by Mr Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman
Jamie Shea : I apologise that you have had to wait
so long but I had to wait for the meeting of the North Atlantic Council
to finish before I had an opportunity this evening to come and speak to
Before we begin, I want to stress that I am speaking on background.
This is a backgrounder, it is not an on-the-record briefing and I would
be grateful if we could at least for the time being go back to the old
practice and if you would kindly attribute my comments to a NATO official
What I'd like to do is just brief you a little bit on the current situation
and on the meeting of the Council and also by way of an introduction just
to remind you that until at least Monday the briefings will continue here
over the weekend - on the record that is - not this one but tomorrow and
Sunday. I will be here at three o'clock to brief you on the beginning
of the KFOR deployments and we hope to have on both days a video link
directly with a KFOR spokesman in the theatre so if any of you are interested,
please be here tomorrow afternoon.
First of all, let me give you the latest on the withdrawals. These are
going well and particularly from the immediate zone which is Zone 3, in
the first 24 hours of the withdrawal 4,000 personnel left with 100 wheeled
vehicles and in addition 44 armoured personnel carriers and a number of
air defence assets. In the view of SACEUR, who was here tonight briefing
the North Atlantic Council, this demonstrates a clear intention to withdraw.
Today, we have seen the first elements of the VJ Pristina Corps beginning
to move in 16 convoys and also VJ units moving up towards Kosovska-Mitrovica
so this means that so far things are going smoothly and according to plan.
However, there was yesterday some limited fighting particularly along
the Jacovica-Pec route and some shelling into Albania. One Alliance aircraft
was also locked-on by a SAM 6 radar and as you can imagine, SACEUR has
been in touch with General Obdanovic, the Chief of the Yugoslav General
Staff, to make it clear that we expect the cease-fire agreed to in the
military-technical agreement, to be scrupulously observed by all Yugoslav
We are clearly now making our final preparations for the imminent deployment
of the KFOR forces and we have now got the leading units well established
in the region. The idea is that there will be a threefold movement into
Kosovo, the Germans from Albania, the UK up the centre and the French
in from the right, accompanied of course by forces from other allied nations.
We have been putting more forces into the theatre over the last 24 hours.
There are currently around 20,000 allied forces in the theatre preparing
for the mission and of course more are arriving in the next days. The
US has committed, as you know, 7,000 troops of which 4,000 are currently
deployed in the theatre and will be immediately under the operational
command of course of General Sir Michael Jackson.
I have good news in the sense that SACEUR has just finished tabulating
his force contributions and he has contributions totalling 57,000. Indeed
this large number not only reflects the contributions of our Partner countries
but the fact that two non-partners of NATO, but Partners hopefully in
the KFOR - for example Jordan and the United Arab Emirates - have both
been in touch to offer about 1,000 troops each. So that shows that there
is worldwide interest in participating in the KFOR mission which is very
SACEUR has briefed the Council tonight on the preparations for the KFOR
deployment. He has stressed the need for a smooth and synchronised entry,
for a rapid and firm control of the overall environment by the KFOR forces
with a view to preventing killings, lootings, dealing with internally-displaced
persons who would be in a bad physical condition and preventing what he
called "vigilante justice" - "no ugly scenes" is the term he described
of what we would wish to achieve when we go in.
Our aim will be to hold Kosovo together until the civilian agencies,
the international relief organisations, can deploy. In other words to
give early support to humanitarian efforts until the more specialist organisations
will be able to take up their job. SACEUR has stressed the need for the
disciplined force protection of all KFOR units.
He reported that thus far the co-operation from the Yugoslav military
authorities has been good, particularly in identifying obstacles to be
cleared off main roads and particularly along those lines of entry of
KFOR in the next hours once the deployment is fully under way. He stressed
that KFOR troops are in good shape, morale is high and he also stressed
that he was fully confident in the competence of the force particularly
as many of its elements have been training in the former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia since January.
He also stressed a number of challenges that we can expect to have to
deal with early on. One, of course, is to make sure that there is no reverse
ethnic cleansing. You know from what the Secretary General said yesterday
of our concern that the Serbs resident in Kosovo should remain in their
homes and their human rights are just as worthy of protection as those
of any other group. Also to deal with possible cease-fire violations and
as I said, to make certain that we can deal with the immediate humanitarian
situation while the civilian agencies are quickly coming in behind us.
We have also got plans and aircraft on stand-by to perform humanitarian
air drops to internally-displaced persons should this be necessary.
