Updated: 15 June 1999 Morning Briefings


15 June 1999

Morning Briefing

by Mr Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman

Jamie Shea: Welcome to our daily briefing. For those of you who haven't been in the last couple of days - as I think I see a few new faces - just to remind you that this is on the record but off-camera and let me just start by saying that I am expecting today that the daily briefings in-theatre will begin. We are not going to be doing any longer our 3 o'clock briefings here for the simple reason that the authentic voice is the voice of the theatre and today in Pristina at 3 p.m. there will be the update on KFOR from down there. We will try to find out which tv this is going to be on and for those of you who like to stay around NATO because you love it so much here we will put it on the outside television, we will find a way anyway so that you can watch it.

The other idea, although it may take a day or so to get this started, is that we will distribute the transcripts of the theatre briefings up here; we will post them on the internet on the NATO site as well so that you can have access that way for those of you who are not planning a visit down to Kosovo just yet awhile and I will keep you up-to-date with the special events that they are planning down in Kosovo as they now get their media operation centre established.

Let me tell you that the deployment of the NATO forces in operation Joint Guardian is going ahead smoothly on schedule and we are now deploying the units of different Allies. The KFOR forward headquarters is now fully established in an old factory in the south-western part of Pristina. General Jackson was responsible for selecting that site and he has chosen it because it is reasonably central, has good access and the facilities that he needs.

The British 5th Airborne Brigade is moving forward and is now in the area of Lipjak; the 4th UK Armoured Brigade - that is the other central British brigade - is well established in and around Pristina, it is in the process of setting up a civilian and military liaison committee which will provide a wide range of services including assistance in the placement of military, civilian and NGO resources to promote the reconstruction of basic services so this shows that already, even while deploying, we are trying to set up the essential liaison with the other organisations so that we can begin to plan the return of the refugees, the humanitarian assistance for the NGOs and the reconstruction of Kosovo.

The French forces in the French Framework Brigade have now consolidated themselves in Ninjali and they are continuing to fan out through south-eastern Kosovo.

The US forces in Task Force Falcon have also now arrived in Ginani and that allows the French forces to head north. As you know, this is an operation in which you wait for the forces behind you to come, when they arrive they relieve you and you continue your deployment towards the north. That is the way in which we hope to be all around Kosovo within the next few days.

The German 12th Panzer Brigade is now, as you know, in and around Prizren in the south; the Italian Garibaldi Brigade has established its headquarters at Pec, one of the most damaged cities in the whole of Kosovo and one of the most depopulated and is in control of the Merina border crossing into Albania and after these initial deployments others follow through. Today, the 501st Infantry Battalion from Greece begins its deployment. We are heading up now towards the 15,000 mark for the KFOR forces in theatre, the breakdown is as follows:

The tactical headquarters of KFOR has about 100 personnel in it, about 4,300 UK forces, the German and Netherlands forces together make 2,800, Italians 2,300, French forces 2,800, US forces 2,100 and the Greeks are about 500 as they deploy today.

I am pleased to say that the liaison between KFOR and VJ and MUP commanders is going well in Zones 2 and 3 because we are liaising with them to help them to prepare for the KFOR deployments in those zones as we go out of Zone 1 and increasingly into Zone 2 and then into the north, the final step of the deployment, into Zone 3.

KFOR forces overall in both the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo are now at about 24,500.

We are meeting at KFOR headquarters this morning with a UN advanced party in order to co-ordinate arrangements for the arrival of the UN advance teams into Kosovo; as you know, they are charged with setting up the transitional civilian administration.

The Serb withdrawals continue to go ahead smoothly. We are just under now one-third of the Serb forces - MUP and VJ - which have departed from Kosovo. The withdrawal has been substantial in the last 24 hours although it is clear that the Serb forces are being hindered by logistic and maintenance difficulties as well as traffic congestion particularly with large numbers of people and military units on the roads; they have fuel shortages and they have only 22 heavy transport vehicles to move tanks and other heavy equipment and so these vehicles are being overused going up and down between Kosovo and Serbia taking out the heavy equipment but they are getting on with it which is obviously what we want them to do. Their efforts to evacuate under the terms of the military-technical agreement Zones 1 and 2 have intensified with particularly in the last 24 hours a significant movement out of Zone 1 which has to be evacuated by the end of today.

