Updated: 21 May 1999 Speeches


20 May 1999

Audio File
(.MP 3/ 9.53 MB)

Audio File
original french
(.MP 3/ 9.60 MB)

Press Conference

by NATO Secretary General, Mr Javier Solana,
and the Italian Prime Minister, Mr Massimo D'Alema

Left - Prime Minister D'Alema. Right - Secretary General Solana
(NATO Photo 270Kb)

Secretary General: Ladies and Gentlemen. I would like to welcome the Prime Minister to NATO. His presence with us today, Prime Minister D'Alema, as was the case yesterday for the German Chancellor, shows the unity and the commitment and the determination of the members of our Alliance.

This morning we have had exchanges that were extremely useful on the situation in Kosovo and the military authorities were in a position to present to the Prime Minister the very latest developments concerning the air campaign. We have also examined the progress achieved on the diplomatic front. It is obvious that Italy plays an essential role in NATO's actions and that Italy brings a contribution, which is very considerable in all fields.

From a military point of view, Italy is implicated in the air campaign, most of our planes take off and land on Italian bases, which were made available to NATO and I would like to tell you that this element was absolutely decisive for our campaign up to this date. And amongst these planes the Italian Air Force supplies the second largest contingent, with some 50 planes.

From the humanitarian point of view, the Italian troops count over 3,000 men in Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and they have contributed to set up camps which have some 27,000 refugees and now they are setting up new camps to be able to have 30,000 more refugees housed. And the Italian government has given a considerable contribution to the humanitarian effort, some $100,000 has been spent, and the troops in the field are dealing essentially with the humanitarian task. The Italian troops will also participate in the implementation peace force once the air campaign is over so as to enable the refugees to go back home.

Now from the diplomatic point of view, Italy was implicated in the international effort so as to find a solution to the crisis. I know that Prime Minister D'Alema has made personal efforts along these lines and has spoken up in various international bodies. I would like to say that we all share the same goal to allow the refugees to go back to Kosovo, to rebuild their lives in peace and in safety. The Italian government, just like all of the other members of the Alliance, is determined to meet this objective, and here I would like to express my grateful appreciation to Italy and the Italian people for their support of our campaign.

And before giving the floor to Prime Minister D'Alema so as to enable him to give us his comments on his visit, I would like to say something which is important for Italy, and I shall do so in English.

I know that this is a concern in Italy and for the Italian authorities, about the possible release of ordnance in the Adriatic. Let me say that since NATO learned about this problem, the following measures have been already taken.

First, I notice that Notes to Mariners have been already issued informing them of the areas in which there could possibly have been a release of ordnance.

Second, NATO military authorities are tightening their procedures to ensure that whenever ordnance is released in the Adriatic during the conduct of operations, we are able to identify accurately the area and inform national authorities as soon as possible.

And let me say finally that NATO military authorities are preparing to send to the Adriatic assets of NATO's mine counter-measure forces to neutralise any ordnance that is found. With that I think that the people and the government of Italy can follow in a precise manner what is the position of NATO and how much we want to cooperate with them on this problem that has caused so much concern.

Mr Prime Minister, once again thank you and you have the floor Sir.

Press Conference
(NATO Photo 291Kb)

Mr D'Alema: First of all, let me thank the Secretary General of NATO for having acknowledged and recognised the work performed by Italy, by our Armed Forces, which are significantly engaged in the military and humanitarian efforts of the Alliance. Civilian staff and Italian volunteers are also actively engaged in the field and are participating in the reception, welcoming and assisting of the refugees.

Italy has participated, and is participating, with great conviction, it is convinced of this action, though quite understandably we feel pain and sorrow in our participation in this battle to uphold the civil and human rights battle for a peace, for a just and stable peace in the Balkans. The fact that Italy suffers and feels pain in this situation is related to the geographical position of our country, but it is also related to the fact that in civic, cultural and human terms, we feel close bonds with the peoples involved in this conflict, including the people of Serbia.

Despite this, and despite their suffering, Italy has fully taken on board all its responsibilities, even when we, with the other Allies, had to decide that the use of force was inevitable, hence we have started and conducted the air campaign. At the same time we are convinced that the necessary solution should be attained also through a political and diplomatic initiative. Military action not only has not been a hurdle to political and diplomatic efforts, indeed military action has in many forms supported and encouraged such political and diplomatic efforts.