In Albania, where we have currently 7,344 soldiers in the AFOR mission,
the focus is at the moment on camp building and road improvement. We are
still working on one final refugee camp at Schrerda, although that presumably
will be the last one. At the same time we have been involved in a high-level
meeting yesterday with the UNHCR in Albania to look at a plan for the
repatriation of refugees and again, we want to do this in an organised,
As far as operation Allied Force is concerned, you know of course, since
you heard from the Secretary General yesterday, that strike missions are
suspended, but a number of reconnaissance and air patrol missions are
ongoing particularly in conjunction with verifying the withdrawal of the
Serb forces. About 350/400 sorties are still being flown every day for
that purpose although the strike response time for pilots has been increased
considerably since the operation has been suspended. In other words they
are no longer on the rapid alert mechanism that they were on before suspension.
Let me say just one final word before I stop about the reports that
you have seen in the press today about the movement of some Russian forces
out of Bosnia into Yugoslavia and towards Kosovo. I just want to stress
that NATO welcomes the desire of Russia to make a contribution to KFOR.
We have said all along that we want Russian participation and this is
an indication that Russia wants to be part of that force. Russia wants
to have a role to play and that is welcome to us. We have also noted statements
from Moscow today that those Russian forces will remain for the time being
on the border area, that they will not enter Kosovo first. In other words
in advance of the KFOR forces. Nor will they enter Kosovo before essential
co-ordination arrangements have been made. So we note those statements
and let me say that we welcome very much Russia's desire to participate,
but we also want essential co-ordination arrangements to be made between
the Russian forces and KFOR so that the Russian forces can then deploy
and take up their mission when it is arranged in Kosovo itself.
The Secretary General today has been in touch with the Russian ambassador
on a number of occasions and NATO has invited the Russians to come and
talk to us at the earliest possible opportunity so that we can discuss
the practical modalities and the essential co-ordination arrangements
as to how NATO and Russia can work together in KFOR. We hope that this
will prove as successful and as fruitful an experience as the NATO/Russia
co-operation has been for the last four years in Bosnia.
Questions & Answers
John, LA Times: Jamie, can you give us any indication
when the entry into Kosovo will take place?
Jamie Shea : I believe that you can look for it very
soon now, John. The actual timing is in the hands of the commander of
KFOR, General Sir Michael Jackson, but I think by this time tomorrow night
we will be all be able to look back, I hope, on a force which is rapidly
deploying inside Kosovo.
John: Can I just follow that up? The Secretary General
said last night that he hoped the deployment would be today. Is that still
Jamie Shea : I believe that we are looking at the
next hours ahead but I'm not going to give you the exact time, that is
entirely in the hands of General Jackson when he wants to go. But as I
say, I think by this time tomorrow night you will have seen a substantial
number of Allied forces begin the deployment inside Kosovo.
Jonathan Markus, BBC World Service: Jamie, on the Russians,
you say you have invited the Russians to come and talk about mechanisms
and so on and clearly there are separate talks going on in Moscow and
continuing. Have there been any suggestions of any imaginative ways in
which the Russians could become associated in this? The positions seem
to be very clear and rather firmly staked out already and the Russians
have staged this rather theatrical coup to clearly focus NATO minds on
this problem. Has that focus led to any imaginative solutions?
Jamie Shea : Jonathon, as you know, Stroke Talbott
has been in Moscow for the last couple of days with a high-level US military
team to work on this topic. SACEUR has also done a good deal of imaginative
thinking and, as I always point out, we have got four years of practical
experience working together in Bosnia on which we can draw and which in
Bosnia takes account of the Russian desire - which has been reiterated
of course vis--vis KFOR - not to be formally part of a NATO command structure
so we are prepared to be imaginative. SACEUR tonight, with the ambassador,
suggested a number of possibilities that we can look at and yes, in other
words we have got some ideas on the table and we hope to be able to discuss
these with the Russians at the earliest opportunity. But it would be rather
ill-advised of me and somewhat premature to go into the specific ideas
that we have.
Question: Jamie, I just want to follow up on the question
of whether it is possible that the deployment could begin some time before
midnight tonight and secondly, were there not a few anxious moments today
that perhaps the Russians were racing towards the Elbe so to speak?
Jamie Shea : On your second question first because
even although I am on background I still prefer to answer second questions
first. No, the view in NATO has been, I can assure you, relaxed on this
one. We want the Russians to participate, we want to solve the issue of
the modalities - what I have called the essential co-ordination arrangements
- as rapidly as possible so that Russia can be part of the operation alongside
us at an early stage. As I said, we have had a very relaxed, very calm
but constructive reaction to what we have seen today and the Secretary
General has been in touch with the Russian ambassador with a message "Let's
get together quickly!" - which we were planning to do anyway - but "Let's
get together quickly and try to work out some of the specifics!"
