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Secretary Cohen's Press Conference with President Kwasniewski, Poland, 15 Jun 98

Presenters: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and President Kwasniewski of Poland
June 16, 1998

Moderator: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. A while ago the meeting between Secretary of Defense Cohen and President Kwasniewski finished; Mr. Secretary, please:

Secretary Cohen: Thank you very much. It was nearly an hour-long meeting with the President, and we discussed a variety of issues. We, obviously talked a good deal about NATO enlargement, of the financial responsibilities of NATO enlargement, that any consideration of the national security obviously transcends any partisan considerations in Poland and throughout the NATO countries themselves. We talked about the decision on the part of Poland to extend its participation of the peace-keeping mission in Bosnia, and that, of course, led to a discussion about Kosovo.

The President is very concerned about the killing taking place. And we agreed with the NATO decision that was reached in Brussels to explore all options, and that it was important for President Yeltsin to send a very strong message to Mr. Milosevic. In addition, we talked about Kosovo.

We took a brief world tour, and I had the benefit of the President's observations in many of the countries he has visited. And it was clear to me, that he is an individual who does have a world view and who is committed to exploring all opportunities-- economic and diplomatic with many other countries. It was a very informative discussion.

Now we're going to entertain your questions.

Chief, Office of National Security - Marek Siwiec: I also want to add, that is for Kosovo-- we discussed many political solutions. The demonstration of power that took place in the region just recently was only the introduction to some further political solutions, and this is what President Kwasniewski talked about. The president will also sign this week his decision to extend the mandate of Polish armed forces stationed in Bosnia. We also talked about the actions which the Polish side has to take prior to becoming a full-fledged NATO member, that is prior to the summit in April next year.

Moderator: Your questions, please.

  • Q: Will the air force exercise be broadened to the areas of Albania and Macedonia?
  • A: Secretary Cohen: I think that much will depend upon the reaction of Mr. Milosevic and his conversations with President Yeltsin. I think for the moment, obviously, the air exercise has been completed. They could be resumed at a future time, but for the moment I think the pause will allow diplomacy to work its will. We are hoping that diplomacy will be successful, that there will be no need for any further air demonstrations or any further consideration of military options.
  • Q: When the forces readiness (inaudible). Well, the armed forces shall remain in Aviano Base in Italy.
  • A: Secretary Cohen: I believe the forces will remain in the region and will be prepared to follow through with any military action should any ever be called for and agreed to. As I probably have indicated in the past, no such decision has been made, and the use of any military force could be more of a deliberation that had to take place within NATO.

There is, of course, some disagreement as to what the legal foundation would be for exercising the military options, should they become necessary. And all of us have to consult with our parliaments and congresses. And this is something that the key members of Congress will have to be engaged in, as well as have much larger groups along, to allow steps to be taken before we consider any further type of action in this regard.

I will only add to that that it was obvious from my participation in the discussions in Brussels, that, even though there are many steps that have to be taken before any further action, any military action would be exercised, that nonetheless, there is still a sense of urgency and I believe that the political pressures will continue to be brought to bear, to bring about a peaceful solution.

So even though there are many steps to take, nonetheless there's a sense of urgency which I think is quite tangible, from the meetings that took place with the Contact Group and the Defense Ministries in Brussels.

Moderator: Thank you very much.