Updated: 18 June 1999 Morning Briefings


18 June 1999

Morning Briefing

by Mr Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning, welcome. This as you all know, but let me nonetheless remind you, is an off camera but on-the-record briefing and in the usual way I would like just to update you with the latest news from Kosovo on the deployment of Kfor and related issues. Let me also just stress that this will be the last of these regular daily 11.30 updates as the press and media operation down in Pristina gets under way, so the information in future, the operational information will come from there. We will however have briefings every Friday lunchtime according to the old practice, you recall, before Operation Allied Force ever began, and we will be having also Morning Briefings by the Secretary General or myself from time to time when there are significant developments to report or to comment on, for instance after the Serb forces have all withdrawn or when other decisions will be taken. So there will certainly be media events but no longer these regular daily updates.

Let me say that yesterday was Day 6 of Joint Guardian. It was busy but on the whole it was relatively calm or a calmer day throughout Kosovo. The deployment of Kfor continues into all of the zones now. The operational focus is on confidence building measures, particularly for the Serb population. In this respect all of the Kfor forces in the last 24 hours stepped up their patrols in all of the major cities where they are currently deployed in order to deter or deal with any incidents. Following the ransacking of a Serb monastery near Mitrovica the Kfor forces have also positions outside Serb cultural sites to guarantee their protection.

The Kfor deployment is on schedule. The brigades are now established in their initial locations where they are due to set up their headquarters and they are now deploying into Zones 2 and 3. These deployments are going to accelerate today. The 5th UK Airborne Brigade is at Lipjan, as you know, and the 4th UK Armoured Brigade is in Pristina. Yesterday British military engineers restored the water supply to Pristina after it was cut off when the Serb engineers at the water pumping station left and indeed sabotaged some of the equipment. Some elements of the British 4th Armoured Brigade have now moved up to Podujevo in Zone 3. The US forces at Linane are patrolling throughout south east Kosovo. The leading elements of the French Framework Brigade have reached Kosovska Mitrovica and the remainder of the brigade is moving up there today. The German 12th Panzer Brigade is in Prizren and it is now mounting patrols outside Zone 1 into Zone 2. The Italian Garibaldi Brigade has set up its headquarters at Pec.

Kfor's main activity is therefore now to increase its visibility vis a vis the civilian population. We have now brought the total of Kfor deployed forces to 16,100, so well above now the 16,000 mark, that means that 1,000 additional forces entered Kosovo in the last 24 hours. For those of you who like the breakdown, the US has 2,009, Canada 317, the UK 7861, Italy 1,727, Germany 1,852, France 1,630, Greece 528, the Netherlands 161 and yesterday three new countries appeared on the scene - Belgium, Norway and Spain - with small numbers but more of course are going to follow in the next couple of days. In total the number of forces under General Jackson's command is now 26,946, so we are talking about 27,000 in the area.

As far as the humanitarian situation is concerned, we know that about 30,000 refugees have returned spontaneously to Kosovo, those that have their own transport predominantly, in fact a number of refugees, about two-thirds, in the camps don't have their own transport and therefore of course will have to wait until transport can be provided before they can go home. But again we urge, as I have done on previous days, refugees not to go back prematurely. The danger of mines is a very real one. Yesterday one person was killed by a landmine and we had reported about a dozen individual instances of landmines yesterday, so this is a very real danger.

At the same time in order to help the refugees the World Food Programme, assisted by Kfor, has secured the agreement of Russia to base World Food Programme helicopters at Pristina Airport for aid deliveries, so this will help also to get food to the internally displaced persons inside Kosovo. And of course for those refugees that do return, even though we believe that they should wait for the time being, Kfor will continue to provide assistance and food and water en route as they go back to their homes.

I am pleased to say on another front that the withdrawal of the Serb forces is proceeding smoothly, they are now completely out of Zone 1, they are more or less largely out of Zone 2. We don't believe that there are any significant VJ or MUP forces remaining in Zone 2. Over 30,000 Serb forces are estimated by us to have left. We reckon that now three-quarters of them in total have gone and providing the present rate of withdrawal continues, there is every possibility that the Serb forces will have left by entry into force plus 11, that is the deadline prescribed in the Military Technical Agreement, which is around midnight on Sunday.

So I think those are the dominant themes, I will be happy to take your questions.

Dimitri Khavine, Russian Line: Could you explain, what is the current status of the administrative border between Kosovo and Serbia? Can Kfor cross these borders in some cases?

