Updated: 16 May 1999 Press Conferences



Press Conference

given by NATO Spokesman, Jamie Shea
and SHAPE Spokesman, Major General Walter Jertz

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea : Welcome to the Allied Force briefing. As you can see, General Jertz is once again with me at the podium and in just a few moments, as always, he will give you the operational details of the missions over the last 24 hours.

What I'd like to do, if I may, very briefly and by way of an introduction, is to give you a preview of the week ahead; it is going to be a very busy week particularly on the diplomatic front and that is very welcome because we seek, as you know, a diplomatic solution and any efforts to get the diplomacy to work, to put pressure on Milosevic, to settle on the basis of the five conditions, is something that we need and we welcome and hopefully, from what happens this week that momentum, which has already begun, will get a further significant boost.

As you know, tomorrow here in Brussels the EU Foreign Ministers are going to be meeting and they will be meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Ivanov, as well as with Mr. Rugova and with President Dukanovic of Montenegro, so significant meetings there. The focus will be very much on Kosovo and I expect EU Foreign Ministers again to state clearly their determination to continue with the operation until the essential objectives of the international community are met, but just as much to start looking ahead to the time when we will have resolved the crisis in Kosovo and then need to think about the future development of the region as a whole and this will be an opportunity for EU Foreign Ministers of course to finalise some of their ideas and proposals ahead of the conference in Bonn on the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe which is to take place on 27 May so it is coming close now.

Tomorrow also, Chancellor Schroder goes to Italy to speak with Prime Minister d'Alema of Italy in Bari which of course is an important location given that that is the port from where much of the aid of the international community and particularly the very considerable help of the Italian government to the refugees in Albania leaves from. Chancellor Schroder will also be going to Finland, I understand tomorrow, to speak with President Ahtisaari on the latest moves towards a diplomatic solution and also tomorrow, Prime Minister Blair of the United Kingdom of course will undertake his second visit in a few days to the region; this time he is going to Bulgaria and also to Albania and tomorrow at his first port of call in Bulgaria he is going to pay tribute to the solidarity with NATO of these neighbouring countries and I am sure - in fact I know - that he will reiterate NATO's commitment to their long-term security and stability. I am sure that on behalf of the Alliance Prime Minister Blair will also underscore our gratitude to Bulgaria for allowing our forces to use its air space and we will recognise the contribution that these neighbouring countries are making to bearing the costs of this international solidarity to put pressure on Belgrade. We are mindful, of course, of the economic costs and the need for this long-term programme of reconstruction of the region that must follow once Kosovo has been pacified.

Let me also stress a number of other meetings which I think will focus your attention in the days ahead:

On Tuesday, Mr. Chernomyrdin, the Russian envoy, meets with President Ahtisaari and also the Deputy Secretary of State of the United States, Strobe Talbott in Helsinki and Chancellor Schroder you will have seen has just announced from Bonn - so I can confirm it - will be coming here on Wednesday to meet with the Secretary General of NATO, Javier Solana, on these diplomatic initiatives.

We will also on Wednesday afternoon be receiving an important Partner of ours, that is to say Ukraine, in the form of the Foreign Minister, Boris Tarasyuk, for our regular NATO/Ukraine consultations and Kosovo again will be a key topic there.

On Thursday, here at NATO headquarters, we are meeting with Heads of Humanitarian Affairs of all of our Partner countries in the Senior Civil Emergency Planning Committee; that will be addressed by the Secretary General and this will give us a chance to exchange information and views and help co-ordinate among this large grouping of 44 countries the current humanitarian assistance efforts.

Finally, on Friday of next week, we have, as you know, our meeting at ambassadorial level between NATO and the seven neighbouring countries. This is a follow-up to the summit meeting that took place in Washington a few days ago when again we will be exploring with these countries ideas for the reconstruction of the region and what I would like to emphasise is that NATO will have a role to play in that stability pact in the security area, fostering and intensifying security dialogue with these neighbouring countries, helping them through the Partnership for Peace and other initiatives, to solve some of their practical security problems, trying to help them promote vis-a-vis each other co-operative security relations based on transparency, trust and openness and that will be, as I say, an important meeting as we make our contribution for the 27 May in Bonn.

