Press Conference with Minister Dominguez at the Ministry of Defense in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Secretary Cohen: First let me thank my good friend Jorge Dominguez for hosting this visit. Over the weekend, he and his lovely wife Ana Maria showed my wife Janet and me the very best of Buenos Aires, as only a former Mayor can do. Everything was just as perfect as the weather and I have had productive meetings with President Menem and Minister Dominguez this morning; and later, I will meet with President-elect de la Rua and then with some of his national security team. Argentina and the U.S. share a commitment to peace, prosperity, democracy and stability. It has been my honor to work with President Menem and Jorge Dominguez to advance all of these goals and because of their visionary leadership, your region, the world, are safer and more secure.
Later today I will visit the peace-keeping center at CAECOPAZ. I've long admired Argentina's commitment to peace-keeping and its contribution to making the world more peaceful. This center and the peace-keepers that are trained are an important part of the Menem legacy. And, in addition, the leadership and vision that your naval and maritime forces have displayed during the just completed UNITAS exercise is another example of Argentina's contribution to regional peace and stability.
People in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, East Timor and elsewhere are the grateful beneficiaries of the peace-keeping leadership and the skill shown by the Argentine military. And because our countries share the same values I am confident that Argentina and the U.S. will continue to work together as partners for peace, both in this hemisphere and throughout the rest of the world. Muchas gracias.
Minister Dominguez: First, I would highlight the importance of Secretary Cohen's visit to Argentina. Secretary Cohen has been a leader, he is the Secretary of Defense of the world's largest military power and has shown special dedication and warmth for Argentina, and he has given our country support in the involvement in peace-keeping operations. He has enabled the presence of officers and NCO's in training courses, he has opened the possibilities for the first time in the history for Argentina to obtain direct financial support for the acquisition of equipment from the U.S., he has enabled for support to be provided to the military in the re-organization and equipping, he was a key piece in the designation of Argentina as a MNNA of the U.S.
Essentially, he has been a friend and he is a friend of our country. I have the satisfaction to welcome him as I'm completing my office as Minister of Defense of Argentina and I was able to convey to him our experiences as well as the experiences which I believe will continue in our country. The presence of Argentine armed forces in peace-keeping missions has the decisive support of the Argentine people. This is why this policy has been supported by the Argentine Congress and it is part of the fundamental objective for the future of our military as translated into the Argentine Reorganization Act, enacted by the Argentine Congress with the approval of both Chambers. This is why. Mr. Secretary, I am glad to tell you that you have come on an official visit at a time of change of a democratic process, but I would like to underscore that this change is a peaceful change which represents the will of the people and the continuity for long-time goals.
Finally, Mr. Secretary, I would like to express my personal satisfaction for having spent with you and your wife this weekend, and I would like to express that this is a personal and great friendship and affection that we cherish and that, I'm sure, it has also been shared by all those Argentines who were able to meet with you over the weekend.
Secretary Cohen: You were far too generous even with the sun...
Q: AFP: Mr. Secretary and Mr. Minister. Did you speak about the radar issue?
Minister Dominguez: With Secretary Cohen, we have had a very complete agenda, involving all the aspects of our bilateral relation, all those matters that involve the interests of the U.S. government and the Argentine government. In the particular case of the radar issue it is not a matter involving the Argentine government and the U.S. government, insofar, as the decisions made within the judiciary of the Argentine country may adhere to the rule of law and transparency rules. That is why I believe that the Secretary in this respect trusts the responsibility and the tradition that our institutions have performed in these matters.
Secretary Cohen: I will just add a word. Since this matter is under judicial review it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any of the details of the matter. I can only say that I'm confident in the high quality and capability of American technology and that it will, in fact, satisfy all of Argentina's military requirements.
Q: AMBITO FINANCIERO: Although it is true that the radar issue is now in the hands of the Judiciary the Senate and Congress bi-chamber committee reviewing this issue has already given its remarks. The question is whether the Secretary has scheduled a meeting with the members of such Congress committee.
Secretary Cohen: No, I have not scheduled a separate meeting with members of your Parliament or Congress. I do hope to meet with somebody from the transition team of President-elect de la Rua but just to engage with them and hope that they will follow and continue the very strong relationship that we have established over the years with Argentina.
Q: LA NACION: I would like to know whether for the U.S. the National Radar Plan has a strategic importance and, if so, why?
Secretary Cohen: Well, I really think that it is an issue for Minister Dominguez and the Argentine military to address. The U.S. engaged in full and open competition for the radar and, we of course believe, that Argentina has made the correct choice in selecting the radar for its needs and the Argentine government and people will have to decide what is the most appropriate disposition of the challenge now coming from the other competitors who lost.
Q: National Public Radio: What importance does Argentina have for the U.S. new efforts against narco-trafficking in the region?
Secretary Cohen: The problem of narco-trafficking or illegal drug-trafficking poses a threat to all democracies. It can and will corrupt a government and individuals and it will precipitate groups of organized crime. It can lead to illegal migration or immigration, it can pose a host of problems to any democracy and that's why it is in the interest of all countries concerned to help in the effort to stem the flow of the illegal narcotics into their countries.
It also leads to acts of terrorism, terror and intimidation and associated problems with it. So everyone has an interest in combating the flow of illegal drugs.