Updated: 29-Nov-2000 NATO Press Releases

(2000) 112

29 Nov. 2000


by Secretary General of NATO, Lord Robertson
KFOR's measures to address the situation in the Presevo Valley

Recent developments in the Presevo Valley, and the Ground Safety Zone (GSZ) adjacent to Kosovo's internal boundary with Serbia, are of growing concern to NATO and KFOR. Extremist activity and the possibility of an escalation of violence are a direct threat to KFOR's mission in Kosovo. We heard a briefing on this subject from the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, at our Council meeting today.

NATO condemns and deplores the attacks made and the violence caused by a minority of extremists near the Presevo Valley and calls on the perpetrators to cease their illegal activity forthwith.

I have had an exchange of letters with President Kostunica on this issue and conveyed to him that the Alliance takes his concerns seriously and shares them. He has subsequently written a further letter and I will reply shortly. In addition there have been direct contacts between KFOR Headquarters and the new democratic government in Belgrade to clarify the situation, where we have outlined the steps KFOR is taking to enhance security on the Kosovo boundary with southern Serbia. The Joint Implementation Commission (JIC), established by the Military Technical Agreement (MTA) of last year, is mandated to handle contacts between KFOR and Yugoslav and Serbian civil and military authorities, including in the Ground Safety Zone. I fully expect that KFOR and the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities will be able to address these issues directly and pragmatically through this mechanism.

KFOR troops and the Serbian local police have on specific occasions conducted joint inspections in the Ground Safey Zone. If necessary these will continue. Under the Military Technical Agreement, the Yugoslav Army is not permitted into the Ground Safety Zone and I welcome the assurances that the FRY authorities will not deploy them there. Contrary to recent press reports, there has been no discussion of conducting joint KFOR-Yugoslav Army patrols in the area. KFOR has no responsibility under the Military Technical Agreement for law enforcement in the Ground Safety Zone, which is part of Serbia.

Clearly, part of the problem we are facing is political, and I am pleased that the Yugoslav Federal government has indicated a willingness to look at political measures it can take to defuse tensions. The KFOR-brokered cease-fire, as well as the return of the bodies of Serbian police officers, which KFOR facilitated, have also helped contribute to a recent easing of tensions.

In order to prevent further violence the Commander of KFOR directed that the following steps be taken:

  • A public information campaign to highlight both the criminal aspects and politically damaging effects of extremist activity in the Presevo Valley. Albanian extremist activity in the Presevo Valley is in no one's interest and only serves to heighten tensions.
  • Mobilisation of public and private support of Kosovar Albanian politicians to exert a moderating effect on the hard line Albanian guerrilla groups. The Commander of KFOR has enlisted the personal support of key Albanian leaders in Kosovo, who may have influence with extremist groups in the Presevo Valley.
  • Encouraging and facilitating direct contacts between Yugoslav and Serbian authorities and the Presevo Valley Albanians on issues of concern, to include establishment of an indefinite cease-fire, provision of humanitarian assistance and help with de-mining.
  • The establishment of closer working level contacts with the Serbian local police through the KFOR Joint Implementation Commission to enhance security in the Ground Safety Zone in accordance with the Military Technical Agreement.
  • Increased reconnaissance and surveillance operations along the eastern boundary of Kosovo adjacent to the Presevo Valley will be carried out, combined with an increase in the monitoring and recording of violent activity in the Ground Safety Zone.
  • KFOR will also continue to deter and disrupt identified illegal or terrorist related activity within Kosovo in the vicinity of the eastern boundary, including additional controls at Gates 4 and 5 Boundary Crossing Points between Kosovo and Southern Serbia.
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