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Press Conference w/Secretary Cohen and Minister Modise, Cape Town, South Africa

Presenters: Secretary Cohen and Minister Modise
February 11, 1999

Press Conference w/Secretary Cohen and Minister Modise, Cape Town, South Africa

The production of these two draft manuals, which will be finalized within the next few months, indeed marks a milestone in the relationship between our two departments. In just over a year, combined teams of experts succeeded in compiling these documents harnessing the experience gained over decades of active involvement in military integrated environmental management.

Our departments seem to be the oldest ones in the establishment of formal environmental management structures in the military. These joint projects put us both in a position of world leadership, I believe. The United States Department of Defense particularly in the Northern Hemisphere with its own particular kind of environment. The South African Department of Defense in the Southern Hemisphere where the environmental system is quite different from the north.

We, in the Environmental Security Working Group between our two countries, are convinced that the first year's co-operative work lays the foundation for a fruitful and constructive long term relationship where we assist each other in the enhancement of our capabilities to manage military activities in an environmentally sustainable way. In this way we promote the vision of Green Soldiering.

It is a pleasure and honor for me to present you, on behalf of the joint Environmental Security Working Group, with the draft manuals on Conversion of Military Bases in South Africa and Military Integrated Training Range Management

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure and privilege to present to you the Secretary of Defense of USA, Mr. William Cohen and the Minister of Defense of South Africa, Mr. Joe Modise. Ladies and Gentlemen, this occasion as you know is about the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between our two respective countries, our two respective governments actually, and before that we'll give this occasion to Col. Hawstack, who is the co-chair of South Africa/US work group for environmental security to hand over two draft manuals on base future and range management. Col. thank you.

Honorable Secretary Cohen, Honorable Minister Modise, honored guests, the production of these two manuals indeed marks the milestones of the relationship between our two departments. In just over a year, two combined teams of experts have succeeded in compiling these documents, harnessing the experience of decades of active involvement in military environmental management. Our two departments seem to be the two oldest ones into establishing formal environmental management structures in the military sector. These joint projects, I believe, put us in the position of world leadership. The United States Department of Defense, particularly in the northern hemisphere, with its own environment and the Department of Defense mainly in the southern hemisphere with its own unique environment, which is quite different from the north. The work that's been done during the first year of our cooperation lays the foundation for the fruitful and constructive long-term relationship between our countries where we assist each other in enhancing our capabilities through military activities in an environmentally sustainable way. In this way, we promote the vision which we have encapsulated for ourselves. It's a pleasure and honor for me, on behalf of the environmental security working group between our countries, to present both of you with the draft manuals for the conversion of military bases in South Africa as well as military integrated environmental management.

Mr. Tladi: Ladies and gentlemen, now we'll all witness the signing of this memorandum of agreement between our two governments.

Modise: The Honorable Mr. Cohen, the United States Secretary for Defense, your Excellency Mr. Joseph, United States Ambassador to South Africa, distinguished members of the United States delegation, the Honorable Mr. Ronnie Kasrils, Deputy Minister of Defense, Mrs. Sisulu, the South Africa Ambassador-elect to the United States, distinguished members of the South Africa delegation, distinguished members of the United States and South Africa press corps, ladies and gentlemen. Firstly, it is an honor and a pleasure for me and my fellow South Africans to welcome Secretary Cohen and his delegation to South Africa today. The new standard of cooperation between our two countries and, in particular, our two departments of defense, manifests itself in your visit to South Africa. The defense committee of the United States and the Republic of South Africa Binational Commission was created for the purpose of facilitating defense cooperation between our two countries. Cooperation without concrete results is, however, meaningless. Today, we can announce that the cooperation in the important field of military environmental matters has produced results. Firstly, manuals on base closure and range management have been compiled by the joint environmental work group and tabled. Secondly, the agreement between our two countries concerning future cooperation on military environmental matters, has been formalized and signed. The objective of the agreement is to define and establish the general principles which are applied to the initial conduct and management of projects between our two armed forces, with a view to maximizing the protection of the environment in the most cost-effective manner. I believe this agreement is a sound foundation on which we can build and strengthen the cooperation and bonds of friendship between our departments and armed forces. My thanks go out to all the negotiators and staff members who have brought us to this historic point in time. May the success achieved by the Binational Commission, and in particular the defense committee, grow in stature and may both our countries reap the benefits of their dedicated efforts. I would like to thank you for this work.

