|Updated: 21 May 1999||Morning Briefings|
21 May 1999
By Jamie Shea
Last night, as you know, the operations were affected by bad weather. Nonetheless, NATO forces were able to carry out attacks against a series of logistic targets in Yugoslavia, and the targets attacked included a surface-to-air missile support facility in Belgrade and petroleum storage facilities in Sombor, Batajnica airfield and Smederevo. And we also were able to attack two ammunition storage depots at Verdnik and Skomenska Metrovica. That was Day 58 of Operation Allied Force.
We have flown yesterday in the last 24 hours about 300 sorties overall and because of the bad weather only 40 of those sorties were strike sorties and 17 were suppression of air defences. But I am glad to say that all NATO aircraft returned safely.
Today the weather has improved significantly and it should be better, at least for the next 24 hours, and NATO air operations are of course continuing.
At the same time, as you have seen, there are increasing reports coming out of Yugoslavia of dissent and protest, going beyond war weariness to indeed increasing opposition to President Milosevic and his policies, increasing calls on him to take immediate action to end the crisis. Yesterday I reported that the leader of the Democratic Party, Zoren Gingic, reported a state of emergency in Krusevac where clearly there continue to be tensions, even if I understand that the situation is calm today. And we have been receiving reports, which I will try to amplify at 3.00 pm, from Mayors in three other cities who have become increasingly vocal in their criticism of the regime and holding it responsible for the continuing air strikes. We have seen a report that the Mayor of Cacak is now being actively sought by the police, and according to the Montenegrin Television, which is normally reliable on the situation inside Yugoslavia, the civic parliament which has been formed by a group of intellectuals, of professors and lawyers and journalists, in Kacak have sent a public appeal to President Milosevic yesterday urging him to: "immediately end the war and adjust your decisions to the grave suffering of the Yugoslav people". One Mayor in another city has gone so far as to criticise the Yugoslav Army for drawing attacks on civilian areas by placing military equipment in those civilian locations.
At the same time I want to stress once again, as I do every morning, that NATO operations continue, NATO's strategy remains the same, there are no changes at all. We continue to insist without reservation on the full compliance with our five conditions: to stop the killing, withdrawal of the Yugoslav Army and special polices, acceptance of an international security force, the unrestricted return of all refugees and that Milosevic must work towards a permanent political solution based on the Rambouillet peace plan.
And I hope that as a result of these three elements which are now in play: the first is the continuing NATO military action, the fact that as you have seen everybody reaffirm in the last days, the strategy is working, the strategy is not going to change, we are going to continue it to its end; secondly, the increasing diplomatic efforts with NATO countries and Russia working together to isolate Milosevic politically; and thirdly, the increasing signs now of unrest in Yugoslavia, both within the Armed Forces but within the population at large, meaning that some form of public opinion is emerging, calling on him now to take those measures which are necessary to stop or to resolve the crisis.
So Milosevic therefore is being pinned down on three fronts, both external and internal and obviously it is important that these pressures are maintained until the crisis is resolved.
John: Jamie, you say that you continue to insist on the five conditions, do you continue to insist that they be agreed to by President Milosevic before any let-up in the bombing?
Jamie Shea: Absolutely John, and we must have from Milosevic agreement to meet those five conditions or NATO action will continue, that is clear. The diplomatic efforts which we strongly support and encourage are designed to be another factor of pressure on Milosevic to get him to accept the five conditions, and as I am permanently pointing out, the five conditions are embodied in that diplomatic process, both in the G8 and in the UN Security Council resolution which is being prepared at the moment.
John: Does that mean that you stand by what you said yesterday in the 3.00 pm briefing, what counts is the five conditions, not the timing?
Jamie Shea: That is right, that is right. Of course we would like the timing to be rapid but its results, it is the objectives which are going to be our load star in this operation.
JOHN: So are you talking now, in answer to these previous questions, of a permanent cease-fire rather than a temporary cease-fire, might there still be a temporary cease-fire before this permanent cease-fire comes into place? And secondly, do you have any up-date on whether or not it was a NATO bomb which hit the hospital yesterday?
