Updated: 19 May 1999 Speeches

19 May 1999

Press Conference

By NATO Secretary General, Mr Javier Solana,
and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

Secretary General: I would like, on behalf of NATO and the NATO countries, to welcome the Federal Chancellor to NATO. His presence here today is yet another signal of the allied unity and determination to achieve our goals in Kosovo.

Germany is a very resolute member of the Alliance and is making a very important contribution to the air campaign. As you know, German aircraft are heavily involved in our operations and Allies are operating from bases in the Federal Republic. As you know, German troops are also involved in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and are working in a very, very effective manner on the humanitarian effort. I had the opportunity the other day to visit one of the camps run by the German military and I can tell you that it is splendid what they are doing there.

The German government is also prepared, with their forces, in the moment that the implementation moment is right and the forces will be deployed, together with the other NATO Allies.

But in addition to that, and I would like to underline it today, Germany and the Chancellor personally is very much involved in the diplomatic effort, not only as the Chancellor of Germany at this point, but also the Chairman of the G8, and also at this point the President of the European Union. In all these fora, nationally, at the G8 level and at the European Union level, the work that the Chancellor is doing is bearing very substantial fruit. And I want on behalf of the NATO countries, and of NATO itself, to thank the Chancellor for all these efforts.

Also as you know in the European Union, the idea of putting or launching a programme, a plan for the stabilisation of the region is very, very important, we are not only thinking of today but also thinking about tomorrow. And I would like to say that we are looking forward to the next meeting on 27 May when the first decisions, the first steps in that direction are going to be taken, and NATO will contribute also, as we agreed in Washington through the south-eastern initiative.

Let me say that it is a great pleasure once again to receive here the Chancellor, which is a sign, as I said at the beginning, of the cohesion, the resolution of the Alliance. We are going to continue with all the efforts in all directions, militarily, diplomatic, humanitarian in the long term, and in all those Germany is playing a very important role.

Chancellor Schroeder: Thank you, Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen.

I had the pleasure to be briefed by the Secretary General and the Chairman of the Military Committee, we do that on a regular basis in a very intensive manner and I would therefore like to use this opportunity to express our trust and confidence in the Military Committee's work, and of course in the Secretary General of NATO.

We talked quite openly about the recent developments and about events that we cannot support, events like the shelling of the Chinese Embassy a couple of days ago. The Secretary General made it very clear that he himself has a great interest in clarifying what happened and why it happened and he again promised to me to see that this investigation makes progress.

This very open and frank approach that we take is the basis for the relationship marked by trust and confidence between the German government and NATO. I have always understood NATO's strategy to be a dual strategy, one element of that dual strategy is the military campaign. The military campaign had to happen, had to take place in order to save people in Kosovo from murder, from being killed, from being displaced and expelled, for preparing the basis for a return of the refugees. But the second element of our strategy has always been the search for a political settlement and that is very much of course in the forefront of my efforts and endeavours, no matter what capacity I have in doing that. It is a dual strategy, a NATO strategy, it is a dual strategy, that is to say the military actions, the air strikes on the one hand, and the search for a diplomatic settlement on the other hand.

Quite frankly I would like to make it very clear that we now slowly realise that the strategy is slowly taking effect, so I think it is not just to hear from one or the other that the strategy ought to be altered or to be changed, and this is to do when people talk about sending in ground forces or when they talk about a unilateral pause in the air strikes. My impression is the following. I believe that NATO strategy is slowly taking effect, that we have entered a new stage when it comes to striding for a political solution.

I have made it clear right from the outset that the Russian Special Envoy, Mr Chernomyrdin, he is the Special Envoy of the Russian President and that Special Envoy, the Finnish President, Mr Ahtisaari, should be supported in their endeavours to bring about a diplomatic solution. They complement our endeavours and they are supported by the Vice-Secretary of State of the United States, Mr Talbott.

I believe that we have reason to hope, and I spoke to Mr Ahtisaari only recently, that a diplomatic settlement can only be assisted through those endeavours. I speak as the Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany now, but also as the EU Chair. I have made it very clear to the Finnish President that he has our support, not matter whether I speak as the German Chancellor as the EU Presidency and that we wish those talks to be successful. Knowing that you have a few information yourselves, you may also have come to know that Mr Chernomyrdin is going to go to Belgrade very soon and the parties agreed that the talks are to be continued as soon as possible in Moscow. Of course that is not yet enough reason to be jubilant or triumphant, or overly enthusiastic, but I think that it is quite a hopeful signal. We should continue to work towards a political solution, it makes it very clear that the path on which we have set out is a path that will lead towards success in the long run. That is what I believe.

