by Mr Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman
and Major General Walter Jertz, SHAPE
Jamie Shea : Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon
to you all, welcome to today's briefing.
As you all know, the eyes of the world, and also the eyes of NATO headquarters,
are currently focused on General Jackson's tent in Kumanovo as you await,
and we indeed await, the outcome of his discussions there with the Yugoslav
Commanders. Those discussions, as you know, picked up again just about
one hour ago, so we will see what progress is achieved.
General Jackson has a difficult job to nail down the details of the
Serb military withdrawal, but he is not only a tough General, he is also
a very tough interlocutor and he has very clear guidance from the North
Atlantic Council as to the type of agreement that he is to achieve. And
knowing General Jackson, he will stick at it until such time as he has
an agreement which meets his military requirements and is to his satisfaction.
So we remain, as these talks resume, cautiously optimistic. But as we
are dealing with Belgrade, we will also be optimistically cautious until
we see what the results are going to be. But I hope that President Milosevic
will seize this opportunity to make peace, because every day that President
Milosevic continues to procrastinate and to prevaricate is another day
during which the Yugoslav Army in Kosovo continues to suffer heavy losses
at the hands of NATO forces.
Now as you know, it has been just about a week since Milosevic agreed
to the Ahtisaari-Chernomyrdin peace plan. So in other words he has had
a week during which he could have made that peace real. And during this
time he has lost 29 tanks, 93 armoured personnel carriers, 209 field artillery
pieces, 11 air defence artillery positions, 86 mortars and innumerable
prepared positions and support vehicles, and these are the sort of losses
that no army can suffer for long and remain operational.
But more importantly than that, during those past 7 days during which
Milosevic accepted peace and could have had peace, we have obviously witnessed
the loss of many Yugoslav soldiers. We don't know how many, but they did
not need to have either been killed or been injured, they could be now
today back in their homes in Serbia had Milosevic followed up on his promises
immediately and agreed to withdraw his forces, without talking either
of the misery of the Yugoslav people that continue to suffer because Milosevic
has not yet signed on the dotted line.
So it is not NATO which is prolonging the air operations beyond the
point at which we would like to have suspended them, it is Milosevic.
So I hope now, as these talks resume in General Jackson's tent, that President
Milosevic will finally put his people first and not his politics or his
prestige, and that he will instruct, or will have instructed, his military
commanders to conclude the Military Technical Agreement now. Peace is
on offer today. The NATO Allies are doing everything in their power, both
diplomatically and militarily, to make that peace happen. But as we all
know, it takes two to tango.
At the same time, the build-up of the Kfor forces in the former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia continue. We now have 17,500 troops in the Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under the operational command of General
Jackson. Over 800 arrived in the last 24 hours and we expect a similar
number to arrive in the next 24 hours. This afternoon, as I speak, NATO
Allies are meeting with those partner countries of NATO which have offered
to participate in this operation alongside us in a broad coalition for
peace and we will be discussing with them the updated operational plan
for Operation Joint Guardian, and subsequent to that consultation the
North Atlantic Council, the 19 NATO countries will meet again to approve
the operational plan and to issue the Activation Order for the remaining
forces to be rapidly deployed to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
in preparation for deployment to Kosovo. But I stress that a further decision
by the North Atlantic Council will be required before the deployment in
Kosovo itself goes ahead.
So, ladies and gentlemen, we at NATO are getting on with it. We are
moving ahead speedily. I can only hope that Belgrade will follow our example.
Now I would ask General Jertz to give you his military update.
Major General Jertz : Thank you very much Jamie. Good
afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Acknowledging the meeting in Kumanovo,
NATO flew more than 500 sorties in the last 24 hours against a very limited
number of strategic targets and with some more emphasis against tactical
Today I would like to start with air events. Serb air defence radars
were active yesterday, but only one surface to air missile was fired.
For the first time in the last days we observed also flying activity,
limited to a flight of 3 helicopters assessed to be probably logistics
related. Two strategic targets were attacked: a supply depot, as depicted
on the slide, and an early warning site at Kapa Junik, just outside the
northern tip of Kosovo.
