Updated: 19 April 1999 Press Conferences


19 Apr. 1999

Press Conference

by Jamie Shea and Brigadier General Giuseppe Marani

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome to the briefing.

For the last five days at this podium I have been asked repeatedly by you to give you the full facts and details concerning the convoy incident near Djakovica last Wednesday. I have promised you that when the inquiry at Aviano was completed, you would be given the facts. You want the facts, today you are going to get them. Brigadier General Dan Leaf, who has been in charge of this inquiry, a very intensive, very detailed - I warn you - inquiry over the last five days is going to be here at 4.00 o'clock, in one hour, and he will present you an exhaustive account of all of the circumstances surrounding this incident, backed up with visual material, and will answer your questions. NATO keeps its promises. And when he has finished his presentation I will invite you to compare the facts with what you may have been told by other sources about this particular incident.

In the meantime, I will up-date you on the other issues. First of all on the operational side, we had some severe weather last night causing some of the aircraft sorties to be cancelled, but I am happy to report that all aircraft returned safely. General Marani, in the usual fashion, will up-date you on some of these operational details in just a few moments, but let me say that we struck yesterday at a series of strategic targets throughout Yugoslavia, that was the focus, particularly the petroleum facilities, including two sites at Novi Sad and Smederevo, we also damaged some ammunitions storage centres, some manufacturing complexes at Parasin, Pristina and Bugatovac, and we revisited Pristina Airfield.

The Serb side fired a number of FA6 surface-to-air missiles but with no radar guidance and those were not successful against NATO aircraft.

On the ground we continued to see a large degree of fighting across Kosovo, obviously in the area that I have been earmarking in recent days along the Albanian border, but also in the north around Podujevo and Metrovica, and more to the south around Malisevo as well, as the Serb forces attempt to dislodge the Kosovo Liberation Army and disrupt their lines of communication, particularly by trying to strike against their footholds near the border with Albania. In fact we have reports of large movements of Serb forces across Kosovo as these operations continue. Unfortunately many internally displaced persons, 80,000 up in the north, are caught up in these troop movements with obviously great risk to their well-being and to their lives.

As you know, over the last 24 hours we have continued to be alarmed by the number of refugees fleeing Kosovo, 40,000 in fact over the last 24 hours. In fact Yugoslavia is unique among European countries in that its only current export commodity is people rather than goods, 630,000 thus far have been obliged to leave and seek shelter in other countries. And indeed even when they get to the border, after walking for days, often in very poor physical condition, the borders are closed and that has happened with the Albanian border this morning. They are then stuck there, often facing military fire such as shelling. In the case of one tragic incident yesterday involving a family of 7 in a car hitting a mine with 5 dead, including children. This is a kind of Grand Old Duke of York strategy of marching people to the border and then marching them back again, not allowing them, even at their moment of suffering, to seek shelter.

At the same time we have increasing reports inside Kosovo that the Serb forces are creating a kind of anti-humanitarian corridor from the north down to Pristina, funnelling about 150,000 internally displaced persons so that at Pristina they can be put on trains and sent south towards the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This suggests that this is not simply random ethnic cleansing, but it is being done on an almost scientific and systematic basis.

Of course NATO continues to be very concerned and continues to be in the forefront of international efforts to deal with the influx of refugees. AFOR - the NATO Force in Albania - is continuing now to be active. Today it is co-operating with the Albanian government to send 30 trucks up to Kukes from Tirana in order to move refugees away from the Kukes area where the sanitation is bad and there is military activity across the border, including cross-border shelling, and to take them down to refugee camps elsewhere.

This is the difference, if I may say so, between the situation in Albania and the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, because the refugee camps in the latter are relatively near the border, whereas in the case of Albania there is a major transport problem in order to take the refugees from Marina and Kukes and take them to different camps inland.

So one of the critical tasks of the NATO forces is to try to help with that transport. We now have a number of helicopters running a shuttle service, as you know, we have managed to get that up to 40 flights a day and on the way up go military medical teams and engineering units to work on the roads and the infrastructure, and on the way back come refugees to be resettled.

