Updated: 23-Mar-2004 NATO Speeches


23 March 2004

Press point

with NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
and the Prime Minister of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica

Video of the press point (WMV/3985Kb)
High resolution photos
Audio file .MP3/2372Kb

de Hoop Scheffer: Thank you. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Prime Minister Kostunica and I had just a very good conversation, which of course started on Kosovo, it goes without saying. You know, I was in Pristina yesterday and I have repeated the, I think, clear and strong message of NATO I made yesterday in Pristina at the press conference, and to the leadership in Pristina as well, and that what happened is absolutely unacceptable. That houses should be rebuilt, that churches should be rebuilt, that the Serb minority in Kosovo should be able to live where it has lived and where it wants to live. That KFOR will do everything it can to protect every single inhabitant of Kosovo from what community he or she is. And that KFOR will continue to do so with the reinforcements which have come in.

Of course, Prime Minister Kostunica and I had a telephone conversation last week when this ethnic violence and hatred happened in Kosovo and we both, of course, hope that it will not happen again, and KFOR and NATO will do everything it can to prevent that.

The second subject, of course we discussed is the wish and the ambition of Serbia-Montenegro to come closer, to more integrate in the Euro-Atlantic structures, focused on Serbia's wish to become a member of the PFP, the Partnership for Peace program. Of course, as you know, the discussion around the full co-operation with the tribunal in The Hague, the ICTY was discussed as it was, as I've understood, when Prime Minister Kostunica visited the European Union.

We have discussed reforms in Serbia and we have decided, as was already the case, that our lines of communications stay open, as they always are, that we follow... NATO follows with great interest the reform process in Serbia as set in motion by the previous government, and I'm sure that this government under the leadership of Prime Minister Kostunica will go on and continue this reform process.

Thank you very much.

Kostunica: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We went on with our conversation. I'm having my conversation with Secretary General that started with a phone call a few days before. Now the situation, if I may make such a comparison, is much better when it comes to the safety of Serbian and Albanian population in Kosovo.

Of course, I discussed with Secretary General all the necessary steps in order to prevent that what happened on the 17th of March when it comes to the safety of the citizens of Kosovo, particularly Serbians and Albanians and possible political, legal and other devices to make them feel safer.

We discussed all the other matters, including PFP membership, something that has been proposed, the idea that has been promoted by federal authorities in 2002, and we stand by those steps that have been taken then.

We discussed the situation in the country when it comes to the state union and its institutions and their functioning, and I once again repeated that my expectations when it comes to the state union and its future are very optimistic. On the other hand, I said that I think there is no alternative to keeping Serbia-Montenegro together because any disintegration of that state would have a very dangerous influence on the other states in the region.

Those were basic issues that we covered in this very, for us, interesting and constructive dialogue, and of course, there I am to answer with Secretary General your questions.

Questions and answers

Q: Paul Ames from the Associated Press. Secretary General, how do you respond to criticism which has come out from last week's events that NATO and KFOR were caught napping by what happened in Kosovo and were caught unawares by the violence?

de Hoop Scheffer: I do not accept the implication in your question. Of course, as I said yesterday, and I'll repeat today, there was a lot of orchestration behind the violence erupting at many places at the same time, so I take your point that KFOR could not, certainly not in the beginning, could be anywhere, and that we had to see, unfortunately burning houses and burning churches.

But KFOR did everything it could to protect, as I said, every inhabitant of Kosovo and more specifically the Serb minority. Reinforcements were flown in very quickly so NATO has done a good job. KFOR has done a good job, is doing a good job. But it was not possible at the very beginning for KFOR to be at all places at the same time. It was virtually and simply impossible.

But it's clear that what happened is unacceptable and that KFOR is doing everything it can. When I was visiting Serb IDPs yesterday, internally displaced persons, they also confirmed what KFOR had done and that KFOR had come to their assistance and their rescue when it was really necessary.

Q: This is a question to the Secretary General. Do you expect for the Istanbul Summit to actually be able to invite Serbia and Montenegro to become a PFP member?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well, you know, that depends, as I said, on Serbia and Montenegro itself, because you know the essential precondition for that and that is the full co-operation with the ICTY. Here I side with Romano Prodi who said the same thing.

Let me at the same time say that we discussed this, that it is also a clear NATO ambition, because I think PFP, among other things, is a very important program, and how shall I say, tool to bring stability and security, which we all so much want to the whole region. And I was glad that Prime Minister Kostunica restated the ambition to join PFP.

I explained, which of course was no news to the Prime Minister, what NATO's position on PFP is. So I think if let's say the conditions are met I would not say that Istanbul would be too late, but that's an if.

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