Updated: 7 June 1999 Press Conferences


7 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. Welcome to our daily briefing. General Jertz is thankfully with me once again.

Ladies and gentlemen, before we turn to Kosovo, I would like to tell you some news from Bosnia. A few moments ago the NATO Stabilisation Force in Bosnia detained Dragan Kulundzija, who is indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia. Mr. Kulundzija is now being processed by SFOR for transfer to The Hague. We will give you further details in due course about this particular operation.

You should know that Dragan Kulundzija has been indicted in an open indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in times of war. Also for violations of the laws and customs of war and crimes against humanity. These alleged offences were all committed at a place known as the Keroterm Concentration Camp near the town of Prijador in the Republic of Bosnia Herzegovina, upon the territory of the Former Yugoslavia. Detainees at this Keroterm camp were killed, sexually assaulted, tortured, beaten and otherwise subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.

Now back to Kosovo. As you all know, the weekend meetings in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia between General Jackson representing NATO and the Yugoslav Generals did not produce an agreement. The Yugoslav authorities presented proposals that simply failed to guarantee the safe return of the refugees, the protection of all of the people of Kosovo and the complete withdrawal of the Serb forces. Those proposals were unacceptable. As we have made clear since this campaign began, there are two indivisible requirements for any suspension of the air campaign by NATO: we have to have the complete acceptance of our non-negotiable conditions and we have to have the verifiable and credible implementation of those conditions. An agreement without implementation is not an agreement.

There has been no movement towards implementation by the Yugoslav military. In fact, as General Jertz will point out, the activities of the Yugoslav military continue in Kosovo at this moment. Instead we have had some proposals from the Yugoslav side that, if accepted, would fail to guarantee the safety and security of the people of Kosovo, and these proposals are also inconsistent with the Ahtisaari/Chernomyrdin agreement that President Milosevic accepted last week. In short, President Milosevic so far has failed to keep his word. And that is why we were right, and continue to be right, to be cautious and to maintain our full vigilance.

There are always three stages in reaching an agreement with President Milosevic. The first is the agreement on principles; secondly there is the agreement on the details; and thirdly there is the full implementation. Then you know that you have an agreement.

There is now an attempt to negotiate non-negotiable conditions. We will not accept this because it is a far cry from the verifiable and credible implementation that we are looking for. The demands of the international community remain the only way to guarantee the safe return of the refugees to their homes. We know, and every Kosovar refugee repeats it every day, that the refugees will not go home while the forces responsible for the ethnic cleansing remain in Kosovo. The Kosovars will not go home until they see NATO forces arrive in Kosovo to guarantee their safety. The Kosovars will not go home until Milosevic agrees to, and acts on, our five conditions. Until such time as those five conditions are being effectively implemented, NATO's air operations are continuing and will continue.

General Jackson of course remains in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. He has lots of work to get on with in terms of preparing NATO forces to be ready for their mission to bring peace to Kosovo. And General Jackson is ready at any time to discuss with competent Yugoslav authorities the implementation of the Ahtisaari/Chernomyrdin agreements. He is ready whenever the Serbs are ready to talk real business. But he is there to discuss one thing and one thing only, implementation; not a reopening of what Milosevic has agreed to, but simply how we are going to implement it effectively and rapidly.

With that I will ask General Jertz to give you the last 24 hours military operational update.

Major General Jertz: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start repeating the words General Jackson finished his public announcement with last night. He ended his statement by saying that the air campaign will continue, and he is right.

Yesterday NATO flew over 480 sorties against strategic and tactical targets in and around Kosovo and in Serbia proper. We struck a wide variety of tactical military targets, including a command post, an early warning site, a radar relay site and ammunition storage facility. And as I told you yesterday, our main emphasis again was to hit Serb forces on the ground. Targets included artillery pieces and mortar positions, plus armoured personnel carriers and other armoured vehicles. We also struck two battalion-sized staging areas. Even so, detailed battle damage is still ongoing. First reports indicate that Serb ground forces in Kosovo had to suffer some heavy losses, especially on artillery pieces and armoured personnel carriers.

