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Updated: 10 May 1999 Morning Briefings

NATO HQ

10 May 1999

Morning Briefing

By Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman

Jamie Shea: Ladies and gentlemen, this is my usual morning up-date. Once again, on-the-record but off camera.

As you have seen from the morning up-date that we distributed to you on paper earlier, which I hope you have all received, yesterday our operations were significantly hampered by the weather. We were only able to fly about half the number of sorties as we did last week when the weather was more favourable. Nonetheless, we were still able to attack a number of strategic targets and fielded forces, including, or rather I should say inflicting, further damage on Milosevic's military capability.

The strategic targets attacked during the last 24 hours included Nis airfield, military radio relay sites at Kosovska, Mitrovica, Kotawa and Novi Pazar, and a petroleum storage site at Pristina in Kosovo.

The strikes against Serb fielded forces in Kosovo included 2 tanks near Riznik, 10 revetted armoured personnel carriers near Kalavas, camouflaged military equipment near Dikani and Prizren, a command post near Djakovica and a number of military assembly areas.

I would like now to turn to humanitarian operations. As I mentioned yesterday, the Secretary General, Javier Solana, is planning on Wednesday to travel to Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to confer with officials from both governments. He will also see the UNHCR and the NATO Commanders while he is there and he will have the chance to see for himself the plight of the approximately 650,000 refugees in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania, and of course to see how the governments, in partnership with NATO, the UNHCR and the humanitarian relief organisations are trying to help to build camps and to bring shelter, food, water and medical supplies. The Secretary General's timetable, the exact details of the trip, the specific meetings, the people involved, all of that we will get to you as soon as the details are finalised.

As you know, over the weekend a Russian inspection team arrived in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to conduct an inspection under the terms of the 1994 Vienna document. That inspection has now been completed. I understand the Russian team is due to leave this morning to fly home, and I want to stress that NATO fully co-operated in that inspection.

In just a few moments the Secretary General will be leaving NATO headquarters to go to Bremen to attend the Ministerial meeting of the Western European Union that takes place there today and tomorrow. He will be there for most of the day, coming back this evening. Apart from giving a speech to that meeting, which I will distribute to you in a little while, as soon as it has been finalised, the Secretary General will also have a bilateral meeting with the Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Eduard Kukan, who as you know has recently been appointed, along with Carl Bildt, as one of the UN Special Envoys for Yugoslavia.

The North Atlantic Council is meeting this morning at 11.00 am. The usual topics on the agenda, obviously a report by the Chairman of the Military Committee on the latest developments, the usual reports on political developments and on the humanitarian situation, and today there will be a special briefing by Ambassador Eiff, who is our political representative in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. I will report to you on those developments at 3.00 pm.

Finally, I would like to say a word about the activities in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. As you know, this morning in The Hague, at the ICJ, the Yugoslav government will introduce a petition which is a frivolous and cynical effort to deflect responsibility for the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. It is a telling irony that the worst violator of human rights that Europe has seen in half a century, and the person responsible for driving 1.5 million Kosovars from their homes, should believe that it is his rights that are being violated. It is like Saddam Hussein suing for damages after Desert Storm.

If President Milosevic wants to recognise the force of international law, he should begin by heeding the requirements of the three UN Security Council resolutions - 1160, 1199 and 1203 - which have been passed by the United Nations in recent months and which have consistently and firmly called upon him to stop the violence in Kosovo, stop the ethnic cleansing and to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis. Those resolutions also call on him to allow the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague complete access to the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia so that they can properly document the crimes committed against Kosovar Albanians and determine criminal responsibility. And in that respect, as you know, Yugoslavia has repeatedly denied Justice Arbour and her team the visas for them to be able to go to Kosovo and do that work. And President Milosevic should also hand over to the Tribunal all of the indicted war criminals from the Bosnian conflict currently under his protection in Yugoslavia, as the International Criminal Tribunal has consistently called upon him to do. That would be recognising international law.

Paul: Do NATO and do all the member countries accept the jurisdiction and competence of this court in this case and will NATO and will the member countries accept the ruling of this court in this case?

Jamie Shea: Paul, I am not an international lawyer and I don't intend to make any comment whatever on the legal aspects. Just to say that it is not NATO as such, it is 10 NATO countries which have been petitioned to appear today in The Hague. And as you know, NATO countries always cooperate fully with international law because we are the people who promote and defend international law.

Question: The fact that there have been no attacks against Belgrade in the last couple of nights, is that to do with the weather or is that to do with the problems you have been having with intelligence in that city recently?

Jamie Shea: No, I think as I pointed out very clearly at the beginning of my little up-date today, it is entirely due to the unfavourable weather conditions yesterday, but I think also from what I said you can see that last night there were a large number of sorties, we had well in excess of 300 sorties despite the very bad weather conditions, so you can see that we continue the operation in the same constant way as before. And as for Belgrade, as I said yesterday, you should not see any particular significance in that, the targets on the day are entirely in the hands of the military commanders, they choose what has the priority on the day.

