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Cohen Says U.S.-Greek Ties Strong

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

ATHENS, Greece, April 23, 1998 – "We are dedicated to building a very strong relationship, and to make it even stronger in the future," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told Greek officials here April 21.

"Greece and the United States have had a strong defense relationship," Cohen said. "As NATO members, we have a long history of cooperation that strengthened the alliance and bolstered the security of both our nations. We are equal and reliable partners with shared values and common goals."

Cohen's visit to Greece was the last leg of a five-country trip. In Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Greece, he discussed regional concerns with local government officials and offered U.S. support for military modernization programs.

President Clinton is committed to strengthening relations with Greece, Cohen said. "By leadership and location, Greece can be a dynamic force for political stability and economic prosperity in the Balkans."

During his meeting with Greek defense officials, Cohen said, they discussed a proposal for NATO and non-NATO countries to form a multinational Balkan peacekeeping force. "Greek participation in this initiative would make an important contribution to stability of the region and the United States is prepared to help make that force a reality."

Cohen urged Greek officials to peacefully resolve their dispute with Turkey over Cyprus. "Today Greece and Turkey face opportunities to reduce long-standing tension in the Aegean and on Cypress. I repeat here, what I said in Ankara, [Turkey,] it would be a shame to let this chance pass."

The United States wants to help the two nations "turn away from suspicion and toward trust," Cohen said. "Each has an obligation to find ways in which we can reduce the possibility of tensions rising, getting out of control and leading to conflict."

It's important for the two countries to agree to "sit down and talk about their differences, rather than shouting about them or shooting about them," Cohen said.

Cohen said his message to both Turkey and Greece was simple: "lower the rhetoric; lower the risk; and try to resolve differences in a peaceful fashion so there will be greater stability, more security and greater prosperity for the entire region."

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