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Updated: 17 June 1999 Morning Briefings

NATO HQ
Brussels

17 June 1999

Morning Briefing

by Mr Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman

Jamie Shea: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, good to see you, as always. Remember this is an off-camera but on-the-record update.

Let me first of all tell you that the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the Alliance are going to be meeting tomorrow afternoon here at NATO headquarters. They should be ready to begin at around 2.15 - 2.30 tomorrow afternoon and the meeting will probably go on until about 5.00 - 6.00, somewhere in that timeframe, and then of course there will be the usual Morning Briefings. The Secretary General will be here about 15 - 20 minutes after the meeting ends, and then of course you will have various other Ministers. Francois Le Blevennec will have the details and you can check with him as to the exact schedule.

The topic of course is going to be Kosovo and there will be naturally updates and briefings given by the Chairman of the Military Committee and SACEUR on the current military situation, a discussion of course of the issues surrounding the deployment of KFOR as well, and I would imagine the Ministers would also look ahead to the future and talk about how NATO can contribute to the activities under way within the Stability Pact for the long term reconstruction of south eastern Europe.

Now let me turn to the update regarding KFOR. I am glad to say, as I have been saying every day, that the deployment remains firmly on schedule. All brigades are now established in their initial locations in Zone 1 and they are beginning today to fan out also across Zone 2. The 5th UK Airborne Brigade remains in place at Lipljan. The 4th UK Armoured Brigade is now well established both in and around Pristina, and indeed yesterday it reinforced its patrols on the streets of Pristina to guarantee security there. And also yesterday elements of the 4th UK Armoured Brigade moved forward to Podujevo in the north and established a presence at the exit gate 3 at the Kosovo-Serb border. Exit gate 3 as you know is one of the gates designated for the withdrawal of the Yugoslav military and police forces.

The US forces in Task Force Falcon have consolidated their position now at Gnjilane. The French Framework Brigade has deployed four companies to Vutrin. This was in fact ahead of schedule, that is in Zone 3, they arrived yesterday and the final elements of the Brigade are expected to deploy into the French area of responsibility in Zone 3 today. And indeed I heard this morning that again, well ahead of schedule, they had arrived at their forward area of Kosovska Mitrovica. So the French are going very quickly indeed.

The German 12th Panzer Brigade is now mounting patrols in Zone 1 and is beginning too its deployment today into Zone 2. The Italian Garibaldi Brigade is firmly established in Zone 1 and is patrolling throughout the zone. It too today also moves into Zone 2.

KFOR forward operating headquarters is now totally operational in south western Pristina. KFOR numbers around 15,000 today and the country breakdown is 88 personnel in HQ; US 2,000; Canadians 307; UK 7209; Italian 1,111; German 1,747; French 1,474; Greek 107; and Netherlands 159.

Overall the number of forces under General Jackson's command increased by 1,700 in the last 24 hours. These were principally 1,000 extra from the UK, 250 extra from France and the Greeks are now beginning to deploy their battalion through FYROM into Kosovo with 500. So the total number under the operational control of General Jackson in the theatre is 26,300.

The withdrawal of the Yugoslav forces continues apace. We are now satisfied that the Serbs have left the Zone 1, they were given as you know a 24 hours extension yesterday but they are now out and they are also maintaining significant levels of withdrawal from Zones 2 and 3. Indeed Zone 2 is largely empty now of Serb forces as well. There may be of course a unit here or a unit there, but that withdrawal is going smoothly, so there is nothing at the moment to suggest that they cannot withdraw fully by Sunday night, according to the 11 day timetable that was agreed in the Military Technical Agreement. Large convoys of Serb vehicles continue to depart Gate 1 via Kosovska Mitrovica, and Gates 2 and 3 via Podujevo.

The situation is as follows. Over 26,000 Serb ground forces, that is over half of the total, have now departed; 110 tanks, which is over half of the total; 210 APCs, three-quarters of the total; and 151 artillery pieces, about half of the total. Those are what we computed as of yesterday, so today they will probably be higher as the withdrawal continues, and we assess that all significant aircraft and major surface to air missile systems have also been withdrawn.

On the issue of associating Russia with KFOR, you know that the discussions continue today in Helsinki between the US Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence and their Russian counterparts. We will obviously await the results of those discussions.

