Updated: 2 June 1999 Morning Briefings


2 June 1999

Morning Briefing

By Jamie Shea

Jamie Shea: Well, ladies and gentlemen, today the three key elements of NATO strategy to build a stable, peaceful future for all of the peoples of the Balkans, are coalescing around Belgrade.

The intensity of NATO's air strikes over the past week cannot have escaped even President Milosevic. The growing international consensus about the requirements for a diplomatic solution is embodied in the trip of President Ahtisaari and Mr. Chernomyrdin, and the 19 NATO Allies with 12 Partners moved full steam ahead yesterday to muster the international military force that will guarantee the peace in Kosovo once this conflict ends. Now, weather had an impact on the pace of our attacks over the last 24 hours. NATO aircraft flew 575 missions, including 197 specific strike missions and another 70 sorties designed to suppress the Yugoslav air defences.

As an aside, I think it is worth noting that because of the considerably stepped-up pace of this campaign, it is clear that when we consider that we have only had 200 strikes that that is now a slow day whereas that is nonetheless an enormous increase in comparison to what we were doing at the beginning. Yesterday, we had a particularly effective day, going after the artillery batteries and the other heavy weaponry that Milosevic's forces use to inflict their ethnic violence upon the Kosovar Albanians. We struck at least 32 pieces of artillery, 9 armoured personnel carriers, 8 mortar positions and 6 armoured vehicles in addition to a variety of other targets in Kosovo. We also struck the full range of strategic targets, and once again you have the list of all of those in the printed morning update.

Now, President Ahtisaari and Mr. Chernomyrdin are due to leave about now for Belgrade. As President Ahtisaari made clear in Bonn yesterday evening, he is going to Belgrade to make sure that the Yugoslav leadership understands what is expected of it, to answer questions, to clarify but not to negotiate. The path to a solution is clear. You know what that is, and I believe Milosevic knows what that is too. He must accede to the unconditional demands of the international community: stop the killing, withdraw his forces, accept an international security force with NATO at its core, allow the unrestricted return of every refugee, and work towards a permanent political solution.

Yesterday we had, as you know, the Force Generation Conference at SHAPE. We made significant progress in planning for the future. As you know, there were over 30 nations committed to joining an Allied peacekeeping force represented at that Conference. The Conference succeeded in broadly generating the forces we will need to guarantee peace and security in Kosovo at the end of the conflict and to see the refugees safely home.

Just a couple of final words. Firstly, the North Atlantic Council is now meeting - it started at ll.00 a.m. for its regular Wednesday morning meeting - and this afternoon the Secretary General is going to Berlin to deliver a speech at the Konrad Adenhauer Foundation in Berlin. He is going to give the Manfred Wrner Commemorative Speech and we will have a copy of that under the usual embargo for you very soon, before lunch in any case. So that is what I have to say, and I'll take your questions.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Thanks Jamie. First of all, do you know anything more about how NATO planes came to drop bombs in Albania, and secondly, in the fifth category that you referred to, working towards a political solution, what happens to the specific provisions in the Rambouillet Accord, like for example, setting up a Kosovo authority with the power to reallocate ownership of natural resources and an economy organised on free market principles and things like that? Do they remain as necessary criteria for stopping the bombing for instance, or not?

Jamie Shea: First of all, on the incident in Albania, we know as you do, because we announced this already yesterday evening, that a number of NATO bombs dropped inadvertently on the wrong side of the border yesterday in Albania. And there was one pill box apparently which was damaged as a result but, thankfully, as you know, nobody was injured or killed in those incidents. Let us not exaggerate this. NATO aircraft have been operating very extensively on the other side of the border in the area of Mount Pastrik as you know, because that is where a lot of the fighting is currently going on between the UCK and Serb forces, and of course that is an area where we want to strike home very hard because Serb forces have concentrated for those attacks and therefore there is a lot of artillery and a lot of tanks, and we want to be able to destroy those artillery and tanks, and as you can see from the overnight update, we had some success yesterday in that objective. Secondly, if there is a threat to civil aid workers and above all to refugees in the Morani and Kukes area, it comes from the Serb forces which once again yesterday shelled across the border into Morina, the border post itself, and whereas what you had from NATO yesterday was very much a kind of one off situation, what you have from the Serb forces is daily, daily shelling and border incursions across the border and that is where the danger to the refugees comes from first and foremost, and that is why NATO forces continue in Albania to spend a lot of time evacuating those refugees to safer areas. For example 1,500 were evacuated with the help of NATO forces yesterday alone.

On the second question, we have always made clear that when a political discussion is under way on the future status of Kosovo, at that time we will revisit the Rambouillet Agreement to see which provisions can still be used. As far as the authority, as you know, in Kosovo is concerned, what the intention of the international community is now is to set up a transitional authority under an international organisation still to be determined. So, of course it is too early to answer your question.