No doubt it will be not that easy for us, we will encounter a few difficult problems too, but we still have to live with the fact that as far as the time frame is concerned, the time axis of which I tend to speak is that people have different views on this, some people say that there should be a pause in the air strikes before we begin to talk about a Security Council Resolution, others think it should be the other way round, and NATO believes it should be the other way round. Right now we could at least agree on that. I believe that we should move closer towards each other on that time axis. Our objective is a Security Council Resolution on the basis of the G8 principles, developed in Bonn a week ago, and I think that we should be able to bring our positions closer as far as the time axis is concerned so that in the end we can harmonise or synchronise our positions so that that problem could be solved in that way.

You will understand I trust that I am a bit more hopeful as far as a political settlement is concerned, a bit more hopeful than I was a week ago, and now again I speak as the German Chancellor and as the EU Chair. We want to do everything we can to use the talks towards a solution that is in line with the principles that we have laid down.

That is basically what I wanted to share with you.

Question: You have said that ground troops are unthinkable, are they unthinkable for Germany or for NATO? And do you feel your position on ground troops is closer to President Clinton's, I assume they are not very close to Tony Blair's?

Chancellor Schroeder: I don't think it is up to me to talk about how far away I am from the position of one or the other of my colleagues. I am not here for commenting on the news, I am responsible for the news, and I think it is right to say that the Federal Government, by the way the Opposition is equally clear on this particular point, rejects the sending of ground forces, that is the German position, the German position supported unanimously by the members of the German Parliament. Of course this is first and foremost a German position. If I understood NATO strategy correctly, and I try to explain it to you, then that position is also the present position of NATO, that is to say the strategy of an Alliance can only be changed if all of the parties involved agree on it, so I trust that NATO strategy is not going to be changed. I say this on the basis of the talks, about which I reported to you. I see no reason whatsoever of a change in our strategy, based on the reports we have had, and you have to guess how far away my position is from the position of another friend.

Question: Are you against a change in that strategy, in NATO's strategy?

Chancellor Schroeder: Yes indeed, I am against any change of NATO strategy, last but not least because I believe that the strategy is slowly beginning, politically too, to take effect.

Mark Laity, BBC News: You have just said that the strategy will not change. There are many military people who believe that air power can achieve very much but it cannot achieve everything. Presumably you believe the only thing that is really unthinkable is to lose the war. If it comes down to a choice between risking losing the war and using ground troops, which would you choose?

Chancellor Schroeder: Please don't try too hard. I will not participate in this specifically British debate on war theories. I think and I trust that we have a good strategy, a strategy that has indeed been successful in some respect and will continue to be successful, and this is why I refuse to participate in such a theoretical debate.

Question: Could I just pursue you on that, Chancellor. When do you think that ground troops might be ..

Chancellor Schroeder: I have said everything that is to be said on this particular issue and you will not get more out of me if you go on pestering me with these questions.

Question: I am not pestering you, you have come to give a press conference, surely journalists have a right to ask the question?

Chancellor Schroeder: Do I look very offended, do I look very angry?

Question: When do you believe the use of ground troops would become thinkable? Under what circumstances should NATO send ground troops into Kosovo?

Chancellor Schroeder: I think I made myself very clear on this. I oppose sending in ground forces and this is very much to do with the fact that NATO strategy, a strategy that we developed together, is slowly beginning to take effect, and it is supporting a political settlement. So of course I understand that you have questions, questions that go in a different direction, but I think it would be wrong if I were to respond in a theoretical manner to theoretical questions, because that would be misinterpreted. I support the present strategy of NATO, I think it is promising, it can give us success, this is why I am against changing it, that once the war is over we have to send in a robust international military presence into Kosovo, that we need it, that we have to have it, is something that is obvious and that again is part and parcel of NATO strategy.

Question: In view of the brutal behaviour of the Serbs, don't you think that that would be reason enough to at least think about sending in ground forces?

Chancellor Schroeder: I have been trying, I have been trying hard, to make it very clear that I am not willing to participate in theoretical debates about what is going to happen if a, b, c. I understand your desire and your need for a new subject, but it is not all that easy I understand to fill the pages of a newspaper day in, day out with news. But please understand why I refuse to participate in this extremely theoretical debate.