Yesterday I mentioned that during our strike on Batajnica Airfield,
NATO hit 3 MiG 29 aircraft which of course now you can add to the summary
of Jamie's numbers. Subsequently there was battle damage analysis indicating
that all three MiG 29s were really destroyed, leaving the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia with only 2 out of 16 most modern fixed wing assets. Once
again, I am happy to say that all manned NATO aircraft returned safely.
Let me now turn to NATO's air operations against ground troops. As in
the past, our main emphasis continues to be on attacks against Serb forces
in Kosovo. The whole spectrum of military targets, including heavy weapons,
military vehicles, tanks and so on, was struck.
Ground fighting in Kosovo is still ongoing in the west. Serbs remain
engaged with the UCK in the Junik area in the vicinity of Kosare and near
Mount Pastrik. Once again reports indicate that artillery was firing into
Albania along the Kosovo Albanian border.
Some VJ operations were also reported in other parts of Kosovo on a
small scale, especially the change of Serb military activities in the
northern and central part of Kosovo we do interpret as preparatory signs
As mentioned before, fighting was heavier in the west with the emphasis
on the usage of artillery. Artillery fire is often used by ground troops
to assist in breaking contact with close-in enemy forces. With the assistance
of artillery one can discourage opposing forces from closing in. This
could also very well be another sign for preparation of withdrawal.
Yesterday I noted the movement of armoured units in central Kosovo and
that the intentions are well known, as you might remember. We now believe
that they are used to secure lines of communication for withdrawing troops.
I have also previously mentioned reports of heavy looting in Pristina.
Today unfortunately I have to elaborate on this statement again. We have
more recent and credible reports that looting in Pristina and in the area
is still ongoing, taking windows and doors off houses. We do have experience
of those actions in Bosnia where we observed that immediately prior to
departure of forces, these forces literally steal whatever they can. There
is also evidence of home burnings in central Kosovo. This also could very
well be a final message in their wake.
With these thoughts, which everybody should think about, I finish my
briefing of today.
Jonathan Marcus, BBC: Two questions. Firstly, can you
give us any more information on the preliminary signs of preparations
for withdrawal? There are reports from Yugoslav sources about MUP units
already beginning to leave the province. And secondly, could you explain,
is there in effect part of the negotiation in Kumanovo to be a sort of
dove-tailing of KFOR's entry with the departure of Yugoslav forces, or
are the Yugoslav forces going to be expected to have to quit the province
altogether before the first NATO-led troops move in?
Jamie Shea : On those two questions, General Jertz
of course will also have his comments. But I can tell you that yes we
have noticed that in certain areas the Serb forces have slowed down their
operations in recent days and have begun grouping for what may be a withdrawal.
We have also seen some signs of some vehicles being sent in, for example
military transporters heading south from Nis apparently in southern Serbia
to the northern part of Kosovo. That again could be a sign of units that
are preparing to sort of pack up, strike their tents as it were and begin
to withdraw. But again I think we have to be cautious about this because
one transporter doesn't make a withdrawal, any more than one swallow makes
a summer. But we are going to monitor those signs very, very carefully.
As far as the tent at Kumanovo is concerned, we are going to be very
clear on this. General Jackson, as you know, has very clear instructions
and that is to tell the Serb commanders that Kfor will be coming in at
the earliest possible opportunity once the Serb forces withdraw. We are
not going to wait until the last soldier has left and switched off the
lights as it were, because the whole purpose of Kfor is to make sure that
no vacuum ensues between the departing Serbs and the arriving NATO troops.
The people of Kosovo have suffered long enough and we want to make sure
that they get the assistance as quickly as possible. So there may be,
if you like, in geographical terms a little gap between the last boot
of the Serb soldier and the first boot of the NATO soldier, but it will
be a fairly short gap.
General Jertz, anything to add there?
Major General Jertz : Actually only once again, which
I already pointed out, that the two brigades moving from the central part
into the western part, they more or less stopped and we are pretty sure
now that they are the ones who really have to secure the lines of communications,
especially for those forces which are still heavily engaged in the fighting
in the western part. And they of course, as I already indicated in what
I said about the artillery, for a military man it is very difficult to
get away from when you are in close-in fighting, so you need some coverage
which of course these forces do give.