Let me just say a few words finally on the humanitarian front before handing over to General Jertz. We are of course continuing to be very preoccupied with the outflow of refugees, in fact after a few days in which very few refugees crossed into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the flow seems to have begun again. Yesterday, there were 300 but today UNHCR is anticipating up to 1,000 crossing into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and these people continue to be obliged to pay over money to Yugoslav border forces, charging I understand now 200 deutschmarks for people who have already lost almost everything in order for them to be able to cross.

Thanks to a lot of work by the international relief organisations and NATO, particularly German engineers, the Blace and Cegrane camps have some surplus capacity so that we are in a good position to cope with this additional influx. At the same time, now over 50,000 of the refugees in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have been evacuated to a number of countries. In Albania the focus again is on evacuating refugees from Kukes to camps elsewhere in the country and about 1,000 will be leaving every day after 20 May where they will be in much safer locations and we can better care for them. Indeed, at Kukes at the moment there are about 86,500 refugees so the number has already declined considerably from the levels of well in excess of 120,000 over the last few weeks.

I would like, however, today to focus on a refugee problem that I don't normally focus on so much which is Montenegro, because there are many refugees now trying to enter Albania from Montenegro and the UNHCR has reached an agreement with the Montenegran government so that refugees can be transferred from some of the camps in Montenegro, particularly at Rozaj, towards the border with Albania but we are very concerned here at NATO by reports that we have been receiving of the Yugoslav Army stopping these refugees at the border with Albania. On Saturday morning, for example, one group was turned back at the Rozaj frontier post and the men - this is I am afraid a well-noted pattern - between 18 and 65 were led away. Yugoslavia says that all men between the ages of 18 and 65 are subject to the draft and therefore cannot leave the country but of course that doesn't mean to say that those men are necessarily conscripted into the army, what happens to them thereafter is still a major question mark and NATO is grateful to the Montenegran government for all of its help in allowing the refugees to cross into Albania.

Let me stop there and then ask General Jertz to give you the military operational update.

Major General Jertz : Thank you very much, Jamie, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Yesterday, NATO aircrews flew 539 sorties against a variety of targets throughout the area of operations. This number represents a decrease from previous days because of declining weather conditions into the evening and overnight and weather continues to affect operations today. Nevertheless, we were able to continue our air campaign to strike many Serb positions, particularly in the Junik area. You will understand that attacks on those forces in Kosovo of course do remain our first priority.

Yesterday's ground action is shown on this map. Of particular interest are Serb activities in western Kosovo which has of course attracted the attention of our aircrews. We continue to observe a similarity in the deployment of Serbian ground forces and the UCK. Logically, this is because of ongoing fighting between those two forces.

In Kosovo, we struck 6 tanks and several other armoured vehicles, we struck two bridges, three line revetment positions, several military vehicles, many of which were also dug-in, artillery pieces, troops in the open, various military storage areas and again, command-and-control facilities. These attacks do continue to degrade and disrupt the Serbian ground forces in Kosovo and we are keeping up the unrelenting pressure on these forces for obvious reasons.

Our strategic strikes included military radio-relay sites at Urosevac, electrical power transformers supplying an iron and steel plant in Smederovo and the Bor copper smelter and refinery; an army command post and barracks in Pristina and other targets as shown on the slide.

We have received these two photographs that clearly show the damage to two strategic targets having been hit on Friday. The first is of the Sjenica airfield which we have hit before. I draw your attention to the extensive damage to the runway and taxiways. This strike obviously degrades the ability of the Serbian Air Force to operate from this facility.

The second post-strike of the same day is of the Glogovac power station. Again, our success in this strike is clearly evident.