Refugees, yesterday as you know significant numbers decided to go home. We assume that this is for two main reasons: first of all they want to maximise the benefit of the summer months to rebuild their homes; and secondly those that have farms I think are concerned to restart the agriculture, particularly the planting of crops, during the summer months. But again we continue to advise refugees that it is safer to stay where they are until such time as the environment of security can be guaranteed. But about 8,000 refugees returned nonetheless yesterday, about 2,900 from FYROM, and the more significant from Albania, particularly via Kukes. Indeed the UNHCR has had to reconstruct some of the tented camps in Kukes which originally were closed as refugees were moved to southern Albania, because refugees are now coming back up to Kukes prior to returning to Kosovo. But KFOR, even though we would hope that the refugees would stay where they are, KFOR nonetheless is helping in providing locally some transport help; secondly setting up feeding stations along the main routes between Albania and Kosovo, and on the motorway between Blace and Pristina so that refugees can get water and can get some medical help and also food as they continue their journey back home.

But now for the first time in several weeks we are beginning to see the refugee numbers in the neighbouring countries go down. For example there are now 235,000 refugees in FYROM and 434,000 in Albania.

The humanitarian air drops continue with the thirteenth air drop of food to the internally displaced persons by the International Rescue Committee having taken place this morning. One area where we need to concentrate our efforts is in the Drenica area where there are still significant numbers of internally displaced persons who unfortunately may be in worse physical shape than the ones that we have seen in Glogovac and other areas over the last couple of days.

I think that is the essential update which I have for you.

Thomas: Jamie, you were quite optimistic on the withdrawal by Sunday. You didn't tell us anything on the UCK, is there any formal negotiations with the UCK? I think yesterday was some British report that within 3 days they will deliver their weapons, do you have any progress on it?

Jamie Shea: Yes, we have had some initial contacts between NATO military Commanders and UCK officials to put to them our ideas for the rapid demilitarisation of the UCK, that is something as you know which we are firmly committed to. The initial response from those UCK leaders has been a positive one, but they of course are the political leaders and they have to communicate the terms of any agreement to their military commanders, it is extremely important that the local military commanders comply with what the political leadership of the UCK will have agreed vis a vis NATO. Now despite press reports yesterday, no formal agreement has yet been concluded between NATO and the UCK, although contacts are ongoing, and we hope that a formal agreement will be concluded in the next few days and we are continuing to work at that. We have put to the UCK political leaders a clear timetable running upwards out to 30 days for their initial demilitarisation and which would assure that naturally the heavy weapons and so on would be placed under the control of Kfor in secure storage sites. We will continue to work at that but we are optimistic that we can get that agreement in the next few days.

Gyorgy Foris, Hungarian TV: There are reports that places which were left by the Serbians are taken by the UCK still. And given the fact that the Military Technical Agreement was arranged in that way, that NATO troops should follow immediately the Serbians, so no gap was foreseen, I just wonder how it was possible? And secondly, do you have any clear cut policy how to take from the UCK troops the control to NATO?

Jamie Shea: Gyorgy, as I have oft said, while KFOR is deploying fully, and that is of course the prime focus of what we are doing at the moment, getting all the forces in, establishing secure effective control throughout Kosovo, there will be areas of course where UCK elements on a temporary basis may establish themselves. But NATO is taking a firm line in dealing with any UCK elements that threaten the peace, threaten the environment of security in any way. As I have said, the British, the Americans, the Germans so far have all been responsible for disarming, even detaining the UCK elements. Some American forces in fact rounded up over 100 yesterday and disarmed them near Urosevac. That policy of making it clear who is in charge in terms of providing the security is going to continue, we are going to do this to the extent we can in a co-operative constructive way. We are not seeking confrontation, of course not, but we are being very clear about who is in control in terms of providing the security. Once we have concluded the formal demilitarisation agreement with the UCK, which as I said we hope to be able to do very soon, we will then obviously pursue very vigorously the demilitarisation of the UCK, that is clear.

Dimitri Khavine, Russian Line: There is a kind of confusion between the terms demilitarisation and disarming, could you elaborate a bit more? What will be the base for it - Rambouillet principles or what?

