Updated: 27 May 1999 Press Conferences


27 May 1999

Press Conference

by Mr Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman
and Major General Walter Jertz, SHAPE

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea: Ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon. Before General Jertz gives you his daily operational update, I would like to react immediately to the very important announcement that has been made a few minutes ago in The Hague by Justice Louise Arbour. NATO takes note of the decision of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to indict President Milosevic and four other Yugoslav leaders on charges of war crimes. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is an independent organisation. Decisions on indictments are for the International Criminal Tribunal to take and are based on legal grounds alone. NATO has always supported the work of the International Criminal Tribunal. At the Washington Summit just a few days ago, NATO'S Heads of State and Government reiterated the Alliance's pledge to co-operate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal's actions, and to help bring to justice those indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal, including at the highest levels. NATO nations will also continue to provide the International Criminal Tribunal with information to support its indictments. Indicted war criminals must be brought to trial because there can be no lasting peace in the region without justice.

As far as Operation Allied Force is concerned, one thing must be clear. Nothing has changed. President Milosevic must accept the five conditions of the Alliance for resolving the crisis in Kosovo. He must stop the killing. He must allow the refugees - all of them - to return to their homes. He must agree to the deployment of an international security force, he must withdraw all of his forces from Kosovo, and there must be a political process that leads to a permanent solution based on the principles at Rambouillet. Let me also stress that the Alliance will continue to support the current diplomatic efforts to convince the Yugoslav regime to accept our five conditions.

I will now ask General Jertz to give his daily operational update. General, please.

General Jertz: Thank you very much Jamie. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Yesterday was very successful for our air campaign. Enabled by good weather, NATO planes flew 308 strike sorties, plus 74 air defence suppression sorties out of a total of 741 sorties.

Today, let me start with a short overview on ground operations in Kosovo. Serb forces concentrated their actions in the west of Kosovo. We did observe UCK launching a major offensive in the Mount Pastrik area, pinning down Serb forces in that area. The Albanian villages of Boggai, Suhan and Gromen, obviously by Serbs' interpretation to be staging areas for the UCK, received sustained shelling. We have strong evidence that in central Kosovo, ethnic cleansing operations are still being conducted.

In the next part of my briefing, I will elaborate on the conduct of a combat mission, to give you a better picture of the complexity of an air campaign. This process, what we call combined air operation, is how we bring together the diverse air assets of different nations for the most accurate air campaign in history. To illustrate the complexity of conducting such an operation, I want to walk you through a typical operation.

Based on the cumulative results of our battle damage assessment latest intelligence reports, weather forecasts and staff recommendations, the Commander decides upon a plan of action for a 24-hour period starting with the target list. After the target list is reviewed, specific targets are identified and analysed in depth. An air task order details the appropriate mix, or strike pitch as we call it of aircraft to attack chosen targets. It also details all the reporting aircraft necessary to enhance mission success. Altogether, there were 7 Dutch packages flown yesterday. One of those included more than 38 strike aircraft and was comprised of Tornadoes, Harriers, Etendards, Jaguars, F16s, and Mirage, the aircraft coming from Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Denmark and the United States. The aircraft were chosen for their suitability to perform the specific mission to which they were assigned.

As these aircraft had been bedded down at several different locations, of course it did require close co-ordination of their take-offs that they were able to assemble at the right time in the right place. But there is a lot more to an air mission than just getting strike aircraft in position to drop munitions on their military targets. A wide range of other aircraft is required, aircraft with highly specialised functions, including reconnaissance aircraft, refuellers, fighter escort, airborne command and control, suppression of enemy air defence aircraft, and of course electronic warfare support.

But let me return to the mission. Aircraft approach the rendezvous point for the refuelling over the Adriatic Sea and prepare to enter the area of operations where they conduct their attacks. They exit the area of operations and rendezvous again with tankers for another air refuelling. After refuelling of course they are capable of returning to the area of operations for follow-on missions, until the ordnance is exhausted. I told you that all aircraft remain in communication, of course. This permits them to confirm their original plan or if necessary make changes based on the most up to date information whilst they are already in the air. After the completion of their missions, they return to their bases or bed-down sites. The duration of such a mission is up to several hours depending on the staging airfield.