Air defence activity was less than we have seen over the past few days; there were only two surface-to-air missiles fired along with anti-aircraft artillery.

I am again pleased to report that all of our aircraft returned safely to their bases.

We also continued to co-ordinate closely with those organisations, as you can imagine, sponsoring these convoys in an attempt to reduce the risks to them and as the number of convoys grows, we do have to continue to do our best to provide safety to those humanitarian aid deliveries.

NATO forces also continued to support humanitarian agencies and organisations contributing significantly to the relief efforts in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania. Humanitarian aid flights continued also. Over the past 24 hours, 10 aid flights arrived in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and 17 aid flights arrived in Albania. These efforts, in co-ordination with the hard work of the various non-governmental organisations, continue to provide comfort and support to those forced from their homes by Serb forces and you have heard more details about that from Jamie.

That concludes today's briefing.

Jake Lynch (Sky News): Earlier in the week, we heard that the G8 Political Directors meeting to work on modalities of the diplomatic blueprint had been put off till next week but the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, is quoted as saying that G8 is actually quite close to the wording of a UN resolution so what can he mean so far as you know?

Secondly, clearly a package based on the five objectives is not yet acceptable in Belgrade, equally clearly NATO would not put up with a package based on subtracting from those five objectives. Can you suggest anything that might be added to them perhaps in the category of the reconstruction of the region, some kind of economic benefit, which might serve to hasten its acceptance in Belgrade in the interests of bringing the resolution that you have said you want?

Jamie Shea : Jake, thank you for that. You obviously don't need a G8 meeting for progress to go forward. As you know, Foreign Ministers are talking to each other, exchanging texts in New York where the resolution would have to be passed; the delegations of the G8 have been engaging on an informal basis so yes, things are going ahead and again that proves the point that what we want is a diplomatic solution, we would like it to go through a UN Security Council resolution and that is the priority at the moment as well as keeping up of course the military pressure, the two go hand-in-hand, force has to help diplomacy, diplomacy has to be supportive of force particularly in a situation like this where it is still necessary to convince President Milosevic that he has no option. I am not certain which day a G8 Political Directors meeting will take place but I anticipate that it is likely to be this week, that is all for the good.

When it comes to the five key conditions, as you can see they are still very much there at the forefront. We are not going to compromise on those because for us they are the minimum, not the maximum. You can compromise on a maximal position but not on a minimal one and they are the minimum as I have said so many times to guarantee that we are going to solve this crisis once and for all. President Milosevic has a habit - and he is very good at it - of drawing out crises endlessly; unlike most of us, he seems not only to thrive in a crisis but actually to be quite able to keep one going indefinitely and we don't want that, we have that experienced more or less permanently in Yugoslavia since 1991. We want to have conditions which ensure not simply that the refugees go back but that Kosovo is stabilised for good and that it therefore has international protection and some final definition of its status can be arrived at through the diplomatic process. We know very well, Jake, that if we settle for something less than those five conditions Milosevic within a three- or four-week or three- or four-month period will have an opening to once again start a crisis and we don't want that.

When it comes to what could be thrown in, I don't think anything needs to be thrown in and if you see the pattern of the last few weeks, we are not moving towards Milosevic, Milosevic is moving towards us. He is now putting out feelers in terms of at the beginning saying: "I won't accept any international presence in Kosovo!" and now saying: "Yes, I will!" OK, he may not want it to have a NATO core but now he is talking about the UN or the OSCE so he accepts that Kosovo has to be an international issue, that it is not something that he can or will be allowed to solve purely in a national framework on his own terms. Then he said; "No arms!" and now we hear from Belgrade: "Well, yes, weapons" maybe not of the heavy type that we believe are indispensable but he is putting out feelers there as well and some of his ministers have even said: "Well some NATO countries could participate even if not necessarily all of them!" so Milosevic has begun to move, he's got a long way still to go and he will only go the whole 9 yards as opposed to the 1 yard or the 2 yards that we have seen up until now because the international community remains united and NATO keeps up the pressure - that is key. This is not the moment to relax the pressure, certainly not on somebody with Milosevic's track record.

