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Updated: 6 June 1999 Press Conferences

NATO HQ
Brussels

6 June 1999

Press Conference

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

(Presentation Photo)

 

Jamie Shea : Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon. As always, welcome to our briefing, and as always you see General Jertz at the podium with me.

As you know, both tracks of NATO's strategy are continuing: on the one hand we are continuing our air operations over Kosovo and Serbia; and on the other hand we are accelerating our preparations for the implementation of a peace agreement, particularly by building up our forces in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to be ready to enter Kosovo as the Serb forces begin their withdrawal.

As far as air operations are concerned, as always General Jertz will give you the full details in just a moment, and as far as the preparations for the Peace Implementation Force are concerned, you have seen yesterday a number of units, just about 2,000 essentially from the UK and Germany, arriving in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and many more are currently en route.

This twin track strategy, air operations on the one hand, preparing for the peace mission on the other, will continue until the Serbs accept and begin to implement the detailed military agreement that has been outlined to them by NATO Commanders. The discussions between General Sir Mike Jackson and his team, and the representatives of the Serb military, are continuing. Now I do not have the details at the present time of exactly what clarifications the Serbs have sought from General Jackson and what additional authority the Serb military commanders have brought with them today from Belgrade. However, I can say that the talks are continuing in a businesslike professional manner. However, there are a number of very technical, very complex, issues to be discussed and these talks in Kumanovo could take some time to conclude. But I would like to stress that it is in the interests of the Serbs for the process of signing and implementing the military agreement to be as rapid as possible. The linkage here is simple. We will not stop until they start, and as they are not yet starting their withdrawal, we are not yet stopping our air operations.

At the same time I would strongly advise the Yugoslav military forces in Kosovo not to use these final hours before their inevitable departure from the province to leave, as it were, a final calling card behind. I am thinking particularly in terms of shelling of internally displaced persons inside Kosovo, or of the 15 mortar rounds that were fired into Albania yesterday, or of the firing across the border into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or of the looting that has been carried out in the last two days in Prizren and Pristina by Yugoslav forces. If this is a kind of final round before their departure it would of course be in character, but at the same time it is something that we will be watching very closely indeed. You may have seen this morning that 80 refugees from a prison inside Kosovo crossed into Albania at the Morini crossing point and in the view of the international humanitarian organisations, these 80 people were in the worst physical condition of any of the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have crossed over the last two months.

NATO of course is concerned to help the refugees get back to their homes as soon as possible and we are very conscious of the need to help these internally displaced people. Indeed ABSouth, that is NATO's military planning branch in Naples, is currently looking at ways that we can help the internally displaced persons as soon as the Serb forces begin their withdrawal.

Indeed we have a long experience of dealing with President Milosevic. We know with him that you look at the fine print of the contract first and foremost, and that is why we are determined to nail down every last detail in this military technical agreement so that later on there can be no misunderstanding, no misinterpretation, no ambiguity as to exactly what the Serbs are required to do. If that means that the talks at Kumanovo take a little bit longer, and NATO has to continue its air operations, then so be it. Better safe than sorry. We know that a little bit of care and patience at the beginning, before you sign an agreement with Belgrade, is better than endless heartaches afterwards.

So the Belgrade leadership should be clear. NATO is determined, NATO is resolved and we will continue both our air operations and the build-up of our ground forces in theatre until the detailed agreement is signed and until we see clear signs that it is being effectively implemented.

Now I would ask General Jertz to give you his daily military update.

Major General Jertz : Good Afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Yesterday NATO aircraft flew more than 400 sorties. Strategic targets outside Kosovo were struck, as depicted on the slide. By attacking ammunition storage facilities we continue to degrade Serb forces' capabilities. Our main concern at present however is the fighting on the ground inside Kosovo. NATO continued attacks against those forces, with emphasis on artillery pieces and armour. And we will continue to hit such targets until the implementation of a withdrawal agreement.

Despite the present meeting between NATO and Serb high ranking military leaders, with the ultimate goal to end Serb violence, there is evidence of ongoing Serb brutalities against their own population, I mean the Kosovar Albanians.

Ground fighting in Kosovo was heavy in the west along the Albanian Kosovo border. This border region had two main areas of conflict, in the Mount Pastrik vicinity and further north between Djakovica and Junik. We also see fighting in central Kosovo around Komoran, somewhat less intense but still ongoing.