As of 8 o'clock Zulu this morning, that is to say 0800 Greenwich meantime, we estimated that all Serb military aircraft and Serb SA-6 surface-to-air missile systems have gone, between one-quarter and one-third of Serb ground forces heading up towards a third, 30 per cent of Serb tanks and over one-third of Serb armoured personnel carriers and we are approaching about one-third artillery and the withdrawal of the Serb air defence forces has continued according to the schedule set by the military-technical agreement and there were no indications of any violations of the military-technical agreement yesterday by Serb air and air defence forces.

I would like to stress that KFOR will be even-handed - General Jackson made a point of this in his press conference yesterday - it will protect the safety of everyone in Kosovo whatever their ethnicity. I have seen, like you, reports that 10,000 Serbs are in the process of withdrawing from Kosovo, others may follow but they are not leaving because anybody is pushing them out and that is in marked distinction to what happened to the Kosovars of course in earlier months and again we appeal to them very strongly not to act hastily. KFOR is in the process of deploying, as it deploys it will uphold their human rights and will uphold their security, it will be even-handed and so we hope that they will not give in to panic or fear but wait for KFOR to enter their cities and towns to provide the protection and take a long view of the situation because their fate in Serbia in terms of refugee camps is probably not going to be an easy one and we hope that therefore they will stay put in Kosovo.

Let me say at the same time that NATO forces are keeping a very close eye on the departing VJ and MUP, Apache helicopters are in the sky closely monitoring their departure particularly to make sure that they don't dilly dally for looting or any other illicit activities and KFOR will also deter attacks on them by escorting them as they leave.

I have been aware this morning of reports that a rocket-propelled grenade was fired near Pristina airport without causing any damage or injuries and KFOR is investigating at the moment.

On the humanitarian front, let me finish just with a few pieces of information for you.

As of yesterday, there were 243,700 refuges in FYROM, 465,529 refugees in Albania, 69,400 refugees in Montenegro, 21,700 refugees in Bosnia, about 91,000 refugees in other states still about half a million internally-displaced persons inside Kosovo although I am pleased to report that yesterday the UN for the first time and the International Red Cross was able to identify a large group of internally-displaced persons near Glogavac and provide immediate assistance so we are now gradually coming into contact with the people inside Kosovo and helping them.

Again, we stress that refugees should not try to return prematurely to their homes from outside. Yesterday, about 400 did depart from Albania to go back but this is dangerous at the moment, dangerous because of mines, dangerous because the Serbs have not left yet - the Serb paramilitary forces - and because of course the international organisations are not yet geared up to receive them and to help them and so it is far better for them to put their common sense before their impatience and stay where they are for the time being. There is an enormous job to do, we estimate that there are between 35,000 and 40,000 damaged or uninhabitable dwellings inside Kosovo which will have to be winterised for the refugees to be able to return.

However, the aid continues to flow now that there is a force on the ground. A second UNHCR humanitarian aid convoy arrived in Pristina yesterday, two more are scheduled for today. This morning, the 11th airdrop of food to IDPs in Kosovo was carried out successfully, providing 5,500 humanitarian rations to internally-placed persons east of the city of Pec - that is being carried out by the International Rescue Committee which may actually now stop those humanitarian flights given that the aid can now arrive by road with the UNHCR convoys.

So things are again going well, going smoothly, there is a great deal of work to be done but as you can see, NATO is getting on with the job and I will be pleased to answer your questions.

Questions & Answers

Frederic Bonnart: You didn't much mention the UCK, the KLA. Are they in fact following up at the moment the Serb withdrawal, are they in contact with Serb forces, is there any knowledge about what is going on inside Albania in their various camps?