Jamie Shea: No, Kfor has no plans to cross the border into Serbia. There is as you know a special disengagement zone of 5 km on the border where the Serbs under the Military Technical Agreement will not place any military forces, and a 25 km zone for air defence, and indications so far that that is being respected.

George Foris, Magyar Nemzet TV: There are reports about fights between paramilitary Serbs and Kosovars in the Italian sector. I wonder how serious it is, how difficult it is and are you concerned or not?

Jamie Shea: Yes I saw one report, just one report, yesterday of that. We are again making it clear to the UCK in meetings that have been taking place in the last 24 hours between NATO Commanders and UCK Commanders that they must exercise restraint and not go anywhere within 2 km of retreating Serb forces. And so we are going to be very insistent on that and watch that closely. But I noted only one incident yesterday, I don't think this is a general trend.

Dominique Thierry, RFI: Jamie, il semble que les Serbes, en se retirant, ont commis des exactions nouveau et des crimes. Quelles sanctions ? Et deux petits mots sur les ministrielles de tout l'heure, il semble que tous les ministres ne seront pas prsents ou se feront reprsenter. Alors qu'elle est l'importance de cette ministrielle alors qu' Helsinki on attend toujours un accord avec les russes ?

Jamie Shea: La deuxime question d'abord. C'est une runion importante, il y a trois lments, il faut d'abord saluer le travail des pilotes et des soldats de l'OTAN qui apportent la paix au Kosovo. Ce n'est pas une mince ralisation, je crois que les ministres voudraient le noter, le saluer. Et ensuite passer en revue la situation actuelle et les dfis majeurs qui se prsentent maintenant la KFOR dans les premiers jours de son dploiement et troisimement et trs important alors que le pacte de stabilit prend son essor, dfinir la contribution importante que l'OTAN voudra apporter la reconstruction gnrale de la rgion du sud-est europen donc je crois que c'est une runion qui a toute son importance. Bien sr, nous regardons avec beaucoup d'attention ce qui se passe Helsinki o les pourparlers, les ngociations se sont poursuivis ce matin, nous esprons aboutir un rsultat dans les heures qui viennent et bien sr nous aurons un rapport direct de l'volution des pourparlers cet aprs-midi de la part de M. Cohen et de Mme Albright.

Dominique Thierry, RFI: Sur les exactions qui sont commises par les Serbes ...

Jamie Shea: Sur les exactions qui sont commises sur les Serbes, il y a n'est-ce pas des indices ici et l mais je pense qu'il n'y a pas d'incident majeur et la KFOR, bien sr, est l pour faire en sorte que le retrait des forces serbes se passe, non pas de la manire la plus rapide possible mais aussi de la manire la plus pacifique possible. Comme je vous ai dit hier les hlicoptres de la KFOR surveillent de prs le retrait des forces serbes prcisment pour prvenir ce genre d'incident majeur et galement pour contrler la rapidit du retrait mais jusqu' maintenant toute l'vidence que nous avons est que les Serbes visiblement veulent partir le plus rapidement possible. La seule difficult qui se prsente, c'est dans la zone trois o ils ont pas mal d'quipement comme les chars qui ne peuvent pas bouger. C'est--dire qui ne sont plus oprationnels mais qu'ils veulent rcuprer. Et pour a ils ont besoin d'utiliser des transporteurs et ils n'en ont que 22 comme je l'ai dit l'autre jour, donc ces transporteurs doivent faire la navette pour rcuprer le matriel endommag qui n'est plus oprationnel, qu'ils voudront sans doute rparer une fois de nouveau en Serbie.

Frederick Bonnart, NATO's Sixteen Nations: You mentioned in answer to George's question the fact that the KLA is being told not to approach more than 2 km. What is in fact the connection between Kfor and KLA, is there a liaison team or something at their headquarters?

Jamie Shea: There are two aspects to this, Freddie. On the one aspect there are talks going on between ComKfor and his representatives and political leaders of the UCK in order to conclude a demilitarisation agreement. We have presented them with a detailed agreement which provides for a rapid and effective demilitarisation of the KLA and it is our intention to have that agreed by them in the next few days, as quickly as possible, but this is a matter of key priority. And then of course Kfor will oversee that demilitarisation and we would expect the KLA political leadership to ensure that their Generals in the field stick to that. So that's the first aspect. The second aspect is the contacts between local Kfor Commanders in the various towns with local KLA elements and where we have taken a very firm line. The United States just yesterday as you know detained 115 KLA fighters, even used Cobra helicopters overhead to ensure that they handed over their weapons. British and German troops, other forces, have adopted exactly the same approach to any KLA group that in our view threatens the peace or refuses to cooperate. So we will continue to take a very robust approach to the KLA while we are concluding this demilitarisation agreement which we will then obviously oversee very rigorously.

