Updated: 6 June 1999 Morning Briefings


6 June 1999

Morning Briefing

By Jamie Shea

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning to you all. As you will have seen from the morning update, both tracks of NATO's strategy continued yesterday. As you know, we have continued strike sorties over Kosovo and Serbia yesterday striking essentially at fielded forces in Kosovo, particularly hitting a number of artillery pieces, and also as you see striking at two ammunition depots, one at Pristina, of course in Kosovo, but the other at Vrsac inside Serbia itself.

And the other track also continued yesterday with the preparations for the implementation of the peace agreement, particularly with the arrival of several forces from Germany and the UK in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, just short of 2,000 additional troops arrived there yesterday in preparation for this mission.

I am also pleased to report that all NATO aircraft returned safely to their bases and yesterday no surface to air missiles were fired at our aircraft during their operations.

The twin track, or this dual strategy of on the one hand air operations, and on the other hand expediting preparations for the peace operation will continue until the Serbs accept and of course begin to implement the detailed military agreement that has been outlined to them by NATO Commanders. I understand that the discussions between General Sir Mike Jackson and his team, and the representatives of the Serb military, are continuing this morning, they started at about 8.30 am, following a pause that was requested by the Yugoslav side yesterday afternoon.

I hate to disappoint you, but I do not have details of exactly what clarifications the Serbs have sought from General Jackson or what additional military authority the Serb Commanders have sought from Belgrade. However, I did have a conversation with the Secretary General a few moments ago, who had been speaking directly to General Jackson earlier this morning, and he told me that the talks had been conducted in a professional manner and have been constructive. But as you know, this issue is complex and the talks could take some time to conclude. It is of course in the interests of the Serbs, as well as of the refugees, for the process of signing and implementing the technical military agreement to be as rapid as possible. The linkage here is extremely simple. The sooner the Serbs accept and begin to implement the plan, the sooner the NATO bombing can stop, and the sooner of course the Serb forces can go home to their families and I am sure that that is what the great majority of them wish to do as rapidly as possible.

NATO is also obviously concerned to help to get the refugees back to their homes as soon as possible and we are particularly conscious of the need to help the internally displaced people inside Kosovo. At the moment AFSOUTH in Naples is looking at some planning for how we can get aid to the internally displaced people inside Kosovo rapidly, very rapidly, as soon as the Serb forces begin to withdraw.

But again, I have to give you the same message as on previous days, we have a long experience of dealing with Slobodan Milosevic and in dealing with him we have learned that it is always the small print, or the fine print, in the contract that counts. And therefore we want to nail this military technical agreement down in the most minute detail so that the Serbs know exactly what they are required to do and so that there is no scope for misinterpretation, or misunderstanding, or ambivalence at a later stage. If that means incidentally that we need some extra sessions in these talks at Kumanovo to get all of those loose ends tidied up, then so be it, because it has been our experience with Milosevic that a stitch in time saves nine, in other words a little bit of patience and care at the beginning saves endless heartache later on.

So Belgrade knows by now that we are determined, we are resolved, we are going to continue the air operations and they will be ongoing until the Serb forces begin to withdraw. And in the meantime the build-up of our forces for the peace mission continues.

Question: Jamie, you spoke about some time to conclude, can you give us any indication, are we talking hours, are we talking several days, a week?

Jamie Shea: Let's hope we are talking about hours. It is not as if there is anything to negotiate and therefore the Serbs have to ask themselves the question: Is it in their interest to spin this out, given that the outcome is now predetermined? In other words, do they really want more nights of NATO air strikes, do they want to lose more of their tanks, more of their artillery, more of their armoured vehicles, more of their units before they begin to pull them out of Kosovo? So it is in their interest, in my view, to conclude this as rapidly as possible. I cannot personally see what conceivable interest they have by spinning things out, but obviously we cannot conclude these discussions until the Serbs have signed on the dotted line.

Mark Laity, BBC: On that, would it be fair to say that we are now unlikely, people talked about a bombing pause by Sunday night at the earliest, would it be fair to say that that is now extremely unlikely that you can get that bombing pause? And then slightly reversing the question, the air strikes have definitely wound down for reasons which are obvious, but is it a possibility that maybe the foot has gone too far off the gas pedal and taken the pressure off them, because there are a lot less strike sorties, it is 14 artillery positions, I know it is something but it is certainly not at the intensity of previous days and maybe that is giving them the breathing pause to be awkward?

Jamie Shea: Mark, on those questions I really can't speculate generally on when the Secretary General will be able to tell SACEUR to halt, or suspend rather, because suspend is the key word here, the air campaign. But certainly we need to see, to use my phrase, the dust on the tracks and at the moment the tracks are dust-free. So clearly the implementation has not yet started and we have to find out when it will begin, presumably the minute that this agreement in Kumanovo has been signed by the Serb side, but of course we need to verify that, we need to see it is for real. So clearly, as I said yesterday, if the Serbs want us to stop the air campaign then they have to go as fast as possible on their side. So I just don't know when that is going to be. But certainly the withdrawal hasn't happened yet so there is no reason at this present time, no reason whatever, to suspend or to think about suspending air operations. We are clearly not there yet.

On your second question, I don't think so. Last night they lost another 14 pieces of artillery. I don't believe that that is any cause for celebration among the Yugoslav Armed Forces, they had another miserable night being pounded by NATO. I imagine that those Serb forces want, even more than we do, for their Commanders in Kumanovo to sign this agreement. I think they are probably desperate to learn that that agreement has been signed so that they know that they will stop being pounded by NATO and they can go home to their families. I think that this withdrawal will be a quick withdrawal because I think that those Serb soldiers, once they are given the opportunity, will be voting with their feet.

