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Updated: 4 June 1999 Press Conferences

NATO HQ
Brussels

4 June 1999

Press Conference

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

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea : Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to our daily briefing.

As you all know, yesterday was an important day, it was an important day for peace in Yugoslavia, for stability in Europe and for justice in Kosovo. Yesterday President Milosevic and the Yugoslav Parliament accepted the essential conditions of the international community. After ten years of repression and fifteen months of constant fighting, the people in Kosovo can finally hope for a better future, a future where they can live securely in their homes and go about their lives in freedom.

NATO pays tribute to the determined and skilful diplomacy of President Ahtisaari and Viktor Chernomyrdin, and we note that today President Yeltsin in Moscow approved of the results obtained by Viktor Chernomyrdin. In particular Russia has worked patiently and constructively for several weeks with the Allies to overcome differences and to find common positions. We now of course hope to carry that cooperation forward into the Peace Implementation Force.

But if now finally we are able to look towards a brighter future, this will be because force has served diplomacy, and diplomacy has served force in an essential and winning partnership.

But - and this is a very large but - we are not there yet. This is not the time to allow our hopes to run ahead of the objective realities. The promise of peace is not yet the reality of peace. We have ten years of experience of dealing with President Milosevic, we know that he finds it much easier to make a promise than to keep a promise. We have learned that an agreement with him has no value unless it is implemented, indeed the only agreement that he has kept in the last ten years, the Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia, is the one which is policed, and has been policed, for four years by NATO troops.

As the 19th century British Liberal philosopher, Jeremy Bentham used to say: "The price of democracy is eternal vigilance", and it is certainly that eternal vigilance which we are going to continue to apply in all our dealings with Milosevic from now on.

Therefore until such time as we see concrete implementation, facts on the ground, to support the words that we heard from Belgrade yesterday, the air operations will continue. They continued last night, as General Jertz is about to inform you, and they have been continuing this morning. We will not stop until we see the beginnings of a rapid, complete and verifiable withdrawal of those Serb forces.

Tomorrow, in the morning and in the region, but not in Belgrade - as I have seen some reports - there will be a meeting between NATO commanders and representatives of the Yugoslav General Staff to clarify the modalities of the withdrawal of the Serb forces and to establish an effective verification regime so that we can see from dust on the tracks that those forces are withdrawing. The sooner the Serbs withdraw, the sooner NATO can stop, but the ball is in their court in that regard.

At the same time NATO can now begin to turn its attention away from winning the conflict in the air to building the peace on the ground. We have come a very long way, but we know that we are still going to face some difficult challenges ahead. The situation in Kosovo is going to be a very difficult situation. There will be about half a million internally displaced persons in dire need of medical help and other assistance. There are over 850,000 refugees in the region that clearly want to return home as quickly as possible. We have to deal with destruction in 500 villages, towns and cities. We have to find out what has happened to the 220,000 missing men, we will have the collapse of the agricultural system to deal with, the restoration of the infrastructure, assistance to the humanitarian organisations and assistance to the setting up of a civilian transitional authority under the international community. And there will be expectations of all of that happening quickly.

These are all solid reasons why we have to have an international security presence with a NATO core. No other type of force will be up to that kind of challenge. And therefore the focus of our efforts this morning in the North Atlantic Council has been to expedite our preparations so that that force is fully ready to move, and within a matter of days. The ARC headquarters in Skopje has now been placed on 24 hours to move. SHAPE will be submitting a refined updated operational plan to the North Atlantic Council within 48 hours. We are going about the force balancing to secure the remaining assets to make up the bulk of the force. And as you have seen from the news in the last 24 hours, several countries have already made announcements of their decision to predeploy additional forces in the theatre where I am grateful to say that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has agreed to host them, prior to their moving into Kosovo. That work therefore will continue rapidly.

At the same time, Foreign Ministers of the G8 will be meeting on Sunday to finalise preparations for a UN Security Council resolution which will provide a mandate for that international security presence.

In other words, even though it has taken 72 days to get to this point, we within 72 hours are determined to seize the momentum of peace.

I will now hand over to General Jertz.

Major General Jertz : Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

As our military campaign continues, as already mentioned by Jamie, until there is a satisfying and verifiable level in the negotiations, I will brief you on the operations in the last 24 hours.

Yesterday NATO flew just over 600 sorties against strategic and tactical targets. Strategic targets in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, outside of Kosovo, included command, control and communications systems, integrated air defence systems as well as an attack against the airfield at Ponikve, others are indicated on the viewfoils.

