Cohen Travels to Tunisia, Greece, England for Meetings
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2000 Defense Secretary William S. Cohen will travel Oct. 6-11 to Tunisia, Greece and England for talks on bilateral matters, multilateral actions and NATO affairs.
The secretary's first stop will be in Tunisia, where he will meet with President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Defense Minister Mohamed Jegham.
"We have a rather extensive defense program with them," said a senior defense official. U.S. military forces exercise 12 to 14 times a year with the Tunisians. Also, Tunisia receives international military education and training money and foreign military financing from the United States.
"(The Tunisians) are on the (U.N.) Security Council and, therefore, are very much involved in the Security Council issues, and, of course, at this point, it would include the (Middle East) peace process," the official said. "They are also part of NATO's so-called Mediterranean dialogue, which NATO has with the countries of the Mediterranean for issues like peacekeeping, civic emergencies, environmental issues."
Cohen next travels to Greece for the Southeastern European Defense Ministerial. The group, composed of defense ministers from the region, discuss mutual concerns and ways to work together more closely. During the meetings, Croatia will be added to the ministerial, bringing the number of participating countries to 10. This is Cohen's third meeting with the group.
While there, Cohen will be briefed on a Southeast European brigade-sized peacekeeping unit. The unit may be deployed to Bosnia next year.
"(The countries have) developed an engineering unit, which will have an exercise in Albania next calendar year and do some road building," the senior official said. "They are developing a simulation network which builds on the Partnership for Peace simulation network, which will allow us to do exercises and exchange information."
Cohen then travels to Birmingham, England, for informal meetings with NATO defense ministers. The ministers will discuss the NATO Defense Capabilities Initiative and the European Security and Defense Identity.
"In general, we think both these are going forward reasonably well," the senior official said. The official said the guidance put out after this ministerial will be the first since the 1999 summit and the first to reflect the ideas in the Defense Capabilities Initiative. The DCI stresses more mobility, more lethal forces and more logistics away from home.
"A second broad area [of discussion], of course, will be the Balkans," said the official. "Obviously, we have forces in Bosnia and Kosovo, and obviously we have the elections that just occurred in Serbia."
The official said Cohen will have bilateral meetings with Lord George Robertson, NATO secretary-general; Greek Minister of National Defense Apostolos-Athanasios Tsokhatzopoulos; Turkish Minister of National Defense Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, and others.