US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with Spanish Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal at the Pentagon, where he expressed appreciation for the U.S.-Spain relationship as well as the NATO alliance that bonds the trans-Atlantic community.
Following is the transcript of the joint press conference, as released by US Defense Department.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS: Please, everyone, have a seat.
Thank you, ambassador, for coming over in your last week. (Laughter.)
Good morning, and welcome to you, Madam Minister. It’s good to see you again on this side of the Atlantic this time, and to have your delegation here, to include your ambassador. Thank you very much for coming
It really is a pleasure for us to host you here in Washington, and to show appreciation for the connection between our two countries and certainly for the NATO alliance that bonds the trans-Atlantic community so tightly and so well together.
These are two democracies that are bonded by the alliance, but we are committed to the common defense as well. And in this regard, standing together with our alliance partners against growing threats against Europe, both from the eastern flank, but I think a clear and present danger from the southern flank that you deal with as a front line state right now. And we are keenly aware of the security challenges that you face along the southern tier.
Your forces are also showing leadership in multinational operations and making a difference, and this is part of what an alliance does. We all step up together. In Iraq, there’s more than 500 of your forces who are countering ISIS by strengthening the Iraqi army and police, and ultimately this is the way we help these nations is by helping them grow their own internal security, not by us being there forever.
In Latvia, supporting the enhanced forward presence, again Spain has stepped up, as always. In Lebanon, you have a very large deployment to that — that unfortunate country caught in the midst of so many problems, with your robust contingent there. And Africa, we find your forces engaged across Africa, and again showing a responsibility to help the security of all nations in that region.
But also thank you for hosting our forces in Rota and Moron. I know that they must like it there because our reenlistment rates — our reenlistment rates are very, very high for the forces that are so fortunate to serve in Spain, because I think the hospitality of the Spanish people proves that this is more than just a military alliance.
And in this regard, Madam Minister, I understand you’re coming directly here to the Pentagon from Arlington Cemetery, where you laid a wreath in respect for our fallen. And I just — I would just say that that, too, shows the depth of our commitment to one another and the respect we have for each other.
So thank you again, Madam Minister. I look forward to our discussion. If you’d like to say a few words in front of the press here, please feel free.
SPANISH MINISTER OF DEFENSE MARIA DOLORES DE COSPEDAL: (inaudible) — Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your warm welcome, and also for your — (inaudible). We are — (inaudible) — very well — (inaudible) — I say, all of us say — know the United States and Spain have a — have enjoyed a very strong — (inaudible) — cooperation in defense for more than — (inaudible) — for us to our principles. (inaudible) — on the — (inaudible) — is to reinforce our common bonds with practical missions.
And from this point of view, for me — my purpose –for this visit and in this meeting is to –see what else can do together — (inaudible) — and for the future.
Of course, it will — (inaudible) — very important and — (inaudible) — military facilities in my country, we think, but we would like to be much more for the United States, more — (inaudible). (inaudible) — said that we shared very important number of key security challenges. Spain is completely committed with the fight against — (inaudible) — terrorism.
We’re completely convinced about that, and we are working very — active in that pursuit. (inaudible) — we are also making a very big effort in our — (inaudible) — mission, and our — (inaudible) — contribution — our operational contribution is very important for us.
We also support and promote the stability and security –in the Atlantic area. So, along with our European allies, we would like to reinforce our trans-Atlantic links with the United States, because we think — I think it’s — (inaudible) — important for our common interests. And this meeting is very important and significant for us.
Thank you very much.
SEC. MATTIS: Thank you for your words.
And thank you to the press for coming by. That is all for you.