As for the time, I know that you really are going to ask me questions
on this in the hope that you will eventually wear me down and that I will
give you the exact ETD or whatever they call it at airports. I am not
going to do so, let me just say that by the time we meet tomorrow evening
I believe that NATO will be well into Kosovo and well into its mission.
Question: Jamie what is the situation in Pristina of
the Serbian forces?
Jamie Shea : The only indication I have got is that
some forces from Pristina have started to move today towards the north.
I don't at this stage have specifics, I would expect to have a lot more
for you tomorrow at 3 o'clock. We have had right up until the last moment
news about people firing guns in Pristina. There has been a noise of gunfire
which has been reported and of looting that has been going on in the last
couple of days by Serb forces prior to departure but that is all I have
for the time being.
John: Jamie, can you give us any more details on who
exactly the Russian troops are? I know there were reports from Moscow
earlier that theTula paratroopers for example would be taking part in
the Kosovo operation and can you tell us when exactly SACEUR and Mr. Solana
found out about the Russians being on the move?
Jamie Shea : We were aware of this like you were at
I would think the end of the morning.
John: Was it from news reports or from phone calls?
Jamie Shea : We had, of course, our own sources of
information particularly as the Russian units were from, as you know,
the Russian contingent in Republica Serbska in Bosnia. I don't have the
exact numbers or the exact number of vehicles. There have been reports
from Russia this evening of a number of Russian forces that may be preparing
to leave for Belgrade with some Illyushin aircraft having been booked
for the purpose but the information I have at the moment is that those
aircraft have not left today so we will see what the situation is tomorrow.
John: What is the name of the Russian ambassador here?
Jamie Shea : Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
Craig Whitney, New York Times: Jamie, I assume it was
Secretary General Solana talking with Ambassador Kislyak who extended
the invitation to come and talk with NATO. If he did or if someone else
did, what was the Russian response: "Don't call us, we'll call you!" or
"We'll think about it! Can you give us any indication of what the response
Jamie Shea : I think it is too early for me to characterise
that, Craig, but as you know, we do have a NATO/Russia Founding Act, we
do have a NATO/Russia Permanent Joint Council. All of these mechanisms
are still in existence and therefore there are a variety of ways in which
we can meet and talk together as well as the specific military-to-military
level in theatre at the level of General Jackson. But I think I would
just hold off on that until we see how things develop but as far as we
are concerned, we want very much to sit down as I have been saying for
a long time, and talk about the modalities.
Question: Mark: Est-ce que tu peux simplement nous
clarifier, nous expliquer, qui est le numero deux de la KFOR? Est-ce que
c'est un Allemand, Mr Olsen ou est-ce que c'est un franais, Mr. Toman.
Jamie Shea : I generally do not know. The discussions
are ongoing but I am not aware that any announcement has been made about
Mark Laity (BBC): On these new ideas which are on the
table are they actually new ones because as we understand it this Russian
move to send troops, which is obviously a form of brinkmanship, followed
the break up of the talks that Strobe Talbott had. So is there a move
on the part of NATO with other ideas and might this include an area of
authority for the Russians which does seem to be the thing which they
are demanding especially from the comments of their more hawkish ministers
Jamie Shea : Mark, as I have said before, we are going
to show imagination and flexibility to find ways to get the Russians integrated
into the force. Secondly, I again stress that we welcome the fact - and
the manifest side of that today - that Russia clearly does want to be
part of this. That is good, that gives us a basis on which we can work.
As you know, the UN Security Council resolution, the Ahtisaari/Chernomyrdin
document accepted by Milosevic and by the Serb Parliament, as well as
the military-technical agreement that was concluded between General Jackson
and the Yugoslav authorities this week all specify the essential element
of integrated command and control as being a key element of the force.
So we obviously have to find a way, which we will try to do, which takes
account of the specificity of Russia but at the same time preserves the
essential unity of command and control arrangements on which the KFOR
concept of this mission is based, but I am not going to go beyond that
at the present time.
George Forasz, Hungarian TV: On the dialogue with the
Russian ambassador, is it envisaged that the PJC could be the framework
again perhaps leading the way, that the PJC could be a political authority...?
Jamie Shea : Let me, George, just say that the PJC,
it has never gone away and it is a key forum for NATO/Russia consultations
on all subjects.
Ladies and Gentlemen, before you go, I please would ask you once again
to note that contrary to the trend of the last 80 days this is a backgrounder
so please do not quote me. Thank you!