Statement of the North Atlantic Council
Following the Meeting between Representatives of the NATO Member States, the EU Member States, the OSCE CIO, the UNHCR, the Council of Europe and the Western European UnionAt the initiative of the EU Presidency and with the agreement of the North Atlantic Council, a timely and constructive meeting was held today at NATO Headquarters in Brussels of representatives of the NATO member states, of the EU member states, the European Commission and ECHO, of the OSCE CiO, of the UNHCR, of the Council of Europe and of the Western European Union. The objective of the meeting was to contribute to the coordination of efforts and to identify concrete measures to address the grave humanitarian crisis brought on by the actions of President Milosevic's forces in Kosovo.
This humanitarian tragedy requires an immediate response. We are ready to work as constructively and efficiently as possible and in coordination with other international organisations and agencies. We welcome and support the statement of the EU Presidency following today's meeting.
The situation in Kosovo and in the region continues to deteriorate further, as a consequence of the continued Yugoslav campaign of ethnic cleansing which has already resulted, according to the UNHCR, in 125,000 refugees in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(1), 226,000 in Albania and 33,000 in Montenegro. What we have been witnessing over the last few weeks is the climax of a campaign of violence and destruction carried out by Yugoslav Army and Serb police forces.
We have already taken steps to address this humanitarian catastrophe. On 3rd April, we took a series of important decisions which will allow NATO to step in quickly and help with humanitarian efforts both in Albania and in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The Alliance's military forces will engage more actively in refugee relief in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania, in cooperation and coordination with the relevant humanitarian organisations which are already responding to the crisis, in particular the UNHCR which is the lead international agency in this field.
NATO and its member states are providing shelter, food and logistical support, and are working closely with other international organisations in the provision of humanitarian assistance to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania. The NATO Commander in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (representing the Secretary General and the SACEUR) has full authority to coordinate NATO's assistance to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and has been authorised to use all available NATO forces to assist in humanitarian relief. SACEUR has been authorised to establish a forward headquarters in Albania, in coordination with the Albanian authorities and the UNHCR, in order to assess the humanitarian situation and provide support thereto. The NATO Military Authorities have been tasked to undertake further planning to this end.
The NATO Commanders will continue to initiate action at every opportunity to assist the international humanitarian effort, with the intention of handing over to the UNHCR or other agencies when appropriate. The NATO Commanders will exercise, as necessary, coordination and control of movement on land, sea and in the air.
NATO and its Partners will continue to use the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre to assist the coordination of the international humanitarian effort.
The Alliance has informed the member States of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council on the outcome of today's meeting.
NATO has agreed to meet on 5th April 1999 at the European Union to continue efforts to coordinate with all relevant agencies.