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Press Conference with Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen in Amman, Jordan

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
April 04, 2000
Tuesday, April 4, 2000

(Press Conference with Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen in Amman, Jordan)

The Ambassador: Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon. It's very nice to see all of you again. It's also a great pleasure for me to introduce to you Secretary of Defense Cohen, who will have a brief statement, and I think then be ready to respond to your questions. Secretary Cohen.

Secretary Cohen: Today I met with General Malkawi and Prime Minister Rawabdeh. Tonight, I will be meeting with King Abdullah, and I must say that every time that I meet with him, I am struck by how much he has inherited his father's wisdom and desire to work for peace. He also has a clear vision of how to improve Jordan's economy, and the conditions for all citizens in his Kingdom.

Now, as secretary of Defense, I don't get involved in economic issues, but there is one way the Department of Defense is working to help Jordan improve its living conditions. And that is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to help with several small projects to help Jordan manage its water.

Jordan and the United States share many common interests, first we're working together to modernize Jordan's military, so that Jordan can meet its security needs. This involves more of our continuing military aid, and it also involves expanded exercises and contacts. I'm particularly impressed by Jordan's increasing participation in multinational exercises and by Jordan's leading role in the cooperative defense initiative, the so-called CDI, to protect against attacks of chemical and biological weapons. We agree that our countries have to work together, to bring along just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

I told the prime minister of my discussions with Prime Minister Barak and also President Mubarak this morning on the prospect for the peace talks. We all hope that progress between Israel and Syria could continue. I believe that a peace agreement between Israel and Syria would also reduce tensions between Syria and Jordan. Jordan and the United States also share a commitment to fight terrorism, an area in which Jordan is doing an outstanding job. We also share interest in convincing Iraq that full compliance with the United Nations Security Resolutions is the best and the quickest way to help the people of Iraq. The Iraqi people are paying a very heavy price for Saddam Hussein's stubborn refusal to honor the international rules of good behavior. If the UN inspectors can confirm that Iraq stopped working on deadly chemical and biological weapons, the entire region will be much safer.

I thanked General Malkawi for Jordan's participation in the important peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and East Timor and this is just yet another sign of Jordan's determination to work for peace. Jordan and the United States work actively together for the peace and stability of the Middle East and throughout the world. And, I might say that I think that our partnership has never been stronger. So, with that let me entertain your questions.

Q: Did you address the issue of putting the foreign forces in Golan? And would the Israelis allow you to put these forces? How would you explain the Turkish invading to the North of Iraq, and why did you not put the embargo against them?

Secretary Cohen: First of all, there is no agreement pertaining to a settlement between Israel and Syria. And there has been no discussion of U.S. troops on the Golan Heights and we don't anticipate that would be the case. With respect to Turkey, Turkey has always been concerned with acts of terror against its own country, and that is something that they continue to fight against. Turkey is a strong ally of the United States, we respect any country's right to protect its borders, and Turkey has been doing that.

Q: Mr. Cohen: Did you discuss with Mr. Malkawi the future of what is -- of the Israeli, Turkey and the United States, did you discuss this matter with Mr. Malkawi. What was Jordan's response to this matter.

Secretary Cohen: We did discuss the issue of Jordan's participating with a number of countries both bilaterally and also on a multilateral basis, and in fact we hope that Jordan would consider any exercises with Turkey, with Israel and the United States in the future as well as other countries. So, the more multilateral exercises the better. We saw evidence of that frankly during the exercise Bright Star last year, so many countries participating in a multilateral exercise. That was very beneficial for all concerned, so the more that countries have opportunity to train together and exercise together, I think the region becomes safer and more stable.

Q: You said, during the talks in Israel, that the issue of Turkish-Israeli-Jordanian joint exercises might mean to put pressure on Syria vis-à-vis Assad's failure to present concessions to do the peace talks.

Secretary Cohen: I didn't make such a statement, what I said is I think it's in Israel, Jordan and Turkey's interest and the United States to have multilateral exercises not to put pressure on anyone, but rather to train together for any future contingencies and that is something that I think the Jordanian Defense Forces also feel it's important to have good bilateral training exercises and multilateral training exercise.

Q: Did you discuss terrorism specifically, and how close was U.S. cooperation in the millennium operation that led to the twenty people who are indicted?

Secretary Cohen: Well, first we want to commend Jordan for its leadership, and its outstanding efforts to prevent terrorism and acts of terrorism from being inflicted upon Jordanian people and American citizens who were here. This is principally a Jordanian success story. And it ought to be commended for it. But, this was principally a Jordanian matter.

Q: Regarding the Peace Process, how do you evaluate this situation now, especially the Syrian-Israeli problem?

Secretary Cohen: Prime Minister Barak was obviously disappointed. President Clinton has been disappointed because they had hoped that President Assad would in fact respond positively and that did not occur, so it was a great disappointment. I think there is still hope, that somehow others can persuade President Assad that this is an opportunity he should take advantage of, but as President Clinton has said, the ball is very much in the Syria's court today.

Q: Sir, yesterday the Italian plane that flew into Iraq and the attempt to invade sanctions. What do you say to that?

Secretary Cohen: The sanctions need to stay in place until such time as there is full compliance of the Security Council resolutions, otherwise the Security Council Resolutions are meaningless. On the one hand Saddam has refused to allow inspections to take place which are called for by the UN Security Council resolutions, and secondly, he wants to remove the sanctions. There is only one person who is inflicting harm upon the Iraqi people and that is Saddam Hussein. We have sponsored the oil for food program, we've advocated doubling the oil for food program, we have supported expanding it to allow for the purchase and repair of oil drumming equipment. And still Saddam Hussein says no inspectors, and he wants the sanctions off, so he can go back to building his military again and posing a threat to the region. So, the way for the suffering that he has inflicting upon the Iraqi people to be alleviated is for Saddam Hussein to comply with the Security Council resolutions. So we would insist that they be adhered to.

Q: Apparently that aircraft went from Jordan into Iraq, as I understand? Did you raise that in your meetings today, did you ask for Jordanian to.....?

Secretary Cohen: I don't think that Jordan is interested in helping to break the sanctions, this was touched upon in my discussions with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister raised it in general, the fact there was no interest on the part of Jordan to break the sanctions. Jordan has been certainly hard hit, economically, we understand that. And it is again to the great credit of King Abdullah with the Jordanian people that they understand that Saddam Hussein continues to pose a threat to the region, and they are bearing certainly a number of burdens in insisting upon compliance with the sanctions to which we are very grateful.

Q: Mr. Cohen, a petition was submitted by eighty Congressmen to ease the sanctions against Iraq? Did you perceive any political move by the American administration to ease the sanctions at least economically?

Secretary Cohen: Again, there have been a number of steps taken to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people, again there are millions of dollars worth of either pharmaceuticals or nutritional supplies, clothing, other types of things that are acquired under the oil of food program which are being held back, and not distributed by Saddam Hussein. So, he is deliberately inflicting harm upon his own people in order to say look at the harm my people are suffering and now remove the sanctions. It's very easy, he should let the inspectors back in, and he should comply with the resolution 1284 which everybody has endorsed and that will provide an easing of the sanctions, but to ease them without compliance is to reward him for throwing the inspectors out, and then trying to get out of the sanctions. That is not acceptable.

Q: Do you expect any military confrontations as what happened in December 1998?

Secretary Cohen: We intend to continue our containment policy and hope that there can be a regime change so that the Iraqi people can have new leadership and be fully integrated into the international community and the territory can be maintained, the integrity of the territory maintained, and their people can enjoy a degree of peace and stability with new leadership.

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