Yesterday the NATO forces unloaded 30 relief flights and the Americans involved in the Joint Task Force Shining Hope at Ancona have offered to the UN High Commission for Refugees a number of roll-on, roll-off transport ships to take food directly across the Adriatic. So we continue to be very, very active in that area.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia we still face refugees, particularly people crossing illegally into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, avoiding the recognised checkpoints, and at the moment the NATO forces there, under General Sir Michael Jackson, are responding to the request of the UNHCR for extra support, particularly expanding the existing refugee camps to accommodate this greater influx.

So those are the essential points in the last 24 hours and I will now ask General Marani to give you his operational up-date, and then we will respond to your questions and we will probably have a slightly shorter briefing today in order to have our presentation set up for 4.00 pm.

General Marani: Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

NATO military forces continue their day and night strikes against strategic targets and military infrastructures through the FRY, despite difficult weather conditions. NATO forces also continue with their humanitarian aid efforts. During the last 24 hours there were 14 aid flights to the FYROM and 32 to Albania.

In Kosovo Yugoslav Army and Special Police Force action continues in the areas shown on this map. Forces are still preparing defensive positions in the west as well as engaging UCK units. Cross-border artillery action against UCK supply routes has also been detected.

Yesterday saw an increase in reported Yugoslav helicopter and fixed wing activity. NATO forces were not in a position to engage these aircraft. A number of surface to air missiles were fired unsuccessfully against NATO aircraft which all returned to base safely.

As I stated, poor weather restricted attacks against fielded forces in Kosovo. However, strategic targeting continued, as shown on this map, amongst others, military targets in Paracin (ammunition depot), Baric (explosives plant), Novi Sad (radio relay and petrol refinery) and Subotica (reporting point) were hit.

Yesterday we discussed the difficulty of attacking military targets close to civilian facilities. This picture shows a fighter aircraft parked close to a civilian aircraft at Belgrade airfield in order to prevent NATO targeting. Actually it is not close but it is underneath the tail of the civilian aircraft, you can see it from the shadow.

With the benefit of better weather, until yesterday, we have been building an improved picture of the fate of displaced people in Kosovo. This map shows the main concentrations together with estimates of the numbers of people. The arrows indicate the direction of the Serb forces thrust against the Kosovar Albanians. This picture shows people massed on the roads in the Malisevo region.

You will be aware that Serb forces continue ethnic cleansing. This graphic shows more civilian buildings burning in the village of Racaj. Once again there has been no NATO action near this village. It is not that easy to see, but you can see the flames in white.

Finally, this composite picture shows the possible mass grave sites at Izbica and Pusto Selo. As we stated yesterday, the similarities between the two sites can be seen and the difference between what we have seen in Bosnia Herzegovina.

This completes my brief. Thank you.

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, just before we get to questions, I forgot to mention to you that, as I think you know, Prime Minister Blair of the United Kingdom will be here tomorrow morning seeing the Secretary General, visiting NATO Headquarters, and the press conference between Prime Minister Blair and Secretary General Solana will be here at 12.45.

Freddie: You mentioned fighting in Kosovo and had one or two words to say about interrupting the KLA's communications etc. Is this fighting between very minor engagements, between 2 or 3 people, or is this something bigger? And we had a briefing this morning by the Albanian Ambassador to NATO and it appeared that Serb forces were building up on the Albanian frontier, is this to do with the concentration of KLA inside Albania?

Jamie Shea: Freddie, thank you for those questions. Yes, I have reported in recent days principally about fighting along the Albanian border, particularly around Djakovica and up to the border itself, but the latest reports that I have been seeing is that fighting is taking place again in the north, as I said, around Podujevo and in other parts of the province, including eastern Kosovo which has not in the last few days been associated with that type of fighting.