Cohen: Mr. Modise, first let me thank you for hosting this very significant meeting. This is my first visit to South Africa, a country that is known as much for its beauty as for its commitment to freedom and to justice. I am delighted to be here; our entire delegation is delighted to be here to participate in this ceremony with you. When you visited me in Washington back in 1997, we established the defense committee as a part of the Binational Commission that Deputy President Mbeki and Vice President Gore now lead. The goal of the defense committee is to enable our defense ministries and our militaries to work productively together, just as our governments are strengthening relationships for the good of our people through the Binational Commission. As you have indicated, we've just signed an important document - this Memorandum of Understanding - on environmental cooperation that shows that the progress that we are making in our relationship indeed is more than verbal; it is now committed to deed as well. The MOU is going to help our ministries to work together to solve common problems such as reducing contamination; developing environmentally sound ships; demilitarizing conventional ammunition; and closing unnecessary bases in an environmentally sound way. We also exchanged a draft of a range management handbook that we are developing together for worldwide use. It will outline environmentally sensible practices for use on military test ranges. Our staffs are preparing to host a worldwide conference on range management later this year.

We are also working together on economic and environmental issues that arise when military bases are closed. Both the United States and South Africa have excess bases that must be closed. As difficult as it is to do so, it is imperative that we both do so. When Minister Modise launched his effort to transform the South African National Defense Force, he said that he announced the "Four A" approach. He said he wanted a military that was adequate, appropriate, affordable, and accountable. These I might say, Mr. Minister, are worthwhile goals of any military. We strongly endorse this transformation process. South African officials have participated in training programs at our Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute and, while there, they designed an equal opportunity course that your ministry will use to train managers and commanders. Our senior officials have also set up a hotline between your department and ours for equal opportunity matters. And next month, fourteen senior South African military and civilian officials will participate in a seminar on defense management at the Naval Post-Graduate School in California.

South Africa and the United States share a commitment to making Africa stable, peaceful and prosperous. And we are currently supporting two peacekeeping projects in South Africa. First, we are helping to create a simulation center for training peacekeepers and, second we are supporting the Blue Crane peacekeeping exercise that South Africa plans to host this April. South Africa has a worldwide reputation for its expertise in detecting and removing mines. In fact, the United States is in the process of purchasing 10 Chubby mobile mine detection systems. The United States is helping to fund a South African de-mining program in Mozambique and, earlier this month, a joint working group met in South Africa to identify other ways for us to cooperate in this field. South Africa and the United States both value democracy and diversity; both countries maintain armies to defend their dearest values. But they can only do their job if the military establishments reflect the values that they were formed to protect. Minister Modise's visionary leadership recognizes this important point and from my meetings here, it's clear that our militaries will have many opportunities to advance our mutual goals to help make Africa a continent of peace and prosperity in the 21st century. And again let me thank you, sir, for the hospitality you have shown to us, and the leadership you are showing to your people.

Mr. Tladi: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, the ball is in your court. If there are any questions, please...

Q: Much of Africa is currently in the process of going up in flames at the moment. What can you discuss about that?

A: (Cohen) Minister Modise, indeed, spent a good deal of time outlining the dimensions of the problem or problems, I should say, in both Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We both agree, I believe, that diplomacy is really the only solution - that there are no military solutions to these conflicts. That we need to be engaged diplomatically and work cooperatively, but the military is not the answer for either of these two situations.

A: (Modise) I share those sentiments and I think, you know, that it is our government's policy to try and resolve conflict peacefully. We've done that with Angola - it's no secret that Mr. Savimbi and his top officers paid a visit to this country. I think we spent four days with them in the Transkei, persuading them to resolve their problems peacefully, because they've been at war during the struggle for liberation against the Portuguese and when the Portuguese left, the war started among themselves. That war started from 1975 - had intervals, then continued and at the moment, it is escalating.

