Statement to the Press
by NATO Secretary General, Javier Solana
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
following the Foreign and Defence Ministers' Meeting
We have just finished an exceptional meeting bringing together both NATO foreign and defence ministers. Our focus was on the situation in and around Kosovo. The results of the meeting are reflected in my Chairman's statement which is being circulated to you.
I would like to emphasize that all the Ministers thanked SACEUR and all the men and women under his command during operation Allied Force for their superb performance. We thanked also General Jackson, the KFOR Commander, and the forces in KFOR for the very determined and efficient way in which they have begun their mission.
In the past week we have achieved some major results. NATO soldiers have deployed in Kosovo. They are now spreading out all over the province and are rapidly establishing an environment of security. Two thirds of all of the Serb forces have completed their withdrawal, and preparations are well on track for the remainder to meet the deadline of midnight on Sunday for complete withdrawal. So far the Yugoslav forces have complied with the Military Technical Agreement. They must continue to do so.
We expect full compliance and cooperation from the Kosovar Albanian community with the international security and civilian presence in Kosovo. NATO expects the UCK and all other Kosovar armed groups to demilitarize in conformity with UN Security Council Resolution 1244. KFOR will not tolerate any challenge in carrying out its mission.
NATO began this conflict to uphold the principle that ethnic cleansing would not be tolerated and all refugees would have the opportunity to go home in security and without fear. We will keep this commitment.
At the same time I want to stress that KFOR will be even-handed in protecting all ethnic groups. I urge Kosovo's Serbian population not to leave but to give peace a chance.
We are currently in close contact with the United Nations and other organisations to coordinate closely the civil and military aspects of peace implementation. KFOR will play its full part in assisting these other organisations.
We will continue to work with the states of the region to help them face the security challenges that lie ahead of us.
I would like to express NATO's gratitude to all of our many Partner countries who have offered forces to KFOR or who have granted us transit arrangements.
NATO very much looks forward to the participation of Russia in KFOR with a unified chain of command. We are currently working on the arrangements that will allow Russian and NATO forces to work side by side to bring peace and stability to Kosovo. I am confident that these arrangements will be concluded soon.
In conclusion, we have many challenges ahead in rebuilding Kosovo. But the most difficult are behind us. The Serb forces are leaving, NATO is arriving and the refugees are beginning to return. After the dark days of repression, we have brought hope to the Kosovars. We will work hard to turn that hope into the reality of a lasting, just peace.
Margaret Evans, CBC:
What is your explanation for the delay in the accord with the Russians ... (rest of question inaudible)...
No we are not waiting for that. The meeting was arranged to make the evaluation of the operation, to prepare for the future participation in the peacekeeping forces and at this point, as you know, the negotiations continue on the very technical points - the global structure of the agreement is practically finished - but there are still some outstanding technical points that I hope will be resolved in the coming hours
Steven Dierckx, VRT:
You are working on technical points at the negotiations in Helsinki, does that mean the issue of the Russian sector has been resolved?
I think what they are working at now at this very moment could be qualified as technical points, yes.
Patricia Kelly, CNN:
Could you tell us how the rules of engagement have changed for KFOR in regards to the apprehension of indicted war criminals?
Well the rules or engagement are very similar to the rules of engagement of SFOR. They have not changed in a dramatic manner from the rules of engagement we have in SFOR.
But we were told earlier by Louise Arbour that the instructions to KFOR will be much more robust than SFOR had.
The rules of engagement would allow the same behaviour that we have had in the last months in Bosnia, if that is the question that you were asking.
Dominique Thierry, Radio France Int.:
Est -ce que vous vous attendiez autant de charniers au Kosovo et comment est- ce que concrtement la KFOR va pouvoir aider les inspecteurs et les enquteurs du tribunal pnal international?
De la mme manire que nous l'avons fait en Bosnie. La coopration va tre trs profonde. Nous avons sign - nous sommes en train de signer, pour dire la verit - un "memorandum of understanding" avec le tribunal et on va mettre notre organisation et nos forces au service du tribunal.
L'absence du ministre franais et du ministre amricain est-ce que cela a eu une certaine rpercussion sur les dbats d'aujourd'hui?
Non, la discussion a t faite entre tous les ministres qui ont particips, tous les pays taient presents. Vous savez bien qu'il y a des occupations entre les ministres qui sont trs claires et donc la runion s'est passe sans aucun problme et avec une discussion trs positive et trs constructive pour l'valuation du pass et pour la construction de l'avenir.
Could you please explain what the guarantees are that you are having that the UCK is giving its weapons away and also its uniforms?
As you know, at this very moment, General Jackson is together with leaders of the UCK. They are working on an agreement that will be signed in the coming hours, I would hope, in the coming days in any case, and that will be the commitment to comply fully with the UN Security Council Resolution, which is very clear in that respect.
You mentioned in your conclusion the many challenges of rebuilding Kosovo - can you outline those challenges and also stipulate which ones will be the most difficult for NATO in rebuilding?
The challenges that lie ahead are very clear - we have to continue the full deployment of KFOR, we have to guarantee that all the refuigees return and, as you can imagine, there is a political challenge in front of us to have the political settlement. That is of course not the responsibility of NATO, but NATO has to guarantee the environment of security that will allow those negotiations to bear fruit. So we have quite a challenge ahead of us, not only NATO, but other organisations, the UN, the OSCE, etc.