Now as for the UCK, I have made the point in the past that President Milosevic has been the best recruiting sergeant since General Kitchener in the First World War, only of course he recruits people to fight against him, not to fight for him. And you, like me, have seen the television pictures of many people streaming in to countries in the region wanting to put themselves at enormous risk because they are so outraged at what their fellow Kosovar Albanian kin have been suffering, and I think that is the clear case, that this type of repression is ultimately counter-productive.

So the UCK seems not to hold terrain any longer. Its 7 principal headquarters have been dismantled by the offensive of the Yugoslav Army in recent weeks, they have obviously suffered casualties, but they also seem to have inflicted casualties on the Serb forces, they seem to have reverted to a more classical guerrilla hit-and-run type tactic but which does seem to have the capacity to harass the Serbs and as the Serbs are forced to hunker down under the threat of NATO action, obviously the possibilities for the UCK increase. And I stress again, we have no direct links or (pause in tape) but the UCK will only go away, that is clear, when we have a multi-ethnic democratic Kosovo in which people wouldn't need to have Kalshnikovs under their bed in order to be able to exercise their human rights and live in safety and freedom.

George: How would you comment on the fact that Belgrade has interrupted their diplomatic relations with Albania? Isn't it another sign that the Yugoslav Army is preparing to attack Albania, and should it happen, how much force is there to resist?

Jamie Shea: George, Yugoslavia seems to believe that its best future lies in isolating itself from the rest of the world, it has broken off diplomatic relations with a number of NATO countries, it has now broken off relations with one of its immediate neighbours - Albania. Yesterday I saw that the Yugoslav Ambassador at the United Nations, Mr Janovic, turned down once again the proposals of the UN Secretary General. There seems to be a kind of mania of self-isolation which I don't believe is in the interests of the Serb people but characterises the scene at the moment.

As for the question of a threat to Albania, NATO has made its position perfectly clear in that respect and I think Belgrade has heard that. We have seen cross-border shelling, we have seen a few border incidents, but I do not believe that the Yugoslav forces have either the will or the capability to seriously threaten Albania.

BILL: Tomorrow will mark the 28th day of this campaign, basically the end of the fourth week, beginning the fifth week. When Operation Allied Force first started, two of the main objectives expressed by yourself and NATO was to weaken Slobodan Milosevic and to keep Kosovo safe. In effect it can be argued that Milosevic, politically anyway, is stronger now within Belgrade and it is the Kosovars who are on the run, basically not safe. At what point does NATO admit that its strategy has to change?

Jamie Shea: OK Bill, I am grateful for that question. Bill, since when was a dictator defeated in 24 hours? I am sorry, but human rights, freedoms, values, are not simply things to proclaim, they are things to be defended. Defending them is sometimes difficult and long. It took 6 years to defeat fascism in Europe in the middle of the 20th century. I think we can take 2 months, or 3 months, to defeat President Milosevic quite frankly. There are no easy solutions and we never pretended that there would be an easy solution. Dictators are very resilient, they don't have public opinion saying well this is rather silly, shouldn't we stop this? They don't, they can manipulate that public opinion, as you well know. They tend to rule not through the ballot box but through the barrel of a gun and their security forces. So they are tough nuts to crack and there are plenty of examples that you can cite and I can cite as to that. But because our cause may take a little bit longer than 24 hours to accomplish doesn't make it any less necessary or any less just.

President Milosevic is a person who is rarely seen in public, except at very carefully stage managed occasions as when he was visited by President Lukoshenko of Belarus last week. He doesn't give any interviews, he doesn't make any public appearances, he sleeps every night in a bunker and a different one at that. Those are not what I would call the movements of a strong leader, quite frankly, and every day when he wakes up he is less strong in terms of the security forces and the tanks and the artillery that he controls which at the end of the day are the mainstays of his regime, in the final analysis.

So I would ask you, and I am sure you would, I know you will, to look a little bit beyond the appearances of the TV screen and ask yourself just how strong he really is.

Bill: Just as a follow-up, I am not suggesting that this should take place within 24 hours but we are coming up on one month and should it be a legitimate question to ask, should the current strategy be altered and changed?

