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Southeast European Defense Ministerial Press Conference Q & A

Presenter: U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
September 26, 1998

Q: Mr. Secretary, I heard all your colleagues praising your effort and your contribution to the result of the meeting today. As far it is always important that bilateral relations should be good in order to have a multi-lateral cooperation, I'd like to know whether you intend to proceed to help (inaudible) between Greece and Turkey. Thank you.

A: You have very adequate representation, here on this panel, between Greece and Turkey. But they are good friends, and we work very closely with both Greece and Turkey and obviously our office would be used to promote good relations. So I think you should address your comments to the Ministers of Defense for both Greece and Turkey, who happen to be right here. I think that they enjoy good relations. There are some issues which have to be worked out, principally questions dealing with Cyprus and with the Aegean. But we work very closely with both countries and we maintain strong bilateral relations with them as well as the multi-lateral relationship through NATO.

Q: Yugoslav President Milosevic appears to be unfazed by the threat of NATO air strikes. If you were talking to President Milosevic now, what would you tell him.

A: I would tell Mr. Milosevic that he should look very closely at the resolution that was passed by the UN Security Council. I would tell him to look very closely, and listen very closely, to the words that have been spoken by the Defense Ministers of NATO. And that he should respond in a positive fashion. NATO, again, operates under consensus. No one country acts alone. But I believe, based upon my conversations with my respective colleagues at the meeting in Portugal, that there is a solid consensus that he should respond positively and do so within a very short period of time.

Q: Are you going to use Macedonian sky in the case of air strike on Kosovo, as you used for the exercise "DETERMINED FALCON"?

A: No decision has been made at this point in terms of what operations would be undertaken should they become necessary. And under no circumstances would I discuss in advance what airspace, or other types of space, would be used in terms of any kind of a military operation. No military operation has been decided upon at this point, but under no circumstances would I ever discuss the military operation.

Q: Have you seen any sign from any of the sources that you have that Mr. Milosevic is changing military operations in Kosovo at all? Is he ignoring the demands of NATO and the UN?

A: I think to date he has for the most part ignored some of the warnings that have been issued. I have not seen any retreat on his part from the kind of assaults that have been leveled against villages. He has been doing so systematically, and engaging in, I think, excessive behavior. I also want to make it clear that NATO does not support the goals of those who are demanding independence. That the message also has to be made very clear that this action is not designed to be focused only against the Serbian people. To the contrary, we would insist that those who are seeking independence not take comfort in the proposed action by NATO itself. NATO wants both parties to come to the negotiating table to seek a resolution-a diplomatic resolution-of that conflict. So there is no effort to support the UKC, or the KLA, and those who are demanding independence.