1 Apr. 1999


to the Press by the Secretary General

at News Conference

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Together with SACEUR, I wanted to meet with you today to give you a full update on how NATO's Allied Force operation is progressing after just over one week of operations.

In just a moment, SACEUR and his team will brief you on the military aspects.

But first of all, I would like to stress that NATO's political goals remain the same:

  • first and foremost, we must stop the killing in Kosovo and the brutal destruction of human lives and properties;

  • secondly, we must put an end to the appalling humanitarian situation that is now unfolding in Kosovo and create the conditions for the refugees to be able to return;

  • thirdly, we must create the conditions for a political solution to the crisis in Kosovo based on the Rambouillet agreement.

These have been our objectives for a long time.

We tried to achieve them through negotiations.

At Rambouillet, President Milosevic had a unique opportunity to settle this issue through negotiations and on the basis of a balanced and fair peace agreement.

But he rejected this agreement, even though it took Serbian as well as Kosovar Albanian interests into account.

Instead he has been preparing for this ethnic cleansing for months now.

Even before the talks in Paris ended, he had started his clean-and-sweep operations through Kosovo.

He demonstrated that he was really only interested in a military solution, and totally on his terms.

He left the Alliance no other option but to start military operations.

NATO has begun a difficult operation.

But we believe that it is the right thing to do, and that it is our duty to do whatever we can to stop the killing in Kosovo.

This is why every Ally has pledged its full support and will continue to do so.

NATO remains united and determined.

After one week of our air operations, I am confident that we are having a major impact on Belgrade's criminal war machine.

We are degrading its ability to carry out the current acts of violence in Kosovo.

And the scope and tempo of our operations are increasing all the time.

I will now ask SACEUR to brief you in more detail.


So as you can see, the ring is closing around the Yugoslav armed forces.

The impact of our air campaign will be increasingly cumulative. This is an effective operation.

The current humanitarian tragedy is not a spontaneous reaction to NATO's air operations. It is the final chapter of a carefully planned and methodically executed strategy which started well before NATO decided to act.

There is only one person responsible for all of the refugees now flowing into the neighbouring countries, and that is Milosevic.

Every refugee testifies that Milosevic's soldiers drove them from their homes, not NATO bombs.

I am in daily contact with the leaders of the neighbouring countries. I have assured them of NATO's support and assistance during these difficult times.

NATO member Nations are actively providing humanitarian assistance to refugees in Albania and FYROM.

Already, shelter, blankets, clothes, food, medicine have been transported to the homeless victims of Milosevic's aggression.

Our Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre is actively assisting the UNHCR and we are deploying a NATO Liaison Officer to the UNHCR in Geneva to coordinate this assistance.

But it is clear that the only solution to the humanitarian crisis is a political settlement in Kosovo which will allow refugees to return home in safety. That political settlement will have to be underwritten by a NATO-led Peace Implementation Force.

President Milosevic will have to listen to NATO's message. As our pressure increases, he will be forced to stop his aggresion. NATO will stop only when he stops.

But this is not a situation that can be resolved in 24 or 48 hours.

We have never pretended otherwise.

As SACEUR has indicated, we will be successful but we will need stamina and determination.

What we have seen in Kosovo in the last few days is a direct challenge to all the values on which we are building our new undivided Europe.

Milosevic and his government are the antithesis of all we value.

So we cannot tolerate the behaviour of a more barbarous age in a Europe which is striving towards a more united and more enlightened future.

Our cause is a just one.

It is our duty to fulfil it.

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