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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability in Ankara

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 04, 2001

Monday, June 4, 2001

(Media availability outside residence of Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem in Ankara, Turkey)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. I'm delighted to be here on this lovely day. It's our first stop on my first major European visit as secretary of defense of the United States. I have had some excellent meetings here with the minister of defense, the foreign minister and the deputy chief of staff. I have a long relationship with Turkey having started out as a NATO parliamentarian in the 1960s and coming here, and then again as U.S. ambassador to NATO on many occasions, and then later as secretary of defense and then as special envoy for the Middle East for President Reagan. So, I have a great respect for Turkey in the role they play in the Atlantic alliance and certainly value that long-standing relationship.

We all recognize the changes that are taking place in the world and the importance of allies and friends to continue a close relationship as we arrange ourselves to deal with those.

I also want to mention two things. One is the fact that it's been about 50 years since the United States and Turkey cooperated with respect to the Korean conflict, and mention how much we appreciate and value the very fine cooperative arrangement we have with respect to Operation Northern Watch and the efforts to assure that the regime in Iraq is not engaging in aggressive behavior against its neighbors. We've had discussions on a host of matters from the Balkans to missile defense and various other aspects of our cooperation, and I would be happy to respond to questions.

Q: To what degree are the Turkish concerns on ESDI justifiable and to what degree are you prepared to support this within NATO?

Rumsfeld: We've had very good discussions on that matter. There is no question but that all members of the alliance have to be very attentive to see that the new concepts that come along are managed and handled in a way that strengthens NATO. That's the reason that the United States has felt from the outset that the European defense initiative should add capability to NATO; that the planning mechanism should be embedded in NATO, so that there is full transparency; and that activities should be arranged in a way that NATO has a right of first refusal. My impression is that some very understandable concerns on the part of Turkey have been under intensive discussion in recent months and weeks and that a good deal of progress has been made to close the gap between Turkey and the European Union nations. We're pleased with that progress and feel that it's quite close to resolution, which, of course, would be a good thing for NATO and a good thing for Turkey. That said, once that gap is closed completely, there still will be a whole series of steps as things evolve, and it's important for Turkey and the United States and other members of the alliance to watch those details and see that they do evolve in a way that maintains the important strength of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Q: You've said you were both happy with Operation Northern Watch. Did Turkish leaders in any way express impatience with the long and ongoing nature of Northern Watch, or perhaps give you any pressure to cut it back?

Rumsfeld: I would want to let the Turkish leaders speak for the Turkish leaders, but I am coming away from these discussions without having had those kinds of issues raised at all. Indeed, I would say that the discussions have been very positive and it's my understanding that the relationship between our two countries and the coalition nations is very healthy, very strong, fully consultative and working well.

Q: You must have talked about the missile defense system. What exactly do you want from Turkey for the missile defense system vis-à-vis Turkey?

Rumsfeld: The question involves missile defense. Clearly with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction throughout this region and indeed the world, and let there be no doubt about that. It is a serious, serious problem for the world that exceedingly powerful weapons are coming into the hands of a great many nations that did not have them previously, and in some instances nations that have demonstrated in the past their willingness to use force against their neighbors and indeed in some instances their willingness to use weapons of mass destruction including chemical weapons. It is a serious problem. We did have discussions on it.

The United States' circumstance at the present time is essentially this: There needs to be research, development and testing done on a variety of methods of dealing with missiles, incoming missiles and missile defense. That process is under way in the United States. There is not a specific architecture, if you will, that exists today because a good deal of the work that needs to be done had not been done previously. So, it's underway.

There is no question but that Turkey and the United States, from everything in my discussions today, have a very common understanding of what the nature of the threat is and a sensitivity to the importance of developing the kinds of capabilities that will enable peaceful nations that want to contribute to peace and stability in the world, to have the ability to defend against the increasing numbers of these weapons that exist.

Q: What exactly do you want to install in Turkey?

Rumsfeld: Well, I thought I answered that by pointing out that there is not a specific architecture as yet. Therefore we are not at the stage of installing things in other countries or our own. We are exploring the most cost effective and the most efficient way that missile defenses can be deployed in ways that will benefit our allies, our friends and our forces deployed overseas as well as in the United States. And at the point where there are specific architectures to be discussed, they certainly would be discussed in close consultation with Turkey, as well as with our NATO allies and other friends.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I would like to ask you a question on Operation Northern Watch. What is your level of concern as time goes on the risk to pilots increases and there could be an instance where a pilot is downed?

Rumsfeld: Any person watching what takes place has to recognize that there is a risk to pilots that fly in areas that are dangerous and defended. That has been going on now for a long period and we have been very fortunate that we have not had a loss in Operation Northern Watch or Southern Watch. Is it conceivable that there could be one at some point? Certainly, it is possible.

Q: Is the risk growing?

Rumsfeld: The risk grows to the extent that other nations assist Iraq in strengthening its military capability, its air defense capability and its ability to proceed with its clear and unambiguous desire to have increasingly powerful weapons and military capabilities. The coalition participants in the north and the south from time to time take steps to try to reduce that danger by responding to attacks and addressing increasing capabilities in terms of radars and various types of air defense capabilities, (and) communication systems that relate to these things. They're doing what needs to be done to try to ensure that Iraq's neighbors do not have Iraq's will imposed on them involuntarily.

Q: About the latest issue that Iraq has halted pumping oil to Turkey and also declared that it wouldn't produce any more oil. How are you planning to solve the situation?

Rumsfeld: My understanding at the moment -- now I've been in meetings so I've not seen any later press information -- but my understanding is that Iraq has indicated that they have or will or may reduce the flow of oil. My further understanding is that other countries including Saudi Arabia and the United States have indicated that in the event that were to occur, that there are steps that could be taken to mute or mitigate any price pressure that can conceivably could evolve from that. My further impression is that the last time I heard, that Iraq had indicated that even though they intended or might or had or could reduce the flow of oil that they, I think at one point, they excluded current contracts which run out some six months. So I guess if I had to take a wild flying guess, it would be that in the event that Iraq does that -- and it wouldn't be the first time that someone had done that -- it very likely would not have a significant economic impact. It's my further understanding that the last time it was done it did not have a significant economic impact.

Q: You said U.S. pilots and British pilots are at risk to the extent that other countries are helping Iraq to strengthen their defenses. What countries did you have in mind? What countries are helping Iraq do this?

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't have the laundry list in front of me, but there is no question but that countries have - for example, there were some communication workers from other countries assisting with various types of linkages of communications within the last four months since I've been involved.

Q: Were the Chinese involved?

Rumsfeld: There were some Chinese workers involved, yes.

Q: Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Thank you. Good to see you.

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