As for the carrots, yes, we want a Yugoslavia of the future to be able to participate in the new arrangements for the economic political reconstruction of the region but it is very difficult for countries which are not democratic to participate in democratisation enterprises, it is also very difficult for countries which have totally turned their backs on any meaningful market or fiscal reform and which continue to run something between a kind of communist and a crony economy, to really benefit from the type of market-opening arrangements and free-er trade arrangements and EU partnership arrangements which are designed frankly for social market economies and so yes, we want Yugoslavia to participate but I would venture to suggest that it would have to put its own house in order first for either its political or economic integration to be realistic.

Question : Jamie, I wonder if you could comment on a speech made by Justice Arbour of the International Criminal Tribunal last week, a copy of which I left with your very fine secretary so that you would have reference to it. Judge Arbour in her speech said that as a result of the NATO initiatives being initiated on 24 March the countries of NATO have "voluntarily submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of her court whose mandate applies to the theatre of the chosen military operation and whose reach is unqualified by nationality and whose investigations are triggered at the sole discretion of the prosecutor who has primacy over national courts." Does NATO recognise Judge Arbour's jurisdiction over their activities?

Jamie Shea : First of all, my understanding of the UN resolution that established the Court is that it applies to the former Yugoslavia, it is for war crimes committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

Secondly, I think we have to distinguish between the theoretical and the practical. I believe that when Justice Arbour starts her investigation, she will because we will allow her to. It's not Milosevic that has allowed Justice Arbour her visa to go to Kosovo to carry out her investigations. If her court, as we want, is to be allowed access, it will be because of NATO so NATO is the friend of the Tribunal, NATO are the people who have been detaining indicted war criminals for the Tribunal in Bosnia. We have done it, 14 arrests so far by SFOR, and we will continue to do it. NATO countries are those that have provided the finance to set up the Tribunal, we are amongst the majority financiers, and of course to build a second chamber so that prosecutions can be speeded up so let me assure that we and the Tribunal are all one on this, we want to see war criminals brought to justice and I am certain that when Justice Arbour goes to Kosovo and looks at the facts she will be indicting people of Yugoslav nationality and I don't anticipate any others at this stage/

Mark Laity (BBC): On the humanitarian convoys, the 12 convoys that are going in, do you have any means or guarantees that some of that food will reach the internally-displaced refugees who are hiding in the hills? Is there any way that that is actually going to help them as opposed to more easily accessible people?

Jamie Shea : Mark, a key question. Obviously, we hope that these humanitarian organisations are going into Kosovo - despite the great risks let it be said because it is not an easy thing for them to do - to distribute food to the needy on a humanitarian basis, that is to say to all, of whatever race or ethnic or religious group, that require that assistance so yes, we very much hope that that will be the case and that they will be able to distribute those supplies outside Pristina where many of them have gone thus far into the countryside. I want to make clear that we support these humanitarian convoy efforts.

Having said that, of course it is true that the situation is very grave. Just before coming here today I was seeing a report from Urosevac which has been emptied of its population to the tune of 60 per cent where, according to a UNHCR report that I was reading, the food shops do not sell any food whatever to ethnic Albanians, it is a kind of "Serbs only" regime, and this of course is very worrying and many of the refugees that have arrived in Albania or the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia say that hunger is a factor why they were leaving. Of course obviously they were leaving because of a desperate security situation and because of forced expulsions but the added impetus to come out of the mountains to try get over the border is of course the critical supply situation.

Let me just add that NATO will co-operate with those humanitarian convoys but they also have to co-operate with us and we are very much interested in a clear set of procedures so that we know of their activities, that is to say that through the UNHCR they give us 48 hours' notice of their decision to undertake a mission, that their vehicles are clearly marked, that they choose clear routes and let us know those routes and do not deviate from those routes and that they travel by day and not by night and that of course will help NATO to be aware of their activities and take those into account but obviously we cannot guarantee the security of those humanitarian convoys and our air operations will continue.