After the flight pilots do have to go through an extensive debriefing cycle which can also last several hours. And once again, after a period of rest, of course air crews begin preparation for the next cycle of operations.

Let me now turn to yesterday's air operations, and keep in mind that some of these aircraft and targets were attacked by the strike packages which I have just described. In Kosovo we continued our attack on the forces and equipment which can be directly used in Milosevic's war against the Kosovar people. Targets struck included at least 5 tanks, 6 armoured personnel carriers, and other military vehicles, 10 artillery pieces, anti-aircraft artillery pieces, and military revetments.

We also hit a mix of targets designed to interrupt Milosevic's ability to command and control his forces in Kosovo and to further reduce Milosevic's ability to resupply those forces. Command control and communications targets attacked by NATO aircraft included a command post in a tunnel at Livadica, headquarters buildings and several frequency modulated relay and television stations as depicted on the slide. An amplitude modulated broadcast station at Ruma and a radio communications station at Stalad Pazof, plus supply related targets, including highway bridges over the Brevoniza River at Ratzkan, were also attacked. Petroleum storage sites at Kraljevo, Sjenica and Batajnica and some more supply depots as depicted on the slides and the general supply facility was also attacked.

NATO continued to keep Milosevic's airfields unusable by hitting airfields at Ponikve, Nis, Obrva, Pristina and Batanjica. A pre- and post-strike image of an important ordnance facility is shown here.

All NATO aircraft returned safely.

You may recall that I reported 12 surface-to-air missiles had been fired against NATO aircraft on Tuesday. But anti-aircraft fire was this time very aggressive. Yesterday, the increasing trend continued with Serb air defence forces becoming increasingly hostile. Perhaps desperation is really setting in, as they make a last determined stand to shoot down NATO aircraft. Paradoxically, the good weather that is helping our pilots to see their targets more easily, is of course, in turn, helping them to detect our aircraft and guide their missiles visually. Yesterday over 30 missiles were fired against NATO aircraft and anti-aircraft fire was very active. One of our pilots had to evade two missiles, fired in a salvo against him, and one, he told us yesterday night, passed so close to the aircraft that he heard and felt the turbulence as it passed and exploded near his aircraft.

In another attack, 6 missiles were fired at a package of aircraft attacking a single target. Our air crews avoided the missiles, which fell back to the earth. And, please, therefore bear in mind all the self-defence artillery and missiles that are shot into the air have to come back again. These projectiles may and will cause their own collateral damage to civilian life and property.

It is due to the professionalism of our pilots and air crews that such an important air defence system has so far failed to be more effective against NATO aircraft, even though we decreased them from the beginning on. We will continue to use the full complement of our defensive and offensive assets to maximise the effectiveness of our air campaign.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jamie, thank you very much.

Jamie Shea: General, thanks very much. Let's have the lights back and let's go to questions.

Patricia Kelly, CNN: Jamie, a couple of things on the indictment. First of all you said that you want President Milosevic to accept the 5 points, agree to everything that NATO is demanding. Does that not indicate that you are not taking the indictment seriously and are prepared to continue negotiating with President Milosevic?

Secondly, where does this leave the diplomatic process? Do you think this indictment will speed it up or slow it down? And thirdly, how does NATO intend to detain these indicted war criminals, this new batch, when you haven't been able to detain fairly key figures such as Radovan Karadzic? And if NATO pilots are being rescued when they are downed over Kosovo, can't you use the same people to go in and pick out people like Radovan Karadzic when you know exactly where he lives and what he is doing?

