of State Colin Powell
United Kingdom Foreign Minister Jack Straw
October 24, 2001
11:35 A.M. EDT
SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure
to welcome again my colleague, Foreign Minister Jack Straw, and look forward
to a profitable discussion. This is a little bit different, in that we are giving
the press conference before the meeting, due to schedule difficulties, and I
have to get up on the Hill very quickly.
But it is a pleasure to welcome him, especially today, after we have seen such
progress yesterday in the Northern Ireland peace process, and I want to extend
my congratulations to Jack and to Prime Minister Tony Blair and to the Irish
Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, for this step forward, and it shows what can happen
when one remains persistent and with a determination to solve what appear to
be intractable problems.
I am sure that the Minister and I will also have occasion to talk a great deal
about the situation in Afghanistan. And let me take this opportunity to again
thank the British Government for the strong support that they have given to
us in this time of crisis since the 11th of September. As always, we can count
on the United Kingdom, and they have come through again. And likewise, we deeply
appreciate their military contribution to the campaign.
But more than just these political-military things, we deeply appreciate the
outpouring of support that we received from the British people during this time
of challenge and crisis. We also had a chance to extend our condolences to Her
Majesty's citizens who were lost in the World Trade Center as well.
We will be speaking, I am sure, also about the future of Afghanistan. The Foreign
Minister gave a very important speech earlier this week that talked about what
we have to do with respect to putting in place a broad-based government and
what we have to do with respect to helping the people of Afghanistan get on
a path to a better life in a post-Taliban regime. And I am sure there are a
full range of European issues, NATO issues, that we will also have a chance
to discuss in the next hour or so.
So, Jack, welcome. It is always a pleasure to have you, sir.
FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: Colin, thank you very much indeed for that welcome.
I am delighted to be here. The last time I was in this room was towards the
end of June, in rather more benign circumstances. Since then, we have had the
atrocities on the 11th of September. And I think it is worth my underlining
to you and to the American people the huge admiration we have in the United
Kingdom for the steadfastness and courage which was shown on the 11th of September
by so many people in New York and Washington and elsewhere, for the steadfastness
and patience and wisdom shown by your President, by you, sir, and by members
of your administration for all the work that is now being done by United States
forces as well, and for the fact that whilst it's -- and I can say this as somebody
who has only ever been a politician -- politicians, sometimes put their reputations
but no more on the line. It is members of our armed forces who put their lives
on the line, and we expect great things from them and we get great things from
You have been very kind, as your President has, about the sentiment and the
feeling in the United Kingdom. It was instinctive. It was just there, because
we feel part of almost of a family. But it was also instinctive because of a
recognition that, on two occasions, in a very short space of time, the United
States came to our aid. We would not enjoy the freedoms which we do in the United
Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe and throughout the rest of the world without
the selfless aid of the United States at our time of need. So it is the least,
the very least, that we can do.
Secretary Powell has gone through the agenda that we will be discussing during
our lunch. Obviously, includes the future of Afghanistan. You were good enough
to mention the speech which I made two days ago. We have done a great deal of
thinking on both sides of the Atlantic about the future of Afghanistan. You
can't say exactly what form of government it should have, but I think we can
see the building blocks that are necessary to secure a stable and safe future
for that country.
On the issue of terrorism, thank you, too, for what you have said about the
Northern Ireland peace process. That, I think, is a very good example about
how, from very, very dark circumstances -- and we have had to live with terrorism
-- the people of Northern Ireland, much worse, have had to live with terrorism
for year after year after year, killed hundreds of people. But from very, very
dark beginnings, it is possible to see a light and then, provided the process
is kept going and kept going through those difficulties, you can achieve a result.
And that, I believe, is what has happened. Thank you.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Jack. We have time for a couple of questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the situation on the West Bank, a little unclear. But
or Israeli forces have made two arrests and, apparently, maybe a half-dozen
Palestinians have been killed. You and the President have asked Israel to step
back, to pull back. What do you make of all this? Do you approve of the arrests,
and I guess you don't approve of the continued presence?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think it's important for us to try to get back to
where we were a week-and-a-half or so ago, when we started to see some movement
toward the Mitchell Committee implementation, interrupted by the tragic, tragic
death of the Israeli cabinet minister.
But right now, I think it's important for Chairman Arafat to do everything within
his power to make the arrests of those who are responsible and to get the violence
down to zero, preferably, but to the lowest level possible. And I think at this
time, it would be appropriate for the Israeli Government to immediately withdraw
from the Area A villages that they have occupied. And let's try not to let this
cycle of violence become even more intense than it has been in recent days.
