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Special Event

Secretary of State Powell Addresses Press

Aired April 3, 2001 - 12:26 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: One place where it's not raining right now -- and we're going to show you that -- is Key West, Florida, and Secretary of State Colin Powell is just beginning his address into the press. We'll listen in and hear what he has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES: ... international effort to bring peace to that region. This is one more important step in an ongoing process to find peace for that region.

I have just met separately with Armenian President Kocharyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev, and I am confident their presence here presents an opportunity to help the two governments find a solution through mutual compromise.

The Key West talks build on the direct dialogue between President Kocharyan and President Aliyev. The two presidents have met at least 15 times over the past two years in search of a peaceful solution. Their continued commitment to a peaceful solution is recognized and appreciated by the entire international community.

The two presidents have made progress in developing some common ground, most notably in their recent meetings in Paris with French President Chirac. Still, there were differences then and still are. But the parties agreed that more extended, direct talks with the co- chairs offered promise, and that's why we are here in Key West today working on moving that process forward.

The Minsk Group co-chairs share a common commitment and vision on achieving peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The United States, Russia and France are working in close cooperation as the co-chairs to advance the process.

We all remain prepared to support an agreement acceptable to the two presidents.

A peaceful settlement is key to the future of the South Caucus and the greater region. Peace and stability in this region, a crossroads between Europe and Asia, is in the interest of the international community and the cause of world peace.

A settlement will allow these countries to avoid the threat of renewed war. It will make them able to address the humanitarian plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and will allow them to pursue their long-term goals of security and economic development.

In the past, Azeris and Armenians worked together to develop the wealth of the region. If we are successful in these meetings and in the process that will continue from these meetings, they can do so once again.

The United States, working with the other co-chairs and European and multilateral institutions, will do all it can to help reach that goal.

Thank you very much, and I'd be delighted to take a few questions before returning to the discussions.

QUESTION: Could you give us an update of your understanding of the situation with the plane in China, and also your assessment of the diplomatic damage that it may have done to Sino-American relations?

POWELL: Yes, the latest information I have is that our counselor and attache officials are now meeting with the crew members all together at one time.

They will have a meeting for about 40 minutes. I don't have a report of that meeting, but I am pleased that it is taking place.

I hope that is the beginning of an end to this incident. I hope that this meeting will lead to the rapid release of all of the members of the crew back to the United States, so they can be returned to their organizations and returned to their families. And also hope it also will lead to the rapid return of our airplane.

And so I'm encouraged by the fact that the meeting is taking place. It shouldn't have taken this long to happen, but now that it has happened, I hope this starts us on a road to a full and complete resolution of this matter.

If we resolve this rather quickly then, hopefully, it will not affect the overall relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

QUESTION: Is there any chance that if the talks are successful, that both presidents will come to Washington at the end of the week to meet President Bush?

POWELL: Well, I think it would be premature to suggest that. The negotiations will be very, very difficult. President Bush is watching this week and these negotiations very, very carefully. And I am sure that, if there is success at some point in the future, President Bush would wish to see both presidents.

Whether that will happen this week or at some time in the future, I don't know, but let's just hope for progress. But we can't commit to a meeting at this time because we have to see progress.

And a reminder that this is just one step on a long road, not the be-all, end-all meeting to get every aspect of this negotiation completed. Just one more step in a long process.

QUESTION: I would like to ask how the behavior of the Chinese government in this incident will affect the deliberations and decision within the administration on arms sales to Taiwan?

POWELL: I don't find the two issues connected, arms sales and this.

Obviously, when you examine the arms sales question, it is done in the context of our obligations to Taiwan under the policies we followed with respect to Taiwan and their defensive needs for many years. So I would like to keep the two issues separate.

But I must say, I'm a little concerned about the way in which the Chinese government has handled this matter. We could have resolved it much earlier, I think, and without creating the level of interest that there is and the level of difficulty we've encountered.

And I think what we have to do now is ask the Chinese to move as quickly as possible, and we are asking them to move as quickly as possible to release our crew members, release our airplane and let's get back to other matters and put this behind us.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is it your hope that a new proposal will be put forward during these talks this week? And can you tell us what kind of message you want to send about U.S. interests in the region by your personal commitment to these negotiations?

POWELL: I think my personal presence as the secretary of state of the United States and representing the president shows the interest we have in the region, the support we have for both the Azerbaijani and Armenian people and their presidents to bring this conflict to an end and, hopefully, allow those two nations to be able to create conditions of peace and stability that will encourage investment, that will allow them through that investment to become more integrated members of the international world economic community.

And so the message I would like to give to the peoples of the two countries is that this is a time for all of us to hope for success in these negotiations so that we can end this conflict, bring peace and stability and allow these two countries to progress more quickly into the promise of the 21st century international world economy.

QUESTION: Any hope of a new proposal being put forward?

POWELL: I can't hear you. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Any hope of a new proposal being put forward?

POWELL: I think there are a number of ideas. There are some ideas that the two presidents have discussed with representatives of the co-chairs, with President Chirac and with President Putin. And so there are a lot of ideas out there that we will be pursuing...

HARRIS: You've been listening to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell addressing the press there after some meetings with Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders. He's been talking with them about ending some of the differences that exist between those two countries. He says that the extent of talks hold much promise in bringing peace to what he calls the crossroads of Europe.

But we were listening to see what he would have to say this morning about the standoff between the United States and China over the U.S. spy plane downing. And when he was asked about diplomatic damage that may have occurred because of China's behavior in this, he said that he understands that, right now, U.S. attaches and officials are meeting with these 24 crewmen from the United States, and he understands this meeting will last for about 40 minutes or so.

He says he did not have any reports of information from that meeting, but he did say that he is encouraged that this meeting is taking place.

Let's go back and see if he's taking any other questions.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

QUESTION: Do you consider this a violation of U.S. sovereignty, so to speak? And what would the repercussions be for that?

POWELL: I've heard those reports, but I cannot confirm them. We won't be able, really, to confirm much until we are able to speak to all the members of our crew in a totally open environment. But all I can say is that I've heard those reports. I cannot confirm those reports. And I'll leave it there, because I'd be just hypothesizing on what the consequences might be of such a violation.

We have said that the plane should not be violated. It is protected, in our judgment, from that kind of intrusion. But I can't confirm whether such intrusion has taken place.

Thank you.

HARRIS: That final question there that the secretary was addressing was a question of whether or not the Chinese have actually boarded that plane, this U.S. spy plane that is on Hainan Island right now. Reports that CNN had filed today from the Pentagon suggest that that plane has been boarded, and in fact, that equipment onboard that plane has been removed by Chinese officials. Secretary Powell said that he cannot confirm that and would not address that particular issue.

He did say, in other comments this morning, when he was asked how China's behavior may actually affect U.S. policy, specifically the policy regarding arm sales to Taiwan, in his mind, these two incidents are in no way connected, and he would like to keep them separate; however, he says that he believes that China could have resolved this situation a lot sooner.

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