Jamie Shea: OK. Thank you for that battery of questions Patricia. On the first one is NATO countries are those which pushed for this Tribunal to be established under a UN Security Council Resolution. We are the countries that overwhelmingly support this Tribunal, finance this Tribunal. The United States supplies the President, Canada supplies the Chief Prosecutor and NATO countries provide many of the other judges and officials of the Tribunal. We therefore are committed to facilitating its work although, as I stress, the Tribunal is an independent body, it makes its own decisions first and foremost. NATO has co-operated with the Tribunal, we are in the forefront of countries supplying it with intelligence and materials to substantiate its indictments, we will continue to do that and it is the arrival of a NATO led peacekeeping force, a peacekeeping force with a NATO core, in Kosovo which will provide the secure environment so far denied to the Tribunal to allow it to gather the further evidence that Justice Arbour referred to in her press conference just a few moments ago.

As for the impact on diplomacy, that is not a question for NATO, that is a question to put to the International Envoys who may visit Belgrade in the future. It is for them, not for us, to decide who are the competent authorities to accept and implement the 5 conditions. The 5 conditions, as I have always pointed out, are non-negotiable. We are dealing here with acceptance, not with a negotiation.

As for NATO's co-operation with the Tribunal in the detention of indicted war criminals, we have detained 14 so far and indeed the majority of the indicted war criminals in Bosnia have been before the Court or their trials are now pending. So I don't think our record is anything to be ashamed of.

Secondly, the statute of the Tribunal is without limitation which means that the indictments do not run out on General Mladic or on Mr. Karadzic and therefore I would not hypothesise that because they haven't been before the Tribunal thus far, they won't be appearing there in the near future. Indeed I can assure you that Mr. Karadzic has had an absolutely miserable life since being indicted by the Tribunal. He has lost all of his power, all of his influence, he is a hunted man even before he is in The Hague and one day he surely will be in The Hague. And I think that is an object lesson to all of those who have been indicted so far or who will be indicted in the future by the Tribunal.

And finally, on your last question, Patricia, let me point out that under the Statutes of the Tribunal the states on whose territories indicted war criminals are located have, under International Law, an obligation to hand those over to the Tribunal.

Bill: Since he is an indicted war criminal and presumably then members of the United Nations would no longer respect his legal authority, does this mean that NATO forces would no longer require the consent of Milosevic and the 4 others named, in any kind of a settlement that would be required in order to send troops into Kosovo?

Jamie Shea: Bill, I am not going to speculate on those kind of circumstances. Those, as I say, are for International Envoys, the questions to address. Our position is crystal clear, we continue to insist that the authorities in Belgrade accept NATO's 5 conditions and as I have said we are going to keep up our military action until those 5 conditions are met. So this is something that we have noted coming from the Tribunal today but as far as we are concerned, it does not change the intensity or the momentum of Operation Allied Force.

Mark Laity, BBC: Judge Arbour said that because of the severity of the charges and she felt that any agreement made by President Milosevic was essentially worthless, that he couldn't be trusted to keep an agreement, what's the comment of NATO on this seeing as that they are still looking to have some kind of diplomatic settlement which will involve President Milosevic's consent even if it is a consent of the 5 conditions and are you still happy or willing to accept his authority as a Head of State to back any agreement about NATO forces entering Kosovo?

Jamie Shea: Mark, as I said, it is for International Envoys to determine the competent authorities in Belgrade to agree to and to implement the 5 conditions. It is NATO's job to continue its military action to put the pressure on Belgrade to agree to those 5 conditions and we are not going to be deviated from that goal which we consider to be essential.

Mark: Could I just add one follow up, you mentioned that you have been providing evidence to Justice Arbour, is it fair to assume that a large proportion of the evidence that she has used to indict President Milosevic has been supplied by NATO?

Jamie Shea: NATO countries, yes.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Jamie, you say that the impact on diplomacy is not a matter for NATO but Judge Arbour said that when she had been to various capitals she had stressed the urgency of helping with gathering evidence on the chain of command side and that she had indeed received relevant documents, as she put it. Now that can only mean that she has been given intelligence intercepts about the degree of complicity by President Milosevic, a category of evidence which NATO countries have elected not to supply in the past. Indeed the President of the Tribunal is one among many who have complained long and loud about it. There has clearly been a change of policy and that was adopted by NATO as a whole as you said at the Washington Summit. When that policy was changed, what was the calculus about the impact it would likely have on the diplomatic process in this crisis?