Question: If the Serbs start the withdrawal before
signing the Military Technical Agreement, will it be enough to stop the
Jamie Shea : Well we want this military agreement.
As I have always said, it is not enough for the Serbs simply to withdraw
some units or say they are withdrawing. We have to know if it is going
to be a full verified withdrawal and we can only do that by having an
agreement which organises this in a way that makes sense, from a military
point of view, and which we can verify. Otherwise how would we ever know,
in the absence of this Military Technical Agreement, if the Serbs had
withdrawn half their forces, or two-thirds, or three-quarters, and who
would have stayed behind? The fact is that the Serbs have 40,000 troops.
These forces are broken down into all different kinds of formations, military,
military police, police, paramilitary, anti-terrorist units, border guards.
There is a lot of it about and therefore we want to make certain that
all go and this requires an organised way, in four phases, dealing with
geographical areas with a certain timing, following clear assembly points
and clear routes. Otherwise we wouldn't have the guarantee that this was
a real withdrawal and therefore the conditions for the cessation of NATO
air strikes would not be there either.
Patricia Kelly, CNN: We are getting wire reports crossing
from Germany that one of the German generals has said NATO air strikes
have effectively been suspended and have effectively stopped. Can you
Major General Jertz : Do you want a German to be a
asked or a Britisher?
Patricia: Can you confirm it or not?
Major General Jertz : I have no reports on it and
I already told you that in the last 24 hours we continued our attacks
and when I left SHAPE we were still fighting.
Jamie Shea : You will remember Mark Twain about "Reports
of my death have been greatly exaggerated!" That decision would have to
be taken by the North Atlantic Council, Patricia, and it hasn't been taken
Mark Laity, BBC: If the Serbs withdraw but don't sign
an agreement, are you actually hitting units as they withdraw because
it is possible that the Serbs, rather than recognise the status of NATO
forces coming in, may prefer to pull out as far as they can leaving KFOR
in its uncomfortable legal position so would you actually hit these forces
as they withdraw if there has been no agreement?
Secondly, is there going to be any compromise on the bombing pause which
would follow from that?
Jamie Shea : Mark, we cannot do anything to give any
guarantees to the departing Serb forces in the absence of a military technical
agreement, the whole purpose of this military technical agreement is to
organise this in a way that NATO can have confidence in it. In the absence
of this military technical agreement, NATO would not have confidence in
any Serb withdrawal which we could not effectively verify and which we
could not ascertain to be complete or incomplete and so it is clearly
in the Serb interest in terms of ensuring the safest possible withdrawal
of their forces, that they conclude this technical military agreement
with the Alliance.
Major General Jertz : But we will make sure that we
will not attack military forces withdrawing, this will be for sure and
we have to make sure that whatever is agreed upon in the military technical
agreement, that Serb forces stick to what they promise they will do.
Mark Laity, BBC: The point I am making is that if the
Serbs, who are unwilling to sign aspects of this agreement - for instance
recognising KFOR's right to be there - if they just start pulling out
anyway rather than sign the agreement, will you bomb them?
Jamie Shea : Mark, first of all, NATO does not attack
retreating forces, General Jertz has made that clear, but on the other
hand we cannot give guarantees to Serb forces involved in a withdrawal
in the absence of a military technical agreement which would make clear
to us what is going on and as for the legal basis of the International
Security Force, that is now very well-defined in a UN Security Council
resolution which we hope to have voted on very soon.
Gyorgy Foris, Hungarian TV: Have you received any commitment
from the UCK, formally or informally, that they will not abuse the possibility
of any kind of security vacuum? I know that you warned the UCK several
times not to abuse the situation but I wondered if you had any feedback?
Secondly, do you have any fresh information which questions hostage this
famous talk in that tent in Macedonia?
Jamie Shea : Gyorgy, you have seen statements by the
Political Head of the UCK, Mr. Thaqi, in recent days saying that the UCK
will indeed issue a declaration soon on its willingness to exercise restraint
and co-operate with the Alliance in the withdrawal of the Serb forces.
We welcome that and we would like to see that declaration of course be
made as soon as possible. On the other topic, no, I am not going to get
into the nitty gritty of what is being discussed particularly while the
talks are still going on but as I said, General Jackson has clear guidelines,
he is not there to negotiate and he is going to stick at it until we get
an agreement satisfactory to us.
