Updated: 4 June 1999 Press Conferences


3 June 1999

Press Point

of Mr. Strobe Talbott, US Deputy Secretary of State

On arrival at Main Entrance

Mr. Talbott: Good evening everybody.

Question: Is this deal going to work?

Mr. Talbott: I am already late to see the Secretary General and then I will be meeting with the NAC, so I don't have very long now. Let me just say that obviously there have been very interesting developments on the diplomatic front today. I just come from Bonn. During the course of the day we had some sense from our Finnish and Russian colleagues about what has transpired in Belgrade and the next stage of this very important process is to confirm, to clarify and to verify, and that is one of the several issues that I will be discussing with the Secretary General and the NAC. I have already reported to President Clinton and to Secretary Albright and perhaps a little later in the evening there will be a chance to talk again. Thanks a lot.

On departure

Mr. Talbott: Well, I've had a chance to talk with a few of you on my way in to see the Secretary General and the North Atlantic Council, and indeed we've had a very long and intense and good discussion, concentrating very much on an assessment of what we have heard from Belgrade, and more specifically from President Ahtisaari and Mr. Chernomyrdin about what they believe to be a decision that the Yugoslav leadership has made. What we have heard is unquestionably welcome. The question is now how to make sure that indeed the decision in all of its necessary specifics has been made by the Yugoslav authorities and that the Yugoslav authorities are prepared to proceed with prompt, unambiguous implementation of that decision.

In the discussion here in the North Atlantic Council we spent quite a bit of time on the question of the mechanism for confirming, clarifying and verifying that the Yugoslav government has indeed made a decision that coincides with the conditions set down by the international community, and it was also clear from this discussion that, as a prudential matter, the Alliance is moving ahead very briskly to prepare for the deployment into Kosovo of an international security presence of the kind that the international community has called for.

Mark Laity, BBC: Could you give some idea from your conversations with Mr. Ahtisaari and Viktor Chernomyrdin as to whether they believe that Belgrade is genuine and that they will move quickly to actually implement, so is there a sense that Belgrade is actually doing a true story rather than another trick, which is what you have always feared?

Mr. Talbott: Well, it's the right question. I talked briefly to Mr. Chernomyrdin - earlier today he called from Belgrade - and I saw President Ahtisaari very briefly indeed in Cologne as he was making his way quickly to meet with EU heads. They have, of course, both spoken for themselves. I saw the comments that President Ahtisaari made - he referred to his considerable experience with the United Nations and peacekeeping operations. I think he struck exactly the right note of welcoming what he had heard in Belgrade, but caution and an insistence on the need to make sure that what he and Mr. Chernomyrdin heard in Belgrade is now translated into facts on the ground, including facts that can be seen and verified.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: I have a draft here from a Belgian diplomat in Cologne of the document passed by the Serbian parliament - it has an additional paragraph to the draft circulating earlier - it includes the following phrase "it is understood that Russia's position is that the Russian contingent will not be under NATO command and its relationship to the international presence will be governed by relevant additional agreements". Is it your understanding that that is included in the document the Yugoslav leadership have signed up to, and insofar as there remains apparently a difference of view between NATO and Russia, where will that difference of view be resolved - in the Security Council or before it reaches it?

Mr. Talbott: Let's take the points separately. The international community has made clear - with Russia very much part of that international community, including through its active involvement in the G8, - that there should be an effective international security force or presence in Kosovo. We, the United States - and I think this is a view shared by all of our Allies - think that it would be a very good thing if Russia is part of that. We also feel that in order to qualify as effective - which by the way is an adjective that was put into that phrase with the agreement of Foreign Minister Ivanov in a meeting that he had with Secretary Albright and others in Bonn - in order to qualify as effective, the Kosovo Implementation Force needs to have NATO at its core.

Now, that does not mean that only NATO countries will be participating. President Ahtisaari has made quite clear that he hopes Finland will be there. He's also made quite clear that there won't be one single Finnish soldier in Kosovo unless that soldier is under NATO command as such. The Russian government has a different position, but we've had some experience with this in the Balkans, with IFOR and SFOR in Bosnia, and this is one of the issues that we will continue to work on with Russia.

Now, we need to, in the coming hours and days, test the proposition that the Belgrade authorities have accepted fully and unambiguously all of the conditions set forth by the international community, including one important part of the international community which is the Alliance headquartered in this building, unless we have some concrete ways on how to do that, but simultaneously we will be working with the G8 to, among other things, look at possible Security Council resolutions. My colleague from the State Department, Jim Sweigert, is in Bonn right now meeting with some G8 officials and we will be working directly with the Russians, in New York and elsewhere, on that aspect of it.

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