Other strategic targets in Serbia outside of Kosovo are shown here on this slide. Talking, lines of communication, fuel, special police headquarters and others, a highway bridge at Donje, the petroleum storage facility at Sombor and MUP headquarters at Kula and Melitze. Air defence activity, including anti-aircraft artillery and radars was very light yesterday. There was very limited Serb aircraft activity, but three surface to air missiles were launched at NATO aircraft. All NATO aircraft returned home safely.

Let me now address NATO operations against Serb military forces in Kosovo, forces being directly responsible for the atrocities and cruelties against Kosovar Albanians.

Yesterday, in addition to a command post at Pristina, we struck tanks, armoured personnel carriers, other military vehicles, anti-aircraft artillery pieces, mortar positions, revetted positions. In the ongoing effort to degrade Serb military capabilities, especially within and inside Kosovo. And in ground activity in Kosovo, fighting in the vicinity of Mount Pastrik continued, but at a reduced level.

As late as this morning however we have reports that anti-aircraft artillery and surface to air missiles were fired at NATO aircraft again. In fact artillery fire and continued ground fighting were observed in Kosovo early this morning. While there were no reports of cross-border artillery shelling, there were no firm signs of preparation for withdrawal up till now. However, movement of Serb ground forces was generally diminished.

Serb forces were also active in central Kosovo, but at the moment of course it is very difficult for us to assess their intentions. For now NATO is continuing the successful air campaign that has made diplomatic efforts viable.

This concludes this short briefing.

Greg Palkot, Fox News: Jamie, can you give us any idea of how many Serb forces, Serb troops, will have to leave Kosovo before the bombing stops and when the Kfor force would go in, would they go in as the Serb forces are leaving?

Jamie Shea : Greg, we have made it clear that what we want to see is the beginning of a clear total withdrawal of the Serb forces. The modalities of that will be determined by the military commanders of NATO tomorrow at this meeting, that is the whole purpose of this meeting, to pin all this down, to get the detail on the paper. The fine print is more important in this business than the principles, as we have learned in dealing with Milosevic in the past. We will then have an effective verification system which will mean that certain units will have to withdraw by certain routes, at certain times, so this will make it much easier to make sure that it is in fact happening. SACEUR will be reporting on this to the Secretary General if and when it takes place and when the Secretary General is reassured that we are seeing a total pull-out of the Serb forces, he can then make an appropriate recommendation to the North Atlantic Council which will ultimately decide this matter.

Greg: And when will the KFOR force start going in?

Jamie Shea : The KFOR forces will be ready for deployment within a matter of days, the enabling force in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is being, as I have said, put on 24 hours notice to move. Extra forces are rapidly en route, the other forces are being prepared, so believe me within a matter of days we will be ready. The operational plan will come to the North Atlantic Council over the weekend for final approval and then as soon as the time is right the Council can give its so-called Actord, or Activation Order, for the mission to begin. But believe me, we will be ready for Kosovo.

Bill: The terms call for within 48 hours a withdrawal of the mobile air defence system, at what point does the clock start ticking on that? And secondly, is there anything left outstanding to be negotiated between Mr. Talbott, Chernomyrdin, Ahtisaari, that could possibly delay the implementation? And lastly, could you give us a bit more detail about the agenda of the Foreign Ministers meeting, when, where and what are they going to discuss on Sunday?

Jamie Shea : On those questions, first of all it is for the NATO commanders to tell the Yugoslav military authorities when we expect them to begin this withdrawal operation, including the deactivation of the air defence systems within 48 hours. Secondly, I understand that Strobe Talbott, and I think President Ahtisaari in Finland today, are continuing their discussions, I am not sure that Mr. Chernomyrdin has been able to attend on this occasion but the essential point is now to move towards the definition of a UN Security Council resolution on which G8 Political Directors held a meeting in Cologne yesterday evening. Clearly the purpose of the meeting of the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in Germany, I don't know the exact location, on Sunday is to try to make sure that that resolution is ready to go off to New York for rapid approval, they are probably going to have to discuss the organisation of the G8 summit a few days hence, but the reason why I believe that that meeting has been brought forward by five days to Sunday is to get the UN Security Council resolution all primed for being voted in New York.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Jamie, just a few moments before we came in here, President Chirac in Cologne said that the French had called on NATO henceforth to concentrate on strictly military targets. Could you confirm whether any such request was received and what NATO understands by that and secondly, on the Russian force provided for in the agreement we saw yesterday how will they fit in with the international force, in zones or in a checker-board or what and who will be giving them their orders so far as NATO is concerned?

Jamie Shea : As always, Jake, good questions! First, we have always been attacking military targets throughout the 72 days and we continue to do that and you can see from what General Jertz said that we are doing what is necessary to keep pressure up on Belgrade so that they understand that they must follow through rapidly with the implementation of what they agreed to yesterday. We will keep up only as much pressure as we deem necessary on them so that they realise this but the targets have always been and always will be military targets, nothing more than that.