Words have to be followed by appropriate actions. Listening to what is said by Serb authorities, Serb military forces obviously see it differently. We do have knowledge of mass looting in and around Pristina by Serb army and MUP forces. And referring to what Jamie was just cautioning Serb forces not to shell innocent people before Serb forces leave Kosovo, unfortunately that is happening at the recent time. We have recent reports about Serb military shelling known IDP positions in the area around Mitrovica. These actions may well be an indication for coming before a withdrawal could start, but as I have said before, intentions are not enough, they must be accompanied by actions.

Yesterday I briefed you on cross-border firing into Albania and Macedonia. Artillery firing into Albania, as already mentioned, has continued today again, even though sporadically, in the Mount Pastrik area and from positions between Djakovica and Junik.

Coming to the air activities issue. Air defence activity was limited yesterday. Radars were quiet. There was no aircraft flying activity at all and no surface to air missiles were fired at NATO aircraft. All NATO aircraft returned safely.

Let me finish with some words of caution. As I just briefed you, fighting isn't over yet. Serb forces will not halt their operations until the senior commanders give them the order. Let us hope this will happen soon.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes today's military briefing.

Roy Gutman, NEWSDAY: Jamie, on this continued brutality and the looting and pillaging, if this continues after the signature or the agreement at Kumanovo, is NATO prepared to act in some way to counter it? And is General Jackson warning the Serbs that their officers will be held accountable for putative war crimes?

Jamie Shea : Roy, certainly. Once General Jackson has concluded the agreement with the Yugoslav Commanders, we expect them to start their withdrawal immediately. It has to be an organised withdrawal, taking into account the routes that would have been agreed. And if there is any shilly shallying, or dilly dallying, along the way, particularly for the purpose of looting, then of course those forces will be subject to NATO air operations. That is clear. They will only be able to leave peacefully if they get on with the departure, that is absolutely crystal clear. As for the notion of war crimes, I think the record of the Tribunal speaks for itself. Serb military commanders in Kosovo already have seen four of their leaders in Belgrade indicted and therefore I hope that they would realise that just like Milosevic is not immune, they are not immune either.

Mark Laity, BBC: It is evident that the talks have gone on longer than people had hoped, you had hoped to get an agreement tomorrow, they are still going on now, there are lots of rumours of delays, of difficulties over the usual range of things. You have warned many times that this is a typical Serb tactic, but at the same time NATO air activity has been declining. You are still continuing operations but it is going much less. Are you prepared to up the level of air operations if the Serbs continue to prevaricate in the talks or if there is a break-up? So are you prepared to up the level of air activity to previous levels to force the Serbs to back down fully?

Major General Jertz : Yes, I can clearly say yes. We are ready and available with our forces to beef up whatever is necessary and I think if we don't come to a conclusion down there, which I hope it will, whatever, the operations will be intensified and the aircraft are in the area, the pilots are still there and all the assets are still there.

Mark: Jamie, politically we all know that some nations have declared publicly about ramping operations down, that obviously some nations are more hawkish than others. Do you think there is the political will across the whole of NATO to increase air operations if the Serbs continue to prevaricate?

Jamie Shea : Mark, we haven't come this far only to stumble at the final hurdle, of course not. We have not suspended air operations yet, as General Jertz has made it clear. Last night if you were a Yugoslav soldier on the ground in Kosovo it wasn't the best night of your life, we also struck a number of artillery pieces. So do not conclude that last night was insignificant, and therefore all of the planes, all of the operations, are ongoing. And we have made it clear that we will not stop the air operation until we see the Serb forces actually leave and a signature on a dotted line on a piece of paper is not in itself sufficient to stop NATO's air operations, we have to see implementation immediately thereafter. So yes, if the Serbs are not willing to agree to the military technical agreement then the consequences are there.

Patricia Kelly, CNN: General Jertz, what day was the video of the tank taken, was that from the last 24 hours?

Major General Jertz : The video of the tank was 2 days ago, 3 days ago.

Jake Lynch, SKY NEWS: In the agreement being discussed, you have said that it contains a timetable for the withdrawal of Yugoslavian forces. Is it the case that it provides for say 24 hours worth of specific withdrawals after which there will be a suspension of the bombing, or does it remain entirely a matter for discretion by NATO as to what stage of those withdrawals the suspension of the bombing comes?

