Updated: 28 May 1999 Press Conferences


28 May 1999

Press Conference

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

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea : Ladies and Gentlemen. President Slobodan Milosevic has finally secured his place in the history books. Yesterday be became the first sitting Head of State and Government in history to be indicted for wholesale war crimes, crimes against humanity, including murders and forced deportations.

This morning the people of Yugoslavia have woken up to be the first people in history to live under the rule of an indicted war criminal. The decision by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia underscores that what NATO is doing is right. We hope that this decision by Justice Louise Arbour may change the way that the people of Yugoslavia feel about allowing their future to be tied to the actions of one leader and of the small group around him who have aided and abetted his crimes. But this changes nothing for NATO. The world has called on Milosevic to account for his crimes against humanity, but NATO will press on with its campaign until those crimes are stopped, and the perpetrators withdraw from Kosovo.

Two days ago, on day 64 of Operation Allied Force, we conducted the most intense strikes to date against the military forces of a repressive dictator. Yesterday, we went further and carried out an even larger number of strikes. The only difference of course is that on day 64 they were against a repressive dictator who had not yet been indicted for war crimes, and now they are against somebody who faces those charges, charges which will not go away.

Yesterday, the weather was good, as we predicted, and we took maximum advantage of it. We went after Milosevic's forces in Kosovo everywhere we found them, and attacked not only those tactical targets on the ground in Kosovo, but a wide array of strategic targets as well and General Jertz, as always, is with me to give you the full details in a few moments. But even as those air strikes press on, NATO's interest in the diplomatic process remains firm and also our desire for a firm diplomacy that puts pressure on Belgrade to accede to the non-negotiable demands of the international community.

This morning, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott was here and he briefed the North Atlantic Council on his meetings this week in Moscow, with the Russian envoy to the Balkans, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and the Finnish President, Maati Ahtisaari, and we are pleased to note the progress that is being made, and all of the allies will want to continue all of these efforts to work with the Russians and engage their continued support and assistance in persuading President Milosevic to meet our demands, the demands of the international community, and the only reasonable demands for resolving this crisis.

Now, please, General Jertz, I call on you to give your update, and then we will take questions.

Major General Jertz : Ladies and Gentlemen. Good afternoon. Let me give you today's operational update. I have often talked about the weather and its effect on NATO air operations. Let me tell you what Milosevic already knows. For the next 5 days, the weather is on our side. As you can see from this satellite photo and the five-day weather impact, forecast weather through Tuesday of next week, favours the NATO air campaign throughout the area of operations. NATO air forces continue to increase the pressure on Milosevic and his Serb forces. This intensification is demonstrated by the almost 800 sorties flown by our air crews yesterday, about 50% of which, including suppression of enemy air defence sorties, were strike missions.

But going into straight numbers, NATO planes flew 310 strike, 92 air defence suppression sorties out of a total of 792 flights. On the ground in Kosovo, Serb forces continued operations in the west against what we believe to be a major offensive by the UCK in the vicinity of especially Mount Pastric. The UCK objective seems to be to open up supply routes, and there are reports of heavy artillery and mortar fire, especially in this area. NATO's air campaign continued to attack Serb forces and equipment in Kosovo. This is our focus. Degrade his capability to continue his war against the Kosovar people.

Targets struck included some tanks, an armoured personnel carrier, 20 artillery pieces and 7 anti-aircraft artillery pieces. We also hit 2 mortar positions, 2 multiple rocket-launcher systems, and other military revetments. We again hit a wide variety of targets designed to interrupt Milosevic's ability to command and control his forces in Kosovo, whilst he himself is still in Serbia. To reduce his ability to supply those forces and to deplete his strategic reserves we hit airfields at Batanice, Pristina, Ponikve and Sienitse. After attacking also aircraft shelters, we saw secondary explosions, a good indication that aircraft or ammunition was stored in those shelters. I want to remind you why we continue to hit these airfields. Aircraft taking off from those airfields could very well be used against people on the ground and against UCK forces.

