Press Availability with French President Jacques Chirac
Palais de L'Elsyee
May 26, 2002
5:03 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT CHIRAC: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome here. Welcome
to all of you here this afternoon. Of course, I extend a special welcome to
the members of the press who have come with President Bush.
Can I, first of all, say how pleased I am that we'll have the opportunity to
welcome on his first trip to France the President of the United States, and
his wife. It's, of course, a great pleasure for me to welcome them, and I think
it's also a great pleasure for all the people of France to welcome them. And
that is something that I wanted to say in no uncertain terms.
We had this afternoon a working session. We'll meet again over dinner. Tomorrow,
as all of you know, President Bush will be in Normandy. And I think it's very
moving for me and for the people of France to know that, for the first time
ever, if I'm not mistaken, the President of the United States will not be in
the United States on Memorial Day, and that on this occasion the President will
come and pay a solemn tribute to the great number of young American servicemen
who gave up their lives to fight for Franc, for Europe, for freedom.
This fight for freedom, for liberty, is a constant fight, a fight that we all
engage in; a fight that is a bond between the peoples of both sides of the Atlantic;
a fight that is pursued still today under very specific ties, the fight against
We exchanged views; we had an intense, candid, friendly exchange of views. And
I think this echoes and epitomizes the nature of the dialogue that we have had
ever since President Bush's election, in the number of contacts we have had
either in Europe or when I have been to the United States. I think the last
time we met was when we both were in Monterrey, in Mexico -- and also over the
We mentioned a number of issues: the fight against terrorism, and in this respect,
we have a similar understanding of what is being done and what should be done
to fight and eradicate terrorism. We both know that terrorism still exists,
that it can be active anywhere, at any time, and that, therefore, all the leaders
across the world must pay great attention to this issue, and be determined to
We also mentioned strategic issues. In this respect, we paid special attention
to the change and the developments in the relationship between the U.S. and
Russia. And we welcome this change. Russia is a major nation, a great nation.
And I think that the relationship between Russia and the U.S. are crucial in
the world today.
On Tuesday, in Rome, we will have an opportunity to set in stone this change
in the relationship, to act upon also the new treaty that has been signed between
both Presidents in Moscow yesterday. We have an opportunity to make more concrete
the relationship between NATO and Russia. And as you know, for a long time,
the French position has been that the relationship between Russia and NATO should
be strengthened. And you might even remember that the founding act was signed
here in 1997, even though it didn't have quite the consequences that we could
have expected. This being said, nowadays Russia -- from now on, Russia will
be closer involved. And this will be the results of the NATO council in two
days' time in Rome.
We also mentioned, of course, the list of strategic issues, the fight against
proliferation -- proliferation in a number of regions across the world. We also
mentioned the relationship between France and the U.S. and, of course, the relationship
between the EU and the U.S. These relationships are very good at a political
level. They are instrumental for the equilibrium and the balance of our world.
At an economic level they're essential, instrumental in the good health of the
global economy. There can be, indeed, no balance in our world if there is no
strong relationship between the U.S. and the EU.
We also spoke about issues where we have diverging views: trade issues, for
instance; the farming bill, for instance. And in this respect, the President
said that there might have been -- there could have been a misunderstanding
of what the goals of the farming bill was, a misunderstanding here in France
and in other places, maybe. But I think that this means that we have to have
more consultation, more consultation between the U.S. and the EU. We also, of
course, mentioned steel.
These are, of course, very real issues and real answers have to be given to
these problems, after consultation and intense dialogue. But can I just remind
you that these differences, these diverging views only account for 5 percent
of the trade between the EU and the U.S. Of course, that's important, but we
have to have a look at the greater picture and have a sense of perspective.
We also mentioned a number of other issues in which we have slight divergence
of views: environment, for instance; the ratification of the Kyoto protocol.
And I, personally, stressed the fact that there was a very real danger, a very
real risk in going on consuming more of our planet than the Earth can actually
produce. And I think that all of us know that these are very real issues and
that we have to go on talking, discussing and working together on these issues.
And I'm sure, I'm convinced that we will find the right ways to produce, to
consume, new ways to do so. And I think all the new technologies that are being
developed nowadays will enable us to do so, while, at the same time, consuming
less of our natural resources and better control of pollution.
