Updated: 4 June 1999 Morning Briefings


4 June 1999

Morning Briefing

By Jamie Shea

Jamie Shea: Welcome on this Day 73 of operation Allied Force. As you have seen from the morning update, NATO operations continued on Day 72 and they are under way now on Day 73.

Yesterday was obviously an important day in NATO's united and determined effort to restore the refugees to their homes and to bring peace and stability to Kosovo but throughout this campaign - I don't need to tell you this but I will - the NATO Alliance has been very clear in articulating the requirements for a suspension of air operations. There are two fundamental requirements and they are not separable, in other words they both have to happen:

First, the Yugoslav regime must accept completely the five unconditional demands of the international community and secondly, they must begin a verifiable and credible implementation of those conditions.

Yesterday, we apparently saw significant progress towards acceptance of our conditions but we have yet to see any evidence of implementation, we have yet to see the signs of a withdrawal from Kosovo of the Yugoslav military, paramilitary and police forces and we must see this happen. Acceptance and implementation are two sides of the same coin. That has always been NATO's position and this morning it remains NATO's position.

Last night, the North Atlantic Council met with the Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, to review the substance of the talks that took place in Belgrade between Milosevic and President Ahtisaari and Mr. Chernomyrdin and also to review the talks that Strobe Talbott had with President Ahtisaari in Bonn upon his return from Yugoslavia last night and this morning - at 11 o'clock - the North Atlantic Council is beginning a meeting to press on with the planning for KFOR, in other words the peace-implementation force in Kosovo, planning which you know we are conducting now with all deliberate speed. We want to be ready for this mission as soon as the moment arrives for us to assume that mission. So what is the message from NATO headquarters this morning?

The message is we are hopeful naturally but we are also cautious. We continue but at the same time we are preparing for what we hope is going to be a better, more constructive future for Kosovo with the assistance of NATO forces.

Finally, I just want to let you know that at about 1 o'clock, as soon as the meeting of the North Atlantic Council has finished, the Secretary General will be here very briefly to make an announcement but the announcement is on a personnel-related issue. Keep you guessing!

Question: About the small number of army and police troops who would be allowed to come back to Kosovo after the withdrawal, are these people going to be armed or unarmed because it is not specified in the agreement we have seen?

Jamie Shea: First of all, let me stress that all forces have to leave first, they all have to leave first. Afterwards, as you know, as part of the agreement that has been discussed, a small, limited number of Yugoslav forces would be allowed to come back once the international peace-implementation force has deployed. That limited number of Yugoslav forces would be allowed to come back for three essential purposes: firstly, a presence at border posts; secondly, the identification of minefields because mine-clearance is going to be a crucial task; and thirdly, to supervise a limited number of cultural sites in Kosovo. The exact arrangements for that very small number of Serb forces will obviously have to be worked out between NATO military commanders and Yugoslav military commanders.

Mark Laity, BBC: A couple of points. Tony Blair and some NATO sources have said that there have already been contacts between the Serb and NATO military. Can you confirm it was between SACEUR and the Chief of Staff of Yugoslavia, I think it was Damic, is he the Chief of Staff? Can you confirm that and also what plans you have at the moment for meetings over the weekend or how much progress there has been about that and whether you can confirm the NAC's accelerated planning which one assumes you would have and finally,

Jamie Shea: Mark, could I borrow your pen?

Mark Laity: ..has there been any change in NATO targeting? Clearly, the intensity is there but you don't seem to be going for Belgrade and things like that.

Jamie Shea: Lots of questions, let me see if my memory is going to help me here.

On the first one, there have been some very initial contacts initiated by the Yugoslav side to SHAPE. Secondly, we hope to have in the next days - I cannot say when or where - a meeting between NATO military commanders and representatives of the Yugoslav General Staff in order to pin down the technical details of the withdrawal of the Yugoslav forces, the timetable, the routes and very importantly, the means of verification because as I have always said, the withdrawal of the Serb forces has to be rapid, it has to be total and it has to be effectively verifiable.

The NATO Council this morning will be looking at the kind of things that we want to see in that technical military agreement, the level of specificity, the type of modalities that are going to be crucial here because this will be the test - it is implementation, it is the dust on the tracks of those Serb forces moving out that will be the test of whether we can trust Milosevic or whether we can't, whether this is something that is valid or not. As I have said, we will be looking at implementation above all in coming days so obviously the ambassadors will be looking at that and then the military authorities will have the political mandate to get on with those military technical discussions.

