Updated: 06-May-2002 NATO Press Releases

8 June 2000

Statement on the Situation in the Balkans

Issued at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
in Defence Ministers Session held in Brussels
on 8 June 2000

  1. The Alliance remains committed to promoting security, stability, peace and democracy in the Balkans, including through the NATO-led operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. We reaffirm our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in the region. We express our sincere appreciation for the outstanding dedication, professionalism and courage displayed by the servicemen and women of all nations in both SFOR and KFOR. We extend our deep sympathy to the families of those who have lost their lives and to those who have been injured in the course of these operations. We remain grateful for the invaluable contribution that NATO's Partners and other nations are making towards stabilisation and reconstruction in the region.
  2. We remain determined to play our full part in meeting the aims of the international community as set out in UNSCR 1244. We will continue to work for a peaceful, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and democratic Kosovo where all its people, irrespective of ethnic origin or religion, can live in peace and security and enjoy universal rights and freedoms, including rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities, on an equal basis, including through full participation in democratic institutions. KFOR is playing its full part in supporting the international humanitarian effort in Kosovo. We note the substantial progress achieved in the year since KFOR deployed into Kosovo. In that time, the security situation in Kosovo has improved markedly. Since KFOR's arrival, more than one million refugees and displaced persons, victims of a most brutal ethnic cleansing campaign, have returned to their homes. Violent crime, although still a problem, has fallen dramatically. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) forces remain generally compliant with the terms of the Military Technical Agreement. We reaffirm our commitment to establishing a civilian, non?partisan, multi-ethnic Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) that works for the benefit of all communities, under the close control of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and under the supervision and day-to-day operational direction of KFOR. Compliance with the KPC disciplinary code must be ensured. In this regard, we emphasize that any breach of that code will be dealt with firmly. We welcome KFOR's action to confiscate and destroy illegally-held weapons. We express our strong support to UNMIK and the Secretary General's Special Representative. We attach great importance to continuing close coordination with UNMIK and will continue to support within means and capabilities UNMIK's efforts aimed at establishing a multi-ethnic democratic society based on the rule of law, tolerance and respect for human rights. However, much remains to be done, in particular with regard to the protection of persons belonging to ethnic minorities. This represents one of the most challenging issues for KFOR and UNMIK.

    We remain deeply grateful for the practical and political support which neighbouring nations, in particular Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (*), continue to provide to KFOR. We value the continuing co-operation between NATO and Russian forces in Bosnia and in Kosovo and remain committed to the further development of military-to-military co-operation with Russia in accordance with the NATO-Russia Founding Act.

  3. Despite the relatively stable security situation in Kosovo, we are concerned about the continued high levels of inter-ethnic tension and violence. We condemn all acts of violence, be they ethnically, politically or criminally motivated. We commend KFOR's robust action to deal with extremists from all sides. We strongly regret that minority groups remain vulnerable to acts of violence by Kosovar Albanian extremists. We are also concerned that Kosovska Mitrovica remains a potential flash point for inter-ethnic tensions. The recent appointment of a regional administrator for Mitrovica is a clear sign of UNMIK's determination to enforce its authority throughout Kosovo. We encourage KFOR and UNMIK to continue their efforts to promote co-existence and maintain a secure environment for all the communities in this town. We welcome and support UNMIK's efforts to intensify the fight against organized crime, arms trafficking, the illegal possession of weapons, and the trafficking of women, as well as its efforts to develop a fully functioning police and judicial system. We condemn all attacks against KFOR. We welcome the courageous decision taken by Kosovo Serbs at the start of April to participate, along with Kosovo Albanians and others, in the Joint Interim Administrative Structures (JIAS). We note with regret their decision to temporarily suspend their participation, and we most strongly encourage them to return. We urge all members of the JIAS to work together in a constructive manner. We call on all members of the Kosovo community to take part in this autumn's municipal elections.

    We are in particular concerned about the situation in the area adjacent to the internal boundary between Kosovo and Serbia. We fully support KFOR's action to strengthen its control of Kosovo's borders and boundaries, as well as its determined actions against anyone who seeks to use Kosovo as a staging base to support violent activity elsewhere. We regard any unrest or instability in these areas as a threat to our efforts to establish peace and stability throughout the region. We strongly warn against any attempt to destabilize the situation further.