Jamie Shea: I have made clear all along that the diplomacy is pointing in the same direction as the military operation, it is another form of pressure on Milosevic to get him to accept the five conditions, and until those five conditions are accepted, the air campaign is going to continue. I have said before I am not going to speculate on what is going to happen at the very, very end, once Milosevic has accepted the five conditions, that will be up to the NATO Council to decide. But until Milosevic accepts the five conditions there will be absolutely no change in the course of action that we are pursuing at the moment. And on the second question, I said yesterday what I know about this incident in Belgrade, we gave the information such as we have it and I don't have anything further to add on that one.
John: There seems to be a lot of interest in Mr D'Alema's comments of yesterday that if a draft can be put together there could be a halt to the bombing. But as Mr Solana said yesterday, resolution is still a long way off. What are the prospects for both the draft at the moment and also for a pause to the bombing?
Jamie Shea: The prospects for the draft I think are moving ahead, encouragingly. As you know, Strobe Talbott and President Ahtisaari are in Moscow still today meeting with Mr Chernomyrdin. The fact that that meeting is carrying on today I think is a sign that they want to make progress. You have seen what Mr Chernomyrdin said yesterday which is that we are going to keep working until we get a solution and I think that was a very encouraging remark. Mr Talbott has also said that the talks have been constructive. Everybody knows that there is still some work to do. But let me stress, we are working on one text, it is not a question of you know several texts all in competition with each other, there is one single draft for this UN Security Council resolution, there may still be the inevitable brackets around certain elements, but the fact that we are working off the same hymn sheet as it were I think is an encouraging sign and the commitment to keep that going is important. As you know, Secretary General Kofi Annan of the UN will be meeting President Ahtisaari in Sweden later today as well, so I think the work there is going ahead very, very well.
As for your second question, again I am going to make this clear. I am not going to speculate. We will keep this air operation up until such time as Milosevic has met the five conditions and when Milosevic has met the five conditions we will see how we are going to implement these on the ground in practice. But as Milosevic has not yet met the five conditions, we have no choice but to keep up our present operations and that is exactly what we are going to do. I am really not going to get drawn into speculation about what will happen at the end because we are unfortunately not yet at the end.
Rick: Robin Cook said last night an eventual ground force is about half way there, assembled and getting ready to go in once a deal is reached. Would you agree with that, that you are about half way there as far as assembling an eventual peace keeping military force? And secondly, in the negotiating process Milosevic is going to need some face saving gesture. Is NATO interested in giving him the opportunity or the ability to save face with his people?
Jamie Shea: Rick, first of all on the ground forces, as you know, we are currently revising the operational plan for this operation which is called Joint Guardian. It is still with the Military Committee. They have been working at it all week because obviously this is very, well the word is probably not complicated but as you know it is a very detailed plan with very many elements and I believe that that will probably go up to the NATO Ambassadors some time next week for their consideration, and then of course they will take whatever decisions they want to take. But we are clear that we need of course to adjust the operational plan for this force to the new circumstances, that has been the objective of this exercise from the very beginning. We are obviously very mindful of the need to have a force which is ready to go as soon as Milosevic has met the five conditions.
We are not in bad shape on this one because you know, and I never fail to repeat this, we have got about 13,000 troops at the moment in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and they will go up to about 16,000 by the beginning of June when the current reinforcements that have been programmed arrive. Now that force, KFOR as it is called under General Michael Jackson, over the last few weeks has been less involved in humanitarian relief operations. As you know, when the refugees began to come into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, they had to divert a lot of their attention towards building refugee camps, there are six of them in all, unloading aircraft at Skopje, improving the airport facilities, I don't need to remind you of all these details, you have been at the briefings of course. So they were diverted to some degree. But over the last couple of weeks, as the international relief organisations have taken over responsibility for the camps and have obviously stepped up their own operations, and as the refugee inflow into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has stabilised around 5,100 a day, even if that is still a lot, but anyway we haven't had a mass influx. So General Jackson has been able to get back to his primary job which is training his forces for the mission and they have been doing that very, very intensively indeed.
