George W. Bush photo

The President's News Conference With Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany in Mainz

February 23, 2005

Chancellor Schroeder. Thank you very much, indeed, ladies and gentlemen. I'm very pleased, indeed, about this opportunity of welcoming President Bush and his wife, Laura, here in Germany. I think Mainz is an excellent venue for this meeting.

We had a very, very intense discussion, and we basically covered each and every subject that is a high-ranking one on the international political agenda today.

Now, before I go into any kind of detail, let me begin by sharing with you that we find it very important, sir, that you take note of one aspect that is important for both of us. We also talked about climate problems that we have worldwide, and this is an area where we also need a solution. You know we have different—or used to have different opinions about how to go about these things. The Kyoto Protocol was not appreciated by everybody, and that is something that has continued to exist. But I would like to emphasize that, despite that, we would like to see practical cooperation with the reduction of problems in this area. And we think that there could be room for maneuver, particularly in the field of technology, where the United States of America and Germany both have tremendous know-how, and we would like to deepen cooperation in this field, irrespective of the question of whether Kyoto is the right tool to be going about things or not. And that is something we have first said, and this is a piece of progress that you must not underestimate.

Now, over and above that, we obviously talked about all of the international problems on the agenda. Some of those problems have already been addressed yesterday in Brussels. I have to say it is good and it is right, and I think it is important for the development of peace in the world that President Bush's administration and he, himself, personally, have committed themselves to the situation of the Middle East peace process.

I think there is hope today and even more than hope, possibly, that we will come to a solution here. And a solution can only ever be mentioned and conceived if there is a strong involvement of the United States of America.

Now, obviously, the other members of the Quartet can be helpful. They want to be helpful; there can be no doubt. The same goes for us too. But I am very pleased that there is now this very strong commitment of the U.S. Americans to this specific problem.

Now, we obviously talked about Iraq as well, and here, especially, we talked about what the perspective can be for the future. And nobody wants to conceal that we had different opinions about these things in the past, but that is the past, as I just said. And now our joint interest is that we come to a stable, democratic Iraq. Germany was certainly involved when it was about waiving debt for Iraq. You know that at the time we addressed this subject in New York. We have committed ourselves, and it was a success. We would like to see a situation where Iraq can use its financial scope for reconstruction and doesn't have to use the money on debt servicing. And what the Paris Club achieved was, I think, a great achievement.

Now, secondly, we are ready, and when people like us say we're ready, we are ready and we do do something. We're actually doing already; we are training policemen and military security staff for Iraq in the United Arab Emirates, and there I think we can modestly say it is a rather successful project indeed. And all of that is, obviously, trying to arrange for more homegrown Iraqi security. And we are very much interested in not just continuing with these things but to also expand on those activities.

Now, what we do not want to do in Iraq has been accepted, and we then said we'd be very happy to make expertise available when it is about the rebuilding of democratic institutions, be it questions of drafting a constitution but also the establishment of ministries, for example. Germany has a host of experience with these things, and if the new Iraqi Government wishes us to do so, we'd be most pleased to oblige.

Now, the discussion about Iran took quite a bit of space during our meeting, and let me say openly and frankly that regarding the targets that we are trying to achieve, we are fully congruous; that is to say we absolutely agree that Iran must say no to any kind of nuclear weapon, full stop. That is the joint target that Europeans uphold as much as the U.S. Americans, and we are very much of the opinion that this is the target that needs to be achieved through a diplomatic negotiating path, if at all possible. But this means there needs to be movement on both sides.

Now, we very much assume that this opportunity is there, and I very much am pleased to see that the activities undertaken by the three European powers—Great Britain, France, and Germany—find the support of the U.S. American President. And we very much agree that the targets we're going for is very much agreed: Iran must not have any nuclear weapons. They must waive any right to the production thereof, and they must renounce the right to even close the fuel cycle.

Now, what has now been—may have done in a temporary agreement has to be nailed down fully and completely and, well, sustainably.

Now, those were basically the topics that we addressed. And over and above that, we obviously talked about the situation in Europe, the situation in Russia, and in other places of our beloved world. All in all, from my perspective, a tremendously successful meeting and a very friendly conversation I'm very pleased about. Thank you.

