U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
Joint Press Availability with
Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell
and His Excellency Louis Michel, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium (in capacity of EU Presidency)
September 20, 2001
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's been my pleasure today to host my European Union colleagues: the European Union President Louis Michel, also Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium; High Representative Javier Solana, with whom I do a lot of work on Middle East issues as well; and Commissioner Chris Patten.
I also might note that earlier this morning, President Bush spoke to Prime Minister of Belgium Verhofstadt, who is currently the President of the European Commission. And as you know, the European Commission will be meeting tomorrow evening to look at the results of our work today and to take further action with respect to this crisis that we are all working our way through.
Our meetings today have been very productive, and we have focused on how the European Union can work with the United States and best pool our strengths to combat terrorism. We have distributed, and I think you already have, a joint statement that summarizes our common commitment to the campaign against worldwide terrorism, and it lays out a set of follow-up activities.
If there are two words to describe the tenor of our discussion, they would be "solidarity" and "resolve." The European Union's principled response to the September 11th attacks and to our call for a worldwide effort against terrorism is just the latest demonstration of the fact that a strong united Europe is good, indeed essential for the United States, for Europe and for the world. Our common objective is security for our peoples. Let no one doubt the will and the power of our free societies to defend the security of our citizens, even as we safeguard our democratic values.
Today, my EU colleagues and I discussed how the European Union and the United States can join forces with other nations from around the world in a wide variety of areas. As set out in our joint statement, we have agreed to intensify cooperation among our law enforcement authorities and to facilitate the exchange of information; to tighten up on aviation security, our immigration and visa controls and our export control and non-proliferation regimes; to disrupt terrorists' plans, dry up their sources of support and roll up their networks; and bring terrorists to justice and bring those aiding and abetting them to account.
As I mentioned earlier, the European Council will meet tomorrow evening in Brussels in an extraordinary session, and I have no doubt that the Council's session will result in further concrete expressions of the solidarity and resolve that characterize our meetings today.
And now I would like to turn the floor over to my colleague, Mr. Michel.
PRESIDENT MICHEL: I thank you very much, Colin. First of all, I have to thank you very much for the way in which you have the leadership of all this, and it is a real pleasure to exchange views with you. And it makes things easier very often.
I'd like also to say that it is good to be here as Europeans in a spirit of total solidarity, and with feelings of deep sympathy with the American nation. We, the EU Presidency, Commission, our High Representative Javier Solana and member states have been working very hard to establish a strong partnership with the US. I think honestly that we succeeded in doing so.
I would now like to give you the general approach of the EU about the present crisis. I'm also very glad that we have a common statement to present. This proves the full understanding and solidarity between US and Europe. Now, what is the European approach of this crisis? Together, the EU and the US must take the lead in this endeavor. They must be the nucleus of a strong reply by the international community. We are in favor of a strong trans-Atlantic coalition to fight terrorism.
All international organizations and the UN in particular must be engaged in this endeavor. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1368 considered these recent terrorist attacks as a threat to international peace and security. Combating terrorism is both about protecting the lives of our citizens from terrorist attacks and about safeguarding the fundamental values of our open democratic and multicultural societies. This EU/US leadership must be based on permanent, timely and comprehensive consultation at all levels.
Now just a few words about the actions, the future actions of the EU approach. I think you know we worked already actively on a comprehensive and effective plan. So I announced some -- several measures and several decisions that different councils -- European councils have decided.
EU transport ministers will continue to work on innovative, more effective air safety measures. It is important that not only the US but every country takes immediate measures to ensure security of flights to, from and within its territory.
EU foreign ministers will examine in the coming weeks a report by the European presidency, the European Commission and the EU High Representative for concrete measures that will increase the EU capacity to effectively fight terrorism together with the US and all the partners.
EU finance ministers will urgently address the issue of the financing of terrorism. They will need to examine the availability of legal tools that will prevent terrorists from generating and transferring funds to finance their attacks against our countries.
And EU justice and interior ministers have met today and agreed on the need for a European arrest warrant. This important measure is to improve law enforcement, coordination among EU member states. Ministers will need to examine if this benefit can also be applied to extradition requests from non-EU countries. It has been decided that the EU member states will strengthen their intelligence capacities and increase their cooperation in this field.
No less than 33 measures were put forward in this council. Eight of these measures are directly linked with the cooperation with US. And we also asked our US friends to react to these measures and these proposals. And, of course, we are hoping, we are waiting for these reactions in order to discuss them still tomorrow at the council of heads of states and ministers of foreign affairs, that will take place in Brussels Friday afternoon.
I think cooperation between US and Europe is very important to fight against terrorism. It is our common enemy and we must, in a common way, together, over win this enemy.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much. Questions?
QUESTION: We are hearing here explicit measures. At the White House, the Saudi Foreign Minister is speaking of support but it's just a general statement. Are there any specifics behind it? In fact, there's a report that the Saudis would freeze the bank accounts of some of bin Laden's primary supporters. Is there anything to that? Is there anything specific from that end?
