Updated: 27-Feb-2001 NATO Press Releases

(2001) 028

27 Feb. 2001

Statement by the Secretary General on Southern Serbia

Today the NATO Foreign Ministers reiterated their deep concern about the situation in Southern Serbia which threatens to destabilize the wider region, including Kosovo.

NATO strongly condemns the continuing acts of violence in Kosovo and southern Serbia and calls on those parties responsible to put an end to it. The problems of southern Serbia can only be solved through direct negotiations. A constructive dialogue must begin as soon as possible.

The initiative by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbian authorities is an important first step forward towards reaching a negotiated settlement. I call on the ethnic Albanian community to enter into such negotiations as soon as possible.

In order to maintain close contact with all actors involved, including international organisations, I have decided to appoint Mr. Pieter Feith as my personal Representative to facilitate efforts to reach a peaceful resolution to the tensions in the region. I have also decided to name Mr. Shawn Sullivan, who has worked on these issues successfully as the Political Advisor to the Commander of KFOR, to serve as the Head of my Representative's Office in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

NATO urges that substantial confidence building measures be implemented by Belgrade immediately, including alterations to troop deployments in the Presevo Valley. For their part, the ethnic Albanian groups must refrain from the use of violence.

The NATO Foreign Ministers expressed their deep concern over the use of the Ground Safety Zone as a safe haven for extremist activities. NATO is therefore prepared to implement a phased and conditioned reduction of the Ground Safety Zone. The North Atlantic Council will be receiving further military advice on the modalities of such an arrangement and the implications for the security situation in Kosovo. The Commander of KFOR will retain his overall authority for the Ground Safety Zone, as foreseen in the Military Technical Agreement, including the entry and disposition of Yugoslav Army and Interior Ministry Police forces.

KFOR has already taken robust measures to tighten control along the boundary of Kosovo with Southern Serbia, and to crack-down on extremists who seek to exploit this boundary in support of insurgents in the region. We have directed that wherever possible this boundary should be further tightened.

NATO will also continue to maintain close contact with other International Organisations, realising that problems in Southern Serbia require a concerted international approach. For this purpose this afternoon, I will participate in a coordination meeting here at NATO Headquarters with other Principals from the UN, EU, OSCE and UNHCR under the chairmanship of Mr. Carl Bildt, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General, to discuss arrangements to assist the FRY and Serbian authorities in their efforts. As decided at yesterday's EU General Affairs Council, these efforts will include a reinforced European Union Monitoring Mission deployed in the area.

NATO and KFOR remain fully committed to implementing UNSCR 1244 and bringing about the conditions for a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo free from violence and organized crime. In this context, I reiterate our firm condemnation of the recent appalling acts of violence directed against Serb civilians, which undermine the process of normalisation in Kosovo. KFOR is committed to protecting all inhabitants of Kosovo and ethnically motivated violence will not be tolerated.

NATO is committed to supporting the stability and security of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(*) , including the enhanced security of its borders. I have exchanged letters with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(*) authorities on this issue and will remain in close contact with them. The Commander of KFOR has taken additional measures to strengthen the security along the border between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(*) and the province of Kosovo. We are also studying further measures to assist the Skopje authorities in improving border security on an urgent basis.

Let me be clear: there can be no solution to the problems of the region that can be achieved through violence. Only dialogue, negotiation and moderation can achieve a lasting political settlement. The immediate priority, therefore, is that all violence, by all parties, must cease. The NATO Foreign Ministers are determined that NATO will continue to play its full part in building a just, lasting, and secure peace for all the people of the region.

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

+32 (0)2 707 50 41
+32 (0)2 707 50 57
B-1110 Brussels/Bruxelles

Go to Homepage Go to Index