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Updated: 8 June 1999 Press Conferences

NATO HQ
Brussels

8 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 briefing a little later today but for reasons which will be obvious to all of you and I would like to start by saying that NATO welcomes - indeed warmly welcomes - the diplomatic breakthrough achieved by the G8 Foreign Ministers at their meeting in Bonn yesterday and today.

This breakthrough now leads the way to a solution to the crisis in Kosovo and also to a durable peace, a peace with justice for those refugees that can now start thinking about turning their tractors around and hopefully soon heading home; a peace with honour for the international community that combined military assets and diplomatic skills to stop a brutal campaign of repression and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; and a peace with hope for the peoples of the region that can now look forward to greater stability, help with reconstruction and in time full integration into the Euroatlantic community of democracies.

The draft UN Security Council resolution that has been agreed by the G8 Foreign Ministers is wholly consistent with the terms of the Ahtisaari/Chernomyrdin peace plan that was accepted already by President Milosevic and it fully endorses the objectives of the Allies that we have been pursuing since the beginning of our operation Allied Force on March 24th. We hope that that resolution as it goes to New York can be adopted soon by the UN Security Council. We also welcome the discussions by the G8 Foreign Ministers on a sequencing of actions in coming days to enable us to bring a durable end to the conflict.

The North Atlantic Council will be meeting at 5 p.m. this afternoon to be briefed by Germany, as the Chairman of the G8, on the detailed outcome of the discussions. NATO also thanks President Yeltsin and Russia for the constructive approach that has been taken, this is a co-operation that has been the basis to end the conflict, it must now also be the basis to build the lasting peace.

Of course, it is up to President Milosevic to demonstrate through his actions that he is going to keep the commitments that he has made; he has often in the past preferred to slow things down but let him now speed things up, let him hear at his back time's winged chariot drawing near, that is to say let him instruct immediately his military commanders to resume their discussions on a military technical agreement with the NATO commanders in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, General Jackson is ready and waiting and let him also make immediate preparations to withdraw his forces from Kosovo.

As we enter what we hope will be the final straight - or the home straight - in ending the crisis in Kosovo, NATO will do three things all of which are going to be key conditions for success in the next few hours and days:

First, we are going to maintain our military pressure on Yugoslavia until we see the clear indication of a complete, rapid and verifiable withdrawal of the Yugoslav forces. Today no less than yesterday, implementation is the bottom line.

Secondly, we are going to move full steam ahead on our preparations for the KFOR or Peace Implementation Force. Today, we have 16,596 NATO soldiers in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia preparing for that mission and others are arriving all the time and the North Atlantic Council is now very well advanced with the operational plan which will be provisionally approved in the very near future for that force.

Thirdly, we are going to step up our assistance to the international humanitarian relief organisations, most notably the UN High Commission for Refugees, so that we set the conditions for the refugees to be able to go home as soon as possible following the deployment of the International Security Force. NATO can help with education programmes particularly dealing with mine-awareness for the returning refugees; we can help in providing transport and logistics; and we anticipate that 50 per cent of all of the refugees will want to return very quickly and to be home well before the end of the summer so there is a great deal of work naturally that lies ahead of us in the next few days but at least following this diplomatic breakthrough by the G8 we now have a clear road map to bring the conflict to an early end and we will pursue that road map vigorously.

Now I will ask General Jertz to brief you on the ongoing military operations.

Major General Jertz : Before I report to you on the success of yesterday's military missions, I want to remind you of what NATO's air campaign is all about. Our purpose is to effect the return of the population of Kosovo to their homes quickly and safely and to set the basis for the safe return of the internally-displaced persons within Kosovo.

Before I further detail the operations of the last 24 hours, let me remind you of what I have said several times during my last briefings. The air campaign was started in March as an ultima ratio, I referred to it as diplomacy backed by force with the emphasis on using force. Now, after what Jamie just referred to about the Petersburg talks, the emphasis has now shifted back to diplomacy but still in the last 24 hours the NATO air campaign did continue with almost 660 sorties flown against strategic and technical targets. During the attacks, Serb ground-based air defences were active, anti-aircraft artillery was heavy and 6 surface-to-air missiles were fired against NATO aircraft. However, there was no Serb aircraft activity at all and all NATO aircraft returned safely.