Gyorgy Foris, Hungarian TV: Do you recognise any kind of set-back in terms of diplomacy since Saturday? The Secretary General was to talk to Kofi Annan, perhaps you have any comment on Chernomyrdin's talks in Bonn?

Jamie Shea: Gyorgy, as I said I think yesterday, I don't believe there will be any permanent set-back for diplomacy quite frankly. In fact this week is going to see a very hectic round of international diplomacy with as you know Mr Chernomyrdin now working on his ideas following his recent visit to Bonn to see Chancellor Schroeder, with President Chirac's trip to Moscow coming up on Thursday, preceded by a visit by Minister Vedrine of course with Strobe Talbott in Moscow, with Chancellor Schroeder going to China, with the Political Directors of the G8 due to start meeting to draw up proposals for a UN Security Council Resolution. So no I don't think, and I see no signs quite frankly, of any set-back, either temporary or even less permanent. I think everybody wants to work on the progress that was made last week, I don't think anybody sees any interest in derailing this process at a very important time and although I understand the anger of the Chinese government and people for what has happened, as I have said, I think that China would want to join every effort that could end the Kosovo crisis, but of course on terms that meet the essential demands of NATO and the international community, because otherwise there will not be any serious resolution of the crisis.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Just to press that point again, if the International Court of Justice decides that these 10 countries have acted illegally in carrying out Operation Allied Force, the majority of NATO countries, will NATO accept the jurisdiction of that court?

Jamie Shea: Again Jake, as I have said, this is not something for NATO, this is something for the 10 NATO countries and you should obviously put your question to the 10 NATO countries concerned, but I think that they have made their views on this, from the statements I have seen in recent days, pretty clear.

Mark Laity, BBC: Just looking at the China situation as well as the court situation, would you accept that the incident has at least weakened NATO's negotiating position given that there are clear gaps between Russia and NATO, and China and Russia and NATO and so on, that it has slowed and possibly weakened and complicated NATO's position? And on the Court of The Hague, I know you are not a lawyer but can you help us, has the fact that NATO has not declared war actually made your legal position more difficult knowing that law has very little to do with justice and everything to do with words and concept?

Jamie Shea: Mark, first of all, no, as I said earlier, I don't think there is going to be any set-back. First of all there is no set-back as far as NATO's operations are concerned, they have been continued during the two days since the regrettable mistake of the attack against the Chinese Embassy occurred, and you have seen many NATO leaders making it very clear publicly that there will be no let-up, no loss of intensity, we will continue to do what we have to do because we have to keep our eye on our principal objective which is to stop the suffering of a very, very much larger number of people in Kosovo, suffering of course which is not so visible unfortunately in terms of TV pictures, but which is nonetheless very, very real and should never, never be forgotten. And many people are involved in that unfortunately as the ethnic cleansing, the refugees and the horror stories continue to mount up. So we are not going to be deflected or deterred, that is clear.

As I said also in response to an earlier question, you can see that diplomacy is going on and Russia even immediately after the news about the attack on the Embassy, sent Chernomyrdin to Bonn for what was a constructive meeting and Mr Chernomyrdin made that clear himself that it was a constructive meeting, that things had moved forward. Mr Cook spoke to Mr Ivanov, as you know, and western leaders have made it clear that we want the diplomacy to continue to work and I have seen no indication from Moscow that they don't see things the same way. So no I don't believe that there will be any lasting political damage here because I think everybody has an overwhelming interest to keep the diplomacy moving ahead.

And again as for the International Court of Justice issue, I have given what I believe is the view of the Allies here as to the merits of this particular case. When it comes to international law, NATO countries are the countries which uphold international law, that is why we are in Kosovo in the first place, to uphold three UN Security Council resolutions which have the full legal force of international law, which call on Milosevic to do a large number of things which he has consistently refused to do. So I think that when it comes to the question of who respects international law and who doesn't, the facts are clear for all to see.

John: Just to follow up these earlier questions on Belgrade, you seem to be wanting us to conclude that it is a mere coincidence that in the last two nights NATO hasn't targeted any targets inside Belgrade. How soon is NATO planning to target Belgrade, and is it because of the weather or because of military procedures and military planning that Belgrade hasn't been hit over the last two nights?

Jamie Shea: As I made clear yesterday when this question came up, we have not struck at targets in Belgrade by any means on every night of this operations, which is now in its 47th day. The targets are in the hands of the military Commanders and I would not read into the fact that for the last two nights there have been no targets struck in Belgrade, I would not read into that any particular significance. This campaign will continue within exactly the same parameters as hithertofore .

Ladies and gentlemen, I think that is probably enough for now at least and I will be back with General Jertz at 3.00 pm for the usual up-date. Thank you.

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