Mark Laity: On the issue of human shields which has now become more common after the Korisa incident, I know that NATO is saying they are not certain about it but after you talked about it more recently, can you give us some indication of the kind of evidence you have accepting that it is not 100 per cent; what are the indications you are getting, where is this information coming from?

Jamie Shea : It is coming mainly from ethnic Kosovar Albanian sources, Mark, and you may have seen, I think it was on Reuters this morning, an interview reported on German radio with a Kosovar Albanian talking about people being rounded up and taken to Korisa. I can't corroborate these stories, I want to make this crystal clear, I have no evidence of this but there are a number of Kosovar Albanian sources that have spoken about people being taken down from the hills and being concentrated in that particular location. We do have however - and have had for weeks - from a number of Kosovar Albanian sources stories of young men at the beginning - but now others - being taken away and placed at factories, at production plants, at airfields, at military bases. I reported the other day on two particular incidents on 13 May at two different bridge locations where people were used as human shields and Kosovar Albanians, Mark, reportedly tell us - or tell the humanitarian organisations, particular KADON (phon), the OSCE monitoring mission which continues to function in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - of human shield incidents so there are a lot of indications but evidence is difficult. I understand KADON has over 80 individual recorded incidents of human shields, in fact one of them, which I referred to some time ago in a briefing, was as you know the use of human shields during an artillery firing operation against UCK strongholds but the most usual story is simply of military vehicles mixing themselves up with tractors and civilian vehicles on roads obviously as a deterrent to NATO.

Greg: Jamie, following up on that, will that then force NATO to rethink a little bit at least its air strategy, that perhaps the high-altitude bombing is not going to work, you are going to have to get lower, you are going to have to be looking closer at who is there and who is not there?

And if I just might follow up also, Julian Manning of the ITN who was in Korisa yesterday, reported that he saw a lot of Serb military forces in the town of Korisa using those houses in the village as barracks and saw very little military in the actual compound itself that was bombed. Could this be another example of what you have been talking about, that the soldiers are in the villages, they are leaving the barracks, the barracks are empty, you are bombing the barracks but unfortunately in this case a whole bunch of refugees were put in those barracks ending in a very bad situation?

Jamie Shea : Again I stress that as regards Korisa it was a legitimate military target, we had been watching that, reviewing it and making certain that we were certain of where those forces were and that is the important point which I want to stress yet again in all of this.

As for the targeting, General Clark as you know yesterday made it absolutely clear that we will continue to make every single effort to avoid targeting civilians and I can assure that there has been an enormous - I don't have a figure - but an enormous number of instances where NATO aircraft have returned to their bases in Italy or elsewhere with their weapons still on board and when the pilots have been debriefed they have said: "We saw civilians, we weren't certain that we could strike the target accurately, we had our doubts and therefore we came back!" so I can assure - and General Jertz will comment further - this is an issue that NATO pilots are very well aware of. However, we also have good intelligence, we also make every effort to make sure that we identify the targets accurately and you have seen from the briefing that General Jertz has just given you where last night we had a large number of operations against the forces on the ground and we took out 6 tanks and a lot of other pieces of artillery and command posts and so on, so we are aware of the problem but we can also, through good intelligence and good analysis, work our way around it as well and will continue the operations but certainly yes, a number of missions have been aborted and probably will continue to be aborted because NATO pilots will be taking those precautions I can assure you.