NATO's air campaign will continue until implementation of a withdrawal agreement. As yet however there is no military agreement to withdraw, much less actual movement of Serb forces out of Kosovo.

The ground fighting continued in Kosovo, still heaviest in the west along the Albanian Kosovo border. Two main areas of conflict remain: in the Mount Pastrik vicinity and to the north of Mount Pastrik around the Junik area. The artillery firing into Albania continues in the Mount Pastrik area and from positions near Junik, in fact just a little over along the Kosovo Albanian border, forcing Albanian people to leave their homes, another clear sign that Serb military forces do not bother about civilian casualties. Elsewhere in Kosovo we have evidence of clashes between Serb and UCK forces in south and central Kosovo, especially near Oralovac.

Air defence activity, including anti-aircraft artillery and radars, was light again. There was no Serb aircraft flying activity at all and two surface to air missiles were fired against NATO aircraft. But once again, all NATO aircraft returned safely. Even so I have learnt yesterday in the discussions with General Jackson that the Serb Generals, having participated in the meeting, still claim now 75 NATO aircraft having been shot down, and they tend to believe it. As you can see, the fighting isn't over yet.

Let me share some more thoughts with you. Serb forces will not halt their operations until their senior commanders give them the order. But bear in mind, the senior commanders report to the political leadership in Belgrade. Only Milosevic can end the continuing destruction of his military and special forces, those forces carrying out the brutalities in Kosovo.

The air campaign will not end until Serb forces begin a verifiable and credible withdrawal from Kosovo. NATO will continue its successful air campaign, the most precise, persistent air campaign in history, until Serb forces begin to follow their leaders' words with actions. NATO's arsenal is extensive and it is flexible. Yesterday we managed to divert heavy bombers from their original targets to strike Serbian positions along the Kosovo-Albanian border. Shortly after we detected numerous Serb troops in fighting action on the ground. We are capable to increase the number of strikes. We can hit Serb targets even harder and more often than we have done to date.

This concludes my portion of the briefing. Thank you very much.

Question: Jamie, can you elaborate a little bit on the plans the Serbs submitted to General Jackson in his meetings there?

Jamie Shea : I don't want to get into the details of this, particularly as of course it is our hope and expectation that these military-to-military discussions will resume in the very near future. But let me just say that the Serb side did not accept the sequencing of activities, as proposed by NATO, a sequencing which in our view represents the only way to ensure that the Serb forces leave, an international security force is rapidly thereafter deployed and the refugees are able to return home right away. Secondly, the Serb Generals claim that they were empowered only to discuss certain aspects of the military-to-military agreement and not other aspects and they stalled on many other points of detail as well. So it is not clear that they were really interested on that occasion in genuinely seeking an agreement.

Question: Did the Council today discuss the question of ground troops?

Jamie Shea : No. If you mean by that ground troops in terms of a new option - no.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: You said the other day that when the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting was initially postponed, you said don't conclude from that that nothing is going on because G8 Political Directors continue to meet. I am wondering if you have received any indication that those Political Directors have managed to prepare anything to put to the Foreign Ministers which bridges the gap in the codicil to the document accepted in Belgrade last week, the difference of understanding between Russia and NATO as to the precise command and control structure governing those respective troop contingents.

Jamie Shea : Jake, it is obviously very positive that the Foreign Minister of Russia, Mr. Ivanov, has arrived in Bonn and is attending those talks now. They are starting, as you know, over lunch but I don't know naturally what the outcome of the discussions is yet, we will learn that later when they have their press conferences. But we hope, of course, to bridge the remaining gaps in terms of how NATO and Russia can cooperate in a peacekeeping force, even though I believe the technical details will be worked out at the military-to-military level and then obviously at the level of the North Atlantic Council here. But I think the main order of business is of course the discussions on the UN Security Council resolution where again we very much hope that the G8 is going to make progress. But of course I can't talk for them, they will be speaking for themselves later today.

