Updated: 26-Apr-2001 NATO Speeches

25 April 2001


by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson
on the visit of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Dr . Nebojsa Covic

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome Dr. Covic, Minister Svilanovic and Colonel General Krstic at NATO today. Dr. Covic met with the NATO Council for a frank and open exchange on the situation in Southern Serbia.

Since Dr Covic's first visit two months ago, the situation has greatly improved, in many ways due to the constructive approach adopted by FRY authorities based on dialogue and a commitment to a political solution.

In that regard, the personal and constructive engagement of Dr. Covic must be highlighted. I acknowledge the restraint shown by the FRY forces but also urge the parties to continue to comply with the cease-fire statement signed on 12 March.

The Yugoslav Army has already re-entered over 80% of the Ground Safety Zone and representatives of the Albanian and Serb communities are engaged in a dialogue to discuss the implementation of Confidence Building Measures.

I stress that both sides have to demonstrate good will and adopt an open attitude. Threats to withdraw from talks are detrimental to the interests of both communities. The legitimate aspirations of the local communities can only be achieved through politics not violence.

It is NATO's hope that the right conditions will exist for a re-opening of the remaining sector of the GSZ and NATO will proceed when there is a consensus to do so. We are not constrained by a time table, our motivation is a settlement between the two communities.

Already, some trust-building measures have been implemented and I congratulate the Serbian authorities for their commitment to ensure progress in that respect. Trust cannot be achieved overnight, so more needs to be done, especially as we are now contemplating the relaxation of the most sensitive part of the GSZ.

In particular :

  • the withdrawal of Yugoslav Forces and the MUP from public buildings such as schools must be completed ;
  • the constitution of a multi-ethnic police force must proceed swiftly ;
  • the conditions for the return of refugees must exist ; and
  • the issue of the amnesty for Albanian fighters who will have voluntarily laid down their weapons must be tackled with determination.

Deputy Prime Minister Covic has told us today of his commitment to these principles and to progress on them.

The ethnic Albanian community must isolate those who have chosen violence as the instrument to pursue their aspirations. Those who opted for violence should be under no illusion : NATO and the whole international community will not tolerate violence.

NATO is ready to continue as a facilitator between parties to achieve a long-term settlement and I thank those who are doing difficult work on the ground.

NATO's intention remains to abolish the GSZ, and crucially to ensure that all the people in the area enjoy full rights and equal safety.

The visit of the Yugoslav delegation today has been another important step towards a safer, more just and more stable Southeast Europe.

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