Jamie Shea: Jake, we haven't changed our policy. We have always co-operated fully with the Tribunal. The Tribunal asks countries to co-operate in 5 ways - by identifying and helping in tracing individuals, by putting together evidence and information which can lead to indictments, by passing on necessary documents, by helping in the detention of indicted war criminals and by helping in the transfer of those indicted war criminals to The Hague. On this, and 14 indicted war criminals in Bosnia, testify to what I say NATO has a very good record and we will be trying obviously to improve upon that record in the future. NATO countries will co-operate fully.

Question: Are you saying that there are not in existence intelligence intercept about the degree of complicity of President in Milosevic in Bosnia which have not been supplied to the Court.

Jamie Shea: Jake, clearly if the Justice Arbour in the full independence of her role has taken the decision today, not only against President Milosevic but against 4 other Yugoslav leaders, it is clear that she feels that she has sufficient information, sufficient indications, for that indictment to be formalised and made public. It's not for me to comment on the nature of that material. In her press conference, Justice Arbour, for good legal reasons, would not be drawn on that and I am not going to be drawn on that either.

Antonio Esteves Martins, RTP: Thank you Jamie. This is not good news for the peace process that we are on now and I wonder if you have an explanation for the hurry of getting this indictment now because the same Tribunal has waited 5 years and so far the 3 Generals that were busy in the ethnic cleansing in Krijena, including also the President of Croatia, President Tudjman, they haven't still got their indictments. So why in this process when everybody is so busy putting people together at the table, waiting for Milosevic to say yes to the 5 conditions or to accept the United Nations Resolution to make this thing go so quickly because obviously this is only going to stop or delay the peace process and obviously we should not forget that so many people are still inside Kosovo and if there is a resolution or if there is an acceptance of the 5 points, those people could be saved?

Jamie Shea: Antonio, Justice Arbour pointed out in her press conference that under Article 8 of the Tribunal Statute she has a duty and an obligation to bring indictments once the necessary materials have been collected. That is her independent role, we respect that. As Justice Arbour said, there is never a bad time for justice. It's never too early, nor too late for International Law to be observed and to be upheld. That is the position of the Allies as well.

Thirdly, if you are implying, which I don't believe you are, but if you are implying that there is an incompatibility between a political solution and justice, I profoundly disagree.

Andrew: Jamie, you have been saying that Milosevic really has no choice but to accept the 5 conditions and that he is boxed in. But doesn't this really give him no incentive to accept the 5 conditions?

Jamie Shea: All I can say Andrew is that last night 700 aircraft were involved in an operation to be persuasive.

Carlos: Is NATO ready to ask for a condition number 6 now, I mean co-operate with The Hague.

Jamie Shea: No we are totally content with 5 Carlos and we have been co-operating with the Tribunal for the last 5 years extremely actively. We therefore don't need to invent that co-operation, it exists and the visits here recently by Justice Arbour testify to that.

Doug Hamilton, Reuters: For General Jertz, can you tell us more about this upsurge of Yugoslav surface to air missile activity to 33 which is a figure I don't think we've seen before, and can you tell us some specifics about the plane that felt one go by and can you tell us why you think this is happening?

General Jertz: As I have already said, this trend to shoot more missiles against NATO aircraft obviously has what I said a kind of desperation but what we still see of course is that they are shooting unguided missiles, they are shooting as many as they can just to, in my opinion, our opinion, to make sure that they have for sure hit an aircraft just by chance. And that may be the cause and one could think that maybe he thinks the war, the conflict is over pretty soon and he tries to get rid of the last missiles he has and he tries to claim one more victory which we are sure will not happen. Most of the radars have been destroyed so far, that is one of the reasons why the missiles have to be unguided, and they are unguided, and as I already indicated, the weather has been better now and it is one of the reasons why his missiles can be used visually, using visual optical tracking devices rather than radar devices, and that is for sure another reason why obviously the increasing of air defence is taking place so far.

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