DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
Secretary General Javier Solana to the Pentagon.
Secretary Perry: Secretary General, I'd like to welcome you to the Pentagon again. It's always a pleasure to have you here.
Q: Secretary General, we'd like a few questions if we could. Your going to Moscow, I understand, later this month to discuss NATO with the Russians. I'd like to ask you both is NATO prepared to give the formal, legal right take part in any decisions [for] NATO, including expansion?
Secretary General Solana: Well, as you know very well, the decision about opening NATO is a decision that has already been taken in last ministerial meeting in December. But, let me tell you that we are doing our best to contract a solid and long- lasting bilateral relation with Russia. We're in this process and I do hope that we'll get it on track before the Summit, which as you know, will take place the beginning of July.
Q: But Russia's attitude toward this seems to be hardening rather than softening. Do you hope to make progress when you're in Moscow.
A: I hope to make progress, without any doubt. I know this is not an easy process; but with tenacity, with good will I'm sure that we will be able to overcome the difficulties, and as I said before, have the opportunity of having something on track before the Summit.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could we ask you please, in light of the Presidential Commission's report on Gulf War illness, and also the report and testimony on Capitol Hill today. There still seem to be accusations that the Pentagon was involved in a cover-up in trying to hide what caused Gulf veteran's ailments. Can you speak to that issue, please?
A: The first point I would make is that , the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and the Secretary of Defense -- myself -- believe that the Gulf War illnesses are real. They're real problems. We have a responsibility to take care both of the soldiers and the veterans who are suffering for it. Secondly, we do not know at this time, what has caused that illness. In fact we suspect there are multiple causes, and we continue on research to get those answers. But until we have those answers, and we're not waiting to get those answers, we still believe it is important to treat and to give adequate treatment.
Part of the process of getting an answer, is trying to dig back into the records of events that happened more than five years ago, at a time when people did not understand the significance of what was happening and trying to reconstruct history. That has been very difficult [and it] has been very frustrating. We will continue to do that, but I am committed, and this Department is committed is to getting the best information we can get on understanding what actually happened at Khamisayah for example. As we get that information, it is in our interest to make it fully available, to the Congress and to the public, and we will do that. Full disclosure, that is our commitment.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what would like to see in the charter with Russia?
Q: What would you like to see in the NATO-Russia charter?
A: I'll refer that question to the Secretary General and I reserve the right to comment on his answer.
Q: Could we go back to Gulf though sir. Do you believe, though, that there were Pentagon officials who attempted to hide and cover-up what happened in the Gulf?
A: I have no evidence of any such action, and I say again, that I am committed to getting all of the information available on that -- available to ourselves so that we can be more effective in the actions that we take. And as we get it available, we will make it available to the public and to the Congress. Full disclosure.
Mr. Secretary General, would you care to deal with this question?
Secretary General: Sure, Sure.
I think that on that document, that charter, we have to address three different types of issues. One, general principles on which these bilateral relations should be based; and I think we can advance in that direction with good will and without much difficulty. The second, we can continue to make a mechanism of bilateral relation confrontation mechanisms. And thirdly, the lines in which we can act together -- the cooperation lines -- that include, political, military, civil emergency planning, science, etc.
So I think that would be a very complete document in which that bilateral relation can be constructed.
Q: Do you think it will be signed before July, before Madrid?
A: Well, as I said before, that would be our wish. To that end, we're going work. We're going to put as much energy as possible and as much good will as possible because, I want to say that we need that relation. Both Russia needs that relation and NATO needs that relation. If we achieve that, without any doubt, Europe will be safer, will be more secure, and without any doubt a positive step in the right direction, to bring security and stability.
Secretary Perry: I'm in full concurrence with what the Secretary General said, and this government stands ready to continue to assist him as he conducts these negotiations and discussions with the Russian government.
Q: Thank you very much.