Antonio Esteves Martins, RTP : Question to both of
you. Can you confirm that there has been extended the delay of the withdrawal
of the Serbian troops by five or six days once the material has been put
on the ground in some circumstances if it is difficult and how it is going
to work? You said there should be no vacuum in the area so we suppose
that KFOR will get in as soon as the United Nations Security Council resolution
so is there any plan for troops to go into places like Pristina and in
the north by helicopter or something else just to ensure that the withdrawal
of the troops will go swiftly? And do you expect NATO troops or UN-led
NATO troops to be in Kosovo at the same time when Serbian troops are still
on the field?
Jamie Shea : Antonio, as I indicated earlier, yes,
I would expect the first elements of the NATO force to go in while the
Serbs are still withdrawing, that as I said earlier in reply to a previous
question is a way to avoid leaving any kind of dangerous vacuum and that
is why we need a military technical agreement so that all of this is clearly
spelled out and there are no misunderstandings on either side later in
that respect. General Jackson is working on a plan at the moment for a
withdrawal in phases broken down into geographical areas which ensures
that it is orderly and it is done in a way which will be totally consistent
with the early deployment of KFOR and yes, General Jackson has his own
plans to set up an advanced headquarters in Pristina immediately after
the UN Security Council resolution has been voted on and the North Atlantic
Council has issued the activation order for the deployment of the force
with the rest following on behind.
I said already, Antonio, on this subject that if it is a question of
24 hours here or 24 hours there, we can look at that but at the moment,
as there is no agreement yet from Kumanovo, there is no agreement on this
point either. The key for us is the fundamentals which are that the Serb
forces all have to leave and in an organised, verifiable way and NATO
has to come in - that is key and if it is a question of 24 hours, then
we can look at that as long as nobody tries to unravel the basic fundamentals.
Doug Hamilton, Reuters: The Chief of Staff of the German
Armed Forces, General Hans Peter von Kirkbach, has said that NATO air
strikes are effectively halted. Have you issued orders to pilots to no
longer go after troops, is that what you mean by "technical" targets only
Jamie Shea : Doug, this question has already come
up with all due respect and we have answered it. Air operations continue,
nobody has taken any decision to halt them or suspend them yet because
we haven't yet seen any withdrawal of the Serb forces.
Question: Jamie, you said before that KFOR forces in
Macedonia are for the Kosovo mission, but the NATO troops in Albania are
not, but now we are seeing some reports that American soldiers can enter
Kosovo from the Albanian part, so is it necessary to have a special decision
for that or can they go in within the mandate of KFOR with the same purpose?
Jamie Shea : It can all be part of the same mandate,
I don't think there is any difficulty there of a legal or any other nature.
I saw that the Pentagon yesterday said that about 1,700 troops assigned
to Task Force Hawk could be assigned to KFOR with I believe 8 Apaches,
at least that is what I saw in the open press sources. You will obviously
have to verify that with the US government but that is a very welcome
contribution and what we expect to be a substantial contribution from
Same Questioner: Will they enter Kosovo from Albania
or do they have to go first from Albania to Macedonia?
Jamie Shea : No, I think that the United States would
have all of the means required to get them into Kosovo from Albania but
that is a detail that should be addressed to the Pentagon rather than
here but as I say, it is a detail.
Craig Whitney, New York Times: General Jertz, as you
know we hang on your every word and you said all "manned" NATO aircraft
returned safely. Does that mean that a drone or something did not come
Major General Jertz : Good question! Thank you very
much! Yes, we lost one drone in the last 24 hours.
Jamie Shea : Craig, we were hoping after 78 days that
you would be less alert than ourselves but clearly the contrary is true!
Jake Lynch, Sky News: The Secretary of State, Madeleine
Albright, said last night there were still difficulties between NATO and
the Russians over the understanding as to how they would fit it or how
they would be "folded in", to use a phase that some people have been using
here so what is your understanding of the nature of those difficulties?
Secondly, you said yesterday that there would be a process whereby the
G8 draft would be put into blue ink to be in a format where it could be
passed to the United Nations. So far as you know, is that process going
to address this vague phrase in the G8 draft about "taking the Rambouillet
text fully into account", otherwise what does it mean?