Jamie Shea: The more just your cause is the longer you are justified in pursuing that cause, obviously. The strategy is going to work, it is working at the moment. No alternative strategy would go faster, by the way. I know that there is a lot of talk about ground troops but in my opinion they are not a panacea either in this particular situation given the lead time that it would take to put them together, to introduce them into the theatre, to deploy them and all the rest. And of course time is the one thing that we want to compress to the maximum because we are aware, NATO does not want this to be a long drawn out effort, but we are convinced that it is a cause that does justify taking some time if that is necessary, and we will continue. But at the end of the day this will have a snowball effect, once the system starts to crack it will start cracking quickly, it will be cumulative, not linear. We will reach that point as soon as we possibly can. But every day, as I mentioned, when Milosevic wakes up, no doubt his Head of Security comes along and says well President Milosevic the news is that overnight 30 more tanks have gone, 50 more artillery pieces have gone, more military lines of communication, more loss of morale, more desertions in the army, and I just hope that in fact somebody is giving Milosevic that message. One of the problems with dictators is that often they are not told reality by their aides and that is sometimes why it takes a while to seep in, but it will seep in.

Questions & Answers

Antonio: We all learned about this "horseshoe strategy" to push people out of Kosovo. You told us a few days ago that suddenly it stopped. Now it is coming back again and people seem to be more and more pushed to the border where there are mines and they getCan you tell us what NATO intelligence thinks about what is going on exactly and wouldn't it be easier for Milosevic to keep those people inside, their troops could move with their civilian convoys and it would be maybe easier to prevent any air strikes?

General, you told us about some helicopter activity, air activity, in Kosovo. Can you tell us exactly what kind of helicopters, what kind of planes, were used and can you tell us what is nowadays the military capacity of Milosevic inside Kosovo and what has been in terms of destruction of material reached by NATO after four weeks of air strikes?

Jamie Shea: OK, well Antonio, thank you for that. Of course, it is the leaders of Yugoslavia who should be up here explaining why the resumption of the "horseshoe campaign"I - not me, we have to fall back obviously on speculation. There are various reasons. I think one obvious reason is because the Yugoslav army hasn't defeated the UCK, the UCK remains a thorn in their flesh and so they have to continue operations and their strategy for defeating the UCK is to defeat every single thing around it, houses, livestock, whatever and that means refugees, that means displaced persons and that's certainly what is happening in the north around Pudejevo (phon) and Metrovisca at the moment and what is happening along the Albanian border for certain.

Another hypothesis is that many people, internally-displaced persons, have simply given up the struggle to survive inside Kosovo and are fleeing. If you are sleeping in a wood and it's raining every night and one day it's hot but at night it's very cold, it's only a question of time before your physical health declines to the degree that you have to leave and what has been reported by the World Food Programme and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is that the people who are arriving now are in much worse shape physically than the people who were arriving in sort of "Ethnic Cleansing I" just a few weeks ago so there may be something in that as well.

A third explanation is it could be to destablise the neighbouring states and Milosevic is having another heave, if you like, with his refugee battering ram to see if he can seriously destabilise the two surrounding states but that's going to work even less than it did last time because we are in a much better position now in terms of the co-operation between NATO, the governments and the international relief organisations to handle the new influx of refugees but at the end of the day put the question to Belgrade and hopefully you'll get an answer.

General Marani: Just to explain how the situation is in Kosovo now and all over Yugoslavia actually, Yugoslavia is surrounded by air forces with a percentage of aircraft always flying. In any place of Yugoslavia, any aircraft flying over Yugoslavia can be hit depending on its relative distance from an airborne ???? Of course, in this situation they cannot hope to conduct significant missions either support or interdiction or transport, they have to be quick to take off, move and land and we are able to see them. Of course, there are places where terrain-masking is used, therefore we would lose sight of them temporarily while they are moving from one place to another but the concept is that they don't have any freedom of movement in terms of aircraft, either fixed-wing or rotary-wing. If they succeed in taking off, their mission has to be short, has to be of limited size and with limited scope. This is how the Yugoslav air force is acting now.