Of course, these issues are being discussed in other fora. We also discussed
globalization. And I said that, yes, of course, globalization is unavoidable
and is positive, because it increases trade, and thus production, and thus wealth,
and thus the number of jobs that there are across the world. This being said,
there is a necessity that we have to bare in mind, and that is controlling globalization
so that the development of the people in other countries is protected. So what
I am saying is that globalization in trade has to go hand in hand with globalization
We will be, this evening, mentioning a number of other issues -- international
crisis, for instance; the Middle East; the topical issues, the tension between
India and Pakistan; be talking about Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Balkans, and
Africa. We'll be talking about Africa in the context of the new relationship
that is currently being developed in the relationship between rich and poor
We've already, in a way, touched upon these issues. And I wanted to -- I did
stress when we were talking with President Bush that as a long-time advocate
of aid to poor countries and relationship between poor and rich countries, what
I stressed is that for a very long time, these issues haven't been considered
properly, and that in Genoa we had, for the first time, a very real discussion
about Africa. And that will be what we should remember of Genoa, although people
will remember other things of the Genoa summit.
And I think that this was partly do to the initiative taken by President Bush,
that gave us a real opportunity to talk about development -- development at
large and development of Africa, more specifically. And this also enabled us
to move from a situation where we give assistance to Africa, to a situation
where we have a partnership with Africa. And that also is one of the goals of
our next meeting in the G7 format in Kananasakis, in Canada, where we will talk
about (inaudible.) We also spoke of some local situations about in Africa.
So all that is what we've done today. We've spoken in a very understanding and
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's true. (Laughter.)
I am honored to be here in France. It's my first trip as the President to this
beautiful country and to this beautiful capital. I always find it a great joy
to talk with Jacques Chirac. He's a -- it's not hard to figure out where he
stands on issues. And he's a good friend. He's a friend to me, personally; he's
a friend to my country -- and for that, I'm grateful.
I'm also looking forward to going to Normandy tomorrow. We do believe this is
the first time a President has been out of the country for Memorial Day. I'm
looking forward to giving a speech. Memorial Day in my country is a day to honor
those who have sacrificed for freedom, given their lives. Many died in France,
and I'm looking forward to the moment to share my country's appreciation.
And we -- in the talk, I'm going to talk about -- there's been current -- modern-day
sacrifices. We still fight people who hate civilization. It was -- or at least,
civilization that we love, they can't stand freedom. It was President Chirac
who was the first head of state to visit me in the White House right after September
the 11th. I was very grateful for that visit. As he, himself, said, that we're
in a fight to defend civilization, and I couldn't agree more with him.
And I want to thank the French people for not only the sympathy shown for my
country after September the 11th, but the strong support in the war against
Jacques and I spent a lot of time talking about how to better fight this fight.
And that's not just in military terms. I speak in terms of doing a better job
of cutting off money to terrorists, denying them safe haven. And as we fight
for a safer world, how to make the world a better world. And one of the things
I really admire about -- I guess I should call you President Chirac -- President
Chirac is that you've had this great compassion for the developing world, and
I appreciate your compassion and I appreciate your heart. It's important that
we continue to work together to make sure that there is a strategy in place
to help people develop and grow and prosper.
I'm looking forward to the dinner. He's always saying that the food here is
fantastic, and I'm going to give him a chance to show me tonight. And I also
look forward to continuing our discussions on important issues, like how to
make sure NATO works better; how best to continue to work with our friends in
Russia; how we can work together to -- in the Middle East to bring peace to
that part of the world. I appreciate this good man advice. I listen carefully
to it when he gives it. And I'm proud to call him friend. Thank you for your
PRESIDENT CHIRAC: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you mentioned this morning that you had expressed strong
reservations to President Musharraf about the missile test in Pakistan. I'm
wondering, sir, whether your administration actually asked President Musharraf
not to conduct those tests, and second, whether you regard the escalating conflict
there as a threat to U.S. forces in the region? And finally, as tomorrow is
the first Memorial Day since 9/11, can you say to the American people how this
Memorial Day will be somehow different from those past?
And, President Chirac, you mentioned in your opening comments that the response
to the President's strategic initiative with Russia from a year ago had not
been what you had anticipated. Do you think that perhaps the Europeans overreacted
a year ago to what President Bush was proposing to do with Russia? And were
you suggesting, sir, that perhaps you underestimated this President?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Like everybody else. (Laughter.) Pakistan, yes, we expressed
deep concern and we'll continue to express concern about testing and our --
I'm more concerned about making sure that -- insisting, along with other world
leaders, that -- including the President of France -- that President Musharraf
show results in terms of stopping people from crossing the line of control,
stopping terrorism. That's what's more important than the missile testing, is
that he perform.
I'm jet lagged -- what's the first couple of questions.