Radio and TV relay and broadcast sites, and the surface to air support facility, as you can on this slide, were also attacked. We hit Milosevic's important lines of communication and his strategic reserves, we hit highway bridges and petroleum storage sites, as shown here. The next slide shows a pre and post-strike photo from Bravovo.

You know that the headquarter is the nerve centre of any military force. Our strikes against the special police headquarters at Pristina, restricts the ability to control their forces in the field. Because electrical facilities provide the power for military command and control, we hit electrical transformer yards and transmission towers near Belgrade. Other targets include ammunition storage sites, military storage areas, and army barracks, as depicted on this map.

Yesterday, we did not observe Serb military flight activity, but some air defence radars were active reflecting attempts to maintain effective air surveillance and they fired 4 missiles against our aircraft. Anti-aircraft artillery fire was light yesterday. All NATO aircraft returned safely.

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, concludes my portion of the briefing.

Jennifer Griffin (Fox News): Jamie, can you react to news that EUTELSAT has decided to ban Serb television from being broadcast into Europe. Why is this a victory for NATO?

Jamie Shea : Well, I don't think it is so much a victory for NATO, I think it is a victory for decent broadcasting standards. The EUTELSAT Board overwhelmingly decided at its recent board meeting to ban, as you know, the access of RTS to the satellite link. This I think was done because the other members clearly see that RTS does not meet the standards of fairness, of objectivity, of responsible public broadcasting that the rest stand for, and this further will make it more difficult for Milosevic to use RTS as a propaganda tool. And certainly we are not going to shed any crocodile tears over that. It will also force him of course to look for other transmitters at home to continue his broadcasting. And again, anything that makes life more difficult for him is something which will, I believe, hasten the end of this conflict.

Freddie Bonnart, NATO 16 Nations: You mentioned that NATO was looking to Russia in fact to get Mr Milosevic to meet our demands. You will have seen an article by Mr Chernomyrdin in today's "Herald Tribune" and possibly yesterday's "Washington Post" which says, he is actually not prepared to do that, that he is definitely not just presenting NATO's demands and that he expects some negotiation to take place in fact . It would be very interesting to see what Mr Talbott has in fact brought back from Moscow. Can you tell us anything on that?

Jamie Shea : Well, Freddie, the demands of NATO are shared by Russia because they are now the demands of the G8. Russia has signed on to those. The five conditions are now a common position of the international community and President Milosevic is no doubt hearing that for the fourth time today from Mr Chernomyrdin in Belgrade. Russia is engaged in this process. That has been made clear by a number of Russian spokesmen in the last few days. As for what Strobe Talbott said today, it was clear that we are making progress with Russia, we are still working at it, but we are not talking about negotiating with President Milosevic, everybody understands that, there is no negotiation here. The five conditions are the five conditions, he is simply hearing from Mr Chernomyrdin, like he has heard in the past from other envoys that he has to accept those.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Two questions Gentlemen. One each please. First of all, General Jertz, there have been several instances now where you have cut out power supplies in Yugoslavia and you have explained that that is either to cut or disrupt command and control. Can you identify one specific instance of a military situation on the ground in Kosovo where Yugoslav forces have been unable to do something as a result of having lost or have disrupted that command and control system which they could previously do before?

And to Jamie, you said that the indictment of President Milosevic should cause Yugoslav people to ask themselves how they feel about tying their future to that of President Milosevic. I have an opinion poll carried out by the Institute of Advanced Studies in Vienna within Yugoslavia in March of this year according to which 62% of Yugoslav citizens said they did not trust President Milosevic. Now how much higher does that figure have to go in your assessments before it leads to him leaving Office and precisely how are those citizens going to take action in order to bring that about?

Major General Jertz : Well Jake you know we have to keep the big picture on the electricity. You know that by cutting off electricity we force them to use and to divert large amounts of fuel to very fuel inefficient generators. We think that is another way of choking off their military's ability to move and to support itself, We have not attacked, you know that, his ability to generate electricity in itself so we have to be very careful on how we explain it. The reason behind cutting off electricity of course is to really cut down his capability for command and control. We do confuse his computers and Milosevic is referring to secondary capabilities to really get his message down to the forces in Kosovo which means it's more lengthy, it lasts longer, it doesn't reach the persons, but we are not persons on the ground so we cannot go into more detail on that and who is really reached by the Commanders. What we know is that the Commanders have difficulties to talk to their bosses up at the headquarters.