Same Questioner: In Kosovo, on the air capacity what evidence also concerning the capacity, what have you done?

General Marani: The capacity cannot be measured only in the number of aircraft, rotary or fixed wing, that are flying or the number that could be flying. You have to measure the capacity in terms of capability to conduct a mission. If Milosevic keeps his aircraft, rather than fuel them, hidden in bunkers and caves without using them, a big result has been already achieved because he won't be using them. Of course, every time he tries to use these air forces we try to hit them on the ground and in the air. Aircraft have been destroyed in the air, a few of them in the air, the vast majority has been destroyed on the ground either in bunkers or in open space. You have seen in the past few days a tape of the destruction of a Hip helicopter in Prizren airfield and also a MiG-21 a couple of times. Therefore, I would say that there is no match for the Yugoslav air force really.

Mark Laity (BBC): I asked yesterday about an oil pipeline through Hungary. I understand there is no oil pipeline there now but there is one through Bulgaria and there are oil tankers still going into the Montenegran ports. NATO has put immense effort and you've detailed how you've destroyed the refinery capacity, 70 per cent of their stocks. What are you doing, then, to stop them replacing those stocks and are you pressurising Bulgaria to cut off its own oil pipeline and are you considering a sea embargo of some kind? It seems peculiar to bomb them on the one hand and allow them to re-supply on the other.

Jamie Shea: Thanks for the question, Mark. Well Mark, you remember the famous dictum of Napoleon, don't you, that an army marches on its stomach; if he were alive today he would say an army marches on its oil reserves so you're absolutely right, oil is a critical factor. We know that we have taken out about 70 per cent of the military supplies of fuel and we do know from the reports that we receive that the Yugoslav army is hurting now because of a lack of oil, both of supplies and the ability to distribute it, to deliver it.

Obviously, we would hope that all countries of the international community would be mindful of UN Security Council resolution 1160, the arms embargo, naturally - that's the first point - and would also not wish to do anything, undertake any action which could prolong this conflict by supplying refined oil to Yugoslavia naturally but on the other hand, we have to be consistent with international law as well.

Our military authorities are looking at what the options are to, if you like, screw the tap down still further and we haven't drawn any conclusions yet but they are looking at the options. There are many others by the way, Mark, in addition to the two that you have mentioned, particularly of course inside Yugoslavia itself, of further attempting to disrupt the ability of Belgrade to move oil around and so I wouldn't at this stage - and you'll understand the reason why - want to comment further but let's just say that you're aware of it and we are even more aware of that and we are going to do whatever we can within the existing scope of our operation to make the oil run out quickly because anything that can be done of course to induce Milosevic both at the strategic level and at the tactical level to understand that he has no choice but to meet the objectives of the international community, is something that we're obviously going to look at very, very carefully.

Dominique Thierry, Radio France Internationale: Deux questions si vous permettez. La premire - est ce que vous pouvez tre un petit peu plus prcis sur ce que vous appelez le couloir anti-humanitaire et les trains de rfugis qui iraient vers le nord de Pristina, je n'ai pas trs bien compris, est-ce que surtout vous pouvez tre plus prcis et puis deuxime question : quelle est votre apprciation, est ce que vous n'tes pas inquiet de la capacit de mouvements que se rservent encore, dont disposent encore semble-t-il les forces Yougoslaves et en particulier leur capacit malgr ou grce la mteo et pet-tre mme aux civils qui sont sur les routes, leur capacit renforcer leurs positions dfensives aux frontires en particulier.