As far as the military campaign is concerned, I am not an expert in military campaigns, so I can only give a very general view about it, but I think I can say that it is producing results. We are convinced that the results of this air campaign will be all the more effective insofar as it is military forces that are struck, the military forces on the terrain, the military ground forces, insofar as they are degraded and insofar as they are prevented from taking their repressive actions.

We believe that there should be great care taken to avoid tragic errors that would increase the sense of uneasiness and of impossibility to understand among our public opinion. In this perspective we are at a disadvantage militarily speaking compared to Milosevic, though of course I believe that in terms of civilisation this is a great advantage, but we are the leaders of democratic countries so we have to act on the basis of understanding and support on the part of our public opinion.

So as far as the military campaign is concerned, I think that it should carry on on the basis of its objectives and in the forum that is most effectively targeted at degrading the military force of Serbia. As far as political initiative is concerned, at the moment we think that it is particularly promising. A closer dialogue has opened up with the government of Belgrade through the Russian mediator, Mr Chernomyrdin. The latter is working in close contact with the Finnish President, with the United Nations and with the United States of America through frequent dialogue with Mr Talbott.

In this dialogue some openings seem to have appeared and we are convinced that the possibility of such openings should be carefully assessed and should be followed in all their possibilities. We ourselves have cooperated with Chernomyrdin, Chernomyrdin came to Rome, we had a long conversation with him and we examined the problems that the negotiations are focused upon in great depth with him.

Second, we place interest and hope in the work that is being carried on within the G8, the effort to transform the principles outlined in the document by the G8 Foreign Affairs Ministers to transform and translate those principles into a draft UN Security Council resolution. We think that such a development would represent a quantum leap in the management of this crisis. In other words in the case that those principles that the solution outlined in the G8, were to become the UN platform adopted by the Security Council.

This is the meaning of the position taken yesterday by the Italian Parliament and I have come here to illustrate this position to our allies. We are convinced that the military campaign should be closely linked to this political action and effort. We are convinced that if we had an agreed draft, to be submitted to the UN Security Council, the moment you have such a draft resolution agreed, at that time there should, could, be a pause in the bombings to allow a convening of such a meeting and to enable the Security Council to take this deliberation and to verify immediately whether Belgrade is willing to comply with such a UN decision.

Clearly what we suggest is not a unilateral cease-fire, but the possibility that faced with a concrete political perspective, weapons may cease to be used, there might be a pause in the military action to verify whether the conditions are there for a solution. Clearly as far as Italy is concerned, in the case that the Yugoslav government, if the Yugoslav government were not to accept even a UN position, and if the Yugoslav government were not to accept the request of the international community, even when submitted by the UN, if that were so, military action should be resumed in the form that would be jointly decided with our allies.

Let me conclude by expressing the hope and belief that this political process can concretely and speedily advance in the coming days. This would be the greatest success for our Alliance. We have used force as a means to an end, to attain a victory that is not the victory of NATO, but first and foremost the victory of those hundreds of thousands of people who have been expelled from their homes, from their homeland, by a regime which has trodden upon any principle of civilisation and humanity. The use of force is an instrument, a means to an end, it is not the end that we are pursuing. And the moment when that end would seem attainable, and when attaining that end seems possible, I think at that point the instrument of force can reasonably be set aside.

Finally let me thank the Secretary General and all the NATO authorities, including military authorities, for having clarified the incident of the bombs jettisoned in the Adriatic Sea. In fact this morning we were provided with a detailed report which had required a lot of study of a number of documents which has reconstructed what has happened over the course of time. So at this point we have a detailed report with the number of bombs that have been jettisoned in the Adriatic and the coordinates of the point in the sea where they have been jettisoned. Hence we can now finally fully assess the level of danger of this phenomenon which has greatly alarmed the Italian public opinion, as you will clearly understand.

Certainly these bombs do not represent a danger for tourism. The minimum distance from the coastline is 30 miles and they were jettisoned in international area, so far away from our shores and our beaches, but part of them may represent a danger for our fishing activities because the seabed of the Adriatic Sea is not always deep enough to ensure that a jettisoned bomb is at a safe distance from the fishermen's nets. Now we have been informed of where exactly they are. This afternoon our Defence Minister will provide parliament and public opinion with a very detailed report about this and we thank the Alliance for their contribution. The Alliance will provide Alliance equipment to ensure the cleaning of the Adriatic to fully restore conditions of safety and security in the Adriatic.

