think of it as an -- I just don´t think we should use the term "exit strategy." I think we should ask ourselves, what can we do now to, as quickly as possible, make the Iraqis self-sufficient, but to also give them the support that they need to build a stable and democratic Iraq. They have certainly demonstrated on Sunday that they have earned our support by the willingness to go out and face down the terrorists.

QUESTION: Do you think that the rift that there was over the Iraq war between the United States and some of the European allies is now a thing of the past? Or is your vision still aimed at repairing ties?

SECRETARY RICE: I really believe that everyone understands that it´s the future that matters here. The -- there were differences. That´s certainly obviously to everyone. But again, I don´t think anyone differed on the fact that it would be -- you would rather have a stable and democratic Iraq than one ruled by the brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein, threatening his neighbors, skimming money from the Oil-for-Food program at the expense of his own people, and with an unbreakable tie to his love of weapons of mass destruction. I don´t think anybody would disagree that it´s better to have an Iraq that can be on the path to democracy than an Iraq ruled by Saddam Hussein.

So I think we look forward from here on. And I really believe that the elections and what the Iraqi people demonstrated in those elections gives us a new opportunity as an international community to rally around them. Now, I don´t there to be great changes in what people are willing to do. I think there has been an evolution of that, anyway. You have the Germans training police in the UAE. You have a NATO training mission for the leadership. I think you will find, you know, you had debt relief from the allies, which was a huge agreement from the point of view of the Iraqis; and so there´s been a steady evolution anyway of help to the Iraqis; and I just think that you´ll continue to see that.

QUESTION: The election has obviously changed the context in the region as well. And that makes me think about Iran and the relationship the United States will have with Iran. Indeed, Europe is lobbying for more involvement. Do you think there´s any possibility for U.S. engagement with Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: What we need with Iran is unity of purpose and unity of message to Iran about what is expected of Iran. And I, frankly, think we´re getting that because the Iranians are being told across the board that they cannot be responsible members of the international community and seek nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear program, that that´s not acceptable.

The Europeans have embarked on an effort, which we greatly appreciate, to try and get the Iranians to live up to their international obligations. Anyone who can get them to live up to their international obligations -- that´s a good thing. But the Iranians know what they need to do, and there really is only one answer. And that is live up to their obligations under the NPT and for signing additional protocols.

QUESTION: So with Iran, the European negotiations, do they frustrate your goal of getting Iran to the Security Council? Or do you fully support what they are trying to do and that can put your tactic on hold for getting them to the Security Council?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the possibility of taking Iran to the Security Council continues to exist. And our view is that Iran will have to be held accountable for its noncompliance with its international obligations. But again, if we -- any way that we can get compliance -- true compliance -- with the Iranians is helpful. We´ve been in close coordination with the Europeans. We´ve made clear that we hope for the best. But the Iranians have not demonstrated over time that they´ve been doing good on living up to their international obligations. We´ll see.

QUESTION: About a country that you´re not going to go to next week: Russia -- is the United States, is the Bush Administration engaged in a review of its policy towards Russia? And what, realistically, can the U.S. Government do to try to prevent the Kremlin from going back on democratic reforms, from interfering with its neighbors, from prosecutions of, this is one, of Mr. Khodorkhovsky that appear to be sort of politically motivated?

SECRETARY RICE: There is no systematic review, new systematic review going on. We´re constantly looking at the policies and trying to determine where we go from here. And of course, the President has a meeting coming up with President Putin, so of course we´re looking at where we are in the relationship in regard to that.

The Russian situation is a complicated one, of course. On the one hand, we do have productive relations with the Russians on a number of fronts. We have productive relations in the war on terrorism with the Russians, counterterrorism. We have cooperated well with the Russians in Afghanistan, which I think might not have been expected given the history there. We continue to work with the Russians, or look forward to working with the Russians on some of the more difficult situations in the Caucasus, like, for instance, the Nagorno- Karabakh.

So there are lots of areas in which we have productive relations. We want to be supportive of the Russians´ efforts to get into the WTO when they have met the conditions because we think that the liberalization of the Russian economy under WTO rules would be a good thing for the international community.

