Updated: 24-Mar-2005 NATO Speeches


23 March 2005

Press point

with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General and Mr. Soren Jessen-Petersen, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Kosovo


High resolution photos
Audio file

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, thank you. Sorry for our slight delay. The Secretary General and the SRSG will each make brief opening statements and will be happy to take questions. Secretary General.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General): Well thank you. Let me start by welcoming also here Mr. Soren Jessen-Petersen who just briefed us on his work and let me start by saying that NATO, once again the NATO ambassadors and myself have expressed strong support- strong support for the work he's doing and appreciation for the work Mr. Jessen-Petersen and Général de Kermabon as Commander KFOR, who was also our guest, are doing in Kosovo.

Of course appreciation for the way Mr. Jessen-Petersen and the Commander KFOR showed professionalism and diplomacy during the difficult moments on the indictment of the former Prime Minister Haradinaj.

It's of course important that Mr. Jessen-Petersen is here today. Kosovo is of course entering a very crucial period because the decision has to be made on the comprehensive review as you all know this.

Let me mention a number of important elements in this respect which were discussed and which we consider important and I know Mr. Jessen-Petersen, the SRSG considers important; those are for instance the freedom of movements, the return process, the protection of minorities, the whole discussion on decentralization and of course last, but certainly not least, the participation of the Kosovo Serbs in the process.

We have of course the very important element of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue but it is important as Mr. Jessen-Petersen has also told the Council, plus the troop contributors to KFOR, that it is of course of the utmost importance that the Kosovo Serbs themselves play an important part and fully participate in the political process in the Assembly and in all the rest.

It goes without saying that if I mention a few standards that also goes for the full cooperation with the ICTY. I think we saw a good example indeed two weeks ago when the former Prime Minister and two other persons were indicted, we saw what it can mean, full cooperation with the ICTY and I sincerely hope that this cooperation will send a signal to the wider region on this important, important aspect.

Let me finish by saying- by making two remarks. First remark, that KFOR is there to stay in Kosovo and KFOR will maintain, as I have said many times before and I will repeat this here today, KFOR will maintain its operational capability.

And finally that NATO, as I said when I started my brief remarks in commending the SRSG, NATO of course plays a role as far as KFOR is concerned with a considerable strength necessary in what still of course is a fragile situation in Kosovo.

We saw positive developments- we see positive developments in the building of a new government but let's not pretend that we are there or that Kosovo is there- far from it. NATO will stay involved as far as KFOR is concerned and NATO of course through its participation in the extended contact group wants to be and is also of course involved in the political process.

Let me stop here by saying that I ended the meeting just a moment ago by saying 'Bon courage' to Soren Jessen-Petersen. NATO is fully behind him, strongly supports him and I say Général de Kermabon and it's always good to have you here.

Thank you very much.

SOREN JESSEN-PETERSEN (Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Kosovo): Thank you very much Secretary General and indeed it's very good to be here. I welcome this opportunity that I had today to brief the North Atlantic Council, to contributing nations, and also the talk that I had with you Secretary General.

And I want first, as I did in the meeting right now, I want first also again to reiterate my thanks to NATO, to you Secretary General and to KFOR for the extraordinary contributions that we are receiving in our efforts- joint efforts to maintain a safe and secure environment in Kosovo--a safe and secure environment which is the essential basis that will allow all of us to move forward on the political agenda.

This is a contribution by NATO, by KFOR, that have been tested over the last two weeks as the Secretary General referred to. I think Kosovo over the last two weeks has been exposed to an unprecedented set of challenges that many independent states would have difficulties in coping with but Kosovo did it.

With the indictment of the former Prime Minister, his immediate resignation, his immediate departure for The Hague Tribunal which (inaudible), the formation of a new government, inclusive consultations among all political parties--which has just a couple of minutes ago by the way--resulted in the election of the new government with 71 votes in the Assembly. In other words, a formation of a government that has taken place in full respect of democratic and constitutional principles; another sign of a growing political maturity in Kosovo.

Now we are moving forward again. We have a new government but it is a continuation of the old government with a new leader, Bajram Kosumi. I mentioned to the Council that we have three main challenges over the next six months.

First of all, the new government knows very well what it has to do. It has to continue even more determinedly to implement the priority standards so that I can report on positive developments to the Security Council--end of May--so that a decision can be taken to launch a comprehensive review this summer and again hopefully a comprehensive review with a positive outcome that can trigger status talks. So the government has a very clear agenda. Implementation of the priority standards, most of them linked to an improvement of the living conditions of the minorities as the Secretary General said.

Secondly, it is important that Kosovo remains united as we move forward. In democracies you have a government, you have an opposition; but when it comes to larger issues of vital importance for Kosovo's future, that is decentralization and preparation for status talks, the government must now show maturity in reaching out to and bringing into a consensus progress on decentralization and preparation of status talks. All political parties, all leaders, have a role to play there and this will be a major challenge and again I have no doubt that it will be met.

And thirdly, as mentioned by the Secretary General, this government and Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi must continue what the previous government did, that is, redouble or- they now must redouble their efforts in moving on some of the minority issues; reaching out to the Kosovo Serbs; engage in a direct dialogue with Belgrade and implementing all the priority standards linked to minorities. I have already discussed it with the Prime Minister elect, I have urged him to continue the example shown by the previous Prime Minister in really working hard on the minority issues and again I have confidence that the government and the opposition is aware of that.