Jamie Shea: Freddie, we are obviously watching the UCK activities very closely, they of course are occupying territory vacated by the Serb forces, NATO has made it clear that we expect them to exercise restraint. There have been instances in which KFOR soldiers have disarmed UCK soldiers or UCK personnel and yesterday in fact German forces in Prizren prevented them from entering a hospital where wounded Serb soldiers were located so we are stressing very much the even-handedness of the KFOR forces and we have made it clear that they should not in any way impede the Serb withdrawals. As General Jackson pointed out yesterday - and he was obviously wise, as you would expect, to do this - at the moment KFOR is deploying, we are about a third of the way there, there are lots of places in Kosovo we haven't been able to get to yet so clearly we cannot prevent as much as we would like every incident from occurring in what is obviously an extremely charged atmosphere emotionally with a lot of bitterness and a lot of anger and a lot of hatred but clearly General Jackson will maintain on the ground a firm stance of calling on the UCK not to add to the tension but to try to help to detract from it.

Frederic: Is fighting going on?

Jamie Shea: No, there is not major fighting going on any longer but we can't hide the fact, Freddie, as you know, that there have been a large number of very regrettable incidents of firing on both sides and also of some Serbs I saw yesterday who were pulled off a convoy and shot and this is not going to help the situation and we hope that despite the feelings of anger that have obviously built up, people will really exercise calm and restraint.

John Fraser: On an organisational note, will these morning briefings continue once the media activities move south or can we begin our phased withdrawal from NATO? Secondly, just before I came here I saw reports from Moscow that more Russian forces may be heading for Kosovo. Is this an inconvenience, a serious setback, a problem for NATO? And finally, is the withdrawal of the Serbs on time? You have mentioned these problems are having, is it on time and will NATO start bombing them if they are late?

Jamie Shea: John, first of all on the admin one, I will clearly stop giving these briefings here once the theatre has geared up to provide the service that you would expect and I understand that there are plans to have a briefing in the morning probably in Skopje and a briefing in the afternoon in Pristina. On the other hand, I have always been here to provide you with a service - I hope you have come to conclude that after all these years - and if there is an interest here in having a daily update for the time being like the one we are having at the moment, then I am pleased to go ahead and provide it, it is up to you to tell me what your particular requirements are. We could also, once things settle down, have an update once or twice a week, it doesn't necessary have to be every day so I depend upon you to let me know what it is that is most useful for you but clearly the brunt of the information policy or information activities will be handled down there from now on, they are in a much better position to give the feel of the story than I am here.

On the Russians, we have noted that a very small convoy of 11 vehicles and we think about 27 Russians are now en route for Pristina to provide water and food and relief supplies to the Russian forces at the airport. We know about this, it is something that we are tracking and we have no difficulty with those Russian forces obviously getting food and water which they clearly need so this is not an augmentation of the Russian force, this is just a supply effort and we will obviously treat it on that basis.

As far as the Serb withdrawal is concerned, the main criterion, John, is to make sure that they are not dilly dallying or shilly shallying, to use my two favourite expressions of recent months. If they have a problem here with pulling out a tank because they only have these 22 heavy equipment transporters, that is something that we can be flexible on provided that clearly the withdrawal is taking. They are getting on with in terms of manpower levels quite well and in terms of vehicles but the heavy equipment is going to be a difficult thing for them but that is up to General Jackson, who is now the man in charge, to judge if they are complying in good faith or if they are using evasive tactics. If you look at the situation of the Serbs, it is clear that they want to get out as quickly as possible, I don't think anybody has any doubt about that for a number of reasons that you can guess and I don't think they will see any interest whatever beyond strictly material difficulties, fuel problems, in delaying and so far, as far as Zone 1 is concerned, they seem to be on schedule for today which is what counts.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Jamie, do you know if General Jackson or any of his colleagues have set up or are setting up a channel or a method of communication with KLA military commanders because it seems to be quite a straightforward job for journalists in Kosovo to find one who is prepared to say: "As far as the prospect of us disarming is concerned, forget it!"? Secondly, is there any sense that a timetable is being worked on by which they will have to cease doing things like deploying in uniform in the street?