President Bush. Thank you very much for your kind hospitality. And Laura and I are looking forward to eating lunch with you and Doris. And we're so honored that you would greet us here in your beautiful country.

I am—it's obvious that my—it's—an obvious decision was to come here on my first trip since my Inauguration. After all, Europe is America's closest ally. I said yesterday and I want to say it again, the European project is important to our country. We want it to succeed. And in order for Europe to be a strong, viable partner, Germany must be strong and viable as well. And in order for us to have good relations with Europe, we must have good relations with Germany. And that is why this trip is an important trip for my country and for me.

And so I want to thank you very much for the chance to be here, a chance to reconfirm the importance of the transatlantic alliance, and a chance to talk about important issues. Gerhard went over the issues; I will go over them briefly as well.

First, I do want to say how much I appreciated Minister Schily coming to Washington, DC. I had a good visit with him, as did other people in my administration. I appreciate so very much the strong cooperation between Germany and the United States when it comes to sharing intelligence and to working together to find and arrest and bring to justice people who would do harm to our respective peoples or anybody else in the world. And I want to thank you for that good work.

Secondly, I appreciated your kind words about Iraq and the need for us to put past differences behind us and focus on the people of that country. After all, over 8 million people said, "We want to be free." And in the face of incredible threat to their life and safety, they voted. And as democracies, we have now decided to help them. And I want to thank you for your contributions. I fully understand the limitations of German contribution. However, the contributions that Gerhard Schroeder talked about are not limited; they're important. Whether it be ministry building or training of law enforcement officers, those are vital contributions, and I appreciate—including debt relief, by the way, is a part of the vital contribution.

We spent a lot of time talking about the Middle East. And I assured the Chancellor that this is a primary objective of my administration, is to help to move the process along. Peace will be achieved because the Israelis and the Palestinians want peace, and our job is to help them achieve that. And I look forward to Condoleezza Rice going to the meeting in London shortly to help the Palestinians develop the institutions necessary for a free society to emerge.

I said in my State of the Union that I believe a settlement on this important issue is within reach. I said that because I believe it. And because it is within reach, it is vital for all of us to do—to work together to help both parties achieve the two-state solution, two states living side by side in peace.

We spent time talking about Iran, and I want to thank Gerhard for taking the lead, along with Britain and France, on this important issue. It's vital that the Iranians hear the world speak with one voice that they shouldn't have a nuclear weapon. You know, yesterday I was asked about the U.S. position, and I said all options are on the table. That's part of our position. But I also reminded people that diplomacy is just beginning. Iran is not Iraq. We've just started the diplomatic efforts, and I want to thank our friends for taking the lead. And I will—we will work with them to convince the mullahs that they need to give up their nuclear ambitions.

I—we also talked about the environment. And obviously we've had differences on Kyoto. Those differences were first made known in 2001 on my trip to Europe. I assured the Chancellor that the United States cares about the quality of our air, obviously, that we spend $5.8 billion on technology on an annual basis to help develop ways to be able to maintain our standards of living and, at the same time, be good stewards of the environment. And we have a great opportunity to work with a great nation like Germany to share research, share intelligence, and not only to make sure that kind of—I mean, share technologies and to make sure that kind of technology is available for not only our own country but for developing countries like China and India.

And so we have a great opportunity, I think, Gerhard, and I appreciate you for seeing that opportunity as well. This is an important trip for me, and it's—and one of the most important stops of all is right here in Germany. And I appreciate your hospitality.

Germany-U.S. Relations

Q. Mr. President, when your father, 15 years ago, visited Mainz, at the time he talked about partnership and leadership. Would you give Germany the same role today, a partner to the United States of America?

President Bush. He fondly remembers the trip. Thank you for remembering that he came, and I will tell him that the first question I got on German soil had his name in it. [Laughter]

The United States relies upon our partnerships in the world to spread liberty and peace, to do our duties as a wealthy nation to help the poor, and to work on matters such as HIV/AIDS. And we need partners. And Germany is a partner. We share the same goals. We share the goal of a free and peaceful world. We share the goal of working together to convince the ayatollahs in Iran to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions. We care deeply about the fact that there's disease on the continent of Africa, a pandemic in the form of HIV/AIDS.

And so I would call Germany a partner in peace and a partner in freedom and a partner of doing our duty.