Major General Jertz : All I can add is that we do continue our air campaign, in fact as I already mentioned yesterday, in some areas we do fly lower than we did at the beginning but that does not of course indicate that we are more accurate because we are also accurate at high altitude as you know, but where we can go closer to the target then of course there is more effectiveness on the target itself and as I indicated yesterday, because their ground-based air defence is really degraded pretty much - and in the coming days I will give you more details on that - the closer then of course we do go down to the ground but still we also have to indicate that the human shield problem really complicates our military missions. We have to continue to be updated by intelligence, we do have to evaluate the targets; before we attack them we evaluate them of course and after we have attacked them, but to be very honest with you there is no 100 per cent safety. We never can reach that in a military tasking.

Luke: You gave us a week ago intelligence information about the low morale of the Serbian Army. Can you give us the same information about the morale of the pilots who were ordered to bomb Korisa?

Major General Jertz : You can imagine I am not going to comment on this question. The morale of the pilots, if you are talking about if the morale is high to continue to attack the targets according to the campaign to really stop the killing in Kosovo, yes, the morale is very high. If that is what you meant, yes, Sir, the morale of the pilots is high.

Jamie Shea : Luke, if I can just add something. Any conflict brings its share of risks and accidents. Therefore, if NATO pilots, NATO commanders, NATO leaders are not willing to accept those risks they would never use military force. The pilots would stay at home, the troops would stay in their barracks, apart from the occasional exercise they would never go anywhere and frankly, what we see in Kosovo would carry on because nobody would ever try to stop it and so at the end of the day whatever obviously the risks, NATO pilots continue because they know that it is to stop a much greater evil that they are operating.

I would like just to recall a phrase that came to me yesterday which I think is very appropriate from Edmund Burke, who wrote "Reflections on the Revolution in France" at the end of the 18th century: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing!" and NATO isn't prepared to do nothing. We'd rather accept those risks than simply allow Milosevic to carry on expelling the entire Kosovar Albanian population.

Question : I think what he is asking is you seem very willing to speculate on morale in the Yugoslav Army. Can you give us some idea of what happens to morale when these pilots realise that a dreadful mistake has happened?

Jamie Shea : General, as a pilot yourself you can comment on that.

Major General Jertz : I can only repeat what Jamie said but I'm not good enough in all the things you have done so far. Of course, pilots are human beings like everybody on the Earth and of course we do think of what we do have to do, but to stop somebody who is doing cruel and brutal things then of course we are out to fulfil our tasks.

Jamie Shea : And I remind you also because this is a key point of what the refugees in the camps in Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia told the Secretary General when he visited them last week. You will remember I quoted from one old gentleman in particular at Cegrane at the end of the Secretary General's visit who said that even if this is the price that we, the people of Kosovar, the Kosovars, have to pay, that some of us will be killed because of these accidents, it is a price that is necessary in order to defeat Milosevic and allow us to go home.

Now that doesn't mean to say that NATO will not take every single measure to avoid any harm to anybody, Serbs or Kosovar Albanians, we are going to continue to do that but those refugees know full well that if NATO stops its action tomorrow nobody else in this world is going to be there to help them to get back home and so we are going to continue. We owe it to them, and they make it clear that they are willing to accept those risks because they know at the end of the day only we are going to get them back home.

Dominic: A question in English this time, a question to General Jertz.

One of our reporters yesterday in northern Albania came face-to-face with a platoon of American soldiers from the 82nd airborne battalion or company. What were they doing up north near the Albanian border, is that a sign that the Apache helicopters are finally ready to go into action and if not why is it taking so long for the pilots to go into combat in Kosovo?

Major General Jertz : It is a very easy question for me to answer because I have answered it several times. It is up to General Clark, SACEUR, and the political leaders to decide when and where these forces are ready to be in action and the time they come but we have to await their decision.

Question : I have a follow-up on that one for General Jertz if I may. Could you clarify the status of the Apache force in Albania? Does it react to the order of General Clark, the Pentagon and under what procedure would it be fully and officially part of the NATO force? What is the status of this force?

Major General Jertz : Military-wise, there are a set of plans and once a transfer of authority has taken place and once the military and political leaders in the United States have decided that they will be transferred to NATO command, they will be ready to go but this theory, as we call it, has not taken place yet.