Jake: You have expressed some puzzlement as to what can be motivating the Serbs to drag this out. Isn't it clear that until those details are nailed down, the analysis in Belgrade will remain that something might be there to be gained, and therefore until the text of a UN resolution is finalised, you can't really expect to get a deal with the military technical talks?

Jamie Shea : Jake, they in Belgrade have to calculate their cost benefit ratio too you know, and they realise that as long as they don't agree and start pulling out their forces, NATO air operations are going to continue, and that means that every day that that happens, as General Jertz has said, they are going to lose another percentage point or two of their armed forces. And so believe me, the costs are also very real ones for Belgrade in continuing to postpone what is going to have to take place in any case sooner rather than later.

Craig: What was the sense of the Council meeting today on expanding and intensifying the air campaign, particularly in areas like Belgrade?

Jamie Shea : The sense is that as far as the air campaign is concerned there is no reason to suspend it, of course not, at the moment the conditions for that have not been met, and that we are going to keep it up, we are going to keep up significant military pressure on Milosevic so that he has a chance to rethink again the strategy of not following through on what he has agreed. At the same time, NATO countries, obviously with the G8 as well going on, will be meeting to seek a pragmatic way through this current difficulty which we hope will be a little local difficulty and not a major sticking point. We still believe that we have come a very, very, very long way in the last 75 days. We haven't got as far as we have got only to trip up at the final hurdle.

Dimitri Khavine, Russian Line: Did any contacts appear in the last days between the Russians and NATO and also there are some sources saying that at the end of the previous week the Secretary General met Andre Kozarev, a former Foreign Minister. What was this meeting about and was it related somehow to the Russian role in this crisis?

Jamie Shea : No. The meeting did take place, Dimitri, it was over the weekend, it was a totally private meeting - I insist on that, private - they are old friends from the days when they were both Foreign Ministers and it was to discuss really general European security issues but Mr. Kozarev was not there in any official capacity and I am not aware yet of any contacts between NATO and Russia at the working level to discuss the participation of Russia in the Peace Implementation Force but we will get to that, I hope, in the near future.

Mark Laity, BBC: General Jertz, you talked about General Jackson saying the air campaign will continue. I believe actually he said it would continue and intensify. I know you have given us the last 24 hours, can you talk about whether air operations, as was alluded to this morning, are actually going back to their prior intensity, have there been more air strikes, are they spreading beyond Kosovo more than they were and are you planning to get up to and to exceed your previous levels of intensity, 700-plus sorties, 350 air strikes?

Jamie, there is a lot of sense that the Russians are separating somewhat from NATO now, that they are insisting on a bombing pause before the Security Council resolution and that this is going to be one of the main stumbling blocks in the G8. Can you comment on that?

Major General Jertz : On the first question, Mark, I like you very much but I have it in front of me. It says: "meanwhile, the air campaign will continue." If somebody cut something away then of course I have to apologise but other than that, no, General Jackson did not talk about intensification. What I said was that we are capable and of course, to be very honest, the numbers already did go up and I think in the last few days I already told you that we will beef-up again just to make sure that a whole range of targets - even though I am not going into more details on that - will be struck like we did in the past.

Mark Laity: Beyond Kosovo as well?

Major General Jertz : We already did it in the last 24 hours as you will realise.

Jamie Shea : Mark, I am not aware that Russia has introduced any new positions in addition to the longstanding views of Russia which are well known and as you know, one of the purposes of the G8 meeting today is to continue to work with Russia on these issues and to try to come to a common viewpoint, particularly in view of the need to pass a UN Security Council resolution to the extent that it is possible as soon as possible and therefore we will see what happens at the G8 but I wouldn't like to second-guess the outcome of those talks.

Jean-Marc Ilouz, France 2: Jamie, the sounds from Blace and then from Kumanovo sounded pretty positive until a Russian defence attache walked in apparently and some sources are saying that it sort of changed the atmosphere so can you tell us more about why the NATO people in Kumanovo sounded so hopeful and so positive and suddenly there was a breakdown? Is that related to a message delivered by the Russian envoy or observer?