Jamie Shea: The SACEUR has submitted to the North Atlantic Council a detailed plan on demilitarisation which has been blessed by the Ambassadors and which he is now using for the basis of the agreement which we hope to conclude very soon with the UCK. It is a very detailed, very specific plan. Now what is the difference between demilitarisation and disarming? Obviously disarming means that you find every single gun, you find every revolver, every Colt 45, every Kalashnikov. Now in an environment like Kosovo today where there are millions of guns, many hidden away in houses or abandoned buildings, or arms caches under the ground, it is extremely difficult if not impossible at least in the near term to find every single gun to confiscate every gun. That type of disarming can normally only happen when people don't feel the need to have guns any longer, when they feel secure, and therefore they don't need to take a Kalashnikov to bed with them at night. And so to some degree, as we found out in Bosnia, it is a long term objective, but in Bosnia we went for immediate demilitarisation, you remember, of the armed factions and later we launched Operation Harvest where we asked people to hand in their weapons, often in exchange for economic incentives, and thousands did because the security climate had improved and people no longer felt that they had to have a gun to be secure. Demilitarisation is the initial realistic and most important, I stress this, most important objective. It means taking away automatic weapons, heavy weapons naturally, those that pose the most significant threat to the peace, banning the use of uniforms in public, banning the use of insignia, banning military exercises for instance, establishing effective liaison and making sure that the weapons which are removed are put in secure sites firmly under the control of KFOR. So that is what we want and that is what we consider to be both realistic and in the immediate objective of ensuring security for everybody in Kosovo.

Question: L'UCK a dclar qu'ils ne dposeraient pas les armes jusqu' ce que les troupes russes soient mises sous le commandement de l'OTAN, parce que l'UCK considre les troupes russes commes les reprsentants des troupes serbes. Quelle est votre opinion?

Jamie Shea: Comme j'ai dit, nous poursuivons la conclusion d'un accord technique de dmilitarisation avec les responsables de l'UCK. Deuximement esprons avoir bientt un accord qui va associer les Russes la KFOR selon le principe d'unit de commandement.

Question: When is the calendar for the deployment of the other half of KFOR? By when will the 51,000 people be in Kosovo?

Jamie Shea: That is obviously a very good question. It will take time to deploy the total force because clearly we have to bring in the Partner countries who now will be making their preparations, and many have announced that already, although some of them, like for example the United Arab Emirates, are already sending their forces so that can take place rather quickly and we have to bring in those forces that were on a slightly longer notice to move than the initial forces. But I think as you can see, every day 1,000 - 2,000 more arrive, so this is going quickly. It is probably going to take the best part of a month to get in the total force. But General Jackson, as you know, already has enough to establish his command structure in the key areas and to establish an effective presence throughout Kosovo, I think that is the initial aim, to have enough to rapidly be present throughout the province even if we can't obviously be on every street corner or be everywhere just yet, and to set up the command structures and the headquarters structures and then to fill out the areas later on with arriving troops. But I think probably for the whole 50 it will take the best part of a month, probably a bit longer.

Peter Mller, NATO Nations: How many non-NATO countries will participate in KFOR and when will they come? And are there some countries from the Mediterranean dialogue participating?

Jamie Shea: On that one, we have 11 Partner countries that have attended the Force Generation Conference and indicated a willingness to participate. In addition, 2 non-Partner, non-NATO countries - Jordan and the United Arab Emirates - have expressed an interest in participating and as I said in the case of the United Arab Emirates is already preparing forces. And one non-Partner, non-NATO country - Ireland - has also contacted us with an expression of interest in participating.

Peter: Any from South America or from Asia, like it was in SFOR?

Jamie Shea: There is a possibility that Argentina may provide some sort of contribution. As you know, Argentina is present in Bosnia in conjunction with the multinational special unit, the MSU, you remember the Caribineri special police force, and so we could have an Argentinean participation as well. All of these things are going to be sorted out between SACEUR and the country concerned and then those arrangements will be politically endorsed by the North Atlantic Council. So I am convinced that within a couple of months KFOR will look not so different to the SFOR force in Bosnia in representing a very close form of association between NATO and non-NATO countries.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will do a briefing tomorrow at 11.30 because the Ministerial doesn't start until 2.00 - 2.15 and you may find an update ahead of that useful.

 

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