Updated: 24 June 1999 Press Conferences


24 June 1999

KFOR Press Conference

by NATO Secretary General, Mr. Javier Solana,
General Wesley Clark and General Sir Mike Jackson

Secretary General: in less than two weeks since KFOR forces first entered Kosovo on 11 June. Let me tell you the operation on the ground has already been a tremendous success. NATO's member countries have responded to the challenge to bring peace and stability to Kosovo by deploying already 30,000 troops in a fully integrated and effective peace keeping force. This reflects NATO's shared determination to uphold the values which our Alliance has successfully defended for 50 years - democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.

Let me also say that forces from Russia and NATO's other partner nations will be also integrated in KFOR . Russian and NATO troops work already side by side in Bosnia and I am sure that they will do so again with equal success in Kosovo.

Yesterday at about 7.00 pm I received news from the Russian government that it has approved the agreement on Russian participation in KFOR and whilst the Federation Council in Moscow has agreed to the deployment of Russian forces, I anticipate that it will arrive shortly.

Now KFOR 's role is to create a secure environment for the rebuilding of Kosovo, for the re-establishment of law and order, for the safe return of all refugees to their homes, for social and economic reconstruction and for the full investigation of all war crimes and atrocities. The representatives from the United Nations, the OSCE, the Non-Governmental Organisations, have inclusive responsibility and NATO will do all it can to support them.

An important milestone in the process of building peace was the signing early on Monday morning by Mr Taci, Commander in Chief of the UCK, of an undertaking to demilitarise and to cooperate fully with NATO forces. I would like to congratulate Mr Taci, I would like to congratulate General Jackson, who all played an important role in these achievements. I met with Mr Taci just a few moments ago and he assured me of his commitment to demilitarise the UCK. Of course we will remain vigilant that this undertaking is respected. We will also be ensuring that all other armed groups are demilitarised. The only security force that Kosovo needs is KFOR .

The KFOR forces are now working hard to end the violence that for many dark months was part of everyday life in Kosovo. They will do their very best to ensure the safety and security of everyone in Kosovo, regardless of their ethnic, religious or cultural background. I repeat that there is no need for anyone to leave Kosovo. KFOR will look after you. Stay and give peace a chance. This is the message I delivered to the Serb political and religious leaders when I met them a few minutes ago. At the same time I would like to call on all Kosovar Albanians, and indeed on all the other peoples of Kosovo, not to allow ethnic hatred or the desire for revenge to capture their hearts. The international community intervened in Kosovo to protect human rights and to give Kosovo a brighter future. I call upon all Kosovar Albanians to live up to these values and to seize this opportunity to help us build here a democratic multi-ethnic society which should be a model for the region. Peace cannot be built on looking to the past and on revenge, it can only be built on justice and looking to the future.

Let me also say and announce to you that I have just held a meeting in which under NATO and the UN we brought together leaders from both the Kosovar Albanians and the Serb community together in one room. I urged them to work together for reconciliation. They publicly shook hands and it is a sign of hope for the future that they committed themselves to continue meeting.

Next week NATO forces and international humanitarian organisations will begin the organised return to Kosovo of all refugees who were forced out of their homes. Together they will provide transportation, they will provide food and water, they will establish transit stations en route and they will ensure the security of all convoys. I know that many refugees have already returned and others are returning as we speak here. But I urge those remaining to stay where they are until we can guarantee a safe return. A little patience will have its reward in a safer and organised return home.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much for what you have achieved so far. General Clark, General Jackson, thank you very much for what you have done already. From what I have seen and heard here today it is clear that it is a massive task ahead of us. Rebuilding Kosovo will take time and it will take a great deal of hard work and commitment. The international community will keep its promises, we will provide the security, the expertise and the resources. But we cannot succeed alone. The peoples of Kosovo must play their part as well, they must give us their active cooperation and demonstrate that they wish to be part of the integrated Europe of tomorrow. Peace is more than the end of violence, peace is more than just a cease-fire, it is a culture of democracy and a culture of tolerance. That is what we must build together in Kosovo.

Thank you very much and I am ready to take your questions.

Question: General Clark, my question is concerning the situation in the region of Mitrovica where the so-called Serbian armed civilians are blocking still part of the city and the Albanians are afraid that this a scenario for the partition of that part. How can you explain that situation in that sector? Secretary General, comparing with the situation in Kosovo it seems that the military point of implementation is going well in Kosovo, like in Bosnia before, but the civilian part will be delayed. Do you expect that the UN and the other humanitarian organisations will speed their work and not to allow the refugees to return? A quarter of them are already back but not one of them did receive any help from the international organisations?