Question - Mark Laity, BBC: Could I ask you a little more about the references you made to a bombing pause. How have other allies reacted to this proposal for a bombing pause? How long would you propose that bombing pause be to give Belgrade time to react? And if they do not react in a satisfactory way, are the methods, which you refer to as jointly decided, would Italy support the use of ground forces to force their way into Kosovo if Belgrade does not accept the Security Council resolution?

Mr D'Alema: I very clearly stated already what you have just asked me. However, I will repeat it. We are convinced that a pause in the bombings would become necessary at the time when an agreed draft resolution for the UN Security Council were available, for the time that is useful, that is needed to enable the convening of such a meeting, the adoption of such a resolution and the communication to Belgrade of the resolution itself, and to receive an immediate answer by the Belgrade government. I am convinced that if such an initiative were to occur, this would probably provide the solution. However, I also said that if the Belgrade government were to say no to a decision taken by the United Nations, Italy would be ready to resume military action in whatever forms are agreed with our allies.

Mark Laity: With respect, I asked you how long that drafting, convening, adopting, sending to Belgrade and getting an answer would be - 1 day, 2 days, 3 days? And would Italy, if that was rejected, support the use of ground forces, not what would you support generally but what would your nation specifically support?

Mr D'Alema: I told you as long as it is necessary to perform these operations. Now I am not the Secretary General of the United Nations. How long that process would take is not in my hands. I think that those operations can be performed in a very short time, 72 hours possibly, but I think such a pause in the bombings would have a political meaning and it should be sure for the time needed to perform these operations. I haven't calculated how many hours are needed because this is not my prerogative.

As to your following question, here again I think it is completely wrong, at such a delicate time as the present one, when it is absolutely essential for the Atlantic Alliance to be united, to open up a discussion or to trigger a debate on scenarios which are purely hypothetical and which would only have the purpose of highlighting hypothetical disagreement in a hypothetical future, in an assumed future. It is a totally useless exercise for us, it is a pointless exercise that can be useful only for our adversaries.

Julie Mccarthy, National Public Radio, US: Just a point of clarification. Are you saying that a pause should come before Belgrade has in effect ordered a pull-out of Serb troops, before there has been a withdrawal, is that what you are saying? And secondly, could you share with us what the documents show in terms of the numbers of bombs that have been dropped in the Adriatic and the kind of dangers that they are presenting?

Mr D'Alema: Yes. Let me repeat that I believe that a pause in the bombings can occur the moment when we have an agreement for a draft resolution that can be adopted as a resolution by the UN Security Council. When I talk of an agreement of an agreed draft, I am not making this proposal to Belgrade, I am talking of an agreement with Russia and China, because clearly it is Russia and China that are involved in the decisions by the UN Security Council. I am convinced that once this resolution is adopted that the resolution should be communicated to Belgrade for the Belgrade government to comply with the indications that the resolution would contain. I am convinced that an actual withdrawal, pull-out of troops can occur only in the framework of an agreement, because clearly the moment the troops are pulled out we have to have a civilian and security military force, an international civilian and security force, ready to be deployed to avoid a situation of chaos on the terrain.

So what I am highlighting is the search for an agreement. This can be reached in two ways: either through direct negotiations with Belgrade, which is what Chernomyrdin is doing and I hope he is successful, I cannot at the moment evaluate whether he will be or not; or it can be achieved through the international community taking its responsibilities on board, including Russia and China, and at that point the international community would dictate, like in dictation at school, would dictate to Belgrade what they have to do. Clearly we think that the pause in the bombings can occur before these tasks that are dictated are complied with by Belgrade. This is a proposal by the Italian Parliament, it is new compared to the traditional position we have taken so far, but I don't think that it is opposite to the attitude of our allies, it is not against it.

Finally, yes, I can give you the number of the bombs that were jettisoned, dropped in the Adriatic, are 143 in over 4-500 metres in depth, hence they do not represent a real danger, whereas a much smaller number of bombs were jettisoned, were bombed, in international waters in jettison zones of lesser depth and in these zones theoretically they could be caught in the fishermen's nets.

Question: In relation to the bombing, does this constitute a recognition that the policies of the Russians and the Chinese were correct, that it was a yielding on the part of NATO and its policy?

Mr D'Alema: Absolutely not. I think that this concern is totally unfounded because without the use of force by NATO probably Russia and China would never have accepted a resolution of the UN Security Council demanding the withdrawal of troops from Kosovo. And in fact yet today, they have not accepted this idea, they have not agreed to this idea as yet, so your question is unfounded.

