Javier Solana: It is a great pleasure to receive the Deputy Secretary of State of the United States, a good friend, for the first time here in Brussels. I hope it will not be the last time that he comes to visit.
Let me now go into the substance of our talks. We talked about important topics on today’s international agenda and of course we spoke about the situation in Iraq and the creation of the transitional government and the work being carried out by the United Nations Security Council in this respect. We welcomed the good job that has been done by Mr Brahimi in co-operation with other persons. We hope that the UN Security Council will agree on a Resolution which will be constructive and positive, and which will devolve sovereignty to the people of Iraq, so that they can find stability and prosperity.
We also spoke about the Middle East Peace Process. We had a very good “Quartet” meeting in New York not a long time ago in which we talked in particular about the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The plans of the Israeli Prime Minister Sharon are not finished yet. He still has to go through some potential difficulties in the government and in the Knesset, but we expect that the withdrawal will become a reality and that it will be accomplished according to the terms that were agreed on by the “Quartet”. This would mean a total withdrawal of forces and the end of the occupation in the Gaza Strip. If that is the case, the members of the “Quartet”, in particular the United States and the European Union, together with the countries of the region, will become engaged in making the withdrawal a success. This would be a very important element to bolster the Peace Process.
We also spoke about the EU-US Summit, which is going to take place on 26 June in Ireland, where the European Union and the United States will meet at the highest level. We hope it will be a very constructive Summit. We are already working in order to make it a great success on topics such as co-operation on the broader Middle East and North-Africa, on terrorism and on economic matters. The President of the United States will be coming to Europe in the next days to meet with leaders of the European Union. I hope that those meetings will be positive and constructive for the objectives that we share.
Richard Armitage: Dr. Solana, thank you so much for your hospitality and your many kindnesses both today and throughout the years. You have accurately portrayed our discussions, so I do not need to retrace that ground. But you left out one key element of our discussions and that was the excitement and pleasure I was able to express on behalf of the United States for the recent accession of ten new member states to the European Union. There is a lot of excitement, a lot of energy that you feel here and as an American friend it is very gratifying.
Middle East News Agency: Mr Solana, how do you feel about the new interim government in Iraq? There are a lot of accusations in the Arab streets about American pressure to put a secret CIA agent on top of it.
Javier Solana: The procedures which were established to put in place a new government have been followed. Mr Brahimi had the responsibility to start working on it, and of course he knew well what where the terms of reference of his job. He had to discuss with the members of the Governing Council and with the leaders of Iraq. If I were to follow what has come out of the UN Secretary-General in New York and of his envoy, Mr Brahimi, I can say that the procedures have been the appropriate ones. I hope very much that the new government will not only be respected but helped by the people of Iraq. The responsibility that the new government has is very serious and difficult and it will require the help of everybody who wants to see the transfer of sovereignty taking place at the end of June, which will then lead to elections in 2005. This is what we would like to see taking place. You tell me that in the streets of the Arab world there has been less enthusiasm, but I think that as soon as the government can start working the Iraqi people will see that having a new government and their sovereignty back is a positive thing and the spirit of the people will change.
Agence France Presse: Mr Armitage, what does the United States envision at the United Nations as a comprise on the question of the mandate of foreign troops, mostly American troops, after the transfer of power on June 30?
Richard Armitage: We have had three Ambassadorial-level consultations in New York and three expert-level consultations. Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken to all of his colleagues, including his new colleague, Mr Barnier from France. We believe that we are able to accommodate the requests and the views of most of the 15 members of the Security Council in the Resolution. The relationship between the Iraqis and the Multinational Force will be embodied in the Resolution and in a pair of letters, which will be exchanged. One from the Iraqi Prime Minister-designate and the other from a United States official to the Security Council, that will lay out the relationship between the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Interior and the Multinational Force Commander.
Reuters: Mr Armitage, is there any possibility that the rights of the Iraqi people to refuse offensive operations will be spelled out in the final Resolution? And would there be a more definite date for the expiration of the Multinational Forces mandate?
Richard Armitage: The Multinational Force’s mandate will be addressed following general language. There will be a provision in the Resolution for a mandatory review after 12 months or sooner if the interim Iraqi government where to ask for it. So I think that will be handled.
Regarding whether Iraqis could refuse to participate in an operation or not, of course if they are a sovereign government they have to be able to refuse. But these are the kind of things that are worked out on the ground between the Multinational Force Commander and the sovereign government.