We are not going to tire; we will make another effort to try and persuade them to sit around the table and resolve the problems of their country. The same applies for the DRC. Earlier on we did make it very clear to the DRC and the rebels in that country that the military option is no solution for the problems of the DRC. And we persuaded them to sit and talk. This advice fell on deaf ears. Troops came in to assist Mr. Kabila - foreign troops. The war has raged in that country. Today they have reached a stalemate. None can beat the other. And there is no other way of solving that problem apart from sitting - bringing all the major role players in the DRC, get them around a table and let them talk about their problems and resolve those problems. That's the only way in which they'll have a lasting peace.

Q: Has there been any progress been made at this meeting towards the establishment of the African Peacekeeping Force?

A: (Modise) Well, we have had extensive discussions around the peacekeeping force. I think you know that SADC had been working extensively in that direction. The United States is going to support us in the Blue Crane exercise that is taking place. All these exercises that are being carried out, are carried out with the sole purpose of bringing together a peacekeeping force that comes from the member states of SADC. Naturally it'll not only assist in our SADC region, it'll assist in Africa, in any part of Africa they will be there to go and assist. I think internationally also, we've got an international obligation as members of the United Nations, to assist where help is required. So, I would like to take this opportunity once more to thank, through Secretary Cohen, the United States for the support that they are giving us to hasten the preparation of our forces in the art of peacekeeping.

Q: Mr. Minister, may I ask, what constructive role do you see for the U.S. military, if any, beyond peacekeeper training in the African continent, in the context of these civil wars that are raging? Is there any other...

A: (Modise) In the context of?

Q: The problems the civil wars of - beyond just Angola and Congo?

A: (Modise) I think that whatever is a significant role on this continent in assisting in that direction, I think the major assistance that you can expect from the United States is knowledge; the kind of support that they are giving us. That support is not only confined to South Africa. Quite a number of member states of SADC have had that support from the United States. We think it is very valuable support. And it's not only confined to South Africa, also countries outside SADC have had that assistance. And, Malawi and others - Egypt, quite a number of them, and we think this is very valuable. It's support in the form of exchange of experience; support in the form of training. In other words, our knowledge, continental knowledge is broadened. There are some members of the African member states - members of the OAU - who have been involved in peacekeeping operations before. Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and some countries in West Africa, Nigeria for instance, have been involved in peacekeeping around the world. But still, the support that we are getting from the United States is playing a very, very significant part, and it is very valuable. We value it. So we think that's the support the United States can give. Beyond that, and there is also material support that they are giving, there's financial support from the United States. For instance, in the exercise that we are going to have - Blue Crane - two C130s are coming in. They will help bring some of the countries that cannot afford to bring their members into South Africa to come and take part in this exercise. And it's at great cost that those planes are flying, plus crew, and they will be here throughout this exercise. So, this is the type of support that the United States is giving, plus more, which we value.

Q: What's your opinion of the African Crisis Response Force? Would South Africa be willing to play a more active roll in the region?

A: (Modise) We are discussing these issues - and let me start off by saying that we belong to SADC. We have what we call the Interstate Defense and Security Commission of South Africa. And even with this peacekeeping exercise, it's done collectively. It is an issue through our bilateral relations with the United States. Our friends know that we've got this grouping and I think we will also be talking amongst ourselves, talking bilaterally with the United States. [The other countries] also have access to the United States; they also talk to the United States. And I think it's an issue that we are giving our attention to. It is also one of our priorities. We are working on it.

Q: Inaudible.

A: (Modise) Well, the very fact that there will be C130s from the United States with crew to come and help us in this is a practical demonstration. Just because you call it a crisis, it's not the name really that counts; it's a fact that peacekeeping is going to take place. And we are working towards making that a reality.

Q: In your interventions, or probably your assistance coming through South Africa, is your contribution able to sufficiently help with countries such as Angola without having to go via South Africa?

A: (Cohen) What we have tried to play is a diplomatic role wherever we are invited to do so. We have continued to work with countries on a bilateral basis if there is any chance for us to play a diplomatic role. But we do not go beyond the diplomatic efforts in any of the countries in Africa other than our bilateral relations such as we have with South Africa. We can help when there's an invitation to do so.

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