You can see the range of the strategic targets we attacked on the slide: an early-warning site and the airfield at Bataniza and Zenica were hit; at Bataniza we attacked 3 MiG-29 aircraft dispersed on the ground, the MiG-29 being the most modern fighter in the Serb inventory thus further decreasing the combat effectiveness of Serb fixed-wing air assets plus there was a variety of other strategic targets included as seen on the next slide.

As I have told you for the last two days, our main emphasis continues to be the Serb forces on the ground inside Kosovo. Technical targets included heavy weapons, riveted positions and military vehicles. We continued to strike artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems, armoured personnel carriers and mortars in large numbers. I can say with confidence that we destroyed - not just struck - in the last 24 hours many of the targets because air crews observed numerous secondary explosions and as you know, secondary explosions occur when fuel or ammunition ignites thereby increasing the lethality of weapons used.

NATO's air forces will continue to hit military targets until appropriate agreements have been reached and we are pretty close to that. So far, there is no clear sign of movement on the ground yet which can clearly be interpreted as the beginning of a withdrawal. Having said that, ground fighting continued in Kosovo during the last 24 hours, still heaviest in the west with the Serbs maintaining their pressure on the UCK in the Junic area and near Mount Pastrik. We have reports that the Serbs are reinforcing their western units by moving armour from central Kosovo but their intentions are unknown.

Artillery fire into Albania which began increasing on 4 June continued along the entire Kosovo/Albanian border; that heavy artillery fire has caused further evacuation of Albanians from the border further into Albania to safeguard them. Though the ground activity was most intense along the western border, it wasn't confined to there; Serb and UCK forces were engaged all over Kosovo in the north, centre and south. In short, the fighting hasn't stopped yet.

NATO will continue its successful air campaign at an increasing or less-increasing intensity depending on the talks until Serb forces accede to the demands of the world community. Serb forces must withdraw from Kosovo and permit the orderly, safe and speedy return of the people they expelled form their homes, the people living in refugees camps in Albania and Macedonia, the people given shelter in other countries and the starving people fearing for their lives, hiding in the mountains and woods inside Kosovo.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Mark Laity (BBC): General Jertz, we have seen the air strikes obviously intensified over the last 24 hours. Will you confirm they are going on and are they likely to down-scale overnight given what has happened in Cologne today?

Jamie, from what we have seen of the agreement it is still quite light on details, it includes, we know, the annexe of the Chirnomyrdin/Ahtisaari agreement but that itself left many questions still open and one of them is the relationship between Russia and NATO but also it seems to leave a lot to the military technical agreement to be worked out between the generals. Is that military technical agreement definitely going to include something on the status of NATO and KFOR and maintain that NATO must be mentioned in that document rather than just merely be a withdrawal agreement?

Major General Jertz : Thank you very much, Mark, for the question which also gives me a chance to say sorry about what I said yesterday. I only had a fraction of General Jackson's statement so you were right.

On the question, I think it is too premature from the military aspect to really say how we will continue. First of all, we do have to have a look at what is written in the Petersburg paper and then of course the outcome of the military technical arrangements led by General Jackson will be the most interesting and most important part of what is going on in the near future.

Jamie Shea : I think General Jertz answered the question, Mark, but you heard the G8 Foreign Ministers' press conference just now and it is clear that nobody is doubting that the force that will enter Kosovo will be a force with a very strong NATO component, nothing has been watered down, it is going to have all of the same robust rules of engagement and command structure that we always designed - that point is now acknowledged.

As far as Russia's contribution is concerned, we hope in the next few days - it will depend on Russia - that we will be able to sit down at the working technical level, military commander to military commander, to start discussing practical modalities to associate Russia with the force. As I have said on many occasions, we would like Russia to participate, the indications are that Russia would like to as well subject to satisfactory arrangements. We are not starting from scratch, we have the Bosnian model to build on and so we are going to show flexibility and imagination to have the Russians go to Kosovo alongside us and to stay there alongside us.

Mark Laity: But can you confirm that that agreement which General Jackson is going to negotiate isn't just about the withdrawal, it must include a recognition by the Serbs of the status of NATO forces by name in the same way as you achieved in Bosnia?

