Background Briefing by a Senior Administration Official on the President's
German Chancellor Schroeder
Sea Island, Georgia
6:46 P.M. EDT
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
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?
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?
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
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?
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.
OFFICIAL: That is correct.
Q Did he repeat that
in any form? And then, I've got a question on Iran for you.
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?
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
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?
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
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?
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
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
OFFICIAL: Not at this meeting, there was not.
END 7:04 P.M. EDT