Jamie Shea : OK Jake. That poll, as you say, was taken in March but it's a good indication as I've often said that the nationalism that we saw in the early stages of this conflict was skin deep. We have seen in recent days the opposition getting organised. There is now an umbrella organisation of opposition groups, we have seen opposition leaders speak out, we have seen demonstrations in a number of cities and we have not seen any rock concerts in Belgrade nor anti-NATO happenings, nor people flooding the bridges at midnight. So clearly the mood in favour of Milosevic I think is falling.

We also see people like Mr. Daric, the Chief Financier of the Regime packing his bags and trying to leave for Cyprus. Therefore I believe that the Gotterdammerung, if I can use that term, is probably setting in in Belgrade. Having said that, of course, it's up to the Yugoslav people to decide on the fate of President Milosevic. Now they have one extra factor to take into account as they judge this morning if he is the man for the 21st Century.

But again, having said that, I would make just a fundamental point that we are going to keep up our operation. Now President Milosevic is a person who has normally done very badly in times of peace. It was after the period of Dayton, before the crisis in Montenegro and in Kosovo, that we had the municipal elections, the cancellation of municipal elections, and we had the big demonstrations on the streets of Belgrade. So he is a person who seems to fear more from peace than from crisis.

ABC News: I have two questions. One for the General. There are reports that the town of Elecsenic I think it is, north of Nis, was hit. Is that true and if it is what was the military target? And for you Jamie, if there is a peace deal obviously you need to have two parties at a table and if Milosevic, well now that he has been indicted, who sits on, not the NATO side, but the other side?

Major General Jertz : I am not in a position at the present time to say exactly what target, what target was it you were talking about?

ABC News: The town of Elecsenic, north west of Nis. Apparently some journalists have been taken to this facility, people out of Belgrade, and the authorities there are saying that something was hit there so I was wondering if it's a military target?

Major General Jertz : I need to come back to you. I have no reports on that.

Jamie Shea : As to your question, I said yesterday that it was for the International Envoys to decide who will be their interlocutors in Belgrade. That is not the judgment for NATO. As for the 5 conditions, as I have said, there is nothing to negotiate. We can explain those 5 conditions, we can clarify those 5 conditions but we are not going to compromise on them or negotiate on them.

Mark Laity, BBC: A couple of points. The oil embargo and the use of the Danube. You showed the picture of Praivo which I assume was alongside the banks of the Danube and by hitting it, you were trying to stop oil imports coming in. Do you have any information on how much oil is coming in, whether those strikes have cut it off significantly? And on the matter of the strikes in Kosovo in particular, you are having a lot of strike sorties but I understand that finding targets is getting harder. It's not that they are not there but that they are better hidden. How much harder is it getting to find targets and how much is that being complicated by the aid convoys which have been sent in along some of the main routes and don't seem to be following the routes or the timings that they give you?

Jamie Shea : Mark, just if I can start off on that. First of all of course oil is getting into Yugoslavia. We have never denied that. It's very difficult in any sanction or embargo to have a totally watertight regime but that's not the point. We want it to be sufficiently watertight to make it increasingly difficult and increasingly expensive for Milosevic to get his hands on the oil. That is happening. Yesterday the Interior Ministry of Romania, in response to the appeal that we made, very usefully announced that it was tightening up its policing of the Danube in its particular sector to ensure that illicit trade is clamped down on. That is a fine example of solidarity and I hope our other partners in the region will follow the excellent Romanian example.

Let me also by the way clarify something that was not made public in the press but Malta, for some weeks already, has also officially aligned itself with the EU oil embargo. So that is our point to make it expensive and tough for Milosevic to get his oil.