QUESTION: The second one, sir, was I was wondering if the escalating conflict
posed a threat to U.S. forces in the region.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I would certainly hope not. Third? Is that it? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Memorial Day.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, Memorial Day. Thanks. That's what happens when you're over
55. (Laughter.) You know what I mean. Let me say one quick thing about Memorial
All Memorial Days are solemn days, particularly for those who mourn the loss
of a loved one. All Memorial Days are days in which Americans ought to give
thanks for freedom and the fact that somebody sacrificed for their freedom.
This Memorial Day is the first Memorial Day in a long time in which younger
Americans know firsthand the price that was paid for their freedom.
PRESIDENT CHIRAC: On that very last point, can I maybe just say that it really
is very moving for all the people of France and Europeans at large to see that
President Bush -- that the President of the United States will be for the first
time outside the United States on Memorial Day, and that he come to Normandy
to pay tribute to all those, many American, who gave their lives for freedom.
This, I think, is a very strong gesture that we will not forget.
Maybe a question for a French journalist? Yes.
QUESTION: Mr. President, Mr. Bush, after your trip to Russia, what would be
for you a more decisive ally in your war against terrorism? Would it be Russia,
or this little corner of this continent which is called Western Europe? And
please, Mr. President, don't say "both" -- this wouldn't be the beginning
of an answer.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Both. (Laughter.) What was that? I didn't get the full question.
I got "Russia," and I got "this little corner of Europe."
But what was the question, who do I rely on more?
QUESTION: What is for you the more decisive ally in your war against terrorism?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Decisive ally? Ally? Decisive ally? Of course, Jacques Chirac.
(Laughter.) I -- listen, thank you for the trick question. Let me talk about
this ally. The phone rang the day after the attack -- the day of the attack.
I can't remember exactly when, but it was immediately. And he said, "I'm
your friend." On this continent, France takes the lead in helping to hunt
down people who want to harm America and/or the French, or anybody else.
We've shared intelligence in a way that is really important. One of the most
important things in fighting the war on terror is to understand how the enemy
thinks, and when the enemy might strike. And make no mistake about it, they'd
like to strike again. You know, some people would wish that their thoughts go
away. These are cold-blooded killers, and it requires strong cooperation to
protect our citizens. My most important job, and I suspect Jacques feels the
same way, is to protect our citizens from further attack. And it's -- we've
got no stronger ally in that task. I mean, he is willing to take steps necessary,
obviously within the laws and Constitution of this country, just like I'm within
the Constitution of mine, to protect our people. And for that, I'm very grateful,
I'll call on the Americans.
PRESIDENT CHIRAC: An American journalist, maybe?
QUESTION: Yes, sir. You said in Russia that President Putin had offered some
assurances about Russian sales of nuclear energy technology to Iran that we
would find comforting. Aside from his statement that Russia doesn't want Iran
to have nuclear weapons, what did you find comforting? And secondly, President
Putin also argued that the plant he's building there is quite similar to the
one and others have offered to build in North Korea. Is that accurate, sir?
And, President Chirac, you mentioned that the two of you were talking about
proliferation matters. Do you also have concerns about Russia's relations with
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first, I think it's important to understand that President
Putin understands that a Iran that's got the capacity to launch a missile is
dangerous for him and his country. He understands that.
Secondly -- and we had a very frank discussion about the potential -- or the
development of a nuclear power plant that he is convinced will not lead to the
spread of technologies that will enable Iran to develop weapons of mass destruction,
and is willing to allow for international inspection teams to determine whether
that's true or not. And we're thinking about what he told us.
QUESTION: And the plant in North Korea, sir, is that different from the one
he's building in Iran?
PRESIDENT BUSH: As I say, we're thinking about what he told us.
QUESTION: President Chirac?
PRESIDENT CHIRAC: I share, unreservedly, the position outlined by President
Bush, by George.
QUESTION: France would like to see the Middle East peace conference convene
the quickest possible, and the U.S. to do -- to act for it. May we know, what
are your forecasts for this Middle East conference, and when do you think it
will happen, and if president Arafat will be participating in such a conference?
Also, I would like to know, if possible, what are your plans for the Iraqi regime?
Are you really willing to change the Iraqi regime, and how?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay. Whew, a lot of questions here. Let me start with the Iraqi
regime. The stated policy of my government is that we have a regime change.
And as I told President Chirac, I have no war plans on my desk. And I will continue
to consult closely with him. We do view Saddam Hussein as a serious, significant
-- serious threat to stability and peace.