Jamie Shea : It is the second, the agreement does not specify when NATO air operations will end, it simply specifies, among other things, how quickly and by which routes the Serb forces have to leave. It will be entirely up to the Secretary General, in consultation with the North Atlantic Council, to judge when the moment has come in terms of clear evidence of that withdrawal going ahead, to agree to a suspension of the air campaign. But we are using the word suspension, not halting or stopping. The sword of Damocles is a good technique for concentrating President Milosevic's mind and that is why we will keep that sword in place.

Oyvind Brigg - NORWEGIAN TV: Has President Milosevic put his signature on any paper at all? And you keep telling us that these aren't negotiations, but it seems like the meetings are dragging out. What do you think the Serbs are trying to obtain?

Jamie Shea : Again, let's be clear, these are not negotiations. What NATO Commanders are doing in Kumanovo is clarifying the terms which NATO is insisting that they follow in order to withdraw their forces, and there is a lot of detailed work by the way. I mean God, if you have a contract for the construction of your house, I bet you spend a lot of time going over that looking at the fine print and making sure that everything is tightened up very clearly so that there can be no difficulties or ambiguities later. It is a very important principle, particularly if you as I say don't want to be sorry. And that is what we are doing. We want to get all of these things very, very carefully marked down so that later on there is no room for misinterpretation, or that is not the way we understood it. No, not at all. The Yugoslav Commanders have got to understand this and therefore I don't believe that the time we are taking for a complex operation, we are talking about the withdrawal in a short period of a number of air defence systems, 40,000 troops, as I mentioned yesterday very many different types of unit ranging from army, to police, to border guards, and in a short time frame. And therefore, as I say, it is best to get it right than to do it quick. Again, we will have the signature of the Yugoslav military commanders, representing the authorities in Belgrade, on that piece of paper.

Craig Whitney, NEW YORK TIMES: A question for both of you. Have you seen any signs of Serb troop movements that could be interpreted as preparations for withdrawal?

Jamie Shea : General Jertz is the expert here. The two things I can mention very briefly though is that fighting has slowed down in the northern and central parts of Kosovo in recent days, but along the Albanian border, as you well know, the fighting has continued to be intensive. We have also seen a military train move from Urosevac in the south to the northern part of Kosovo, but of course one train doesn't make a summer, any more than one swallow does. So I think it is too early to predict that that means that the Yugoslavs are indeed preparing to withdraw.

Major General Jertz : Again, I can just underline what Jamie said. We had one additional report of a number of civilian vehicles in the northern part of Kosovo moving towards the Kosovo border, but we don't know who is in those civilian cars, for sure they are not Kosovar Albanians going to Serbia, it might be some Serb population trying to go back to Serbia proper, but we have to just wait. But no clear sign of withdrawal at all.

Doug Hamilton, REUTERS: Could you tell us as many details as possible about the looting that you are seeing in Pristina, how you are seeing it, what scale is it, which corps are involved?

Jamie Shea : I don't have details of this. All I know is that it took place on two days, on 4 and 5 June, yesterday and the day before yesterday, which gives us indications that troops may be trying to sort of help themselves before finally departing Kosovo. It looks as if they intend to leave, as they began, which is extremely unfortunate.

Jean-Marc Ilouz, FRANCE 2: The same question to General Jertz. Is it fair to assume that the army is sustaining the bulk of the fighting in the south west and that the MUP or paramilitary forces are doing the looting? Could you give us some details on these units? And Jamie, (not interpreted), and second question to Jamie, si vous pouvez nous prciser en franais l'avertissement que vous adressez aux Serbes s'ils taient tents de traner les pieds?

Major General Jertz : The looting is done by both, throughout Kosovo, even though the heavy fighting is actually ongoing, the ground fighting, VJ forces against the UCK in the western part, as I already indicated. The shelling in the Mitrovica area which I was mentioning, for sure was VJ troops, not MUP.

Jamie Shea : Non, comme je l'ai dit, nous avertissons les forces serbes de ne pas essayer de laisser une dernire carte de visite au Kosovo en ce qui concerne le pillage des habitations avant leur dpart ou les activits militaires qui concernent les pays tiers, comme par exemple les 15 coups de mortiers qui sont arrivs hier en Albanie ou les tirs qui ont t effectus au del de la frontire avec la ex rpublique yougoslave de Macdoine. Et galement les indications de tirs d'artillerie sur des endroits o sont regroupes des personnes deplaces l'intrieur du Kosovo. Nous surveillons et bien sr toutes les indications que nous recevons serons passes au Tribunal pnal international comme par le pass.