Obviously, on the other hand, it has been a difficult period in terms of Russia´s move toward democracy. It´s been uneven. It´s not the Soviet Union and that´s a good thing. This is not a return to the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, we´ve been very clear with the Russians that the concentration of power in the Kremlin, at the expense of other institutions, is a problem because you need -- in democratic development, you need countervailing institutions. You can´t just have a powerful presence.

Our goal has been to continue to talk to the Russians about this and to be clear that the deepening of relations for which we all hope, really would only take place on the basis of common values. It doesn´t mean that we can´t have productive relations, but the kind of relationship in which, really deepening of relations, that would require greater democratization in Russia.

We also are doing what we can to support the development of civil society in Russia because the weakness of parties in civil society is one of the problems in Russia. And we´ve been saying to the Russians that the issues concerning rule of law are, of course, important from the point of view of democracy, but they´re also important from the point of view of developing business relationships. So we´re trying to take a comprehensive view of the U.S.-Russian relationship to work on the areas where there are problems and to continue a productive relationship where we can.

QUESTION: Your dialogue with them so far, however, does not really seem to have had much, if any, effect, for example, on the Khodorkovsky case or the breakup of Yukos, or on the decision as far as provincial assemblies and how governments are chosen, and so on, or vis-ŗ-vis their neighbors. I mean, President Putin came out and all but embraced Mr. Yanukovych for his victory in what was literally a fraudulent, rigged election. I mean, so to go back to the question, what can you actually do if gentle suasion isn´t working?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you can certainly stand on principle. And in the case of Ukraine standing on principle worked. In Georgia, we stood on principle. And standing on principle worked. And now, I think you´ve seen that Russia has begun to recognize that what happened in Ukraine was a victory for the Ukrainian people and Mr. Yuschenko is reaching out to the Russians; they´re reaching out to him. We want Russia and Ukraine to have good relations, they´re neighbors. They´ve had a long, long history together.

And it´s a good thing that the United States and Europe, having stood on principle and having refused to accept a fraudulent election, ended up with the circumstances, circumstances now we think the Russians have accepted.

So I wouldn´t say that we´ve been unable to affect some of these outcomes. Clearly, we and Europe, and most importantly, the Ukrainian people, were able to affect the outcome in Ukraine.

QUESTION: And can I just turn to --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in terms of Russian domestic affairs, obviously, there you have to make your arguments and continue to make your arguments and sketch a shadow of the future should things not improve. But we are doing what we can do, and I do think that the -- helping the development of democratizing forces in Russia, like civil society, will ultimately have an effect there, as well as the liberalization of the Russian economy and the development of a small business class, which I think could have a quite profound effect on Russian politics.

QUESTION: Is the President likely to say anything or not say anything in his State of the Union Address that would be what´s needed to bring North Korea back to the talks? I mean, there are -- Pyongyang, you know, is looking at --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me not refer to the speech itself. Let me just talk about the North Korea problem and maybe we can look at that. The North Koreans also know what they need to do. This is, there´s no secret here. The path that they´re on is not one that is going to lead to North Korea beginning to enter the international system. I don´t say reintegrate because itís never been part, so beginning to enter.

We believe that we have the most effective forum possible in having a six-party forum in which not just the United States, but the other neighbors in particular, China, are sending a common message to the North Koreans about the path ahead. The North Koreans also know, or should know, that the United States doesn´t intend to invade North Korea. It doesn´t intend to attack North Korea. The United States has a good -- has a strong alliance with the ROK that protects and defends on the Korean Peninsula.

But the idea that somehow the United States is hostilely going to attack North Korea couldn´t be more farfetched, and they´ve even been told that in the six-party context there could some kind of assurance of that. So the path ahead is pretty clear, and I would just hope that the North Koreans, who we would like to see come back to the six- party talks, would look at what has been offered to them. We made a very good proposal at the last round of the six-party talks, and it´s on the table for the taking.

QUESTION: And can I just follow up then, please?

