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Source: United States of America
16 December 2004



Powell, French Foreign Minister Discuss Mideast Peace, Turkey
United States focused on Palestinian elections rather than possible conference

Secretary of State Colin Powell and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier discussed U.S.-French relations, the Middle East and Turkey's negotiations with the European Union during their meeting at the State Department December 15.

Asked afterwards whether the issue of an international conference on the Middle East had come up, Powell said the two had discussed a conference the United Kingdom is planning to hold with Palestinian officials but not a broader international conference.

"What we have to do is see the [Palestinian] election take place on the 9th of January, watch how the Palestinians form their government, and make sure that Israel shows flexibility and cooperation with the Palestinians during this election period," Powell said.

Barnier said, "the test of an enhanced Euro-Atlantic relationship will be the ability to relaunch the peace process between Israelis and the Palestinians, and I'm convinced that will be our priority in the coming weeks, and indeed, in the coming days, as soon as the elections on the 9th of January occur."

Barnier said the purpose of his trip, however, was to say goodbye and thank you to Colin Powell, who will be leaving his post as secretary of state as soon as Condoleezza Rice is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as his successor.

Barnier said he was returning to Europe immediately and would be in Brussels, Belgium, December 16, where the decision will be made on whether or not the European Union should begin negotiations with Turkey.

The two also reaffirmed the relationship between the United States and France. "We will remain friends. We will remain allies," Powell said. "The values and the ties that bring us together are far stronger than the disagreements that come along from time to time."

Following is the State Department transcript:

U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
December 15, 2004

REMARKS

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL AND HIS EXCELLENCY MICHEL BARNIER
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC AFTER THEIR MEETING

December 15, 2004
C Street Entrance
Washington, D.C.

(6:52 p.m. EST)

...

QUESTION: Mr. Minister, did you take up with Secretary Powell your -- France's interest in pushing Mideast negotiations, and specifically a Mideast peace conference? Did you float that idea, discuss that idea with the Secretary?

FOREIGN MINISTER BARNIER: If you don't mind, I'd prefer to answer in French.

QUESTION: Could someone translate?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are.

FOREIGN MINISTER BARNIER: Yes, what we want to do, of course, is to look to the future in our relationship between France and the United States and the relationship between the Europeans and the United States, and that clearly is the frame of mind that we want to develop and build on.

But of course, the test of an enhanced Euro-Atlantic relationship will be the ability to relaunch the peace process between Israelis and the Palestinians, and I'm convinced that that will be our priority in the coming weeks, and indeed, in the coming days, as soon as the elections on the 9th of January occur.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is there a peace conference --

SECRETARY POWELL: We had a brief discussion about the conference that the United Kingdom is planning to hold early in the New Year with Palestinian officials, but we did not have a discussion about a broader international conference. What we have to do is see the election take place on the 9th of January, watch how the Palestinians form their government, and make sure that Israel shows flexibility and cooperation with the Palestinians during this election period, get ready for the next series of Palestinian elections, and we talked about that. But we did not talk about, at this meeting, but we have talked previously, about the utility of a conference at some point in the future.

...



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