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Press Availability with Secretary Gates in Brussels, Belgium

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
June 15, 2007
            SEC. GATES: I had a cordial business-like meeting with Minister Serdyukov, and we discussed the next steps in preparation in our areas of responsibility for the meetings of the two presidents next month and also for the two-plus-two meetings in September. They'll involve Secretary Rice and myself and Foreign Minister Lavrov and Minister Serdyukov. And we discussed CFE and the importance of -- I discussed the importance of fulfilling commitments, but at the same time acknowledged, as I had in Moscow, that I felt that Russia had some legitimate concerns that could be addressed by the signatories.
 
            We indicated an interest, I indicated an interest in going forward with the experts' working group on issues in addition to missile defense, and we agreed to stay in touch.
 
            Take a few questions.
 
            Q     Mr. Secretary, yesterday you said you hadn't yet gotten a response from the Russians on your comment that the Russian proposal would not be a substitute for the U.S. proposal for missile defense. What response did you get?
 
            SEC. GATES: None.
 
            Q     Did it come up?
 
            SEC. GATES: No.
 
            Q     Not at all?
 
            SEC. GATES: No.
 
            Q     Do you see that as a good thing?
 
            SEC. GATES: (Chuckles.) I guess I would have to say, honestly, I was somewhat surprised. I don't know how to read it, to be honest.
 
            Q     Did you make a calculated decision not to bring it?
 
            SEC. GATES: Well, I felt I'd been pretty explicit yesterday in the session, so I didn't feel a need to. I did mention that President Putin's proposals and some of the things he talks about go beyond the radar in Azerbaijan and that we would be looking carefully at that.
 
            Q     If I could ask you, sir, about the dissolution of the Palestinian unity government in Gaza. Has there been a request by Fatah for military assistance from the U.S.? Is the U.S considering any military assistance or perhaps contributing any peacekeeping troops in Gaza?
 
            SEC. GATES: Well, I've been a little out of touch here, but to the best of my knowledge, the answer to both questions is no.
 
            Q     Mr. Secretary, could you give us a brief summary of the discussions on Afghanistan yesterday at dinner and what you expect on that subject later today in the meeting which will take place next?
 
            SEC. GATES: There was a long conversation about the requirements in Afghanistan and the need for countries to provide -- to fulfill the commitments that they had made. 
 
            I announced that in the absence of any available apparent substitute, that I would extend the assignment of our helicopters in Kandahar to ISAF for an additional six months, but I expected the allies to come up with a solution by that time in terms of helicopters that had the capability to operate in Afghanistan.
 
            A number of other allies have offered a number of additional OMLTs, the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams. An additional battalion has been offered. A variety of PRTs, helicopters -- other kinds of helicopters, and so on. So there were a number of additional commitments made. And perhaps as importantly, several at the table announced the removal of national caveats, that their forces would not be subject to national caveats. So that also was a very important contribution, in my view.
 
            Tom.
 
            Q     Was there any discussion of shifting NATO Response Force personnel over to the ISAF mission?
 
            SEC. GATES: No, there was not.
 
            Q     Would that be a solution that you might advocate at some point?
 
            SEC. GATES: Well, that's one of the issues that we've been discussing, whether that might be a possibility. I think that there is some concern about that here in Europe. 
 
            Q     Which country offered the additional battalion, Mr. Secretary?
 
            SEC. GATES: I'd rather let them announce it.
 
            STAFF: We have time for just one more, I'm afraid.
 
            Q     Mr. Secretary, with the addition of the offer of the additional battalion, does that still leave a gap of several battalions -- (off mike)?
 
            SEC. GATES: I think that the ISAF commander's overall request, if I'm not mistaken, is for four additional battalions, and that's, as far as I know, in addition to the training requirement.
 
            STAFF: Thank you.
 
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