As far as the KFOR planning is concerned, obviously we are going full steam ahead. We have been doing this even before the developments on the diplomatic front yesterday, the Force Generation Conference last Tuesday is something that you have been briefed extensively on. The idea now is to try to get to the activation order to begin to deploy the elements of the force as soon as possible, to make sure that all of the forces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia can come under the operational command of General Jackson as soon as possible so he can prepare for his mission and of course to fill the remaining technical assets - engineering, helicopters and the like - in the establishment of the KFOR but we are fully aware that we are going to inherit a very difficult situation in Kosovo. This is not going to be a pleasure trip obviously, it is going to be an extremely demanding military mission but we want to be able to do it quickly, we don't want a vacuum to be established, we know that in addition to those refugees who will want to go home quickly but who will need NATO's help to be able to do so, there are over half a million internally-displaced people inside Kosovo who are also going to be needing immediate help and assistance so I can assure you, Mark, that we will be meeting round the clock to put those elements in place and I want to stress that we still have a very tough job ahead of us. The job ahead of us is in many respects even more difficult the job that may be becoming to an end if we have effective implementation and therefore we are going to have to devote a lot of time and a lot of assets to getting it right.

On targeting, Mark, here you have the list of what happened last night and I think that list speaks for itself; it shows that until we see the Serb forces withdrawing, we are keeping up the same military pressure on the Yugoslav Armed Forces. You saw that we had 610 sorties, 234 strikes, 74 air-defence-suppression, that is a typical day and a typical night by the standards of this air operation.

Mark Laity: Clearly, it is a comprehensive list but normally you expect for instance power transmission sites - none of them there - often targets in downtown Belgrade. I know they don't happen every night but the pattern here seems to be slightly avoiding the urban areas which one would expect to see when you don't want to have a mistake.

Jamie Shea: Mark, if you are President Milosevic and you wake up this morning and you are given that list that you have been given by General Damic, would you conclude that NATO was loosening its military pressure or keeping it up? I think the conclusion in Belgrade is that NATO is keeping up the military pressure and that is exactly what we are going to do until we have implementation.

Dimitri Khavine: A follow-up. These first initial contacts, they were in person or by phone?

Jamie Shea: Dimitri, I don't have all the details on how those initial contacts took place.

Dimitri: Secondly, is it possible a meeting between Clark and General Damic in respect that he was indicted?

Jamie Shea: I am not going to speculate on that.

Dimitri: But in principle?

Jamie Shea: No, I am not going to speculate at all. It will be for the North Atlantic Council to decide at which level those military-to-military contacts take place. It is not the personalities that count, it's the fact that we get the essential details nailed down in a verifiable way.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Jamie, just to ask you to comment on a rumour circulating in Cologne, apparently originating from diplomatic sources, that a plan is currently under discussion to halt the bombing on Sunday and for KFOR to enter Kosovo on Tuesday.

Jamie Shea: Jake, I never speculate on rumours.

Question: Can you tell me, please, whether NATO is scaling back its air strikes or leaving some parts of Kosovo untouched to clear a corridor for retreat?

Jamie Shea: Madam, with all due respect, I think I answered that question when Mark asked it of me just a few moments ago.

Pierre Julien RTL: Parmi les moyens de vrification du retrait des troupes serbes du Kosovo, l'OTAN est-elle en train d'utiliser ou tout au moins de regarder si elle pourra mettre des troupes au sol pour vrifier ?

Jamie Shea: Pierre, je crois que les moyens de vrification sont bien tablis avec les moyens ariens dont nous disposons qui nous permettent de voir visiblement si on assiste un vritable retrait ou non.

Karen: Will NATO insist on verification on the ground?

Jamie Shea: No. Pierre just asked me that question and as I said before, we have all of the air assets necessary to be able to tell that there is a serious, complete, irreversible withdrawal of the Serb forces. We don't, Karen, honestly need troops on the ground for that. If it is the real thing, we'll recognise it when we see it.

Ladies and gentlemen, don't forget the Secretary General about one o'clock and General Jertz will be with me at 3 o'clock for the daily operational update.

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