Frederick Bonnart, NATO's Sixteen Nations: These talks about demilitarisation, where do they take place and who with actually? Are the people they take place with some central organisation of the KLA?

Jamie Shea: Let me just say that they have taken place yesterday evening in the region, I am not going to disclose the exact location, between senior representatives of General Jackson and the political leaders representing the UCK who in our view have the authority to commit the UCK as a whole to a demilitarisation agreement and a specific technical agreement, very detailed with a concrete timetable has been given to them for signing.

David Shukman, BBC: What happens to the timing of the meeting this afternoon if the Helsinki talks go on and Albright and Cohen are still stuck in Helsinki? Secondly, there is a report in a German newspaper that the Germans are prepared to share a zone with the Russians, is that a runner, can you tell us where we are with that process?

Jamie Shea: David, first of all obviously there will be a meeting this afternoon, that is clear. The timing of course will depend on the exact moment when the two Ministers, who are of course very intensively engaged in very necessary talks with the Russians, are able to get here. But as you know, they are making a large effort today to get to a result and obviously NATO supports those efforts to get to a result, it is in everybody's interests that they do so. But there will be a meeting this afternoon, that is the first point. And in answer to a question I had, most Ministers will be in attendance, there is always perhaps a Minister here or a Minister there who has had a diary conflict, particularly as this meeting was called at very short notice, but the overwhelming majority, as you will see in the flesh as it were this afternoon, will be here and of course they will be giving Morning Briefings as well.

As for the agreement, I don't want to get into the details of that, let's just say that I always made it clear that NATO would show imagination and flexibility in order to ensure that Russia plays a role commensurate with its size and importance as part of Kfor while preserving the unity of command. We have put all kinds of proposals on the table to reach an agreement with the Russians which in our view preserved that objective, but also to give the Russians a choice as to how this can be done. And again I think the fact that these talks are going on so intensively shows that we are close to an agreement now and hopefully we will be able to nail one down this afternoon, but of course that depends on what goes on in Helsinki, I don't need to prejudge that.

Stars And Stripes: Now that Kfor is deploying, what stresses on Alliance members' troops, what is happening with Sfor and what stresses are going on in Bosnia, there are a couple of Alliance members that might not be able to handle both missions, can you comment on that?

Jamie Shea: First of all, Sfor continues to carry on. We have made reductions of about 11% over the last 6 months, so the numbers have gone down compared with what they used to be, but we still have two separate commands, two separate missions, at least for the time being. Later on as we go forward in Kosovo there may be scope for more rationalisation in areas like logistics or headquarters structures, but that is for later. However, what we are conducting this spring is the six month review of Sfor operations in order to see if there is not greater scope for greater reductions and to the extent that the Council will conclude that the Sfor levels can come down still further, that will obviously ease the strain on many Allies in terms of sustaining their commitments to Kosovo and Kfor. So I do think that in the near future there will be some sort of balance here.

Stars And Stripes: Have there been Alliance members who have basically said that they can either support one or the other?

Jamie Shea: No, there hasn't been. All allies are making some sort of contribution to Kfor, all of them, and therefore this has not proven to be in the short term a major strain. But again I think that there are two aspects here: the first aspect is the six month review of Sfor and of course as Kfor is deployed, as the mission goes on, we will adopt the same approach as we have adopted for Ifor/Sfor, which is trying to reduce force levels as the security situation permits. The aim is not to make this a permanent peace keeping operation.

John Fraser, London News Radio: If I noted this correctly, there seem to have been as many refugees returning to Kosovo as Serb forces pulling out, 30,000 is quite a large number, it seems to be twice as large as the NATO contingent in Kosovo at the moment. Did this take you by surprise? Secondly, do you have any figures for the number of Kosovar Serbs who have pulled out with the troops? And finally could you just give us some guidance on what is going to happen, how you expect to announce the final end of the air campaign on Sunday night or Monday morning?

Jamie Shea: As far as the Serbs go, the figures that we have from the UNHCR are about 33,000 so far have left out of a total population of around perhaps 150,000, so it is significant but it is not an exodus and I hope that many Serbs are going to give peace a chance and stay, and certainly General Jackson, the Secretary General, western leaders in the last 24 hours have all made very explicit statements that we want the Serbs to stay, their home is also in Kosovo, they also have a right to be there and Kfor will protect them.