General Clark: With respect to the first question, there will be no partition in Mitrovica or any other of these cities here. Paramilitaries are not permitted under the Military Technical Agreement with KFOR and they have either got to stop being paramilitaries or they have got to leave. KFOR has the power to enforce the Military Technical Agreement and it will do so.

Secretary General: Let me answer your question by saying that it is true that KFOR has been deployed in a very efficient manner, but so has the civilian responsibilities and activities. I had the opportunity of talking at length today, and just about every day, on the telephone with Ambassador de Mello. I can tell you that he is doing his best, he is doing splendid work and that no doubt all the civilian aspects will be also deployed, as they are already, in the coming days and together we will be able to do what we have to do, which is to fulfil the requirements of the UN Security Council resolution and to bring the reconstruction to Kosovo, not only physically but let's hope also that the moral reconciliation, the moral reconstruction that is our aim and for that we put all our energy.

Nick Jennings, NBC News: I have a question about the airport. Obviously it is in everyone's interest for the airport to open as quickly as possible so that humanitarian aid can come in and reconstruction material, etc. Why is the airport not yet open and what is the problem, is it a political problem, is it a military problem and when will it open?

Secretary General: Let me say from my point of view, and General Jackson will probably answer with more precision that question, we have already agreed with the Russians, as you know, in Helsinki and as I said a while ago we received yesterday at 1900h the approval by the government of Russia, by President Yeltsin, of the agreement. With that agreement approved by the NAC and approved by the Russian authorities I think that the airport will be starting to reopen in a calendar that starts yesterday at 7.00 in the evening, I don't know exactly the dates, the calendar, but General Jackson will be giving you the dates and the calendar for the opening of the airport. But yesterday was the beginning.

General Jackson: The programme to open the airport was all part of the overall agreement at Helsinki. My understanding is that following President Yeltsin's acceptance of the deal it goes to ratification to the Russian Federation Council. My Russian opposite number, General Zavarzin, at the airport has told me he believes that will happen on Friday and at that point the clock starts ticking. And from the day after to the fourth day, six flights are arranged for Russian aircraft, six flights for other KFOR aircraft which bring in the airfield opening party and then we hope to get it up and running in about a week after that. It is all locked into the political agreement itself, but we look forward to opening it.

New York Times: General Clark, here on the ground it is pretty evident that in the first two weeks or so of the air campaign Serbian forces went on a devastating campaign of destruction and killing in which many, many lives were lost. Looking back, do you think anything could have been done about that, could any form of planning or other kind of intervention or other action have prevented that? Secretary General, do you think the kind of stability you have been talking about here is compatible with Mr Milosevic remaining in power?

General Clark: We always said that the air campaign was going to accomplish the following: it was going to attack, delay, degrade, atrit (phon) and ultimately if President Milosevic didn't comply with the wishes of the international community destroy those assets and institutions that he most valued. We went about it in a sustained and gradually intensifying manner and I am convinced that what would have stopped the slaughter at the outset was had Mr Milosevic heeded the call of the international community to treat his own citizens in a humane manner. He had the authority to stop everything that started, he started the slaughter on the ground, even before the OSCE verifiers had departed, he had a well organised plan, he put it in high gear and he pursued it in a criminal manner, certainly in an inhumane and tragic manner. And now that everybody is on the ground here, every day we are discovering more and more evidence of this. So I think the responsibility for this truly rests on President Milosevic, his military and police Generals who planned this thing, and their forces, including the paramilitaries who executed it and that is where the responsibility lies. I think the air campaign was successful in doing the mission it was assigned to do and it did achieve the results that we sought. President Milosevic, as we said, was the person who could have stopped it at any time.

Secretary General: I think that the answer to your question is that the Serbian people have two possibilities, two options. One option is to look to the future, to get their country integrated in the mainstream of the stability of this region and the stability of Europe; but they have another possibility which is to keep on looking to the past. Let me say very clearly, Milosevic is the past. I do hope very much that the Serbian people will look to the future. Let me also say that the experience I had this afternoon here when I spent more than an hour talking with all the members which are here in Pristina who participated in the Rambouillet negotiations on the Kosovo side, and also with the leaders of the Serbian community here, including the Bishop of Prizren, where they spent for the first time together - together, both parties together - more than two hours and a half talking. After this conversation I really think there is hope and with the guarantee that General Jackson is going to give to the security of Kosovo I am pretty sure that Kosovo has a future and therefore I am today, as I said at the beginning, delighted to be here after having been in the camps with refugees and seeing the faces of the people suffering, to meet them here on the streets, some of them that I met in the camps are here already, to see them crying really when they saw me here. And after this meeting really I do think that we have hope if we continue working together.