Mark Laity, BBC: A couple of things. You have obviously done a lot of damage to the Serbs there. Any picture of the level of fighting in the Pastrik area and whether the Serb counter-attack against the KLA has been noticeably blunted? On the force generation, could you just confirm, I am not sure I understood you, that you generated enough forces in total at least for the peacekeeping force and if you have got any kind of idea of the balance of NATO against non-NATO?

Jamie Shea: Mark, on the Force Generation Conference, I will come back to that in more detail at 3.00 pm. The reason is that I want to go to the Council now and get the report of the Chairman of the Military Committee in more detail on the outcome of the Force Generation Conference. So, my initial information from SHAPE is that it went well on the first day. And by the way, you have seen many countries announce publicly a willingness to participate. For example, Poland yesterday announced a battalion of 800 soldiers; Canada said that it was looking at the prospect of increasing its participation; Romania said that it would wish to participate. And so clearly we are finding the soldiers. But let me defer to 3.00 pm for a more detailed read-out once I have heard Admiral Venturoni's report today.

Now as far as the fighting is concerned, in the Pastrik Mountain region we know that it was quite considerable yesterday. The Serb forces, for example, were using multiple launch rocket systems for that and a number of artillery. The UCK, as you know, have been trying to conduct an offensive out of the Pastrik Mountain. I understand that the UCK have advances blocked for the moment, but that fighting is obviously very intense. It is the most intense fighting of anywhere in Kosovo at the moment, but it is not unique for example in Drenica and the Pagarusa Valley there is also a lot of fighting going on as well. So what we seem to have, if you like, is a kind of stalemate where the UCK is no longer advancing, but the Serb forces are not advancing much either.

But coming back to the question of Jake, I do understand that Morina yesterday was bombarded both with artillery and also multiple launch rocket rounds, so it is quite heavy in that area.

Pierre Julien: Comment peut-on expliquer quand mme cette erreur en Albanie - double erreur parce qu'apparemment les avions allis ont tap deux fois - est-ce que a veut dire que les pilotes n'ont pas tous les lments pour dterminer o est la frontire?

Jamie Shea: Pierre, comme je l'ai dit, hier les avions de l'OTAN ont men des attaques mais trs intensives, regulires, soutenues, intensives, dans la rgion frontalire, parce que c'est dans la rgion frontalire que vous voyez les degrs les plus intensifs de combat et c'est l o les serbes concentrent leurs forces, parce que ce que les forces serbes font pour l'instant, c'est d'essayer de verrouiller la frontire entre l'Albanie et le Kosovo pour empcher la pntration des forces armes de l'UCK et galement pour contrler le flux de rfugis, donc vous ne serez pas tonn de constater que c'est galement dans ce secteur pour l'instant que l'OTAN concentre ses bombardements. L, o sont les chars et l'artillerie, l o sont les forces serbes, c'est l aussi o se trouvent les forces de l'OTAN, mais une fois de plus il ne faut pas exagrer cet incident. C'tait un incident isol, ce n'est pas le genre de choses qui se passe tous les jours. Il n'y a pas eu de victimes et bien sr les avions de l'OTAN, les pilotes, vont continuer a prendre toutes les prcautions pour rester au Kosovo et pas ailleurs.

Question: We hear rumours in Macedonia about the possible travel there of General Clark today, do you have anything on that?

Jamie Shea: Yes, you asked me that question this morning and I made a quick call and SACEUR apparently is going to be in FYROM as well as in Albania today. But he goes there virtually every week on one of his periodic visits.

John: Jamie, in the interests of reporting and not exaggerating, I don't think you have answered the question, do you know yet what went wrong and when you know, will you tell us?

Jamie Shea: John, believe me, you get more information on this conflict, I believe, than any journalists in any previous war in human history, at least all the ones that I have been into, have had. It may not be as much as you would like but it certainly is more than your predecessors ever had. And so clearly, yes, if we get something more on that. But last night already, within about an hour and a half of the news coming out, we were able to confirm that in fact they were NATO bombs that had gone astray. But again, let's not exaggerate, really, this was a very small, very isolated incident.

John: Have the Albanians been in touch with NATO to demand an explanation and what has been the response?

Jamie Shea: No they haven't. I was in touch with the Albanian Ambassador last night personally and he assured me that this does not in any way influence the solidarity and the cooperation we are getting from Albania.

Margaret Evans, CBC: You keep insisting that this latest mission is not a negotiating mission, that President Ahtisaari is not carrying NATO demands, he is carrying G8 demands which are a good deal fuzzier than NATO's five key demands. Is it not a bit disingenuous to keep insisting that this is not a negotiating session? Aren't you painting NATO into a box at the end of the day?

Jamie Shea: Margaret, the only thing I can say is don't take my word for it, which I hope you won't, at least you will listen to President Ahtisaari himself, and President Ahtisaari during the news conference that he gave with Mr. Chernomyrdin, Mr. Talbott and Chancellor Schroeder last night made it clear. He said - the man who is going to Belgrade - that he was not going to negotiate, he was going, if I remember accurately what he said, to answer questions, to clarify details and to impress upon Milosevic the need to accept the conditions of the international community. I cannot say it better than the person who is going to see Milosevic himself.

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