As for the second part of your question, clearly we are going to need to sit down around the table with Russia in coming days and try to work out with them mutually the modalities for what we hope will be their participation in the KFOR peace implementation force. As I've often said, we have the model of Bosnia which has been a successful model which both sides seem to have liked over the last four years. It doesn't necessarily mean we are going to reiterate that with no changes but at least it is something that we can go on. The idea is to have a meaningful role for Russia in a way which folds in harmoniously with the overall mandate, rules of engagement, command structures of a force built around a NATO core. We have special arrangements for Russia in the force in Bosnia but I wouldn't like to prejudge how it is going to come out. NATO will be imaginative, NATO will be flexible, where there is a will there is a way and we will find that way with Russia.

Patricia Kelly, Cnn: Jamie, will NATO forces escort Yugoslav forces as they withdraw?

Jamie Shea : Patricia, they don't need to be escorted, they know the way back home.

Mark Laity, Bbc: Regarding tomorrow's meeting, can you give us a little more detail on the Macedonian border? Who is there? Is it General Jackson, will there be a Russian participating?

Jamie Shea : One of the things I love about you is you always ask me questions to which you know the answers, so let's move on to the next one.

Mark Laity: I haven't finished it yet. Confirm it then if that is the case. Is it General Jackson who is going to be in that meeting and will there be a Russian there? Secondly, have you had any discussions or are there any discussions about the KLA that they will not interfere with the departure of the Serbs?

Jamie Shea : Let me say that yes, we are planning to hold the meeting in that general geographical area of the globe and yes, General Jackson is the person designated by SACEUR in co-operation with the North Atlantic Council to lead those discussions. Yes, there are plans to have Russia, which has played a key role in this process, as an observer but also the representative of President Ahtisaari, his military representative, as he too has played a key role in the negotiations in Belgrade over the last couple of days. I don't know yet who is going to be turning up on the Yugoslav side, I think that will become clearer in the next few hours.

On the KLA, we have noted the statement by Mr. Thaqui yesterday, the political leader of the KLA, in which he greeted the outcome of the talks in Belgrade and promised co-operation and restraint; those are fine words and we will hold him to them. It is clearly in the interest of the UCK not to interfere with the withdrawal of the Serb forces, after all that is something which is in the interest of allowing the refugees to go back and to create peace and stability in Kosovo. Protection will be provided by the international security force. That's the whole point of having an international security force and therefore there will be no longer any role for armed groups inside Kosovo.

Craig: Jamie, has it been decided where exactly in that general geographical area the meeting tomorrow will take place?

Jamie Shea : Somewhere along the border, Craig, but I do not know the exact location.

Craig: Second question. Is there a scheduled meeting between the Russians and NATO to discuss their possible..

Jamie Shea : No, we haven't got that arranged yet but clearly as we go hopefully in the next few days towards the withdrawal of the Serb forces and towards the point at which KFOR can begin its operation, hopefully the political circumstances for that meeting to take place will be there and certainly, as I said, NATO will leave no stone unturned to make it possible for Russia to participate in the force.

Roy Gutman, Newsday: Neither in the paper Mr. Ahtisaari brought to Belgrade nor in your briefing this morning have you mentioned the role of the Hague Tribunal. They have asked for assurances that they will be allowed to come in with the forces immediately they arrive and secondly, will it come up at the meeting tomorrow because obviously there might be something that NATO has to say to the Yugoslav side?

Jamie Shea : Roy, tomorrow the focus is overwhelmingly on what has to be done first and foremost which is to get the Serb forces out, without that nothing happens so that is what we are going to be doing. Secondly, NATO leaders in the last couple of days have been making very strong statements about the need for the Tribunal to do its work and the need for those indicted by the Tribunal to face justice and thirdly, every country in the UN system has an obligation under the UN to co-operate fully with the Tribunal so I can assure you we will be facilitating the Tribunal's work and once NATO forces are inside Kosovo the Tribunal finally will be able to get on with the job - and I fear it is going to be a very difficult job - of gathering evidence for its war crimes indictments.

Pierre Julien, RTL : Le Gnral Jackson sera-t-il accompagn par d'autres officiers gnraux, officiers suprieurs, notamment franais?

Jamie Shea : La dlgation du Gnral Jackson reste dterminer Pierre, mais bien sr le Gnral Jackson n'agit pas en son nom personnel mais au nom de l'Alliance et selon les directives politiques qui lui seront donnes par le Conseil de l'Atlantique Nord.

