|Updated: 17 May 1999||Morning Briefings|
17 May 1999
By Jamie Shea
First of all, as you all know, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union are meeting in Brussels today at the EU, just a short way from here. This is a very important meeting as far as NATO is concerned, for three reasons. The first reason of course is that there will be a meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov and we hope that that will be a successful meeting, that it will allow NATO countries in the EU, many Allies of course are in the European Union, and Russia to work together towards a G8 process which should also be happening this week to define a UN Security Council Resolution. It is very important that this cooperation with Russia be continued. The second highlight will be the work of the EU Foreign Ministers on the stability pact, the long term vision for the south eastern European region to be unveiled next week at the Stability Pact Conference on the 27th in Bonn, and NATO as I have mentioned is contributing many ideas for that and will participate in that meeting. And the third element is a review of the situation in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, with the participation in the meeting later today of President Djukanovic of Montenegro and Dr Rugova, the Kosovar Albanian leader.
I would like to mention in this connection that Robin Cook, the UK Foreign Secretary, is currently at NATO headquarters, he is meeting the Secretary General now and he is giving him an up-date on the likely outcome of the EU Foreign Ministers meeting, and he will be here, where I am standing, at 12.00 noon to brief you on the meeting and on Kosovo, so there will be an extra press event today at 12.00 noon here. And afterwards Robin Cook will be participating in the daily MOD briefing from a video link from NATO headquarters as well.
Overnight, as you know already from the up-date that we circulated to you earlier, we had bad weather, it affected NATO operations, in fact three-quarters of the strike packages last night had to be cancelled as a result of the bad weather. However, NATO aircraft were able to strike military vehicles and troops in the open near Decane, and artillery south of Prizren. Fixed targets were struck as well, including a radio relay site near Kaponik and a bridge near Padina. Two airfields at Sinice and Obrva were also targeted overnight.
These missions, even if hampered by bad weather, still nonetheless show that the Allies are resolute, determined to prevail and determined to press on until President Milosevic accepts the non-negotiable conditions of the international community: to stop the killing; withdraw all of his army and special police forces; accept the presence of an international security force; allow the return of refugees without restrictions; and work for a political solution, a permanent one, based on the Rambouillet peace plan. Five conditions which of course are now fully familiar to all of you but no less valid for that.
Let me just add that in a few moments, at 11.00 am, the North Atlantic Council will begin its morning meeting, so a busy day here. I will just take a few questions because I need to go to that meeting, but as I say, I will be back to escort Robin Cook at 12.00, and obviously back with General Jertz for the more developed operational up-date at 3.00 pm.
Nick Chiles, BBC World Service: Just to clarify the numbers, you said that three-quarters of the package had to be cancelled, is that over the full 24 hour period, and do you have the number of sorties?
Jamie Shea: First of all, that was in the 24 hour period, particularly overnight where the weather was I understand very, very low cloud and lots of rain. And I am able to say that the total sorties were 343, the total strike was 58 and if you include the attacks on the air defence, the total of strike sorties is 83. And again, for those of you who like to keep the overall picture well on your radar screens, allied force total strikes now are at 22,246, total strikes 5,970, and if you again add on the air defence strikes you get 7,793. So that is where we are for the time being.
Question : Could you comment on the International Herald Tribune story on the Apache helicopters?
Jamie Shea: I took a number of questions on this topic yesterday and what I said then is what I am going to repeat now, that the Apaches are completing their training, they are operational but they are still doing some final training. It is very important that they be totally ready for the mission, it is a difficult mission and of course it is in difficult terrain and we want the pilots to have all of the preparations that they can get. So it is very intensive training, but those aircraft are now operational and they will be used when the military Commanders judges that the time is right.
Antonio Esteves Martins, RTP: The three men present today to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Djukanovic, Rugova and Ivanov, will any of those people meet some NATO members, the Secretary General?
Jamie Shea: At the moment there are no plans for any of those gentlemen to come to NATO headquarters, not today. As you know, the EU meeting is a very, very intensive one indeed, there is a lot of extremely important business to transact, and I think while they are in Brussels they are going to be very, very busy indeed. But NATO, having said that, will do its utmost to maintain its close contacts with Russia, the Secretary General in particular is in contact. We have invited Dr Rugova, when he has time, to come to NATO and I am sure he will do. And as you know our feelings towards President Djukanovic, and his efforts to maintain under difficult circumstances democracy in Montenegro are clear for everybody to see.