In terms of the Middle East, this week we will be sending American officials
back into the region to work with the parties to have a political dialogue,
start a political dialogue, as well as develop a security force within the Palestinian
Authority that can -- will function like a security force, actually do what
they're supposed to do.
And in terms of meetings, conferences, our view is, is that we need to develop
a strategy, to continue working with our Arab friends on that strategy, and
then the Secretary will be convening a ministerial conference sometime this
summer. Obviously, depending upon the progress being made and how much progress
we are making toward establishment of the institutions necessary for a Palestinian
state to evolve, that progress will determine how many conferences are necessary,
until we eventually get to, hopefully, the end of the process.
My government and I, personally, strongly believe that it's in everybody's interest
that there be two states, living side by side in peace. And that's the vision
we work toward. The good news is, is that many in the Arab world are now working
with us to help create an environment so we can get to that -- to those two
states. And to that end, I viewed the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia's declaration
of a -- declaration that Israel should live in peace with its neighbors is incredibly
important breakthrough. And we're seizing that initiative, and seizing that
opportunity to work together.
PRESIDENT CHIRAC: Last question, for the American press, maybe?
QUESTION: You said in reaction to demonstrations against you and your administration
during this trip in Europe that it's simply a healthy democracy exercising its
will, and that disputes are positive. But I wonder why it is you think there
are strong -- such strong sentiments in Europe against you and against this
administration? Why, particularly, there's a view that you and your administration
are trying to impose America's will on the rest of the world, particularly when
it comes to the Middle East and where the war on terrorism goes next?
(Asked in French.) And, Mr. President, would you maybe comment on that?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Very good. The guy memorizes four words, and he plays like he's
QUESTION: I can go on.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm impressed. Que bueno. Now I'm literate in two languages.
(Laughter.) So you go to a protest, and I drive through the streets of Berlin
seeing hundreds of people lining the road, waving. And I'm -- look, the only
thing I know to do is speak my mind, to talk about my values, to talk about
our mutual love for freedom and the willingness to defend freedom. And, David,
I think a lot of people on the continent of Europe appreciate that. Appreciate
the fact that we're friends; appreciate the fact that we've got -- we work together;
that there's a heck of a lot more that unites us than divides us. We share the
same values; we trade $2 trillion a year. I mean, there's -- so I don't view
hostility here. I view the fact we've got a lot of friends here. And I'm grateful
for the friendship. And the fact that protestors show up, that's good. I mean,
I'm in a democracy. I'm traveling to a country that respects other people's
points of view.
But I feel very comfortable coming to Europe; I feel very comfortable coming
to France, I've got a lot of friends here.
QUESTION: Sir, if I could just follow --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you.
PRESIDENT CHIRAC: Look, the demonstrations you've been referring to, sir, are
indeed, as the President has just said, healthy and normal in democracies. That
is one of the means of expression that people have. And it's only normal and
important that people should respect that. Of course, there are limits, there
are constraints that have to be enforced, and that is what is being done. But
I think that it is only normal that, in the face of a very important political
event, those who have a different understanding of things should express their
The right to demonstrate is a fundamental right intertwined with democracy.
And there's no need to tell Americans about that, they know it. But what I just
wanted to say is that these demonstrations are really marginal demonstrations;
that you shouldn't give too much credit to these demonstrations. They do not
reflect a so-called natural aversion of such-and-such a people in Europe to
the President of the United States or to the U.S. people as a whole.
Yes, we do have diverging views on this or that issue; it's only normal. And
that is the result of interests, of our national interests, and they're not
always converging. And I think it's only healthy that these demonstrations should
occur, that we should express our diverging points of views, and that we should
find democratic answers to these questions.
As for the relationship between Europe and the United States, it is a very old
relationship, as you know. It is a fundamental relationship for the balance,
for the equilibrium of our world. But I would also add that it's an increasingly
important relationship and it's -- it would be the sign of short-sightedness
to refuse to acknowledge that.
The United States and Europe are the two major economic powers in our world.
And in our world the economy drives social progress. Economic power helps express
political power. So I think that there is a very real, a deep-rooted link between
Europe and the United States, and that's -- the bedrock of that link, the roots
of that link is the shared values that we have together. And that must be used
to guarantee the balance of our world, the stability of our world.
And that's precisely why we welcome the trip of an American President in Europe
-- President Bush, in this case. But, generally, a statement of generalities
would be to say that we welcome a visit by the President of the United States
because it shows the solidarity between the two sides of the pond, the two sides
of the Atlantic, something that is fundamental for the stability of our world.