Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
Tuesday, February 13, 1996 - 11 a.m.
[This press activity took place during a photo opportunity with Secretary Perry and Gojko Susak, Minister of National Defense for the Republic of Croatia]
Q: Mr. Secretary, what can IFOR do about the apparent ability of some of the indicted war criminals to move through NATO checkpoints with impunity?
A: Let me -- hold that question for a moment. I'll come back to you, Jamie, and ask if any of the Croatian press here would like to ask a question either of the minister or myself. Any Croatian press for questions? Yes?
Q: Mr. Secretary, how can you explain the relations between two ministers of defense in Croatia and United States?
A: I have been a friend and a colleague of Minister Susak for some good time now, over a year and a half. We have met in Croatia several times and we have a close and a friendly working relationship between the two of us and one of the purposes of our meeting today is to develop a stronger bond of cooperation between our two defense departments.
Let me ask Minister Susak to answer that question as well.
Mr. Susak: From the day the Americans [inaudible] I think almost three years ago, Secretary Perry in his assignment to visiting the troops in Mediterranean and my visit here last year in Washington, I think since then, a good working relationship was established with in the minister of defense of Croatia and the State Department.
Mr. Perry: Any other Croatian questions? All right.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what kind of topics have you talked today?
A: We're going to be talking about ways of first of all, the operations that are going on in Bosnia. We will give the minister a briefing on what we see in the current operational situation in Bosnia. We'll get his advice on how to deal with some of the ongoing problems in Bosnia. And then we will be talking about ways in which to deepen and strengthen the cooperation between our two defense departments.
Q: Minister, do you think there's any way that the situation in Mostar is going to change? Is there a compliance to the Dayton Agreement?
Mr. Susak: I think the compromise will be reached there if both parties agree although, you know, such a proposal is not in the Dayton Agreement but if both parties agree on it, I think we will accept it.
Q: Do you think there will be a solution to it?
A: I'm pretty sure, yes.
Q: And can you expound on what you think that will be?
A: I think that [inaudible] the proposal Mr. Krajisnik made will stay or some adjustments to it. I'm not sure. They are meeting today and they met yesterday. [Inaudible] is there and President and the Vice President of the Federation [inaudible]. So, they're working. But, they are in discussion and I'm optimistic that they will reach a solution for both sides.
Mr. Perry: Let me now address the question which Jamie McIntyre from CNN asked. It had to do with the role of NATO in checkpoints. The purpose of the checkpoints of the IFOR and the NATO forces there is to prevent weapons from going into or out of the zone of separation, and it's for military forces. So, it is looking for weapons in military forces. It's not there to impede freedom of movement of civilians. It's not there to set up a border between the two entities there.
Having said that, NATO does have instructions that if they come across any indicted war criminals, they are to detain them and turn them over to the International Tribunal. This function can be greatly facilitated by getting information to the NATO forces on the identities, the pictures of these indicted war criminals; and we're in the process of doing that right now.
So, I think while we are not going to be setting up checkpoints specifically for the purpose of looking for criminals, we're not going to be conducting manhunts for indicted war criminals. We will see to it that our forces get better information so if they come across them they will recognize them and therefore be able to detain them.
Q: Specifically, are you talking about better pictures?
A: Better pictures, yes.
Q: But has the policy changed, Mr. Secretary? I mean, to say will NATO forces apprehend war criminals if they see them or are we awaiting some new word on that?
A: No, the policy remains the same. The policy has been and continues to be we are not conducting manhunts for indicted war criminals. IFOR is not conducting manhunts for indicted war criminals. But if we come across them, we will detain them. What we are describing as a change is the tactical change of getting better information so that they'll have a better chance if they see them of recognizing them and therefore being able to detain them.
Q: The mission seemed in a bit of a crisis over the weekend and now seems to have eased somewhat. Can you give your assessment of whether the mission is back on track?
A: I think the mission is back on track, yes. The specific issue which was the handling of the 11 Bosnian Serbs which were apprehended by the -- which were being detained by the Bosnian government I think has been appropriately handled. Nine of them have been released. The other two were turned over to the International War Crimes Tribunal.
Q: Are those two cooperating with the Tribunal, sir?
A: I don't have any comment on that at this stage.
Press: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Mr. Perry: Thank you.