Dominique Thierry - RFI: Jamie, est-ce que vous avez entendu parler, ou avez-vous des indications, des renseignements militaires sur des corps qui seraient brls ou dtruits, des preuves d'exaction qui seraient donc dtruites au Kosovo et puis deuximement, est-ce que dans leurs discussions Blace et Kumanovo, les serbes vous donnent l'impression de savoir exactement o sont toutes leurs units individuelles o sont leurs armes etc... et avez-vous remarqu dj des chars qui enleveraient des camouflages, qui sortiraient de leurs positions renforces, etc...

Jamie Shea: J'ai lu le rapport dans un journal britannique de dimanche sur les efforts, en quelque sorte, pour dtruire les preuves mais il s'agit ici de rapports de rfugis que je ne saurais pas confirmer mais tous ces indices quand mme sont utiles pour aider le Tribunal International Pnal pour mener les enqutes qui s'imposent. Nous avons dcouvert en Bosnie que malgr tous les efforts pour dtruire les preuves, les lments restent n'est-ce pas. Les lments "forensics" restent pour nous permettre quand mme d'tablir le fait d'atrocits donc a ne m'tonnerait pas mais je n'ai pas les indications qui s'imposent. En ce qui concerne la situation sur le terrain, nous n'avons pas encore vu le retrait ou un retrait des forces serbes et au contraire, hier le long de la frontire du Kosovo et de l'Albanie, comme vous le savez, il y a eu des combats trs intenses et plusieurs missiles ou mortiers serbes ont t tirs dans la direction de l'Albanie. J'ai entendu parler de 17 tirs de mortiers de l'autre ct de la frontire, non excusez-moi, 15 mortiers de 120 mm ont t tirs donc l pour l'instant, pas de changement significatif. Par contre dans les zones nord du Kosovo, l par contre dans les zones du nord et du centre, nous avons assist un ralentissement des activits et mme nous avons des rapports sur un train qui est parti de Orusevac et a transit par Lipljan dans la direction du Kosovo Polje ce qui pourrait indiquer si cela est confirm que l'arme yougoslave emploie un train pour commencer charger un peu l'quipement ou le personnel pour les transfrer vers le nord. Donc a pourrait indiquer les dbuts de prparatifs pour le retrait mais un train ne fait pas le printemps pas plus qu'une hirondelle, donc nous devons attendre que a se confirme dans les faits.

Douglas Hamilton, REUTERS: Is General Jackson satisfied that the people he is talking to have the authority to sign the paper and start the orders? And do we know anything about why General Marianovic didn't apparently show up and General Kovacevic did show up yesterday? And can you confirm that the three hour delay in starting yesterday was caused by NATO adjusting its documents and not by the Serbs being awkward?

Jamie Shea: Certainly we have a high level delegation today at Kumanovo and a larger delegation, about 15 on the Serb side showed up today and we would like to believe that that is an indication of the seriousness with which they are taking this business. Certainly they have every reason to take this seriously. I don't know why General Marianovic did not show up yesterday.

On the other hand, as for what you said about the reasons for the three hour delay, my information, and this has not been invalidated from anything I have heard, is that the Serb side wanted to change the location inside Kosovo yesterday, they weren't happy about going to FYROM, they had concerns with their security. One of the things apparently was that the caf, Europa 93, was next door to a refugee camp and I think maybe those Serb Generals believed that they would not be given a very enthusiastic reception by the Kosovar Albanians inside the refugee camp. So I think it was a question of wanting to change the location and concerns about their security. I have no information whatever, and I have spoken to the highest authorities on this, that NATO was in any way carrying out any last minute revisions to the advice that had been given by the NAC to General Jackson.

Hugh Scofield, BBC: Is it fair to assume that one of the complicating factors is Serbs' legitimate concerns about being attacked by KLA in the western sector and what can NATO do to reassure them on that?

Jamie Shea: Hugh, as you know, the Serbs have claimed for months that the UCK was a defeated spent force, so it is somewhat ironic, if it were true, that they are now worried about the UCK attacking them and inflicting damage on them as they withdraw. It suggests that the UCK is certainly not a spent force and they are acknowledging that now. But we are clear that the best thing that they can do, if they wish to avoid that happening, is to get out and get out fast and they know that NATO will be verifying that. That is only one more indication of the need for a rapid and no nonsense withdrawal of the Serb forces. And as I said earlier, I think that 90% of those Serb soldiers will be only too happy to withdraw, will be heading in the direction of Serbia, will not be passing Go to collect 200, they will be going very quickly and indeed, as I say, we will be verifying that they keep to the routes and move expeditiously and we will be calling on the UCK to exercise the necessary restraint.

Julie McCarthy, National Public Radio: If the Serbs start pulling out late in the day, if you begin to see signs of that, but it does start late in the day, would it be considered enough to halt the bombing, or is the thinking that you would need to see this under way for 24 hours?

Jamie Shea: Julie, the thinking here is that we need to see the withdrawal actually moving ahead and obviously it is going to take a while for the Serbs to get themselves organised and to start moving in this systematic fashion, according to the route maps that would have been laid down by General Jackson, and we obviously have to verify it and it is going to take a while to verify, all the more so as the verification system presupposes that the Serbs will have dismantled and removed their air defence systems. So I wouldn't like to encourage you to think that we are going to see an immediate suspension of air operations. As I said, it has been in the hands of the Serbs and by recessing these talks overnight and carrying on today, clearly they have lost the chance of being able to start that withdrawal already yesterday, so we will have to wait and see. I wish I could give a precise answer on this, but again as I said the ball is in their court, we can't stop until they start, and they haven't started so we haven't stopped.

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