Major General Jertz : According to the lists which I present every day actually, although on the targets which are hit especially in Kosovo, fielded ground forces which are main and utmost goal, as you know, I think the list is not too bad. Of course I told you just because they do run out of fuel, they are less mobile, they do dug in, they do camouflage and of course we do continue to update our process of gathering intelligence to really identify them and as the weather is improving I am pretty sure Margaret will have some more better numbers coming up to you in the next few days. As I have already indicated that weather is a factor.

On the aid convoys, as long as they stick to the information which they are supposed to give to us which routes they are taking, we have of course even though we don't give them 100% safety, not to attack them, they do hamper our military effectiveness a little bit, but only a little bit, and only in those areas where they are. But look at the map the last few days. There are no convoys in Kosovo, at least I haven't seen too many reports about that. Most of them go some place else so for the military part Kosovo is attacked, military targets are there and we continue to identify them and attack them.

Jamie Shea : Mark, to be nice to you let me also provide an element of an answer there. First of all, as General Jertz says, there are 12 humanitarian convoys in Yugoslavia today. None of them, not one, to Kosovo.

Secondly, there are 28 lorries being blocked by the Yugoslav Army at the boarder in Montenegro on the assumption that they don't have the right documents and a lot of the food has been directly confiscated from those lorries by the Yugoslav Army. This is a flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1239 which calls for access for the United Nations and for all other humanitarian personnel operating in Kosovo and other parts of Yugoslavia.

Thirdly, we have from UN sources, from the UN Mission that was in Kosovo in the last couple of days, reports that in Urosevac aid parcels which had been sent by the UN Food Programme, World Food Programme, were on sale in a shop in Urosevac. Others are in warehouses operated by the Yugoslav Red Cross. We have no evidence that any of that food is getting to the 550,000 displaced persons inside Kosovo at the present time.

Question: So is the implication of that Jamie that this is meant to be, if I am correct, the deal was 50% of the aid goes to the Yugoslavs, the Serbs and 50% goes to the Kosovars. Are you in effect saying that it is clear to you that the 50% is not going to the Kosovars?

Jamie Shea : We have no evidence that we are seeing fair shares at the moment.

Pierre: Dans la continuit de l'aide humanitaire l'OTAN a-t-elle reu les plans de vol des ONG comme Focus donc qui prvoit des parachutages au-dessus du Kosovo?

Major General Jertz : You know that we didn't have any humanitarian flights being scheduled so far. They are still looking forward, we gave them all the information, we told them that we need all the information to make sure that they are in areas where we know where they are. We cannot and will not guarantee them full protection. They know that and they are aware of it but so far none of the flights have taken off so far.

Jamie Shea : These flights Pierre have been postponed time and time again. NATO, as General Jertz says, is fully prepared to co-operate but, though I understand that Focus is having difficulty in getting the right guarantees from Belgrade which is responsible, Belgrade is responsible for the security of these flights which are due to take off from Sofia with 2 Russian planes soon. But Belgrade has to pass the necessary instructions down to the forces in the field in Kosovo so that they guarantee the security of those flights.

Pierre: Si ventuellement un des avions a t touch, ayant abattu mme peut-tre, par la DCA serbe, est-ce que l'OTAN - si la cette fois effectivement attaquerait, et donc protgerait les avions.

Major General Jertz : Once again there is humanitarian air drop guidance given by SACEUR where the NGOs are requested to provide flight information to our combined air operations centre in a special amount of time in advance and even if we have this information we are not protecting them in flight.

Question: Hier Paris, le prsident Rugova a salu l'engagement pris par le Tribunal pnal international contre le criminel Milosevic. Mais vous savez que le tribunal pnal international, considerait aussi comme criminel Karadjic et Mladic mais ils sont toujours libres. Est-ce que c'est aussi la mme chanson avec Milosevic, si le Tribunal ou bien l'ONU ou bien l'OTAN, ne l'arrte pas? Est-ce que c'est ncessaire de menacer les gens, les criminels avec les mots?

Jamie Shea : There are 26 indicted war criminals that have been taken to The Hague. You ask those 26 if the Tribunal has teeth or doesn't have teeth. It has teeth and I can assure you that many other people will be making the same pilgrimage to The Hague in the next months and the next years. If I were Mr. Karadzic I don't think I would be sleeping on my two ears at night.

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