Jamie Shea : It is clear, Jean Marc, that if there was yesterday a breakdown of the talks it was because of Milosevic, it is clear that is where the responsibility lies. There was a Russian participant as an observer but no more than as an observer in those talks.

Patricia Kelly, CNN: Jamie, in the absence of a UN resolution but if there is a withdrawal, would NATO troops go in without a resolution and if some countries don't like that idea; could they be transferred to national command and go into Kosovo under national command instead of NATO command?

Jamie Shea : A lot of speculative questions there and you know what spokesmen always answer to speculative questions, two things: first of all, we are working very hard to get a UN Security Council resolution, all Allies are participating in that effort, all Allies want a UN Security Council resolution; secondly, we are working very hard to prepare for the Peace Implementation Force to be ready for deployment as soon as possible and we are going to continue on those two tracks for the time being and do our best to make them come together.

John: Jamie, you seem to be blaming Milosevic for the breakdown. What do you think he is up to and have there been any talks since the breakdown in the early hours of the morning to try to get the process moving again?

Jamie Shea : I wish he would convene a press conference so that you could go and ask him that question by a live link from NATO headquarters even because it would be good to know. He does have a habit, as you know, of agreeing to principles which he then tries to work back as it were on the details, that is why we have said right from the word "go" that we had to be vigilant, that we weren't going to count any chickens around this place before they had all hatched because we do have that experience with Milosevic over several years.

The message from NATO last week was one of great caution, as you well remember, because we stressed that we would only believe it when we saw the implementation moving ahead but what we are going to do is do what we have always done on this occasion, we are going to be firm, we are going to be consistent, we are going to be constructive, we are not going to, if you like, see this as a set-back, we are going to see this as another reason for redoubling our pressure on Milosevic and redoubling our vigilance and when he sees that this stratagem is going to be no more successful than his previous stratagem of resisting the five conditions, then I believe we will be moving ahead so this is a time of cool resolve and that is the message from NATO headquarters.

John: And have there been any contacts since the early hours?

Jamie Shea : We have established, as I said earlier, a liaison mechanism which, if you like, is a way of keeping in touch at a low working level to see if the Yugoslavs have anything to tell us, to provide any clarifications that they may still need. This doesn't mean meetings as such, it just means contacts from time to time and exchanging telephone numbers so if the Yugoslavs are having second thoughts believe me they know which number to ring.

Dominique Thierry, RFI: Jamie deux questions dont l'une qui vous a t pose ces deux derniers jours sur lequel je voudrais revenir la lumire des vnements de la nuit dernire. L'OTAN n'a-t-elle pas baiss sa garde trop rapidement, n'a-t-elle pas diminu l'intensit des bombardements trop rapidement et ainsi a permis a Milosevic ce coup de pied de l'ne, si vous me permettez l'expression. Deuxime chose est-ce que le Conseil aujourd'hui a voqu les rgles d'opration et d'engagement de la KFOR?

Jamie Shea : Si vous tes un soldat serbe au Kosovo aprs ce que le Gnral Jertz vient de dcrire, je ne pense pas que vous auriez subi a comme une dclration ou une dsintensification des oprations, loin de l. Hier, par exemple, une bonne cinquantaine de vhicules blinds des forces armes yougoslaves au Kosovo ont t frapps par l'OTAN, donc journe noire sur le plan militaire pour le Prsident Milosevic hier. Maintenant en ce qui concerne le plan oprationnel : le plan oprationnel doit tre approuv peu prs maintenant l'heure o je vous parle par le Comit militaire, soumis pour approbation rapide au Conseil Atlantique avec les rgles d'engagement, et s'agira d'une approbation provisoire par le Conseil, l'approbation finale intervenant au moment o les forces sont effectivement dployes au Kosovo mme, mais tout a suit son chemin, le Comit militaire ayant planch au cours du weekend est trs proche maintenant d'un accord et s'il y a un accord au Comit militaire, l'accord au Conseil Atlantique suit en gnral rapidement.