Yesterday I think there was a significant development when the Patriarch of the Serb Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavla, went to Pristina, met General Jackson, met also Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN Special Representative, persuaded the Archbishop Artemdja to stay, which I think is a significant move, and also appealed to the Serbs to stay. And I think any support that we have from the local Serb community, and particularly senior Serb figures like the Patriarch, can only help in this respect. Also significantly when the Archbishop Artemdja left Prizren to go to Pristina the other day, he was followed by only 200 Serbs. Now that is not an insignificant number but again it is not an exodus. So I hope that although yes some have chosen clearly to leave, that others will take a longer view. After all, let's make one thing clear, what are they going to in Serbia if they leave Kosovo? They are not going to an economy which is in particularly robust shape. Life may not be very easy for them in Milosevic's Serbia and I hope, as I have said, that when they look at the options, do they really want to abandon their homes, their possessions, their jobs, everything, for a very uncertain future in Serbia? I would hope that many of them will decide, as I said, not to panic, not to over-react, not to give into a psychosis of fear but to wait and I am sure that many will. And NATO will continue to send a strong message that we will do everything to uphold their rights. We have already done so in preventing incidents, in preventing attacks on Serb property, Serb people, we have increased the patrols on the streets, particularly at night, and the rest. And as the numbers of Kfor troops increase we are going to be in an ever better position to do that. So that is the first point.

John Fraser, London News Radio: Were you surprised by the inward exodus?

Jamie Shea: No, I am not surprised. First of all let's keep things in perspective. There are 950,000 refugees in the neighbouring countries, without speaking of people who have been evacuated to Canada, or the UK, or the United States, or Germany or elsewhere, and so far about 30,000 have gone back in a week. So as I say it is a larger number than we would have wished, given the dangers, but again it is not a major exodus. Many have heeded the warnings about mines, about being ready, transport and we may even need a winterisation programme in the neighbouring countries for those who may choose to stay in the camps and wait until next spring to go back. But the people who have gone back mainly are those who for example have got farms and who are very keen to sow crops and get the agriculture going again during the summer months rather than lose totally the harvest in the autumn. Certainly what Kfor will be doing will be to try to identify the areas for initially safe returns and then the lines of communication and asking refugees going to areas which are probably more dangerous to wait a little bit longer.

As for the weekend and Monday, clearly NATO cannot suspend or terminate its air operations, we have suspended them but we can't formally terminate them until we know for certain that the Serb forces have completed their withdrawal. That could be Sunday, we will have to wait and see. The indications so far are positive but we have to wait and see, and then the Secretary General, once he has received the advice from SACEUR that the withdrawal is total and clear, then he will recommend to the Ambassadors the termination of air operations. We will then go into Phase 4 as it is called, the phase at which the aircraft can be redeployed to their home countries, but that depends on a decision by the NAC. Incidentally, a large number of aircraft will obviously stay in the region to provide verification and other support to the Kfor forces as long as they are there.

Question: Can you comment on today's declaration of Hashim Taci, one of the most important leaders of the UCK, that they can only accept to become the Kosovo armoured forces?

Jamie Shea: Our position is clear, there is no need for an armed force in Kosovo because we have one, it is called Kfor, and it provides security for everybody and there is no better way of getting that security than to have Kfor, that is why we are deploying such a large force in order to make it totally redundant for any other armed force to have any raison d'tre to exist and that is why we will pursue the demilitarisation of the UCK. This is an absolute priority and we will insist upon it. Kfor will be the equitable even handed provider of security and the best provider of security for everyone. We don't need any rivals in the security business in Kosovo tomorrow. Obviously what we would like is for the UCK now to think about a political future in terms of obviously the reconstruction of the political elite, of the political activity in Kosovo, there is a role there clearly, and we hope that it will be done in cooperation with the other political leaders. It was done in cooperation at Rambouillet and we would very much like that to continue. I think that is obviously in the interests of Kosovo for the political leaders of the Kosovar Albanian community to work together. Secondly, there will have to be a civil police force structured according to democratic principles which will be created in due course and there may be a role for a demilitarised UCK to play a part in that civilian police force, but an army, an armed force with heavy weapons, no.

Can I just announce something - Justice Louise Arbour, the Chief Prosecutor of ICT is in the building today, she has been seeing the Secretary General over the last half hour and Francois tells me that at 3.00 pm here she will give a news conference with the Canadian Foreign Minister, Mr Axworthy, and then the Defence Minister, Art Eggleton.

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