Jamie Shea : In that agreement, Mark, we are going to pin down all of the things that we believe need to be pinned down before the NATO forces go in.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Just continuing on that theme, to me the statements by Madeleine Albright and Igor Ivanov seem slightly contradictory, Madeleine Albright saying that we have made it clear and it is in the appendix to the resolution that it has a NATO core and NATO will be the military leaders and Mr. Ivanov saying that all parts connected with the international security presence are to be determined through negotiation. Is NATO still having to negotiate with Russia the fact that NATO is going to be leading this international security presence and in charge of Russian troops?

Jamie Shea : Jake, of course I was not at the G8 otherwise I wouldn't be here and therefore I can't give you obviously any kind of detailed insider's account of those talks but I think what was said at the press conference makes it crystal clear that the issue of the NATO role in that force is now understood and recognised and that is what has allowed the drafting of the UN Security Council resolution to be finalised. Of course, the issue of how Russia is going to participate is something that we still have to resolve and I have answered that question already vis--vis Mark.

Jake Lynch: You must be saying that Mr. Ivanov is just plain wrong then. He said in as many words and I quote: "All the aspects connected with the international presence on security are subject to negotiations."

Jamie Shea : Well Jake, as I say, the Ministers have to speak for themselves but as far as I am concerned here the NATO role in the International Security Force is something which is as solid today as it was yesterday.

Augustin Palokaj, Koha Ditore: Jamie, you said that maybe 50 per cent of refugees can return before the end of summer. Do those refugees have to have permission from ???? Shavoyvic who said that the Serbs must stay on the border to check and to decide who can come back and who not?

General Jertz, the Albanian ambassador here at NATO said that according to some sources the Serbs are using chemical weapons in the ???? area. Do you have any evidence of that?

Jamie Shea : It is totally true that the Yugoslavs over the last few months and even days have tried to complicate the return of refugees, they have taken away their identity papers and now the refugees that were entering yesterday the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - about 450 - reported that they had been forced to renounce their citizenship and sign documents to that effect as a condition for being allowed to leave the country. Normally, you just show your passport, you don't actually have to renounce your citizenship when you want to travel abroad. Others have been forced to re-register and to lose that registration if they move from one town to the next - all last-minute tricks which will not in any way undermine the right of all refugees to return to their homes. There is a registration process which is being conducted by the UNHCR and that will be the basis for resettling people, not the last-minute bureaucratic obstacles that Belgrade is trying to put in the way of those returning refugees.

Major General Jertz : Two days ago, we had some reports about tear gas having been used on the ground but confirmation by NATO at the present time is almost impossible because we are not on the ground so I think we just have to make sure that once we are there we find out what has happened.

Jamie Shea : I believe that the use of tear gas at least in armed conflicts is a contravention of international law and existing UN treaties.

Ekrem Krasnicki, Zeri: Are the NATO countries considering already what happens after the resolution is adopted and Milosevic is going to refuse once again?

Jamie Shea : I believe that he will heed the signs of the unity of the international community behind a strong chapter 7 UN Security Council resolution in draft form coming out of Petersburg today so if President Milosevic had one option yesterday, he has one option less today, that is crystal clear. We will obviously wait to see what he chooses to do but I have said already we are not going to prematurely surrender the pressure of NATO air operations until Milosevic begins to move. He knows what he has to do, now let us see him do it.

Jean-Marc Illouz, FR2: Jamie, est-ce que la rsolution des Nations unies telle que vous l'imaginez, telle que vous le comprenez aujourd'hui permettra le recours la force en cas de refus d'obtemprer de la part du Prsident Milosevic?

Jamie Shea : Je comprends savoir que la rsolution est place sous le chapitre 7 qui est dj un facteur trs important, mais une rsolution du Conseil de Scurit des Nations unies comporte toujours l'autorit du droit international et l'autorit moral de la communaut internationale, donc il va de soi c'est un facteur de pression politique considrable en elle-mme.

Jean-Marc Illouz France 2 : Si vous permettez, d'autres rsolutions des Nations unies, mme rcemment n'ont pas t respectes par Slobodan Milosevic...

Jamie Shea : Oui.

Julie Mccarthy, National Public Radio: First of all, can you tell us what is the status of the military technical agreement talks, are they back on, do you anticipate they will be back on tonight or early tomorrow morning, are they under way now and secondly, the diplomacy that we have seen really seems to put things on a very fast track, people here at NATO are talking about things taking place in a matter of hours, 48 hours, 24 hours but General Jertz paints a picture along the Albanian border of intensifying fighting. How is that you get to the point where this peace process can actually take hold? What kinds of communications is NATO making with the KLA to make sure that this thing can proceed?

