Updated: 14-May-2001 NATO Press Releases


14 May 2001

Statement by the Secretary General
Return of Yugoslav Security Forces to
Sector B of the Ground Safety Zone

The North Atlantic Council today has decided to authorise the Commander of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) to allow the controlled return of Yugoslav and Serbian security forces into Sector B of the Ground Safety Zone (GSZ) beginning on May 24 as the final step in a phased and conditioned process.

The GSZ was established to provide a buffer between KFOR and Yugoslav forces, which is no longer necessary. NATO will closely monitor the implementation of the return, and the North Atlantic Council will remain seized of the issue and will provide further guidance to Commander of KFOR as appropriate.

Two months ago, I announced NATO's commitment to return all of the GSZ as soon as possible and our decision to begin immediately the controlled return of Yugoslav security forces to the GSZ in phased and conditioned manner. Today, the last stage of that return has been agreed.

This decision has not been taken lightly. My personal representative, Mr. Pieter Feith, has travelled repeatedly to southern Serbia with the European Union High Representative's own representative in an effort to help the ethnic Albanians of southern Serbia and the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities to come to an agreement to promote mutual understanding and avoid violence.

The Yugoslav and Serbian governments, for their part, have pledged to pursue a variety of measures toward this end. The Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, Dr Nebojsa Covic, wrote to me on 13 May to reiterate that the FRY and the Republic of Serbia have remained consistently committed to a peaceful settlement of the crisis in the area and to the development and implementation of confidence building measures. He highlighted in particular the following measures which are underway:

  • the removal of Yugoslav forces from civilian facilities such as schools and factories;
  • the payment of certain back-wages to ethnic Albanian workers, and financial compensation for those who suffered material damages;
  • the undertaking of major infrastructure development projects in the Presevo area;
  • the demilitarisation of the villages of Lucane and Turija;
  • the establishment, working with the OSCE, of a multi-ethnic police force, including by putting 60 ethnic Albanian former police back on the job, with back-wages; and
  • continuing a political dialogue with ethnic Albanian representatives.

In response, I have written to Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Covic today to re-state NATO’s firm expectation that additional confidence-building measures should include:

  • an appropriate amnesty for Albanian armed elements who voluntarily disarm;
  • a commitment that the returning forces will respect fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law;
  • a commitment only to deploy troops under strict political control and to avoid any excessive use or show of force; and
  • a comprehensive information campaign announcing confidence building measures to the local population.

I wish to emphasise that threats or attacks by armed elements will not deter NATO and KFOR. Any attacks on KFOR troops will be met with a robust military response. The time has come for Albanian armed groups to lay down their weapons and take an active part in the peaceful political process within a democratic Serbia. Failure to engage in such a process will only lead to the increasing political irrelevance of these armed groups.

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