Question : Can you tell us to what extent the delay in the talks on the pull-out are affecting preparations for Kfor deployment? Does SHAPE need all the details before it can hand over the plan to the NAC, or has this happened? And is the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting going ahead tomorrow?

Jamie Shea : My understanding is that the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting will take place in Bonn tomorrow afternoon, that is the latest I have on that. Obviously what is going on in Kumanovo is not affecting the preparations for Kfor. The forces are streaming in and they will be going up rapidly in the next few days and Kfor itself is conducting many exercise on the territory of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and indeed some of the engineers at Camp Century are building a much larger helicopter pad to facilitate incoming arrivals. Why the talks are going on, I think I have said that clearly, because we want to get it right, we want to pin down all of the detail, we want to make it watertight and if that takes two extra hours it will save us many days of agony subsequently.

Antonio Estivez-Martins, RTP: What will be the follow up in terms of NATO? Will the Ambassadors come back here today? Will General Clark come also, or General Jackson will come here personally? And General, once the paper is signed, can we expect immediately a cease-fire and how will this work with the KLA because so far the declarations of the KLA people are going in another direction, they will be fighting until the last Serbian soldier will leave Kosovo?

Jamie Shea : As far as the Council is concerned, the Ambassadors are ready to meet as soon as we have definitive news from Kumanovo. At the same time, the preparations for Kfor are ongoing, the Operational Plan, as revised by SACEUR, is currently with the Military Committee for approval and will be transmitted to Ambassadors for approval very, very soon.

Major General Jertz : On the first question, once the paper is signed, the cease-fire of course is a political decision, as has already been indicated. NATO can cease fire in a minute, even if the aircraft are already over the Adriatic Sea, they can be called back by the means we have. So once the paper is signed, the MTA, it is a clear political decision and then of course we, the military, will stop fighting. On the KLA issue, I don't anticipate that we are going to have a lot of trouble with the KLA because one of the reasons, the KLA want their people to go back home to their own country and that is one of the reasons why we think that they will be following the guidance which they will get from us. And plus there would be no reason at the moment for the KLA to complicate NATO's efforts to get the Kosovar Albanians back into their villages.

Antonio: Once the paper is signed, there will be no more bombing of Kosovo or Yugoslavia, or there will be still this waiting for the troops to leave Kosovo?

Major General Jertz : Once again, once the paper is signed, it has to go through the political channels before the decision has been made for a cease-fire, but that can go within a short time period.

Jamie Shea : Antonio, as I pointed out very clearly, the signature on the paper isn't enough to stop NATO's air operations, it is tanks going by border posts, or at least between Kosovo and Serbia, that will be what we are looking for.

Luc Rosenzweig, LE MONDE: Deux questions svp: La premire, les informations font tat de positions de militaires yougoslaves disant on ne peut pas se retirer si rapidement que vous le dsireriez du Kosovo pour des raisons videntes, nous manquons de carburant, nos vhicules ont t quelquefois dtruits par les bombardements de l'OTAN et les routes que vous nous indiquez sont en mauvais tat, alors ma question est la suivante: est-ce qu'on peut imaginer que Un, l'OTAN donne un dlai supplmentaire au Yougoslaves pour se retirer en raison de ses objections et deuximement qu'on aide par exemple les Serbes se retirer en leur fournissant ventuellement du carburant?

Jamie Shea : Luc, le dlai imparti dans l'accord est clair: 7 jours. Et si les forces serbes ont du carburant pour continuer mener leurs oprations au Mont Plastrik contre les forces de l'UCK, je crois qu'elles pourront utiliser le carburant pour engager la marche arrire et se retirer du Kosovo. Le Kosovo n'est pas trs grand, il ne s'agit pas de faire 2,000 kilomtres avant de traverser la frontire et les routes existantes pour le retrait sont l et ont t clairement designes par le Gnral Jackson.

M. Jungwirt, DIE KLEINE ZEITUNG: You were giving us a scenario, signing the agreement, withdrawing Serbian troops and stopping the bombing. Where does the UN resolution fit into this time frame?

Jamie Shea : The G8 Foreign Ministers are meeting tomorrow essentially to finalise the text of the UN Security Council resolution. Once that work is done, and hopefully it will be done successfully, the text can go off to New York and be voted upon quickly. As far as NATO is concerned, the quicker the better, but it does depend on the G8 tomorrow.

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