Jamie Shea : Jake, as you know, Strobe Talbott is
going to Russia tomorrow and he has some military advisers who will already
be there today; they will be sitting down with the Russians both politically
and militarily to start having an initial first round on the modalities
whereby Russian forces could be associated with KFOR. The Russians will
see that we are flexible, we are imaginative, that we will be looking
at ways to co-ordinate with them in a force which would preserve of course
the essential command arrangements on the NATO side but also take into
account the specificities of Russia.
I know that I repeat this ad nauseum but we have a very effective model
which has worked well in Bosnia to look at even it may be changed - who
knows? - but at least it is something to guide those talks so we haven't
wasted any time. You had the G8 breakthrough on one day, Tuesday, and
then on Thursday you have these talks already beginning so we are going
very quickly there.
As far as the G8 draft for the UN Security Council resolution is concerned,
it is our understanding that we will endeavour to get that through without
any changes of the text and we hope that will be possible so it means
what it means which is that when we get to the stage once we have solved
the humanitarian crisis, that we can begin to look at the political future
of Kosovo, there will be a lot in Rambouillet that will still be valid
and we won't have to start from scratch. Parts of Rambouillet of course
will have been overtaken by events but parts of it will still be useful
and therefore there is no need to go back to square on there.
Julie McCarthy, National Public Radio: General, you
talked about "artillery fire". Could you elaborate some more on that?
Where are you seeing that and where are you seeing it as a possible cover
for withdrawal and how does that work? Jamie, you mentioned that General
Jackson had a plan that maps out Kosovo along geographical lines; can
you confirm for us that there are actually five sectors and that the forces
will deploy into five sectors based on countries?
Major General Jertz : Especially in the area of Mount
Pastrik and the Junic area I already mentioned in the last few days that
there is heavy fighting between the UCK and the VJ and here we have had
indications in the last few days that VJ artillery had been coming closer
to this border, using the artillery not only to shell Albania for whatever
reason - maybe they want to have Albania drawn into the fight which would
be a little late now - but they do shell the UCK with heavy artillery
to give a kind of a shelter so that their own tanks and troops can move
back again and that is why we think it is a kind of withdrawal rather
than an indication of heavier fighting.
Jamie Shea : Julie, let's be clear! I was talking
about General Jackson's plan for the phased withdrawal of the Serb forces
from Kosovo so that it can be done in waves in an organised, verifiable
way. That is totally different from the five sectors which are planned
for the KFOR within the principle of the unity of command. OK, we'll take
the last question - honneur la France.
Dominique Thierry RFI: J'essaie de la reprsenter dignement!
Une question - toujours sur ces 4 phases de retrait. Si je comprends bien,
vous allez annoncer qu'il y aura un dploiement avanc du quartier gnral
du Gnral Jackson sur Pristina au moment o les troupes continuent
se retirer. Est-ce que cela veut dire que lors de l'enchanement de ces
4 phases de retrait, des troupes de la KFOR seront dj installes des
points de contrle pour vrifier le passage des soldats serbes?
Jamie Shea : La vrification on l'imagine plutt par
des voies ariennes, de l'observation arienne, de raison de plus pour
que nous assistions sur le retrait immdiat des systmes de dfense anti-arienne
yougoslave, mais si vous voulez, la coordination entre le dpart des serbes
et l'arrive des forces de l'OTAN souligne une fois de plus la ncessit
d'un accord militaro-technique qui, croyez-moi, est dans le profond intrt
des deux parties - des deux parties - et c'est pour cette raison que le
Gnral Jackson a insist.
Major General Jertz : It isn't Jamie who has the last
word but he can still have it once I have finished (laughter) It is written
in German and I have to translate it even though it is a very short sentence.
The German general said it but he didn't mean it (laughter) To be honest
he said: "It is pretty close to being finished" and he said it in German:
"Luftangriffe sind factisch eingestellt!" - air raids are factually finished.
Factually! Is that a good word?
Jamie Shea : Practically.
Major General Jertz : Practically, yes, but of course,
as I said, it is up to NAC and other authorities to finish.
Jamie Shea : Before these briefings turn into language
classes, I think we had better stop them! (laughter)