It is a very volatile period, and I would like to see this start moving in the
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, just as a soldier, how much do you think you are
going to be able to achieve militarily on the ground by this deadline now of
mid-November, winter and Ramadan, in terms of removing the Taliban, in terms
of eliminating the bin Laden network?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are, of course, sensitive to the fact that Ramadan will
be beginning in the middle of November, and winter also will start about that
same time -- the winter period -- which makes military operations more difficult.
But the important point to remember is we have military objectives to accomplish,
and I would like to see all of those objectives accomplished in the next few
days. And as we approach this period of Ramadan and winter, we will just have
to make an assessment at that time as to where we are, and if it's necessary
to continue military action, then that is the judgment that I am sure the President
will support. And we will wait to hear from our military authorities about it.
We are sensitive to Ramadan, but we can't let that be the sole determinant of
whether or not we continue our military activities.
QUESTION: Do you feel you can get the job done by then?
SECRETARY POWELL: I can't say. I think I'd better leave that to how events unfold
between now and then, and the judgment of our military authorities, not mine.
QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of where the discussion or the debate is regarding
whether the US plans to put Iraq on its list of targets very soon, especially
SECRETARY POWELL: On its list of what, targets?
QUESTION: Goes after Iraq soon. There is a lot of discussion about this, especially
now the speculation that some of the biological agents, chemical agents, could
be coming from Iraq. And would the British support this as --
SECRETARY POWELL: First of all, that is speculation, and so I can't respond
with a concrete answer on that speculation. We keep a close eye on Iraq. We
will continue to work on modifying the sanctions regime so we keep the Iraqi
regime bottled up with respect to the development of weapons of mass destruction,
but we do not hurt the people of Iraq, so that they can get the goods that they
need. And I think the entire national community is united around that strategy.
But as the President has said, first things first, and our first priority right
now is to deal with the al-Qaida network and Usama bin Laden in Afghanistan,
and wherever else it is located around the world, or wherever else it has host
countries supporting al-Qaida. And then, in due course, we will turn our attention
to other sources of terrorism, which are so destabilizing in the world. And
we will keep a close eye on Iraq during that whole process.
FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: Our position on Iraq, just to repeat what I have said
on many occasions, is this, and it applies to any other country as well. You
take military action on the basis of the clearest possible evidence of wrongdoing,
and also following a view that no other methods of restraint will work. Those
conditions have been present in respect to the al-Qaida organization, and the
Taliban in Afghanistan. It is only there at the moment that military action
is on the agenda. Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you made reference to it's time for Chairman Arafat
to make arrests.
SECRETARY POWELL: More arrests. He's made some.
QUESTION: Right. Prime Minister Sharon has asked for those arrested to be turned
over to Israel. Would it be sufficient, as far as the US is concerned, if the
Palestinians prosecute those that they may arrest?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't want to take a position on that. I just want to see
-- let's get the perpetrators in solid custody, where they are not just in some
form of light house arrest, where they can walk out anytime they wish. Let's
get them in solid custody, where they clearly have been arrested and they are
no longer in a position to commit new acts of terrorism, and then we can deal
with the issue that you raise.
One more, and then we have to go to lunch.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, does the situation in Northern Ireland not show
us all that negotiations is really the only way forward in all of these situations?
And just secondly, when you met Martin McGuinness yesterday, did he give you
assurances that there is no link between the IRA and the FARC guerillas in Colombia?
SECRETARY POWELL: We didn't, when I met with him yesterday, we didn't discuss
that. We were just sort of celebrating the progress that was achieved yesterday.
And I think negotiations are always to be preferred to military conflict, and
even when you have military conflict, it doesn't always result in the kind of
classic military win. Very often, it sets the stage for negotiations.
And so I hope what we have seen in Northern Ireland in the last 24 hours, which
culminates a process that took many, many years long to get to this point, is
an example of what can be achieved when people of good will come together, recognize
they have strong differences, differences that they have fought over for years,
but it's time to put those differences aside in order to move forward and to
provide a better life for the children of Northern Ireland.
FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: Could I just add one thing to that, if I may? Of course,
negotiation is far, far better -- infinitely better -- than military action.
As far as Northern Ireland is concerned, we welcome hugely the progress that
has been made following the Good Friday Agreement. It also has to be said that
before that happened, there had to be a change of approach by those who saw
terrorism as the answer. And that approach partly changed because of the firmness
of the military and police response to that terrorism. And if there had not
been that firm response by successive British governments and others to the
terrorist threat that was posed on both sides, we would not have been able to
get some of those people into negotiations. We would not be marking what is
a satisfactory day in the history of Northern Ireland today.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, and now we do have to --
FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: Thank you very much indeed.