Background Briefing by a Senior U.S. Administration Official on President George Bush's Meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Sea Island, June 8, 2004, 18h46
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll start out, if that's all right, with a short characterization and statement of the meeting. This was, I believe, the warmest meeting that the two leaders have had since 2003, since before the Iraq war. It was a warm meeting, it was a productive meeting. It ran considerably over the scheduled time. My strong sense was that the two leaders would have continued the discussion, but the American protocol team informed the President that his next meeting with President Putin was scheduled to start so the meeting with Chancellor Schroeder had to end.
It was, as I said, an extremely good meeting. It was colored, of course, by the fact that the vote in New York was about to take place. It took place it has since taken place, 15 to nothing, a unanimous passage of a very strong Security Council resolution on Iraq. Iraq was the first topic of conversation. Both leaders stressed their determination to move forward together. There was no discussion of the differences last year. Last year belongs to last year that is, it belongs in the category of history. What the two leaders discussed was now what Germany and the United States can do together, moving forward.
They discussed the Security Council resolution. Chancellor Schroeder expressed his determination to see it passed and his optimism that it would be, and of course it was. They discussed their hope that the Iraqi interim government would be able to leave the country and deal with the many political and security challenges it has. They discussed the fact that NATO will be meeting at the end of this month at a summit, and that NATO may have some role in Iraq. They did not discuss they did not come to an agreement, and they did not seek to come to an agreement, and they did not seek to come to an agreement about the specifics, but they did agree to discuss a possible NATO role in the future, and agreed that this was something NATO ought to take up.
They also discussed the wider Middle East initiative, and I think it's fair to say that there was a strong community of views. Chancellor Schroeder and President Bush agreed that this was the right initiative at the right time. They both noted that this was not an imposition of any outside values, but it was an encouragement to reformers in the region, in and out of governments to proceed with their reforms. The President thanked Chancellor Schroeder for Germany's strong role and leadership in seeing that this initiative took shape in the way it has, and that be launched at Sea Island. The President was grateful to Chancellor Schroeder and to Foreign Minister Fischer for what they have done to see this initiative take shape.
They discussed Iran and the importance of the world community and the transatlantic community, in particular, giving a strong, united message to the Iranian government that nuclear programs and nuclear weapons nuclear weapons programs are a very bad idea, and that Iran needs to cooperate with the international community and the IAEA, without reservation, to the fullest.
They discussed the war on terrorism and the need to help Saudi Arabia, which is under real pressure after the terror recent terrorist attacks. They also discussed Turkey and the need to support Turkey's European vocation and a European future for Turkey as Turkey continues its reforms. They both spoke frankly of how impressed they are with the Turkish government moving ahead with reforms and moving ahead on various important issues.
I will stop here and take questions. Let me reiterate, though, that this was a very warm meeting. It was the warmest that they have had in over a year, and I think that both leaders felt that they are now in a very good place to make progress on a common agenda. We and the Germans have now come back together and are working together on a common agenda.
So, with that, I will take questions. And I believe there's a cut to Savannah, and the first is the first question supposed to come from Savannah?
Q Has the question of U.S. troop removal from Germany come up at all in the meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Simple question, simple answer. No, it did not come up. Of course, Under Secretary of Defense Feith had a very good set of consultations with Germany very recently, so the German government is well-informed as to the state of American thinking. But this did not come up in the meeting between the two leaders.
Q You said that the two leaders discussed a possible role of NATO in Iraq in the future. What kind of role could NATO play in the concept of the administration? And did the Chancellor signal any support for a role of NATO in Iraq?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't want to get into specifics because the two leaders were not trying to come to a definite agreement. They were discussing possibilities of what NATO's role might be. And of course, remember that 15 NATO members are already in Iraq, that non-U.S.-NATO members are leading two multinational divisions the Polish-led multinational division in south central, the British-led multinational division in the south. NATO is already providing support for the Polish-led multinational division.
However, they did discuss the possibility of NATO supporting the Iraqi security forces through training and agreed that this might be one thing one idea to be further developed. They agreed to stay in touch as we approach the NATO Summit. And they had, what I would call, a very good and positive exchange.
Q Have there been any discussions about the dangers of the oil price? And was there common sense between the two politicians?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Actually, there was a brief discussion of oil prices and economic issues. It came up in the context of discussing Saudi Arabia. The President talked about recent developments in oil prices. They both talked about economic growth and about OPEC's decision to start increasing oil production. It did not, however, come up in great detail.
Q Just to finish up on the NATO point with Chancellor Schroeder, he had expressed a fairly definitive statement a month ago or so that German troops would not be involved in Iraq.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is correct.
Q Did he repeat that in any form? And then, I've got a question on Iran for you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. He did not say so, but the President raised the issue and said, of course, the United States understands the German troops will not be going to Iraq, and that this is not the question. And we've always respected the German position on the subject. So that was not this was a positive discussion, it was in no way contentious, and they were discussing what NATO's role might be, understanding the German position that it will not send troops to Iraq.