Stephen Dierckx, VRT: Two questions, Jamie. Does the Security Council resolution have to be approved formally before the first NATO soldiers can go in and secondly, in the whole sequence of events we know when the Serbs have to withdraw but do we also know at what time the KLA has to start disarming?

Jamie Shea : Stephen, we certainly, as you know, have a subjective view on a Security Council resolution which obviously would provide a mandate among other things for the force and we are hoping to get that within a matter of days, that remains our objective but I don't want to comment on the exact timing of the deployment forces, that will be for the North Atlantic Council, as always, to decide first and foremost.

On the KLA, that is something that is going to have to be determined. Clearly, we will want, as I said in answer to Mark, the KLA to exercise restraint obviously. We would like them naturally not to try to impede the withdrawal of the Serb forces because the sooner the Serbs leave the better for everybody concerned and if they are leaving sincerely and properly, then they should not be impeded in their withdrawal and once the international security presence has been deployed then clearly that will be the time for the KLA to lay down its arms and join the political process in helping the international community to construct the future of Kosovo.

Question: Jamie, you said that the Serbian forces don't need to be escorted to withdraw because they know their way home but experience from Bosnia and from Croatia shows that they do the biggest atrocities when they withdraw. How can NATO assure the local people that those forces when they start to withdraw will not start to burn their houses?

Jamie Shea : That is because of verification. I made it clear that this is not going to be a withdrawal on trust or on credit if you like. This is going to be verified, very closely verified indeed step by step and therefore if that type of thing is happening, we will be in a position to know about it and I believe that after all of the havoc that they have caused in Kosovo those Yugoslav security forces have an interest in withdrawing very quickly indeed, the more crimes that are committed, the more people will be indicted for war crimes charges, there are already going to be enough of those around and so those commanders who are still in Kosovo should think very carefully indeed before trying to commit even further atrocities.

Question: On the KLA again, they said they are willing to co-operate but does NATO have any evidence that they will be willing to disarm? Secondly, I am hearing that they have in fact beefed-up their weapon store in recent times. Do you have any details on that and also have KFOR got some kind of plan on exactly how they will disarm them?

Jamie Shea : Yes, we do have a plan on doing that. This was something that was gone into in great detail in Rambouillet. The UCK signed the Rambouillet agreement and in that Rambouillet agreement they entered into specific commitments regarding their demilitarisation including timetables for the hand-over of weapons and as far as we are concerned that aspect of the Rambouillet agreement is still valid and we hope that the UCK sees it the same way. Secondly, once it is clear that Kosovo is at peace, is under international protection, there obviously will not be the same degree of recruitment into the UCK. Why? There would be no point any longer nor in building up stocks of weapons.

The basis of the international security presence is to take away the rationale for that kind of armed struggle which in the eyes of UCK leaders may have had its meaning when they were being repressed by Yugoslav forces but which will not have its raison d'etre once the international security presence is there. They have a range of weapons, as you would imagine, but essentially light weapons. They don't have very many heavy weapons but light weapons are harder to round up than heavy weapons, it is very difficult to hide an artillery piece but everybody can have a revolver or a Kalashnikov under their pillow but having said this, let me make clear that the robust rules of engagement of the international security presence will obviously allow them to be effective in this domain, that is the whole purpose of a robust force.

Julie: For the General and for Jamie, is there any consideration being given to the opening of a corridor so that you can see and verify and actually watch as the Serb troops move out and to minimise any misunderstanding about what may be going on?

Major General Jertz : Of course, that is all a matter of discussions which are ongoing during the next 24 hours as Jamie has already mentioned and I think this plan has to be very precise and once we see that those forces are withdrawing, we do give them a chance to withdraw.

Jamie Shea : Julie, let me add that the idea is to clearly have prescribed routes to facilitate verification as I've said.

Walter: Will KFOR wait until the last Serb soldier has left Kosovo or will it enter the region simultaneously to avoid vacuuming the region?

Jamie Shea : The idea is not to have any clash of forces as you well know. The Serb forces have to be on their way out but the exact timing has to be determined by the North Atlantic Council issuing the activation order so it is a question of a political judgement and I wouldn't like to speculate what the ambassadors will decide, that's in their hands.

Major General Jertz : And on the military side we don't want a gap of course, we don't want to have a lack of military inside for days because as was mentioned we don't want atrocities happening on the way out.

Jamie Shea : Exactly. The idea is not to leave a vacuum. The people of Kosovo have suffered enough and therefore we will be hot on the heels - let me put it that way - of the departing Yugoslav forces.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is it for this afternoon but as long as operation Allied Force continues so will our briefings and so we will see you tomorrow morning.

 

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