Jamie Shea: Jake, SHAPE have done a lot of work on this and put forward some thinking on a plan to demilitarise the KLA which is being considered by NATO ambassadors and we will therefore, once General Jackson has got his force in, go ahead with those actions. Demilitarising the UCK is something that we take very seriously but I am not aware yet that General Jackson has had any high-level contacts with the UCK general staff or at least UCK commanders but obviously locally, as you saw in Prizren yesterday and in other instances, as NATO troop local commanders come into contact they will be sending a clear message of: "You must exercise restraint! If we ask you to hand over your arms, you must comply! You must not impede the withdrawal of the Serb forces!" but we need to concentrate first and foremost on getting our troops in and on establishing the environment of security and before we have done that we obviously can't move on to all of the other tasks that we are going to be assuming.

Paul: In terms of the Serb withdrawal, can you clarify what the time-frame is for doing it, is there a fixed hour when they are supposed to be out of the various zones and finally on Sunday out of the whole province?

Jamie Shea: I think it is Sunday after 11 days at around 10 o'clock at night, if my memory serves me well, Paul. I will have to check this with SHAPE to be exact on the time but it is Sunday evening late which would be the end of the 11-day period and what we are looking for is simply that we have general compliance in terms of willingness to move, preparations to move, the Serbs actually getting on with it - that is the key thing - and now we are there, we don't have any verification problems at all.

Paul: Will there have to be a NAC to verify that they are complying or is it purely up to Jackson to call whether they are doing what they should be doing?

Jamie Shea: What will happen is that when we get to the end on Sunday late in the evening or when the moment comes, it will be obviously for General Jackson to inform SACEUR, SACEUR to inform the Secretary General and the Secretary General will then consult with ambassadors in the usual way before deciding on the formal termination of air strikes but of course we will get the military assessment first before that decision is taken.

Paul: Does that mean that on Sunday night, just for practical purposes, there will be a NAC here?

Jamie Shea: I would rather wait until we get a bit closer to tell you exactly what the timetable is going to be but it is on Sunday evening that under existing plans those Serb forces should be out.

Dimitri Khavine, Russian Line: There are some reports about Hungary not allowing the use of the corridor for the Russians to reinforce. Could you explain how it works? Are there any consultations between Hungary and NATO headquarters for example if agreement is achieved about the Russian role there, is it an independent decision of Hungary to let the corridor be used in consultation with the Allies?

Jamie Shea: No, Dimitri, NATO of course is informed of what is happening but this is a bilateral matter between the Russian authorities and the Hungarian authorities.

Gyorgy Foris, Hungarian TV: Do you have any information whether General Jackson has managed to make progress with Zavarzin on the force in a short-term agreement on how to use the airport and secondly, there were reports that the KFOR force in the German sector and the KLA would have shared control in some areas and in some towns or cities, Prizrin, for example and I wonder if it is something which is true, which is tolerated, which is welcome or something you would like to avoid?

Jamie Shea: George, first of all, General Jackson and General Zavarzin had a meeting yesterday as you well know, I understand it was positive, it was cordial and they are going to establish an open channel of communication in the next few days. You will have seen that Secretary Albright and Secretary Cohen are intending to go to Helsinki this week to speak to their Russian counterparts about the longer-term arrangements for Russian participation in KFOR so this issue is being worked on and I think we will find a solution in the next few days. In the meantime, life goes on perfectly normally as far as the KFOR deployment is concerned on the ground in KOSOVO and that is what counts at the end of the day.

On the other question of Prizren, as I made clear, the KFOR, General Jackson, have under the terms of the military-technical agreement all of the authority they need to establish an environment of security in Kosovo, there is no need for any alternative security providers and of course, as we deploy, because this is a delicate period while we are getting the troops in, we are getting the headquarters and the whole network of KFOR set up, obviously local KFOR commanders in local situations will make the judgement about how to deal with the security situation but as the deployment goes on and as we establish a robust, effective security presence throughout Kosovo, let there be no doubt there will not be any "No Go" areas, KFOR will be in charge and will have all of the means to assert its authority if need be but we will do it in the first instance using co-operation and using dialogue but we expect people to comply with the terms of the military-technical agreement and with the fact that KFOR has been mandated by the United Nations to provide the security. We are sending 50,000 troops there with the equipment so that we don't need any help or any competition in the security-providing business, we will do it ourselves.

I think that is enough for the time being, ladies and gentlemen, so look for 3 o'clock and I can be around tomorrow at 11.30 for another update if you want to come.

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