Updated: 19 June 1999 Press Conferences


19 June 1999

Transcript of Press Conference
by Lt Col Robin Clifford, KFOR

Lt Col Clifford: under consideration by the North Atlantic Council, but I thought it would be a good opportunity now to share with you some of our thoughts in KFOR as to how we see this being taken forward and I can say that both General Jackson and the Russian Commander have met to discuss the mechanics of taking this forward in anticipation.

From our point of view it is an extremely good agreement. It guarantees NATO's unity of command. There will be only one KFOR Commander and that is General Jackson. At the same time, it guarantees Russia a place at the table at every level. Russia will have liaison officers at SHAPE, at AFSOUTH and here in our own headquarters in Pristina. The agreement makes sure that there will be no real or perceived partition of Kosovo and it provides a thorough integration of Russian forces within KFOR, while giving those forces at the same time real responsibility.

A few words on where we expect them to be deployed. Up to five Russian battalions will be deployed into three areas of responsibility. In the American AOR one or two battalions will operate in the Kosovska Kamonica area; in the German area of responsibility between one and two Russian battalions will be responsible for an area near Malasevo; and finally in the French area of responsibility one battalion will operate around Lauser.

The agreement also guarantees that any mission that the Commander KFOR wishes to be carried out will be carried out and it also preserves Russian flexibility. The agreement also guarantees a KFOR-run airfield, managed under the direct supervision of the KFOR Commander, and it gives Russia a key role in administering that airfield. The overall management of the airfield and the Kosovar air space will be directed by the Director of Kosovo Air Operations who will work directly to General Jackson, and under him a Russian officer will serve as Chief of the Airfield and a NATO representative will serve as Chief of Air Movement.

We now have a formal agreement for NATO and Russian forces to work together as part of KFOR and during the past week we have been discussing how the mechanisms for this will actually work and we expect to have the airport open within the next few days.

Throughout this conflict, NATO has made its desire for a significant Russian involvement in this peace keeping mission abundantly clear and we know from our experience working together in Bosnia just how valuable this can be. And this is what KFOR is about. It is an international security force with a single effective command structure that will establish and maintain peace and stability for all people of Kosovo, and I will stress once again we mean all peoples of Kosovo - the Serbs, Albanians, Muslims and Christians. KFOR is here to look after everybody.

Mark Laity, BBC: Could you give us some information on the progress of negotiations with the KLA and also the rate of withdrawal of the Serbs and whether it will be completed ahead of schedule?

Lt Col Clifford: Yes certainly. In answer to your first question, the discussions with the KLA continue and it would not really be appropriate for me to discuss exactly what they are talking about at the moment. In answer to your second question, we believe there are between 3 - 5,000 Yugoslav forces left, that includes VJ and MUP, in Zone 3 that are not yet redeployed out of the country. There are no formed bodies or formed brigades and units. These are mainly people who have been coming along from a collection of other units that have come through. We do expect that they will have vacated the area ahead of the agreed schedule.

Question: On the KLA, is there any particular problem or is there an agreement in principle or anything of that kind? And when you say they are ahead of schedule, 3 - 5,000 left in unformed bodies, is that tonight or maybe tomorrow lunchtime?

Lt Col Clifford: The deadline is tomorrow at midnight, as you will know within the terms of the Military Technical Agreement. We do expect however that this will be completed ahead of schedule, exactly how far ahead of schedule I am not entirely sure, that very much depends on them. But it would not be unreasonable to expect that possibly 12 hours ahead of schedule would be a good figure.

Question: Inaudible.

Lt Col Clifford: Correct.

Question: Inaudible.

Lt Col Clifford: Yes, that is correct.

Question: Is it true that the Russian agreement

Lt Col Clifford: That is what I understand but you will have to direct that question to Brussels.

Question: And when do you think you will start working side by side with the Russians

Lt Col Clifford: I can't, I have no idea what happened a couple of minutes ago, but I can certainly say that within the last hour both Commander KFOR and the Russian Commander had a meeting to discuss exactly how we are going to take this forward and it was an extremely cordial and very friendly affair.

Question: Inaudible.

Lt Col Clifford: Well we are working together now, so the question was when do we expect to start working together, we are working together and as I said within the next few days we expect to have the airfield open.

Question: of how much weaponry you have confiscated from the KLA in the last several days?

Lt Col Clifford: I still don't have the exact accurate figures but we are talking of hundreds of different weapons in total and a number of tons of explosives, the exact figures I still don't have for you. But we are keeping those and the explosives are being destroyed, and some of you have already attended one of the controlled detonations carried out by the KFOR engineers on one of these caches of explosives, the other weapons are being retained at the moment.

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