  4. We remain determined to ensure that KFOR force levels and capabilities will be maintained at the levels required by the challenges it will face in the future. These challenges include maintaining a secure environment in a still unsettled Kosovo, discouraging and preventing ethnic violence, providing security and protection for all minorities, assisting the return of refugees, whether of Albanian, Serb, or other communities, and supporting the OSCE in the conduct of free, fair and safe municipal elections this autumn.
  5. We welcome Eurocorps' provision of the Commander and the core of NATO's KFOR headquarters.
  6. We are pleased with the successful restructuring of SFOR and are confident that this smaller, more flexible force will remain fully capable of carrying out its mandate. SFOR will continue to contribute to a secure environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ensuring the conditions for progress towards full military and civil implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement. We commend SFOR for its role in the demilitarisation of Brcko and the successful conduct of recent municipal elections, and its strong support and close co?operation with the Office of the High Representative, the ICTY (evidenced by the further successful detention of persons indicted for war crimes), the UN International Police Task Force, the Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE), and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We support the outcome of the Peace Implementation Council Ministerial meeting of 23-24 May 2000, which will continue the process of integrating Bosnia and Herzegovina as a democratic state into Euro-Atlantic structures. We endorse the High Representative's emphases on sustaining the return of refugees, fundamental reform of the economy and the development of state institutions.
  7. Much remains to be done, however, and we will ensure that SFOR continues to support, within means and capabilities, progress in the areas of minority returns; elections in the autumn; developing a common security and defence policy for Bosnia and Herzegovina; enhanced co-operation between the Entity armed forces; implementation of fundamental force restructuring by both entities; and further detentions of persons indicted for war crimes. We will equally ensure that SFOR continues to support the Office of the High Representative and the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the fight against illegal secret services, corruption, and organised crime; and in the implementation of judicial and police reform. We call upon the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue their efforts towards full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and the achievement of the goals set out by the Peace Implementation Council, including transforming the Standing Committee on Military Matters into a state-level defence institution and increasing its efficiency, developing a national security policy, and further reducing and restructuring both Entity armed forces consistent with long-term security needs. We welcome in this respect the initial results achieved in 1999 and the commitment to further 15% force reductions, and reductions and increased transparency in Entity defence budgets. We agreed to provide the necessary resources and support for the restructured SFOR.
  8. We fully support the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and we call on all members of the United Nations to act in the same manner. The action of ICTY to bring to account those individuals responsible for having committed war crimes, whatever their origin, will reinforce the rule of law and contribute to the establishment of lasting peace. We reaffirm the commitment of SFOR and KFOR to continue to co-operate closely with ICTY.
  9. The integration of the countries of South East Europe into the Euro-Atlantic community of nations is essential for the peace and development of the region. The Alliance pursues this goal through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and Partnership for Peace (PfP) as well as its South-East Europe Initiative (SEEI), all of which support and complement the objectives of the Stability Pact for South-East Europe. Today we received a report on SEEI and the Alliance's contribution to the objectives of the Stability Pact. The report highlights the progress that has been achieved in promoting stability through increased regional co-operation and indicates areas where further work needs to be done. We look forward to receiving a report on progress on the various efforts within SEEI at our next meeting.
  10. The recent landmark changes in Croatia are a critical contribution to regional stability, and can serve as an example to those countries in the region that are not yet part of the Euro-Atlantic community. We encourage Croatia to pursue its extensive reform programme. We warmly welcome Croatia's membership in the EAPC and PfP. We will co-operate closely with Croatia in these institutions, particularly in the areas of peace support operations and the reform and democratic control of Croatia's armed forces.
  11. We look forward to the time when democracy is also allowed to flourish in the FRY. We are greatly concerned about the Belgrade regime's repression of the media and of protests by the opposition, particularly the reported mass detentions of students and other members of the opposition. The apparent political nature of the recent conviction by a Serbian court of 143 Kosovo Albanians on terrorism charges is also a matter of great concern. We call upon the Serbian authorities to refrain from such political trials and to uphold international standards of criminal justice. We deplore the detention of Kosovo Albanians and members of all Kosovo communities in Serbian prisons and call for their immediate release and safe return and a full accounting of the missing. Only genuine democratic change which ensures respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and protects the rights of all minorities, including those in Vojvodina and Sandjak, will open the way for the eventual return of the FRY to the Euro-Atlantic family of nations and facilitate its integration into the international community. We also remain concerned about continued tensions between Belgrade and the democratically elected government of Montenegro, and continue to monitor the situation very closely. Recalling our interest in the stability and security of the region, and of Montenegro, we call on both sides to resolve their differences in a peaceful and pragmatic way and to refrain from any destabilising measures. We expect the local elections due on 11 June to be conducted peacefully and fairly.

  1. We thank General Wesley Clark, an exceptional soldier and military leader, for his outstanding contribution as SACEUR and welcome his successor, General Joseph Ralston.

(*) Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name

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