Interview of Defence Minister Mrs. Mimi Kodheli to the “Voice of America”

The Minister of Defence, Mrs. Mimi Kodheli, during the visit to the United States of America invited by the U.S. Secretary of Defence, Mr. Chuck Hagel, gave an interview to the official US government radio and television, the “Voice of America”.

Mrs. Kodheli, you met senior U.S. officials. Can you tell us something about the talks you had with them?

Kodheli: I am honoured to be in the United States, as you said invited by the Secretary of Defence, Mr. Chuck Hagel, a meeting which was successfully concluded yesterday. Meanwhile, the Assistant Secretary of State, Ms. Victoria Nuland had a meeting with me. At the same time, I chaired the bilateral talks between the Ministry of Defence and U.S. Defence Department to further continue cooperation, which turns out to be the most successful than in any other moment.

Mrs. Kodheli, Albania is member of the coalition against ISIL and has contributed so far with weapons and ammunition. Do you expect any other Albania’s commitment, as a member of the coalition?

Kodheli: Albania paved the way and this is very important. What Secretary Hagel said is to be appreciated, because he said, even a small country like Albania can be a model, an example, and may open the path to a process that was not necessarily since its beginning a successful process. It was not known yet, how it would have be done at a time when massacre on the Kurdish population had began, but not only because of ISIL; a very uncertain situation in Iraq needed this close, urgent and important cooperation, which included not only Albania that responded promptly and in a record time fulfilled more than 70-80% of all the needs at that moment to support the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish Regional Government. The other NATO allies, but also other partners, supported Albania in transporting ammunition and weapons, but also became part of what Albania received great and extraordinary praise.

As you said, ISIL is a dangerous terrorist group and in most countries, who are members of the coalition against this terrorist group, a debate arose about risk of terrorist attacks by the terrorist group to these countries. Are you worried about such risk in Albania?

Kodheli: Of course we do. We worry, because Albania is a NATO member country and all NATO borders are endangered, and Albania is geographically located in an area, the Western Balkans where unfortunately the society produces the so-called soldiers, who go to fight in Syria or elsewhere, without knowing why they are doing this and on whose behalf. This can never be the future of our civilization; we cannot have in front of our eyes the images of a massacre, barbarism made in the name of God or in the name of religion, as we normally watch at these moments.

Albania works every day to control the so-called ‘foreign fighters’ and certainly have under control the security of its citizens wherever they are, but obviously closely cooperating with NATO allies or partners in the region and beyond, so that the costs of this response, to this organization, might be smaller. When I talk about costs, we talk about cost in lives, about monetary cost and about the response to this organization, which nowadays constitutes a serious problem for the European Security and NATO countries, and obviously for the security of Albanian citizens.

Given these costs and the need for the modernization of the Albanian Army, as a NATO member country, how can it be accomplished? Is it feasible through the state budget?

Kodheli: This was one of the discussion topics during the meeting with Secretary Hagel. Yes, the Armed Forces modernization is in the top list of our priorities. We have already started it. We are breaking away from the old Eastern weapons and we are headed towards NATO-standard weapons. Cooperation is quite fruitful and we are ready with our structures, with our military units to respond to joint peacekeeping missions wherever the U.S. Army is, wherever any other NATO Army is. It is very important to understand this as non simple process that requires the support of the budget. I am personally committed to the growth and finding ways to have as much income from the state budget, or from secondary resources in order to modernize the Armed Forces, training and education of our soldiers and officers, so that is might give positive conclusions in order to fulfil our noble and constitutional duties, whether within the country, or in the international arena.

You’ve discussed with Secretary Hagel and required the U.S. help and support in the modernization process of the Albanian Army. Has there been a concrete commitment from the American side?

Kodheli: Fortunately, yes. It shows more confidence in the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces of the Republic of Albania, it definitely shows more confidence in the new Albanian Government, and I publicly thank the U.S. Defence Department for everything done up to this point, in particular Secretary Hagel, and I believe this cooperation will continue to expand to other sectors and areas, because only in this way we can be an integral part of the joint missions, of the troops who fight together in the same front and we certainly provide thus, with a lower cost, greater security.

The areas are several; we mentioned them and exchanged ideas during the bilateral talks, and also during the meeting with the Secretary of Defence. Modernization has just started, it will continue to be a long process and certainly, the Unites States will play a leading role in the process.



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