Same Questioner: At the moment it is a strictly American force independently of the NATO command?

Major General Jertz : It is strictly American embedded in the other forces but it is still under US command.

Same Questioner: But how much co-ordination is there in the possible use of the Apache force as one is fully aware of the political consequences it would have beyond of course the military necessities? Are there at the moment discussions at NAC over this or discussions, it seems according to "The New York Times", between the Pentagon and General Clark? What is really going on?

Major General Jertz : I can only refer to what I said before. US officials and the NATO leader, General Clark, will decide when and how these forces will be in place and will be taken. That is all I can say so far and it is their decision to announce when they are ready and then under which command they are fighting. Of course, as I already said, they are embedded in the forces; of course they do have a lot of co-ordination going on with the other forces stationed in Albania but that is on the military side of the house; on the political side of the house that is another decision which I cannot comment on.

Jamie Shea : If I can just add a point, I don't believe that the United States would have gone to the trouble, time and expense to deploy 24 - 22 now - Apaches in Albania with upwards of 5,000 supporting troops and a multiple-launch rocket system as well which took hundreds of flights to deploy and then done all of this intensive night and day training if there was no intention to use the Apaches and to use them effectively.

Question : The Italian government said yesterday evening that it was informed only late in a very dramatic way about the bombs released by NATO aircraft over the Adriatic Sea. Do you have any comment on this?

Jamie Shea : General Jertz will I think give you details but let me just make it clear that NATO works very successfully and co-operatively with the Italian government whose support for us is absolutely crucial both diplomatically and militarily in this operation and as you know, the bombs that are jettisoned in very rare cases by pilots returning from operations are done so in certain pre-designated areas so that those areas are well known and so that naval vessels can also go and remove those weapons at the appropriate time to clear the sea bed. This, as General Jertz said the other day, is something which is an operational necessity because it is much safer obviously to jettison these bombs at sea rather than to take the risks of damage should they explode overland so this is a very important safety precaution and my understanding is that the Italian government has taken measures to forbid fishing activities in those areas of the Adriatic which are concerned, but General Jertz you have something to add?

Major General Jertz : I can add on the military aspect. Since quite a while there have been five areas designated in the Adriatic Sea. They are in international waters, they have been very clearly defined in space and the military has tried to make sure that, especially in deep water, these areas are in effect, and in the rare cases where we have to use them they are being used. Unfortunately I don't have them on a slide. All the fliers do have them and they are also distributed to the naval agencies; they are distributed to what they call NOTMARs which means mariners are normally getting this information like the fliers have notices to airmen; they are notices to mariners and these notices have been distributed from the beginning by the military agencies to everybody who should know where these dropping and jettisoning areas are, but also keep in mind that we try to do our best to make sure whenever we have to jettison an ordnance to send a navy vessel down there to pick up the ordnance if it is possible, and in those cases when it is jettisoned the ordnance does not explode because using the military term they are "dumb weapons" on the way down so there will be no explosions, and I have never heard of an explosion up to now.

Xavier: The Finnish President, Mr. Ahtisaari, seems to be called to play an important role with Mr. Chernomyrdin in the future dialogue with Belgrade. I would like to clarify what is his status, who has elected him or ratified him to play this role? Has the NAC discussed it, the European Union, or has it been just a casual informal agreement?

Jamie Shea : The NAC was briefed on the latest diplomatic initiative, as you know, by Strobe Talbott last Friday in some detail. There has not been any decision yet about the role that President Ahtisaari could play and I understand that he himself has also naturally to make a decision but certainly he has been in touch with a number of leaders as you know and will be this week. I understand also that he is to have dinner with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan so I don't want to speculate on that, it would be up to him to announce any role himself in due course when he has made up his mind but he is somebody of great weight in the international community. Of course, his country will shortly be the President of the European Union, following Germany; secondly, he himself is a former senior official of the United Nations and spent many years in the UN and he is an expert at dealing with tough negotiating situations although here, as I said, it is really a question of persuading Milosevic to accept the five conditions and he is someone who is trusted throughout the international community so should he be called upon to play an important role, he undoubtedly is the best candidate to play that role but I don't want to prejudge sensitive negotiations which are clearly ongoing for the moment.