Keil. Richard Keil [Bloomberg News]. [Laughter] Here's your mike. He's a very tall person. [Laughter]

Chancellor Schroeder. I see; I see.


Q. President Bush, do you feel that you have gained any momentum here on this trip this week for possible new sanctions against Syria?

And Chairman Schroeder, do you think that considering new sanctions on Syria is something that you could approve of at this time?

President Bush. Dick, the—I had a good talk with President Chirac on this subject. France and the United States cosponsored a resolution in the United Nations that made it very clear that Syria needs to withdraw her troops from Lebanon.

I will state it again: The position of our Government is Syria must withdraw not only the troops but its secret services from Lebanon. And Syria, in so doing, will indicate the other point that the President of France and I wanted to make, and that is those elections that are coming up need to be free, without any Syrian influence.

And so the charge is out there for the Syrian Government to hear loud and clear. And we will see how they respond before there's any further discussions about going back to the United Nations.

Chancellor Schroeder. I very much share this opinion. And let me also add that jointly we are of the opinion that there must be an international investigation on the death of former Prime Minister Hariri in Lebanon. That is certainly one other aspect that—where we feel we stand united. And the French President agrees on this as well.

Role of NATO

Q. Chancellor, I wanted to put a question to you. You tabled an initiative to NATO reform in Munich. It was tabled in your absence, and you then went and explained thereafter. Could you tell me where you agree when it comes to your ideas for NATO, but also, can you tell me where the differences are?

Chancellor Schroeder. We have agreed that we are not going to constantly emphasize where we're not agreeing but we want to focus on where we do agree. And that is why I can share with you that, regarding the question as to where to go for NATO, we are very much of the opinion—and I've understood the President in such a way that we're jointly of the opinion—that it is necessary to take NATO and the European Union, both of them, and to make them into a forum for important international transatlantic positions, where these are openly, frankly, candidly discussed on a high level. That was very much what I wanted to say at the time, and that is still what I think to this day.

President Bush. I interpreted the comments to mean he wants NATO to be relevant, a place where there is meaningful strategic dialog. And that was very clear to everybody sitting around the table. And the meeting ended with Jaap saying to everybody that he's going to come back with a plan to make sure that the strategic dialog in NATO is relevant. And so I appreciated the spirit in which those comments were made.

Fletcher [Michael Fletcher], Washington Post.


Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Chancellor Schroeder has said that Iran will abandon its nuclear ambitions only after knowing that its economic and legitimate security concerns have been addressed. First of all, do you agree with that assessment, and can that happen without the United States joining the talks with Iran?

President Bush. Yes, I appreciate that. Look, first, let me just make this very clear: The party that has caused these discussions to occur in the first place are the Iranians. And the reason we're having these discussions is because they were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn't enrich uranium. So in other words, there is a—these discussions are occurring because they have breached a contract with the international community. They're the party that needs to be held to account, not any of us.

And secondly, what we discussed with our German friends and French and British friends as well is a series of negotiating tactics—how to make sure the process moves forward without yielding to our universal demand.

I might add, I believe there's another demand that makes sense as well, and that is that the Iranian Government listen to the hopes and aspirations of the Iranian people. That's what the German system does; that's what the American system does. We believe that the voice of the people ought to be determining policy, because we believe in democracy and freedom. And so, as we go down the road, we look forward to discussing ways to make—to talk with the three interlocutors without yielding at all on the universal demand that they must give up their weapons in a transparent way. And I'm hopeful we can achieve our objective. And we discussed tactics, some of which have bubbled up, obviously, into the public domain.

And we will continue to talk tactics, to make sure that we achieve the objective: Iran must not have a nuclear weapon. For the sake of security and peace, they must not have a nuclear weapon. And that is a goal shared by Germany, France, Great Britain, and the United States. And working together, we can get this accomplished.

Thank you all.

NOTE: The President's news conference began at 12:24 p.m. at the Electoral Palace. In his remarks, he referred to Doris Schroeder-Koepf, wife of Chancellor Schroeder; German Interior Minister Otto Schily; President Jacques Chirac of France; and NATO Secretary General Jakob Gijsbert "Jaap" de Hoop Scheffer. Chancellor Schroeder referred to former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon, who was assassinated on February 14 in Beirut. Chancellor Schroeder and some reporters spoke in German, and their remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany in Mainz Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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