SECRETARY POWELL: I met with Prince Saud last night and was with him this morning when he spoke to the President. And he may have spoken in general terms at the time you heard him, but he was rather specific in our conversations about things they will do within the kingdom to support us in this effort. And I would prefer to let the Saudis, however, announce what their specific measures are rather than me.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, is the European Union in Europe for the US the prime partner in the battle against terrorism? Or is the US more working with individual countries?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think it's both. We have been enormously gratified how institutions, organizations, have come forward, whether it's NATO, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Conferences, the OAS invoking the Rio Treaty. But we are also pursuing our agenda with individual countries as well. And I have been very gratified by the response we have gotten from organizations as well as from individual countries. And there are many ways to go after this and we are pursuing all of those ways, either through organizations or with bilateral contacts.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you give us a reaction to the action or the statements by the clerics today in Afghanistan on the fact that they would be willing to see Mr. bin Laden go if he wants to go voluntarily?
SECRETARY POWELL: Voluntarily or involuntarily, we believe that Usama bin Laden has to be put under control and turned over to authorities who can bring him to justice. And it should be done rather quickly. And so I saw the clerics' statement, but we want action, not just statements.
He should not be given haven in that country. He is responsible for tragedies around the world, he is responsible for causing Afghanistan and its regime to be looked down upon by the rest of the world. And the sooner he leaves and is brought to justice, the better off I think the world will be and the better off I think the Afghan people will be.
QUESTION: Mr. Powell, in Europe you have -- in the European Union you have 50 countries with sometimes different sensibilities. Not all countries perhaps want to go as far as, for example, giving troops, planes and so on. The American public sometimes thinks that countries who don't want to go as far as that are not completely solidarity. How do you understand that?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are very sensitive to what individual countries can do and it's not just the 50 countries you referenced in Europe, but there are 180 countries and many of them have come forward and offered their support. In some cases, it may just be support in terms of support in principle, rhetorical support, because that's all they're capable of doing. In other instances, it may be more aggressive action, working with us on getting after financial flows, getting after information flows. It might involve helping us with tracking down people and arresting them. It might be intelligence sharing. And at the end of the day, it might be joining us in a military operation if that is what is required.
The United States understands that each country will have to make its own individual, sovereign decision as to the extent with which it can participate in this coalition. But there is a place for everyone to participate if they are against this common enemy.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you spoke a few days ago about possible American communication with the Taliban, direct communication between the United States and the Taliban. Has the failure of the Pakistani efforts rendered that unnecessary at this point?
And a question for Mr. Michel. Would you favor an additional UN Security Council resolution before the United States undertook military action?
SECRETARY POWELL: We don't rule it out. We don't see a basis to initiate a conversation. But that may well be a possibility if they are prepared to do what's required, and that's turn over Usama bin Laden, not talk about turning over Usama bin Laden. But turn him over, and not just Usama bin Laden but all of the other lieutenants and the infrastructure that exists within Afghanistan.
This isn't a campaign against one individual, but also the network that he is the leader of. And when we have dealt with al-Qaida the network, Usama bin Laden the individual, we will then broaden our campaign to go after other terrorist organizations and forms of terrorism around the world.
It is a long-term campaign. It will be done in a deliberate way, it will be done in a decisive way. And we will show patience, but we will also show persistence and perseverance until we are successful in this campaign.
PRESIDENT MICHEL: Well, the decision has been taken already, so for the rest I think what is important is the cooperation and the information we will have from together and from each other. That's important.
Maybe I take permission to answer to the question of the Belgian journalist. I'd like to say this. Until now, all the countries have shown total solidarity. And I didn't feel any difference in the statements of the different countries. So this discussion, if there are different sensibilities, this discuss maybe can take place. But it hasn't taken place yet -- until now. So you cannot be suspicious about the position and the statement of some countries. Just wait and you will see. I think the solidarity is ready to go much further than you think.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, today a group of influential conservative voices here in the United States wrote a letter to the White House asking this administration to broaden the campaign, irrespective of whether or not there are direct links found to state sponsors like Iraq. Is this a reasonable expectation and is this something you could see, when you are talking about broadening the campaign, that would be included?
And I would like to ask Foreign Minister Michel also for his comments, please.
SECRETARY POWELL: I have read about the letter, I haven't seen it. But we welcome views from everybody as to how we might go about this campaign. But the President has a clear idea in his mind and has given us our instructions as to how we will begin this campaign, and what the focus of our efforts will be initially, and I'm sure he will describe this to the American people tonight in his speech.
PRESIDENT MICHEL: Well, I think, first of all, it's important to remember that it is a campaign against terrorism, that is the first objective, is the first aim. Now, maybe we can consider -- we'll see - - we can consider there are new opportunities to build up new relationship with some countries. But we have to examine that and it is not really the moment to examine that now. The first aim is to win against terrorism.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.