So what I want to stress is we do have a capable so-called enabling force, advance guard force, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. As to whether that force is going to need to be reinforced in the near future in order to be fully ready for the mission as soon as Milosevic meets the five conditions, that is something which obviously the NATO Council will have to decide upon on the basis of the advice of the Military Committee.
Rick: And as far as giving Milosevic the chance to save face with his people?
Jamie Shea: I think the best way for Milosevic to save face with his people is to act in his people's interests and there are several ways he can do that. The first thing is he can obviously listen to the increasing voices. And what is significant is that a lot of the protests paradoxically are occurring in areas, with the exception of Kacak, where the opposition has not been particularly strong in the past. Southern Serbia is normally strongly in favour of Milosevic's socialists when it comes to election time, so it is interesting that the heartland of his political rule is the area where now they are directing these messages to him. I am not saying that this is a tidal wave of popular protest, of course it isn't, let's be frank about it, but it is significant that a number of cities now are having mayors or other groups that are speaking out, because there is a penalty for speaking out, as you know. And I hope President Milosevic will listen. Clearly these people want to be able to get on with their own lives and not see their sons sent to fight in Kosovo, that seems to be the message. So that is the first thing.
Secondly, he can agree to the five conditions which provide the only way forward really for Yugoslavia. It is a multi-ethnic society, it has to recognise the human rights of the non-Serb groups. Milosevic shows every sign of wanting to have Yugoslavia as a multi-ethnic society, at least with the exception of throwing out the Kosovar Albanians, but if that is the case, he obviously has to allow them the autonomy that is necessary in that kind of situation. I think he can also start devoting his attention to economic reconstruction. We are hearing reports now increasingly of people getting wage cuts, of pensions not being paid, and again the amount of money that has been poured into the military forces has been at the expense of the civilian population. Kerosene is being used instead of petrol, and other forms of fuel. Again I think Milosevic's people would prefer him to focus on their own well being rather than on his wars. This is the fourth, as you know, since 1991 that Milosevic is responsible for and I think people are a bit fed up with that now.
So again you asked me what should he do to save face, the best way for him to save face with his own people I think is act in their interests and I think those interests are being expressed more and more vocally.
Stephen Grey, The Sunday Times: Back to the diplomatic front, I wonder if you could give anything more concrete about the nature of the G8 discussions. After the meeting when the resolution of the G8 was agreed there were obviously a lot of points of difference that were there, there has been a lot of diplomacy since, is there anything concrete that you can point to where there is a move, where there is a common agreement now on any elements of the solution?
Jamie Shea: First of all, as I said, there is one text which is very good in this process and obviously what they need now to do is to come to an agreement on the fine print clearly. Because what we want is not a very general resolution which leaves open many questions regarding interpretation, what we want is a very specific resolution that does two things: first of all which makes crystal clear to Milosevic what he has to do and provides a timetable that he has to stick to in doing these things, so there is no wriggle room, there is no room for endless renegotiation as to what it all means, it has got to be very detailed. That is obviously a key point. And secondly, that text has got to provide a road map to us, to Russia, to the G8 countries, as to what we are going to have to do, and according to which timetable, to make sure that the five conditions are implemented. For example the establishment of a transitional authority for instance, the arrangements for the return of refugees which the UNHCR is now currently working on, the precise mandate and tasks of the international security force, the specific mandate obviously in terms of command structure and the composition of that force, all of these issues. So what we want is then a clear plan, a very detailed plan, of what Milosevic has to do and what we are going to do and so that it will be very, very easy, as Prime Minister D'Alema made clear yesterday, to judge whether Milosevic is complying or not. But of course Milosevic first and foremost has to agree to the five conditions. The Security Council resolution will embody those five conditions but also provide a road map as to how they are going to be implemented. That will be I think its value.
Jamie Shea: Non, toujours la mme situation pour les Apaches.