Geoff Smith, Washington Post: General Clark, could you say a little bit more please about the timing and the pace of the deployment that is under way now? You were quoted a couple of days ago saying that you want things to pick up speed a bit, have you made any decisions about that and if so could you elaborate on what they are? And Mr Solana, could you please tell us a little bit more about who was at this meeting and whether they spoke to each other at all or whether they just spoke to you in turn?

General Clark: We have 55,000 troops that are scheduled to come into KFOR and that does not include the Russian troops that will eventually come in. and so we have asked member governments and contributing partner governments to speed the deployment of those troops to the maximum extent possible. Several governments have conveyed to NATO that they will adjust deployment plans and accelerate the arrival of these troops.

Secretary General: Yes, in the meeting the members which are here in Pristina, they represented the Kosovars in Rambouillet, Taci, Seroy, etc, they have been in the meeting, the Bishop of Prizren and Mr Djakovi from the Independent Kosovo Serb politician, and they have talked to each other. They talked to me of course in separate meetings and they talked to each other, they shook hands and they committed themselves to continue meeting. I think that has been a very important step that has taken place today.

Question: This is a question for Mr Solana and I would be very grateful if you could answer in French for all French networks and media. Three months ago you were with General Clark and Mr that was the beginning of the war exactly three months ago. Now today you are in Pristina. Could you explain how do you feel, what are your exact feelings now in Pristina and what is your hope for future for both Serbian and Albanian people, but first what are your exact feelings right now today in Pristina?

Secretary General: (Not interpreted)

Question: Mr Solana, tell us please, are there more things included, signed between Taci and Seroy and how long can it be until Kosovo gets full independence? And Mr Clark please tell us how much can be the number of the force, you asked for more than 45,000, so how many soldiers will there be altogether?

Secretary General: I am sorry, I don't know if I understood you properly. Could you repeat the first question, I really didn't understand you, I am sorry, it is my poor English, not your's.

Question: Which point has been arrived with the provisional government of Kosovo and you? Is it the same as has been at Rambouillet or did you promise something more? And how long can it take until Kosovo gets full independence?

Secretary General: Let me tell you that I cannot promise anything, I am not the one who has to promise anything. The only thing I can promise them is that KFOR will be here with the support of all the countries that are going to participate, NATO countries, partner countries, Russia, and they are going to do what they should do to guarantee stability and security to all the citizens of Kosovo, regardless of religion, regardless of ethnic origin, regardless of cultural origin, to all of them. That is what I can promise.

General Clark: With respect to the troops numbers we have consulted today with General Jackson and we have affirmed that the numbers of troops that we have requested and nations have promised us is the right number - 55,000 - and what we are trying to do is speed up their arrival. We have asked nations to accelerate their deployment here so that we can get more troops on the ground more rapidly in Kosovo and that is what is under way now.

ABC News: General Jackson, we have heard several reports saying that NATO is planning on sending Russian troops to Malasevo. If that is the case, why are you planning on sending those troops in a former stronghold of the KLA, and as you can imagine people are pretty nervous about that?

General Jackson: At the moment the possible laydown for the Russian forces is still tentative, that is the word that was used in the agreement, and there are still discussions going on at quite a high level and also at my working level with the Russian contingent here as to how best to deploy the Russian contingent. I note what you say.

Question: General Jackson, can you give us some idea of what you intend to do on the ground with the situation in Mitrovica? We understand the strategic concept that it won't be tolerated, how are you going to fix it?

General Jackson: You heard what SACEUR said a moment ago and I have seen interfaces before elsewhere and that is not we want at all. The French-led brigade in the north I know are perfectly well aware of the problem and they are working all out to avoid the sort of situation which you infer may happen. Well our intention is to make certain that it doesn't.

El Pais: Mr Solana, you asked the local leadership to reconciliate and you promised not to revenge and you promised to implement and support the justice mechanism. But how can justice be done and implemented if most of the war criminals escape to Belgrade? And secondly, do you think that a sustainable peace could be based on forgetting the memory of all the atrocities that have been committed in Kosovo?

Secretary General: Well I am not asking anybody to forget if they cannot forget, but I think I should ask everybody to forgive and to look to the future. And we have had tremendous experiences not only here in Kosovo but in Europe in this traumatic century in which there has been the possibility of living together after that and that is the basis of the continent we want to construct, in this beautiful building we are trying to construct in our continent in Europe is based on some values, and one of those values is the values of tolerance, the values of living together, the values of looking to the future with generosity and not looking to the past. And I am sure that the people in Kosovo will be able to be part of this continent, of these values that we are going to defend and for which we have been battling in the last months.

Now let me answer very clearly to answer the first part of your question. I think there cannot be total peace without justice and for that I do hope very much, very much, that all the indicted war criminals are where they should be - in front of an international tribunal having a fair trial. This is the sign of civilisation that I would like to implement.

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