Pierre: Avez vous finalement plus de precisions sur le pourquoi de la presence des civiles a Korica et deuxieme question o en est-on au niveau des renforts de l'Alliance demandes par le General Clark ?

Jamie Shea : Pierre, en ce qui concerne Korica, je n'ai rien a ajouter a ce que j'ai dit soit hier, soit au cours de ce Point de Presse. Rien en plus a ajouter. En ce qui concerne les renforts, comme vous le savez, ils arrivent. Nous avons deux sortes de renforts. D'abord l'augmentation du nombre de bases dans plusieurs pays mises a la disposition de l'OTAN et ensuite presque tous les jours vous lisez dans les depeches, les annonces quant a l'arrivee de nouveaux avions au service du General Clark. Donc tout ceci suit bien son cours.

Let's take a few final ones. Gentleman there. Just a couple of final ones and I think we'll stop for today.

Question : I have been handed a report here from Reuters saying that the Yugoslav Army is accusing NATO saying that because of the NATO bombing its troops are being prevented from leaving the province. What comment do you have on that?

Jamie Shea : The comment I make is as follows: it is like an alcoholic blaming a whisky company for his problem. Next question.

Question : You spoke about the intensive diplomatic activities next week. Did Mr. Rugova ask to be received in NATO headquarters and could you comment on the political clash between the UCK government and Mr. Rugova?

Jamie Shea : First of all, Mr. Rugova has a standing invitation which he received from the Secretary General to visit NATO headquarters and therefore we would be happy to see him at any time he wants to come. I understand he is going to be with the European Union tomorrow.

As for the UCK and Dr. Rugova, they have worked in the past harmoniously together at Rambouillet and I hope that they will work harmoniously again for the future of Kosovo. The safety of their people, the future economic development of the province of Kosovo and the political stability will be greatly enhanced if the Kosovo Albanians remain united, we hope they would do so.

If I could go back to the earlier question because you probably thought I gave you a bit of a cryptic answer, I think it is rather perverse for the Yugoslav Army to say that NATO bombing is a reason why they cannot withdraw. They announced a few days ago a partial withdrawal and they didn't seem to think they would have any difficulty then accomplishing that partial withdrawal and even trumpeted the fact that they had taken out 250 personnel and therefore obviously when they announce a partial withdrawal they seem to take out people without worrying too much about NATO bombing, I am sure they can take out a lot more. As I said, I think to blame it on NATO is to put the Z before A, to put the alphabet back to front and as I have said, it is rather like an alcoholic blaming his problem on the whisky company.

Major General Jertz : Plus the humanitarian aid agencies do come in with convoys so obviously a few roads are still open which are being used, maybe he can use those too.

Question : Still on the diplomatic side, you said there is a strong will to reach really a diplomatic solution and we are all wondering where this could be because you are insisting on the five points that are indispensable if I take it like that. There is an objection, if I'm not mistaken, by Mr. d'Alema who says one should stop the air attacks, see how the Serbs react and then if nothing is happening go in with the full power of ground troops. Would this be a way of looking at the thing differently to what we have done now?

Jamie Shea : As I said when I was asked a similar question at my briefing this morning, NATO welcomes any diplomatic efforts, particularly those that come from Allied governments such as the government of Italy, which can help achieve a UN Security Council resolution, can help to unify the international community and can help to show Milosevic that he is isolated and he has no alternative but to meet the basic conditions of the international community.Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen and so we will meet each other, then, in the morning at 11 o'clock, slightly before, and then General Jertz will be back for the operational update with me at 3 tomorrow afternoon.

Go to Homepage Go to Index