So let me sum up and say, we were concerned when the indictment happened. We were concerned on how that would impact on stability, on our political agenda forward, I can now say with a degree of relief but also being impressed by the response of the institution and the citizens in Kosovo, I can say Kosovo is on track, we are moving forward and we just have to work even harder to get us to the goal that I believe is of interest not just to Kosovo but to the entire region.

Settling Kosovo will help to normalize and stabilize the entire region of Western Balkans and this is now our challenge over the next several months.

Thank you.

Q: I have a question for the Secretary General. Tomorrow is the 6th anniversary of NATO intervention to liberate Kosovo. Looking back six years, really the situation in Kosovo seems much better but still for some Kosovars it took too long and still the status of Kosovo is not clear. We hear that the status talks might start this year or later but there are no indications that- what the final status will be. Was this discussed today in the NAC and what is your position on that? And if I may just a question- if ICTY asked for the guarantee from KFOR and UNMIK for Mr. Haradinaj to be provisionally released, is NATO and the UNMIK - are they ready to do so? Thanks.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I'm usually not good in answering 'iffy' questions so let's wait and see. That's up to the ICTY and not up to NATO. On your first question, you have heard the SRSG, NATO as such of course does not have an opinion on status but let's take the things one by one as Mr. Jessen-Petersen has said. Let's first focus on, let's say the start of the comprehensive review and then of course, and Mr. Soren Jessen-Petersen has to report of course to the Security Council given his mandate- and then let's see if status talks can start as he was saying.

Of course I hope that that at a certain stage can be the case but you know the comprehensive review comes first. What I can say on behalf of NATO is that KFOR is there to stay, to see that stability and security is maintained. We did that during a period a few weeks ago which was of course tense. Let me repeat once again that we are not there yet, that the situation of course in Kosovo is a fragile situation in need of KFOR to maintain its presence and NATO follows quite closely the political process under the competent and able leadership of Mr. Jessen-Petersen.

JESSEN-PETERSEN: Yes I would just add very briefly, I have already informed the provisional government because I was requested on this issue that if there was a request on provisional release I have made it clear that is a matter for the ICTY and we will, if there is such a request, we will look at the content and what we are requested to do, acting in full accordance with the procedures.

All I can say, and I'll not go further than that, as always we will be looking positively at any request that we get for cooperating and we will also be looking positively but it is depending on a request forthcoming, the contents of that request, and indeed whether the conditions are such that they can be met.

Q: Question for Mr. Petersen. Boris Tadic just said that he is not happy with the process of decentralization. He said Belgrade is not involved enough in this process. Do you feel that the institution of Kosovo has done enough for this process? And a second question if I may. We have before us two months, you mentioned the end of May, so do you believe that there is enough time for progress for in the standards in Kosovo- for the (inaudible).

JESSEN-PETERSEN: On the second question there's enough time if the government now sets about really working 24 hours a day, the municipal authorities as well, the citizens of Kosovo, they know what needs to be done. If they all work hard on it and are totally committed to it there is enough time.

On the first question, I have discussed this many times with Tadic, Mr. Kostunica and others. We have said that decentralization in Kosovo is a Kosovo-driven process, the principle (inaudible) for that must be the Kosovo Serbs. They must participate in that. I have said Belgrade is welcome to send advisors to that and we are also prepared to pursue other dialogues on decentralization directly with Belgrade for example the way we did it last September when under the chairmanship of the contact group we met to discuss the Belgrade plan.

So there are various channels for discussing this directly. Again, we don't have a lot of time here. We want to proceed on decentralization, that's what Mr. Tadic asked for when the previous government was established in November, he said I will 90 days to decide whether to encourage Kosovo Serb participation to see progress on pilot projects. Within those 90 days we produced an idea of five pilot projects of which two are of direct interest to the Kosovo Serbs. So, we have to move forward on that issue as well, there are various ways of Kosovo Serbs and Belgrade to being part of that and I will discuss that further in Belgrade on Monday with all the leaders in Belgrade.

Q: (Agence France-Presse) Just a follow-up question to that. Since your report is in May, could you tell us in concrete terms what- is there one decision that they should, that the Kosovars should take that would help you in this? I mean because- could you be more precise?

JESSEN-PETERSEN: Yes I can be very precise. We have, together with the Kosovo government, agreed on 61 priority standards. Some of those priority standards are related to specific action in areas mentioned by the Secretary General, I mentioned to the Council, for example freedom of movement and returns of displaced persons, there are other areas linked to dialogue.

So what is required are very specific action points. We have already in previous technical assessments ticked off positively implementation in a number of those areas but there are other areas where there has either not been enough progress or no progress so in our daily meetings and working groups, et cetera, we are now focusing very concretely with the authorities on what exactly needs to be done between now and the end of May and it is mainly linked to freedom of movement, to return of displaced and also issue of property rights.

So they're very concrete and therefore it's not a matter of a general discussion, concrete action, and very easy to monitor for the same reason.
Go to Homepage Go to Index Back to NATO Homepage