QUESTION: Can I just follow up right now? I mean, have you gotten -- have the Chinese told you that the North Koreans will come back after the President speaks? Have they -- do you feel that the Chinese have put enough pressure on the North Koreans to make this happen?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don´t know that anyone knows the North Korean mind on this. But I know that the Chinese and others are trying to convince the North Koreans that it´s time to come back. I do suspect that they -- there was a kind of hiatus while they waited for us to go through our elections and all of that. And so, we´ll see. But the path is pretty clear. And if they choose to come back, then I think it was productive work to do.

QUESTION: Yeah. My follow up question on that, actually, is: This process has been going on for a while. I think Mr. ElBaradei said last year that North Korea was one -- the biggest nuclear nonproliferation threat. How much time do we have, both with North Korea and for Iran, while they continue to flout norms, and while they continue to presumably buildup their capabilities? How much time do we have before we have to start taking more serious action?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it´s a good point. I think on Iran, for a variety reasons, I don´t want to put a timeline on it. I don´t think it would be wise to try to put a timeline on it. But for a variety of reasons, we´re fairly early in the diplomacy and there are some other elements that have helped. For instance, the civilian nuclear cooperation with -- that the Iranians have with the Russians, the Russians have been clear to the Iranians that they would have to return the spent fuel.

Now it doesn´t alleviate the proliferation risk, but it makes it less likely that you could use that civilian nuclear reactor for weapons production. So you´re getting a number of aspects of -- a number of states that are doing things, I think, to help with the Iranian -- with the risk on the Iranian side. But sooner rather than later, the Iranians need to get back into conformance with their international obligations, they need to get a verification protocol into place, and they need to stop enriching. That´s the reality.

North Korea, you know, we´ve had assessments going back into the ´90s that they had enough material for a couple of devices, maybe more, and the -- we do have a substantial deterrent on the Korean Peninsula to North Korean aggression of any kind. And the goal here has to be that you have to do something that´s effective. We thought in 1994 that we had done something that would be effective in stopping the North Korean nuclear program.

We were able to freeze the plutonium program, but it was rather frontloaded in terms of benefits to the North Koreans, and the North Koreans then went down another path, the highly enriched uranium path. I think that taught us a lesson that a bilateral agreement with the North Koreans that is frontloaded in that way, where the North Koreans can unfreeze at any time that they become annoyed with the international community, is probably not the right way to go.

And so, we have to now go with something more effective. And it´s true, it´s taken time to build an international consensus or a neighborhood consensus about the North Korean program. But if we´re able to get an agreement, we´ll be on much stronger fundamental ground by having as a six-party agreement, where the North Koreans, if they violate, would not just violate an agreement with the United States but also an agreement with their neighbors, including with China.

So, yes, it´s taken some time, but I think the time is worth it to create circumstances that might be, in the long term, more effective.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay.

QUESTION: A couple more minutes, very short. You talked about what we could do to help the Palestinians get, maintain momentum, and to help them get control of their security forces. What can you do, more specifically?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we´ll go out there and talk about what can be done to help. I mean, obviously, the Palestinians are going to need help in terms of training and equipping their security forces. And I´m sure that there will be ways that we might be involved in that. The Palestinians also need to build the democratic institutions that will be the foundation for a state.

And we´re very much looking forward to the London conference because I think that there will be a really good conversation there about how that can be done effectively. And then, ultimately, there is going to need to be a reconstruction package also for the Gaza, as the Israelis withdraw, and then later on for the West Bank. And we know, that the World Bank and others have been doing some work on what kind of reconstruction plan needs to be put in place. And so, again, at the London conferences, as Prime Minister Blair and President Bush said when the Prime Minister was here, you know, those baskets, security, political reform and economic reconstruction, having plans that the international community can then help the Palestinians to execute will be very important.

And finally, I know that the Israelis have said recently that they are prepared to talk about coordination with the Palestinians on the Gaza withdrawal. And that, too, is a very important step.

So there are a number of things that I´m sure we´ll be able to do, and this is a discussion about how to put it together.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. 2005/113 Released on February 1, 2005 (STATE.GOV 02/01/05)


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