Question: I would like to ask you what the negotiations of the Stability Pact represent? Before the meeting starts I would like to know how you see the value of these talks since after all a war is being waged?

Mr D'Alema: I think that this discussion is of great value. I think it is crucial also in the perspective of coming to a political solution, and towards a political settlement. Because taking a commitment towards the future of the Balkans is a way to convey to all the peoples concerned that peace is a good bargain and that what we want is not a cease-fire but a true peace that will foster co-existence, democracy and economic and social development in the area.

And it can convey to these people that the international community, and first and foremost the European Union, intend to take on board their responsibilities to foster this kind of development. We have discussed this at length with Chancellor Schroeder in Bari. I even took the liberty to suggest Italy, and indeed Bar, which is a border town, Barantibari, has its name because it is in front of Bar, so Bari is on the opposite side, so I have taken the liberty to suggest that Bari could host this conference between the European countries and the Balkans, a peace conference, a conference of peace and development at the time, I hope soon, when this is possible.

Question: Secretary General, yesterday the Dutch Prime Minister, Wim Kok, offered the resignation of his Cabinet to the Queen and the Dutch Cabinet to continue for the time being as a caretaker government. In what way do you think this will affect the NATO decision making process regarding Operation Allied Force, how will it affect the Dutch position in NATO, and did you discuss the situation with the Dutch government?

Secretary General: It will not affect at all if the government continues to be a caretaker government, as you said, with all the responsibilities, and in any case the foreign policy is the agreed policy of The Netherlands. As you know, it is very stable and it doesn't change with governments and the commitment to NATO has been for years and years, and will continue to be for years and years, regardless of the government. But in this case the government is a caretaker government so no it will not affect at all the decisions.

Question: Have you discussed it with them.

Secretary General: No, with the Prime Minister not yet, but with the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

La Repubblica: Secretary General, what is your opinion on the Italian proposals? Mr D'Alema, regarding the time for transferring the responsibility to the UN, it depends on the time needed for Milosevic to make known to his public opinion and on how he can keep his hold on power in Serbia. This worries the Allies considerably. What is Italy's position on this matter?

Secretary General: We have discussed this morning with the Prime Minister and together the Prime Minister had the opportunity to address the Council in permanent session this morning. Therefore we have listened to the proposal of the Prime Minister. We like to take very seriously the proposal of every member of the Alliance. I would like to note that the proposal that has been expressed by the Parliament and today by the government, but the Parliament as he has said is not in contradiction with the idea that we have been working on in the Alliance from the very beginning and now lately with all the diplomatic activity which is taking place now. If you analyse the proposal, it is a proposal that probably could be done practically simultaneously, everything, and therefore that could be a good possibility to reform all the problems.

But again we are still unfortunately far from that moment, the moment in which the resolution of the UN Security Council could be approved, unfortunately we would like to have it tomorrow if possible, but unfortunately it is not still on the agenda of the UN Security Council Resolutions. A lot of work has to be done both militarily and politically in order to have that possibility of a debate, with the approval of the UN Security Council Resolution under the terms of the G8 that has been already, it has now been as you know in the many political initiatives trying to be worked up.

Mr D'Alema: I think that as far as I know, the work in progress to enrich and clarify the principles of the G8 and transpose them into detail and complex documents as you said, as far as I am informed this work is proceeding in a positive way. I am convinced that this can and should be a clear document.

On the other hand, the G8 is not an abstract entity, it includes us, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Russia. So that is where a point of mediation will be found with Russia, but clearly we are all interested in a clear document and a clear resolution. I am convinced of the following. When Milosevic is forced to withdraw his troops from Kosovo, and his force to accept an international force and a military force and an efficient military force that will effectively ensure the return of the refugees, at that point Milosevic will have been defeated. He will be the head of a country, the leader of a country, who has led his country to a dramatic defeat that the country has paid for in terms of heavy destruction, and after this defeat he will be a leader who after such a defeat has accepted what he could have accepted to begin with, paying a much lower price.

So I really don't understand this strange debate as though our end, our goal, our concern were to be what Milosevic will say, or will be able to say, as though here what was at stake was a matter of pride. We are confronting a dramatic crisis on the basis of facts and substance and for me the day when the refugees get back to their homes protected by a true international force, Milosevic will have lost. And I am also convinced that such a defeat will open up a political process in Serbia, and of course it is not up to us to guide this political process, but such a crisis could trigger in a positive way such a political process.

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