Jamie Shea : Julie, General Jertz will have his observations on this but clearly if Milosevic wants, things can go quickly, if Milosevic wants to drag these things out that is his decision but obviously he will once again pay a price in terms of the continuing NATO actions.

Clearly, General Jackson's door is open, the Yugoslav commanders know his phone number and as they have been there twice over the weekend, they are not going to lose their way along the road so let's wait and see what happens there but as you know, low-key liaison contacts have been maintained since Sunday night and so the channel of communication is clearly there when Belgrade decides but obviously if those Yugoslav military commanders go back they have to go back with instructions from the top to do serious business, no shilly-shallying as Madeleine Albright has just appropriately put it.

We also very much welcome the assurance that the political leader of the UCK, Mr. Thaci, has given to Mrs. Albright in Bonn that they will issue shortly a declaration confirming that they will co-operate with a Yugoslav military withdrawal and will not in any way try to hinder that - those are words that we take here very seriously.

Major General Jertz : There are quite a view aspects actually to your question and the first one might be that I was referring to the fighting of the last 24 hours of course and not what is going on at the present time plus I think the military commanders might not even be aware of what has happened at the G8 in Petersburg so we need to wait until they get the information and then I hope they will understand what is happening. I could also say on the military side although it is only a speculation that perhaps it is a kind of last effort to regain positions which they have not had in the past even though we are not willing too much to negotiate because the agreement has been set.

Julie Mccarthy, NPR: Is there a timing set for talks?

Jamie Shea : Julie, as I said, it only takes a call to set things up and we are ready so those talks can begin very quickly indeed. General Jackson has still got the maps spread out across the table inside his tent.

Bill Drozdiak, Washington Post: Jamie, Russia and China are insisting that there should be a bombing pause before even a debate on the Security Council resolution. Is this something that the NAC is prepared to consider as early as this afternoon or is there something also that the Secretary General could initiate himself?

Jamie Shea : Bill, I think President Clinton who I heard just a few moments ago and other Allied leaders have made it clear that we are willing to suspend operations when we see that dust on the tracks of the Serb forces withdrawing. That is still the condition for a suspension and therefore the ball is in Belgrade's court. The sooner we see those tank tracks start to move, the sooner we can consider a pause but not until. That is absolutely clear, the sequencing has been worked out and I think it is a good plan but everything hinges on Belgrade being willing to pull its forces out. That is the key that unlocks the syndrome to the solution of this conflict.

Jean-Marc: ...alors que est-ce que cette rsolution pourra faire mention de la fameuse phrase "utiliser tous les moyens ncessaires"?

Jamie Shea : Il va de soi que je n'ai pas le texte sous les yeux et vous posez des questions que vous devriez avec plus de lgitimit poser ceux Bonn qui ont ngoci ce texte, mais il y a cette fois-ci une diffrence fondamentale, alors que les rsolutions antrieures ont t votes contre Belgrade le 1160, le 1199 et le 1203, il n'y avait pas ce moment-l une action militaire internationale pour convaincre Milosevic d'obtemporer. Alors que cette fois-ci la situation est diffrente, cette rsolution avec toute l'autorit qu'elle comporte, est aussi accompagne de moyens pratiques et militaires pour la faire respecter et je crois que cette diffrence va tre dcisive.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC: Clearly, two documents need to be arrived at, one the UN text, secondly the military technical agreement but could you fill us in a little more on the sequencing of events after those documents are in place? What it sounds like from the intimations we have from Germany is that this whole process then is going to be telescoped with all the various other factors happening if not simultaneously then in very quick succession.

Jamie Shea : Jonathan, yes, there is now, as you know, a clear road map, as I said, of actions that should follow each other in a virtuous circle rather than a vicious circle, in other words rather than block each other they should lead to each other and we hope that that sequence is going to unfold but the thing that NATO will be looking for is practical implementation by Belgrade. Without that, nothing can go forward and that is why, despite the fact that we warmly welcome this very considerable diplomatic result that has been achieved today, the watchword here will be "vigilance and implementation".

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