Updated: 21-May-2003 NATO Speeches


21 May 2003


Press Point

by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson,
Ambassador Michael Steiner, head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)
and Commander KFOR (COMKFOR) Lt.-Gen. Mini

Lord Robertson: Thank you. I want to very much welcome here Mr. Steiner and General Mini representing the strength of the international community in Kosovo. Today, the Ambassadors of NATO reaffirmed their support for both Mr. Steiner and General Mini and commended them on their leadership and the work that they are doing in Kosovo.

NATO, and UNMIK and KFOR worked very well together in producing both safety and security and, as well, the development of democratic civic institutions. The message, the strong message from me and, indeed, from the whole NATO Council is that illegality, criminality in Kosovo is simply not going to be tolerated, that we expect responsible action on the part of those who have been elected to represent the people of Kosovo, and our commitment to Kosovo is maintained and is strengthened all the time.

Next month, the whole NATO Council will be visiting Kosovo and Pristina and that point will emphatically be made here today. And I want to specifically identify myself with Michael Steiner and the tough action that he has taken this week and any future subsequent action that he needs to take in order to maintain the integrity of the effort that we are all making in Kosovo to produce a multi-ethnic, democratic society that is free from either the oppression of the past or, indeed, the oppression of organized crime of today and of tomorrow.

So we remain committed to Kosovo, and we’ll maintain our forces at the appropriate level to ensure that safety and security is robustly enforced. Having said that, can I just add... Well, I should ask Michael Steiner to say a word about that before I move on to another issue. Some of you might have an interest in it.

Michael Steiner: Now, let me just say very briefly that this opportunity today to brief NAC was extremely useful for both General Mini and myself. I know that the Secretary General is a friend of Kosovo and he’s also a friend of us and I’m very gracious for your support. I’m also gracious for - I think I can say the consensus support of the NAC.

And you know, when you are supported by NATO, you feel pretty strengthened and that is what we need also. Yes, we have not always everything very easy on the ground, but we should also not forget that what we have achieved since 99, what we have achieved in the last year, are quite some successes in a number of areas, and we have presented that also.

And I think that I can say with full responsibility that the international community represented here in the Council is ready to stay course, to finish the job, what has been started, in order that we create a functioning democratic society in Kosovo, which is based on multi-ethnicity.

General Mini: Thank you. Thank you very much. And of course, this was a great opportunity for us, from the military point of view, to present the security situation in Kosovo, which is improving, but we have also to face new challenges, and this is done and it will be done in this really close conjunction with UNMIK, because we are one and we represent the entire international community.

Thanks to the Secretary General of NATO for his personal support and to all the ambassadors for their support.

Lord Robertson: Thank you. Before we can take questions all at the same time, maybe I should give you some other information about another decision that was taken by the NATO Council this morning. As you aware, the Polish government requested of NATO support to Poland in the context of their leadership of a sector in a stabilization force in Iraq. The Council has unanimously decided today to task the NATO military authorities to provide advice as soon as possible on the Polish request for NATO support to Poland, and have authorized SHAPE to liaise with the Polish military authority to clarify their requirements.

Q: Question for General Mini and Lord Robertson. I’m Augustine Paleoqui(?) from Koha Ditore. UMNIK and KFOR recently have taken some measures against KPC - Kosovo Action Corps - and those measures were supported by the international community, the broader international community. But how do you plan to overcome this deadlock now, a situation in which KPC is, and how to help them to organize themselves?

And another question is - maybe for all three of you - about the rationalisation of KFOR mission in Kosovo. What is going to happen this year and what kind of re-organization is NATO planning for that mission?

Lord Robertson: Well, the second question can’t be answered because we are involved in the normal periodic review of our force structure in all of the Balkan theatre. But I can promise you that we will keep a full structure in Kosovo that will provide robust support to the civil authorities and allow for the safe and secure environment that we are challenged to maintain.

The KPC is a civil emergency organization and the international community refuses to see it in any form as some embryonic army. It is a civil role and we insist that that role must be maintained and must be adhered to. And my message to them is that you have done a valuable job in the past. We seek international support for the KPC and new rules for the KPC, but if there is any sense of illegality or connections with illegal organizations by anybody in the KPC, then they can expect to be dealt with severely.

Q: Inga Rosinska, Polish television, TVN 24. Could you just explain exactly what it means this decision from today for Poland, what kind of technical assistance you can provide, send to the Polish in Iraq and if I understand well, it’s not possible to send the soldiers, it’s only technical assistance?

Lord Robertson: No. What was agreed today is a prospect in a process. We have a request from Poland, in accordance with the policy of NATO, asking what support can be given by NATO for their ambition to lead the division in a sector in the stabilization force in Iraq.

So the first stage is to ask the military authorities to provide a list of what support can be given, with all of the implications. And also, to ask SHAPE... that is, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, our planning organization, to liaise with the Polish authorities on that in discovering what it is they want and how best it can be achieved.

The first important, indeed critical step, was taken today by unanimity in the Council, but it is a tasking of the NMA to provide advice.

Q: (inaudible)... Service. Lord Robertson, how long do you think this process will take. Is it a matter of days, or weeks before NATO actually gets involved on the ground in the Polish sector? And Mr. Steiner, do you think it’s now time for Belgrade and Pristina to start direct talks on what will be the final stages of Kosovo?

Lord Robertson: The answer to your question I can not give. Kosovo was a mandate that was given today, but we’re not talking about a NATO presence in Iraq, we are talking purely and simply about NATO help to Poland, which is intending to be in Iraq and to fulfil a role in the civilization process.

Michael Steiner: My answer is no.

Q: Not a goal, ever?

Michael Steiner: You have asked me whether it’s now time to start a direct dialogue on the final stages issue. I say: No.

Q: Question to the Secretary General. Secretary General, my name is Kastish. I’m a Kosovar journalist from Rilindja Newspaper. As the E.U. is seeking more and more responsibilities on security issues in the Balkans, do you think that in the near future, NATO handing over to the E.U. the mission in Kosovo is possible?

Lord Robertson: That hasn’t even been contemplated.

Michael Steiner: Let me say to that: I think that the structural setting-up we have in the moment, we have KFOR and UNMIK, under the guidance of the UN Security Council and the Secretary General, is a success model. We have learned lessons from Bosnia. I think there’s no reason whatsoever that this juncture should think about different structures of the future and surely not in the situation we are in. So we will continue with this structure and I think there’s a general agreement on that.

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