Q On Iran, Germany was one of the three countries that struck an agreement with the Iranians back in the fall, which discussed a cessation of their nuclear activities with an eye toward beginning to dismantle them completely. Does was there any discussion that Iran had backed off on that agreement, that they had reneged on it? Was there any sense that the Germans felt that they have been misled by the Iranians?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the Chancellor did not say so in so many words. The American skeptical position about Iran's intentions is pretty well-known. I think it's fair to characterize the Chancellor's view as being somewhat skeptical in a general way. He did not use words like "misled" or "lied" or "not fulfilling commitments." He did not use those words. But it was I would say that the two leaders shared a healthy degree of skepticism of Iran's intentions, and I would call that portion of the discussion a good one.
Now, our view is pretty well-known. We've been working with the EU 3. We've been urging them to take a strong, consistent position. And from what I heard from the Chancellor, his experience with Iran to date has seems to be convincing him of the virtues of healthy skepticism and keeping a jaundiced and open eye. That's my characterization. I'm trying to be fair.
Q Did the President and the Chancellor discuss the question of Sharon's plan of Gaza and the Occupied Territories? Was that an issue which they discussed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They did not discuss this in great detail. The Chancellor pointed out in the context of the broader Middle East initiative that it would be all to the good for the success of this initiative if there were peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And of course, Germany has, from the very beginning, in a formula developed by Joschka Fischer, described the relationship between Israel- Palestinian peace and reform in the broader Middle East as proceeding these are my words along parallel tracks, one not being a condition for the other, but both being necessary in progress and one helping the other.
So I would say that that's the position the Chancellor took. The President didn't disagree. But the bulk of their discussion was about the broader Middle East initiative and the need to support reform. They obviously agree that progress is important, but this was not a major subject in their discussions this time. They've talked about it in the past, however, of course.
Q Did the Chancellor mention the role of the United Nations concerning the Middle East? And Secretary Powell said the other day that three countries which did not participate in the war promised him that they might participate in a multinational force for the protection of the United Nations. Was that a topic in one way or another?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This didn't come up. Of course, the Security Council resolution does provide for a discreet force to protect the U.N., as well as call for regional organizations to consider contributing to the multinational force in Iraq to provide security altogether. But a discreet U.N. force did not come up in the discussions.
I would say that there was a the two leaders are clearly on a rapidly converging path with respect to Iraq. Both the substance, but if I could put it this way the subtext of the discussion was that Germany and the United States, having had different views last year, have views which are running in parallel and getting very close to each other about what needs to be done from this moment forward. And we are looking to build on that developing community of views, not looking to re-fight the battles of last year, which is, again, why I call this a very warm and productive meeting.
Q Maybe a rather naive question here, but who is going to pay for this broader Middle East initiative? Has there been any talk about where the money is going to come from?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you're going to have to look at the documents from the broader Middle East initiative as they come out. Some of both the European Union and the United States have already set aside significant sums to fund some of the programs.
In my experience, the funding process and the process of developing and rolling out large initiatives like this goes in a kind of iterative process. You start the initiatives, you see what programs are working, and the money thereafter shows up. This was very much the experience in 1989 when Europe and the United States started supporting reform in a new way in what was then known Eastern Europe.
There are a number of programs of new programs being contemplated. We've the American administration internally has already discussed funding. EU's Barcelona process has a lot of money, and we will see as things develop.
But, on the broader Middle East initiative, since I am, after all, speaking to journalists, I feel compelled to point out that a storyline from January in the media has been that the broader Middle East initiative has been killed, dead, destroyed, pulled back, watered down, vitiated, and taken off the table. Either it is an immortal initiative that cannot be killed, no matter how many times you have you collectively have buried it, or, in fact, your reporting was not yours, personally but the collective reporting was, in fact, wrong, and it was never dead or vitiated or watered down or pulled back.
And, in fact, this is the case. It was a bold and strong initiative to put reform and support for reform and reformers front and center of the international community's agenda. This was the thrust of Foreign Minister Fischer's speech at Wehrkunde, which, I was present for that. It was, frankly, a stirring, dramatic, powerful, and persuasive speech.
The broader Middle East initiative that has taken shape and will be launched tomorrow is consistent with the original motion that the Germans and the Americans started sharing many months ago. And so I hope you look at the papers, and before you pronounce it watered down, vitiated, cut back, that you remember where it was we started which was nowhere where it is we have gotten which is a considerably advanced place and then what it is we have to do which is a great deal. And I will make that my speech on the broader Middle East initiative.
Q I just wanted to know if there was any talk about nonproliferation between the both leaders?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not at this meeting, there was not.
Source: Official G8 Sea Island site