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Cohen Praises European Allies for Kosovo Stance

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

MADRID, Feb. 8, 1999 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen praised European allies here Feb. 5 for their willingness to secure peace in the troubled Serbian province of Kosovo.

"The United States is particularly pleased that European countries working within NATO are ready to provide the substantial majority of force to implement a peace agreement in Kosovo, if the Rambouillet [France] talks are successful," Cohen said during an overnight visit to Spain's capital.

Cohen met with Spanish President Jose Aznar and Defense Minister Eduardo Serra. He said they discussed Kosovo, the 50th anniversary NATO summit slated for April in Washington, and NATO's need to enhance dialogue to promote stability in the Mediterranean region.

NATO is considering deploying about 30,000 ground troops to Kosovo to implement peace if an agreement is reached. U.S. leaders have not yet decided to participate with troops, but are considering sending a force of up to 4,000. If the talks fail, NATO is ready to launch air strikes against Serb forces.

"NATO's fundamental mission is always going to remain the collective defense of its members, and NATO's focus will always remain firmly fixed on maintaining security in the Euro-Atlantic area," Cohen said. "But NATO has shown it can face new challenges ... . NATO met the challenge in Bosnia, ... and the alliance has helped to create the possibility of a settlement in Kosovo."

Cohen praised Spain for its contribution to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and its full integration into NATO's military structure. He hailed Spain's program to build a modern, professional military as a model for new democracies joining the alliance. A member since 1982, Spain is the most recent nation to join NATO.

Spain has played a leadership role in Mediterranean security issues, Cohen noted. "Spain and the United States are united in wanting to make sure that NATO is as successful in the next half century as it has been in the last," he said.

Just as NATO has adjusted its forces to deal with trouble on its borders, the alliance also must be able to respond to the new security threats of terrorism, biological and chemical weapons, the secretary said. "NATO has no desire to become a global security force, but it must have the will and the capability to protect Europe from threats from beyond its borders," he said.

Cohen thanked Spain for its support of U.S. operations at Rota Naval Station. The United States wants to expand its ramp space at the Spanish base to enhance its strategic airlift capabilities. No agreement was reached during the visit, but Serra said he believed the two nations would reach an agreement. "We still have a road to travel," Serra said. (For more information on U.S. operations at Rota go to: https://rota.navy.mil/.)

The secretary said his visit reaffirmed the two nations' shared values and their determination to work together within NATO to protect those values.

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