Question: General Jertz, how is the situation inside Kosovo? Do you have any more information about the looting or the preparations of the Serbian forces to leave?

Jamie, some Serbian representatives are saying that the army is still afraid of the reaction of the KLA when they start to withdraw. Did General Jackson start already to have contact with the KLA about that issue?

Major General Jertz : In the last 24 hours we had no further indications of looting but I think I still owe you the answer to a question somebody asked me yesterday about the looting I was discussing. This happened in the Pristina area where two buses of VJ infantry have been seen going into Pristina and the same troops returned later with trucks and other vehicles and those trucks and vehicles were loaded with stolen goods so we know what happened at least two days ago but in the last 24 hours, as I have already, there have been no further indications.

Jamie Shea : Certainly, we know that the Kosovo Liberation Army is continuing to fight the Yugoslavs intensively despite the losses that they have sustained. For example, near Orohovac or around Lake Radonjico, near Decane and in the area between Javaliska and Kraljani there is active fighting going on and we know that the UCK have had some success in retaking certain areas around Suvereko and delivering ammunition to one of their key strongholds at Malebreso so they are far from a spent force that is clear.

If the Yugoslav soldiers really fear the KLA, that is a good reason for agreeing to the detailed implementation with General Jackson because to the extent they withdraw in an organised way along specific routes, they are less likely to be attacked. If the Yugoslavs are using this as an excuse to delay or not to withdraw, it is not an excuse that is going to work with the NATO side and once again, as I have said on previous occasions, the KLA share the objective of having the Serb forces leave Kosovo, they have every interest in not trying to stop or delay or impede that but to see those forces leave as quickly as possible and we are counting on their restraint in that connection.

Same Questioner: You said before that they have also to act under the instructions of General Jackson when KFOR start to enter so did KFOR already establish any kind of contact with the leadership of KLA?

Jamie Shea : Not to my knowledge but there have been several contacts between UCK leaders like Mr. Thaqi and Alliance governments on a bilateral basis and the statements that I have heard in the last few days from Mr. Thaqi and Mr. Krasniki seem to suggest to me that they have received those messages from Allied governments.

Bill: Jamie, you mentioned that a major problem seems to be in the sequence, that is the withdrawal of the Serb troops and the entry of NATO troops but there are some reports saying that the Serbs want to keep as many as 15,000 forces in Kosovo. Can you clear up the confusion as to what their new demands are in terms of renegotiating NATO's principles?

Jamie Shea : Bill, I am not going to go into the details of that, I don't think at this stage it would be helpful but the Serbs clearly know, whatever they may suggest, that they are not going to be allowed to keep forces in Kosovo above the level specified to them by General Jackson which is a small level, we are talking about a few hundred and not the levels of last October which were a disproportionately high level and anything that goes beyond what General Jackson has specified would be a Serb policeman or a Serb soldier too many for the refugees to have the confidence to go back home. Robin Cook used the expression today "a non-starter" and I am quite happy to echo that comment.

Major General Jertz : Let me add another word. The numbers General Jackson mentioned - and Jamie just did it - were the ones which had been used in the Serb parliament and this was agreed as we all know so the other numbers could not be discussed at the present time and should not be discussed.

Doug Hamilton, Reuters: I would like to go back to the idea that you hope that this might be a little local difficulty as you said. If General Jackson is speaking to people who still believe that 75 NATO planes have been shot down perhaps he is speaking to the wrong people. Has NATO got any plans to go to Belgrade and speak to Drago Juolbanic or indeed Slobodan Milosevic and ask him for a "yes or no" answer and get one from him?

Jamie Shea : No, we have no plans at the moment, Doug. It is very clear what has to be done. These generals will sign what Milosevic tells them to sign and therefore we will wait. As I said, the door is open for Milosevic to rethink the position because in the meantime NATO air operations are going to continue. We are very tenacious, we have not come, as I said, this far to stumble at the final hurdle and therefore we will wait for those generals to appear again but this time more prepared to do business than was the case over the past weekend.

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