Updated: 06-Jun-2002 NATO Press Releases

6 June 2002

Statement on the Balkans

Issued at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
in Defence Ministers Session held in Brussels
on 6 June 2002

  1. We remain committed to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in the Balkans and, in cooperation with Partners and other international organisations, to the pursuit of a peaceful, democratic and stable region. The continued presence of the NATO-led forces demonstrates our firm support for the rule of law, democratic institutions, basic human rights, return of refugees, tolerance, reconciliation and the peaceful resolution of disputes, and embodies our determination to oppose all violence, whether ethnically, politically, or criminally motivated.
  2. We commend those personnel who are serving and have served in SFOR, KFOR and Task Force Fox (TFF) and express our enduring gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices they have made, particularly those who have suffered injuries. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives. As ever we are grateful to NATO's Partners and other nations for the significant contributions they are making to our common effort.
  3. The security environment in the region has improved considerably since the first deployment of SFOR and KFOR. As the tasks and duties have evolved, new concepts of operation can be adopted and most heavy warfighting equipment can be withdrawn. As a consequence, overall numbers can be reduced without weakening NATO's engagement. The NATO-led missions have already made major contributions to the creation of self-sustaining stability. Restructuring is a sign of the achievements to date and the Alliance's confidence in the process. We have made clear that NATO remains committed to security and stability in the Balkans. We welcome the outcome of the review which we commissioned at our last meeting into the scope for rationalising our operations in the Balkans, and developing a more regional approach to specific aspects of those operations. After full consultation with our non-NATO contributing partners, we have approved a series of changes to SFOR and KFOR, based on this Joint Operations Area (JOA) review, with a view to providing a smaller, lighter, more mobile and flexible force posture, one that will be more cost effective and better able to meet current challenges.
  4. The implementation plan for the restructuring will be in three phases. Phase one has already begun and will include revision of the Operations Plans for SFOR and KFOR. Phase two, to begin in August, will include restructuring of the command and control structure in the JOA along regional lines and the attainment of full operational capability of Operational and Strategic Reserve Forces. By the end of 2002, SFOR will draw down to 12,000 troops, while KFOR will reduce to 32,000 troops. For phase three, further KFOR reductions to around 29,000 troops by the end of June 2003 are envisaged. We will seek to transfer responsibilities for support of civil implementation to local authorities and other international organisations, as appropriate.
  5. We will ensure that our forces continue to pursue, within their current mandates and capabilities, actions against persons suspected to be terrorists, in coordination with appropriate civil authorities and other international organisations. The Alliance will remain engaged with local authorities to ensure that the region does not become a safe haven or way station for terrorists.
  6. NATO's commitment to security and stability in the Balkans remains firm and the Alliance will continue to play its full role in the achievement of the international community's objectives.
  7. We welcome the progress made in developing state level institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) over the past six months, and in particular the commitment given by the Tri-Presidency to strengthen the Standing Committee on Military Matters and further reduce and restructure the armed forces. We urge them to accelerate that progress and to fully meet their commitments. We encourage the leadership of BiH to continue its work on restructuring and to build armed forces that are affordable and appropriately sized, can operate effectively together and to NATO standards, and thus contribute to international peacekeeping missions and other activities. We commend the decisions that have been taken to ensure that discharged soldiers receive the assistance they need to return successfully to civilian life.
  8. We remain concerned about the public security situation and the slow progress in strengthening local police, judicial structures and rule of law, which are essential to provide fair, equal and effective protection for all citizens. We welcome the future deployment of the EU Police Mission for the follow-on mission to UN IPTF and the EU's decision to invite the non-EU NATO members currently contributing to UN IPTF to participate in the EUPM. We look forward to close cooperation between SFOR and this mission. SFOR will continue to support the mission in accordance with its mandate.
  9. We reaffirm our full commitment to support the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and will continue our efforts to detain persons indicted for war crimes. We note the progress made by the Bosnia and Herzegovina political authorities in improving their cooperation with ICTY. However more is needed. We strongly condemn those who continue to offer support to indictees who are evading justice. We urge all authorities to comply fully with their obligations under the provisions of the Dayton Peace Agreement to arrest indictees. We reiterate our determination to ensure that all indicted persons, in particular Karadzic and Mladic, are delivered to the Hague.
  10. We look forward to the efficient conduct of free and fair elections in October and encourage political leaders to take further measures to strengthen state level structures so that BiH can make further progress on its irreversible path toward Euro-Atlantic integration.
  11. We reaffirm our commitment to the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosovo. We call upon all elected community leaders and provisional institutions to assume their responsibilities and co-operate fully with KFOR and UNMIK to promote a peaceful, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and democratic Kosovo. We call upon the Kosovo Provisional Assembly to respect the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) border agreement. Local elections this autumn will provide a further opportunity to enhance the democratic process so that all the people in Kosovo, irrespective of ethnic origin or religion, can enjoy universal human rights and freedom on an equal basis, including through participation in democratic institutions. We remain concerned about the potential for outbreaks of violence in confrontation areas such as Mitrovica and strongly urge all parties to work together to eliminate parallel structures and resolve problems peacefully.
  12. We note that KFOR continues its robust measures to enhance security and interdiction operations under Operation Eagle, including the agreement of Temporary Operating Procedures with neighbouring states. We welcome continued progress in transferring responsibility for public security, when circumstances permit, to the appropriate civilian authorities, including UNMIK police and the Kosovo Police Service. We welcome the progress being made by the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) towards its goal of providing a civil emergency capability. We continue to expect its leadership to take appropriate action, when necessary, to strictly enforce its code of conduct and disciplinary code. We look forward to the full implementation of the agreement to transfer KPC members from active to reserve duty.
  13. In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) we will continue to contribute to securing peace and stability. We welcome the decision to extend the mandate of TFF, to provide emergency support for EU and OSCE monitors, until 26 October 2002. We note the importance of free and fair parliamentary elections in September, to be held under international observation, which will be an important step towards democratic development in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) and the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement.
  14. We look forward to further developing the Alliance's relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and expect swift implementation of the agreement that has been reached between Serbia and Montenegro in redefining their relationship. We welcome the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's interest in joining Partnership for Peace (PfP), and look forward to working with the FRY leadership in achieving the progress necessary to permit its participation in PfP. Full and continued cooperation with ICTY, democratic reform and control of the military, and full and transparent implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement are essential to a deeper relationship with the Alliance. FRY support for the efforts of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina is also important.
  15. Responding to the need to enhance border security and anti-smuggling interdiction operations in the Balkans, we note with satisfaction recent decisions taken by the Alliance aimed at seeking the engagement of the countries in the region and improving co-operation and co-ordination between nations and international organisations in the region. We welcome the progress that has been accomplished so far in Albania and intend to maintain our military presence in the country, to include a Senior Military Representative and a NATO HQ in Tirana, to complement our presence in Skopje, which will be able to enhance co-ordination and support of future security related initiatives with Albania.
  16. We noted, with particular concern, the links between organised crime and extremism in the region. We welcome the efforts of authorities in the region and international organisations vigorously to address these challenges. We note the contributions of NATO-led forces in the region to these efforts. We are convinced that the establishment of the rule of law is essential for the region's future stability. Action to strengthen the structures of law and order, including the police and judiciary, and to crack down on all forms of smuggling, trafficking and corruption, should be urgent priorities. We believe progress in defeating organised crime, and providing effective border control and surveillance to be essential steps on the path to Euro-Atlantic integration and to the development of prosperous and democratic stabililty.

  1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.

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