Patricia Kelly, CNN: I wanted to ask you about the diplomatic moves. All along NATO and NATO member countries have made it very clear that they are gathering evidence about war crimes to hand over to the War Crimes Tribunal, and they have also made it very clear that they believe that President Milosevic should be somebody that the War Crimes Tribunal should think about indicting. How can it be possible that you are sending people to negotiate a political settlement with somebody that you would like to see indicted?

Chancellor Schroeder: A settlement, a solution to the crisis in Kosovo and the return of the refugees is in my eyes of such importance that we have to try to make use of all political means to bring about an end to the crisis, to put an end to the suffering of human beings to avoid and prevent dangers and threats to the lives of people and to allow the safe return of the refugees. I think that that is such a primordial objective of such primordial importance that all other considerations fall by the way for a certain amount of time. The talks that are to be led in Belgrade are in my eyes therefore justified.

Question: Secretary General, you are both representing the two organisations that are taking care of what is going in Kosovo nowadays. Can we say that NATO and the European Union are on the very same line at this moment, because on Monday Foreign Secretary Cook was talking in this very same room about this time about ground troops - that nobody wants to talk about - and at the same time the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union were having a more diplomatic move, seeing Dr Rugova, President Djukanovic, as well as the Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov. Are you very much on the same line in this moment also?

Chancellor Schroeder: In my eyes they are very much on the same line. You know what counts here is not what is being said by one or the other of my colleagues of the Foreign Ministers, they have every right to speak their minds freely, but what is important is what is the decision taken by the European Union and by NATO. The Secretary General has made it more than clear what NATO's position is, and he will probably want to comment on it, but as far as the EU is concerned, Brussels has taken a decision, a decision by the Heads of State and Government under the Chairmanship of the German Presidency of the EU, we have taken a decision here. And the points decided are identical with the strategy that I explained that is being pursued by NATO. Of course everyone has every right to express his very own view and that might be a different view from the views that we have, but the decisions taken by NATO and by the European Union are more than crystal clear and they are identical.

Mr Solana: It is a very, very simple, the answer, and the Chancellor has made it very, very clear. The strategy of NATO was very clearly established in Washington at the occasion of the Summit in which a very high percentage of the members are members of the European Union; and reciprocally the meetings in which the decisions were taken at the European Union, a very high percentage of the members were members of NATO. So it would be very difficult to have a different strategy and in particular on something so clear, so dramatic as the crisis in Kosovo. The positions are clear, well established in Washington as far as NATO is concerned, and the European Union summit as far as the European Union is concerned. You should read the texts, the texts are basically word by word exact.

Question: Chancellor, you said that you need to move towards each other on the time axis on when there should be a pause in the air strikes and when the Security Council Resolution discussion ought to begin. Could you imagine a situation where the air strikes are resumed if Mr Milosevic is not complying with the conditions that you have set?

Chancellor Schroeder: What is being negotiated by Mr Chernomyrdin and Mr Ahtisaari and what is then to be poured into a Security Council Resolution has to be implemented fully I believe, I have no doubt about that. Because if that were not the case we would not be willing to negotiate it. But what is going to happen under what particular circumstances, if some elements are not being implemented, it is no use speculating about this now. What is quite clear is that on the one hand what is the result of the negotiations has to be implemented and only once it is implemented the air strikes will come to a definite end.

Question: Did I understand you correctly? If you move together on that time axis, you think of a cease-fire, a pause in the air strikes before the resolution is passed?

Chancellor Schroeder: No this is not my view. When I think of a development I think of a synchronic movement.

Question: Yesterday after your meeting with Mr D'Alema there was no common text. If there is no agreement between two countries on wording, does it mean that we are still very far from an agreement of all the members of Europe and the Alliance on a common diplomatic initiative?

Chancellor Schroeder: No, no, far from it. We are very close actually, we don't differ all that much. We did not agree on a communiqu because we thought we already had such a paper on which we both agree, we have the principles agreed upon by the G8 members, so we have a paper outlining our positions and that is the only reason why we renounced the idea of developing a second German/Italian paper, we said what has already been worded and drawn up by the Foreign Ministers of the G8 is good enough, it has to be further specified, made more precise by negotiations by Mr Ahtisaari and Mr Chernomyrdin, but we don't need a new German/Italian paper, it would only create certain misinterpretations.

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