Jamie Shea: Nous savons partir de rapports de rfugis arrivs en Rpublique ex-Yougoslave de Macdoine que l'arme serbe a constitu ce que j'appelais un couloir anti-humanitaire partir de Podujevo et jusqu' Pristina, le long de cette route l qui est utilise en particulier pour le transport de rfugis et les rfugis dans ce couloir sont privs de nourriture pendant au moins 24 heures/48 heures. Ils arrivent Pristina et puis partir de l on les met soient dans des trains soient dans des bus pour les transporter vers la frontire macdonienne, donc voil les informations dont nous disposons, mais je voulais insister sur le caractre organis et systmatique de ce genre d'expulsion. a c'est donc une rponse votre premire question et en ce qui concerne votre deuxime question, il est absolument incontestable, que l'arme serbe a t oblige de ralentir ses activits pour prserver son ptrole mais en mme temps les chars, l'artillerie se cachent de plus en plus dans les habitations civiles, endommages par exemple, et vous avez vu dj je crois nous allons vous montrer tout l'heure un exemple o les avions de l'OTAN arrivent quand mme a pntrer et a dtruire des chars, des artilleries qui se cachent quand mme dans des habitations sinistres civiles donc ils essaient de se cacher mais quand mme ils ont du mal a se cacher.

Jamie Shea: Given the presentation at 4 o'clock and the need for a little bit of preparation time, I will take one final question from Mr. Cresnici (phon)

Mr. Krasnieci: (Very Difficult To Understand) I have two questions concerning the situation of displaced persons in Kosovo and second concerning .. forces.

The first question is since the first day of the crisis you have always shown great concern about the situation of internally-displaced persons but up to now nothing has been done with them. It is my understanding that knowing that those displaced persons inside Kosovo tomorrow or the week after are going to be put out of Kosovo.being not doing up to now. Can you tell me please if there is a second explanation why those persons are not helped up till now?

The second question is we have seen yesterday some scenes of military equipments in ????? Can the possibility of sending troops inside Kosovo by . push or speed-up the NATO thinking about ground troops?

Jamie Shea: OK, thanks for those two questions.

On the internally-displaced persons, there is no immediate solution, that's part of the tragedy of this situation. The Secretary General will be speaking to the Head of the International Red Cross on the telephone this evening, Mr. Samaruga, and of course we will be exchanging all of the information we have on this situation. I know that the Red Cross is making an effort to get approval from Belgrade to begin again its activities inside Kosovo and you know of the very valiant efforts by some Green non-governmental organisations to help, even being able to have doctors now operating in Pristina which is encouraging but of course much more has to be done and I said yesterday that NATO will provide all of the information it has to help international relief organisations locate these groups of internally-displaced persons, some of which you saw on the slides of General Marani today.

But again I come back to my fundamental point that first of all, if Milosevic is determined to expel these people, then at least them leave instead of what I called the "Grand Old Duke of York strategy" of marching them to the border, keeping them there and in some cases marching them back again or making life even more miserable while they are at the border waiting to leave in terms of mines and shelling and all the rest. If one wants to be inhumane, it's only necessary to be inhumane once, one doesn't have to sort of try to find new variations on the theme of inhumanity in a somewhat perverse way quite frankly. But the greatest contribution that NATO can make obviously will be to stop the fighting because I come back to this fundamental point: as long as the fighting continues, the suffering will continue. We can't really begin to reverse it until we've stopped the fighting so we have to keep our eye on the ball in that respect and on that fundamental objective.

Can you repeat your second question:

Same Questioner (Just As Difficult To Understand!) kind of attempt to put some military troops, Serbian troops, in Kosovo and my question if that possibility can push.

Jamie Shea: Ground troops on the NATO side, no.

Same Questioner: Would you rather 40,000

Jamie Shea: We know that about 8,000 extra Yugoslav forces have been sent to Kosovo in recent weeks. Again, I think it's a sign of how difficult Belgrade is finding it to bring the area under total control but as far as NATO ground troops are concerned, no, the policy is the one that you know which is that we continue to want to bring the violence to an end using our air assets and to deploy an international security force thereafter.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd be grateful if you would kindly evacuate the press theatre so that we can get our presentation installed and organised and we'll see you back here in exactly 22 minutes. Thank you very much.

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