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Press Conference with Secretary Cohen and Prime Minister Buzek in Warsaw, Poland

Presenters: Secretary Of Defense William S. Cohen and Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek
June 15, 1998

Host: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, just a while ago the meeting of Mr. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek with the Secretary of State for the Defense of the USA, Mr. William Cohen. Now, perhaps I shall ask you:

Prime Minister Buzek: This is the first visit of a such highly elevated person from the United States. There are acceptances by the American Senate of our entering the NATO. And one can say that at the moment our relations with the United States are, one can say, of the allied character. So that is the platform at which we welcome the Defense Secretary of the United States in Poland. We have had a very good discussion regarding the present state of security in the European continent; both in the Balkans, as it concerns mainly the matters of Kosovo, and in more general terms, in Central and Eastern Europe. We were also talking about the future full integration within NATO, Poland with the North Atlantic Structures. The details of those talks are held between the Secretary of Defense of the United States, and the Polish Ministry of National Defense. Also, yesterday's talks with Mr. Xavier Solana, the General Secretary of NATO, were devoted to many details of our integration. So, we were not talking about such details, we were talking about very important matters of both a general and political nature, of safety on our (inaudible). Thank you

Secretary Cohen: I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for this meeting. I want to express to the People of Poland how proud we are of what has been accomplished in such a very short period of time, in your country, and the fact that you have made this kind of progress in such a short period of time. The commitment that you have made to the common ideals that we share has been overwhelmingly endorsed by the United States Senate, as you know of course recently, to say that Poland is not only ready but, indeed, it is ready, willing, and able to become a full member of the NATO organization.

This is a very important step for Poland to be a member of NATO, which is the most successful, innovatory organization in this century, perhaps for all time, and we welcome Poland's contribution. We know that there will be requirements and responsibilities as we go along with this membership, and in talking with your Minister of Defense , your Prime Minister, and other officials while I'm here, I am more than confident that Poland is going to measure up to its full responsibilities. You have been engaged in many missions which have prepared you for membership. You were perhaps the greatest contributor to peace-keeping missions everywhere, not only in Angola, and Bosnia, but every area that required a peace-keeping mission, Poland has been there to help. You were helpful to us, in the Gulf, when the test came, for whether or not there is going to be a challenge, to the United States and its allies, when Saddam Hussein threatened to shoot down U-2 aircraft, and perhaps posed a threat to its neighbors, you were there to be a support of the United States.

The Prime Minister has covered the issues that we have covered in our meeting. Let me simply say, once again, that I want to congratulate Poland for the enormous contribution it is making to security in a variety of places in the world, to congratulate you on your membership into NATO and hopefully that would be realized next spring, in the Washington summit.

I came here as the Secretary of Defense, but I also want to indicate that this is something of a personal journey for me as well. My grandfather came to America from Bialystok so, I have something of an affinity and affection for the Polish people.

  • Q: It is meant that Poland at the moment took over the chairmanship of Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe OSCE, how will Poland try to solve the conflict in Kosovo?
  • A: (Buzek): Poland chairs OSCE, since January this year. We have been executing many activities aimed at solving the Kosovo conflict, practically from the first days when the situation started to deteriorate there every seriously. Those were the diplomatic activities of course. In a sense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was involved in all activities; in particular in the forum of the European Union, as that was also a route to solve many problems. There was also initiated an appropriate contact group, which on a current basis monitored the situation and conducted talks. I would like to remind also that there were direct talks held with then-Yugoslav Government , and those talks aimed at deterring the conflict. Of course the situation is difficult and, at the moment the entire international, European community tries to solve all that. I was talking about that directly to Mr. Xavier Solana, the Secretary General of NATO, who unequivocally states that all efforts shall be made to solve the conflicts there in a peaceful way. Of course there are also other actions and steps prepared if they prove to be indispensable.
  • Q: Question regarding how NATO exercises shall be conducted in that area, how is that situation developing?
  • A: (Cohen): I am not aware of the details of the exercise as of this moment. I expect it will take place today, if it has not started already. As you know, there are a number of countries that will contribute aircraft and other support equipment and activities for the exercise. And, as I've indicated before, it will demonstrate two things: that NATO is united in its commitment to seeking a cease-fire, the cessation of hostilities, and to demonstrate a capacity to rapidly mobilize some very significant capability.
  • Q: Question to Mr. Prime Minister: During your discussion with the Secretary of Defense, did you also talk about the possible supplies of American fighter aircraft for the Polish armed forces, and if so, is the government planning to accelerate the process of obtaining these fighters?
  • A: (Minister Buzek): As in fact the concrete technical matters have not been discussed, they will be the subject of the direct talks between Mr. Secretary of Defense with Mr. Minister of National Defense of Poland, the matter for certain shall be mentioned, because it is important. I want to say that the Polish party offers adapting the Polish army in accordance with the program that we have ready - to adjust to the NATO standards, to obtain as soon as possible interoperability of the Polish army, for that purpose appropriate conditions are required. That I have discussed in a more detailed way with Mr. Xavier Solana, the Secretary General of NATO. And at the same time, Poland takes its share of responsibility at the moment for shaping the peace situation in the European continent. We want to create also some political conditions so that the safety of our continent was ensured. I want to stress that extension of the mandate in the peace-keeping force for the Polish contingent beyond June of this year was the concrete proof that Poland actively participates in the process of keeping peace and takes responsibility for peace especially at the European continent but also outside the European continent, about which Mr. Secretary of Defense mentioned.

Thank you.

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