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Updated: 5 August 1999 KFOR Press Statements

Pristina,
Kosovo

12 July 1999

KFOR Press Statement

by Maj. Joosten

  • Good morning ladies and gentlemen...

  • Today, I would again like to start with the operational update:

  • Yesterday was a relatively quiet day which was unfortunately punctuated with violent outbursts involving shootings, intimidation and arson.

  • Troops in MNB West conducted investigations in their area, following allegations of UCK detention centres. No evidence of these centres has been found. During the operation, 4 bodies, weapons and ammunition were found. The UCK Commanders were co-operative throughout. In MNB North they investigated a suspected house in Serbica nothing has been found. It goes without saying that detention centres are illegal and KFOR troops are determined to fulfil their role as enforcers of law and order in Kosovo.

  • In MNB North, 5 Serbian Kosovars were arrested in Mitrovica for looting. Also north of the Mitrovica main bridge, approximately 100 ethnic Serbs and 100 ethnic Albanians were harassing each other. After some warning shots the situation soon became stable.

  • In Lipljan yesterday, 11 long barrelled weapons and 1 pistol were handed in by ethnic Serbs to KFOR soldiers. There are still too many weapons in Kosovo so any reduction in this is a major contributor to the increased safety of all Kosovo citizens.

  • In MNB Central, 1 civilian died and one was injured when the tractor they were travelling in struck a mine. So far there have been 58 mine and UXO incidents. These have resulted in 25 dead and 34 injured. Again we urge all of you to be extremely careful and only travel or walk on cleared roads and access routes.

  • In MNB East, a patrol was engaged from a building in Mogila. There were no casualties and no shots were fired from the US patrol. An ethnic Serb was arrested during a search of the building.

  • At the last press conference, I announced that the Kosovo A power station was ready to be used once power lines were repaired. Royal Engineers have been busy replacing a broken pylon and once fixed, local workers with the assistance of KFOR will be able to rejoin the power lines.

  • Local coal mines have been producing coal for a week now, which can be used to run the power station. A major advantage for Pristina of the restarting of the power station, will be that the water supply will improve. Currently water is pumped up from bore holes in the valleys to reservoirs above the town to supply the population. The low electrical output has meant that the pumps have not been able to work at full capacity. This is just one example of how KFOR soldiers are improving the infrastructure of Kosovo, and thus quality of live for every one.

  • On Saturday, there will be a media opportunity, where members of KFOR Headquarters are refurbishing a school complex in Klina, east of Pec. The project will involve all units within 1 Signals Brigade and will provide a much needed educational facility to the surrounding area. The school was used as a Headquarters for Yugoslav Forces and has mortars and other military equipment lying about. The clearance has started today. There will also be lessons on mine awareness for the children. A helicopter will transport eight journalists to the school and will provide an ideal opportunity for aerial shots. There are some details and photographs of the school and munitions outside.

Question from Kosovo Press: I have one question for KFOR and one question for UNMIK. The last couple of days in Jilan near Mitrovica we have happened upon the Serbian population there seems to be a growing boldness in how they confronting KFOR Forces. Giving verbal challenges to them and verbal threats. Talking to French soldiers they are perfectly aware of the population there, among whom are known Paramilitaries who have simply switched to civilian clothing. Is there a concern that KFOR has, can you please explain what you are doing to somewhat counteract the elements in the Serb population who are getting bolder and bolder as every day comes? For UNMIK. The policy of allowing workers to go back to their jobs. There is a concern that the ratio is a bit skewed to a minority Serbian population. Can you tell us, is there a criteria for hiring people, is the ethnic composition of Pristina of these Municipality that you will be hiring people in. Is this any consideration for you, or are you just going to hire on merit, or because they had a job before, 3 months ago?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: First of all the question of competence and integrity and the ability to do a job could be of very high importance and as we get into the process of re-integration this will become something that will be more and more focused. In terms of this return to work in the Municipality Building. The initial returns today were for 80 Albanians and 60 Serbs. However, if you look at the schedule for returns between now and the end of September the vast majority of those returning will be from the Albanian Community. As well as they set aside some 12 or so positions that would be occupied by other ethnic groups in Kosovo. So I'm afraid that the way I presented that it maybe sounds just like 60 and 80 but there are a total number of 400 that will come back in and the representation obviously demonstrates a far higher proportion of Albanians than Serbs. Having said that I don't think that any of these issues that have to be addressed sectorily can be addressed solely on a numerical basis. The discussions that have gone on, of course, to a great deal have centred on the question of proportionality or numbers. It is an issue, but ultimately would have to be kept in mind is the kind of work programme that what ever sector has needs to be accomplished and the issues of competence and the issues of technical expertise will have to be taken at this time.

Answer from Maj Joosten: In answer to your question on Mitrovica. Generally we can say that KFOR is responsible for creating a safe and secure environment so if there are any breached on that then we are very concerned. Although if you ask me specifically on Mitrovica, I don't think that I am the right person to answer you question on what they are doing about it right now in that area. It is a French responsibility to create that secure and safe environment to maintain law and order and I think that you should address that question to the French Commander.

Question: Could you explain a little more on these 2 so called home prisons that were not found? You went in with 60 vehicles, 2 helicopters and there was not one prison found?

Answer from Maj Joosten: The task to search in a certain area was given to the Italian Brigade Commander. He makes the decision on how many troops he needs to fulfil this mission. Clearly he had a bigger area than in the area of MNB North for example. This is completely up to the Brigade Commanders on how he is going to execute that task that was given to him.

Question. Does this mean that these 2 houses were never used as prisons?

Answer from Maj Joosten: As I said, we haven't found any evidence of any UCK prison.

Question: This one on the 4 bodies that were found. Were these people Albanians or Serbs, do you have any idea?

Answer from Maj Joosten: I do not have that information but I can say that they found 3 bodies which were already dead for approximately one month and one body was apparently killed about 2 or 3 days ago and that is currently under the investigation of the Italian Military Police.

Question from Irish National Radio: For UNMIK. You mentioned the media development work that you are involved in. Can you be specific with regard to electronic media, what efforts are being made in regard to television and radio development?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: At this point we have a number of requests from different organisations that wish to begin broadcasting, which haven't been broadcasting before. There are a couple of existing organisations that had been broadcasting before the KFOR Deployment and before our arrival here. Then you have the question of Radio Television Pristina, which is, of course, part of the RTF network that is run out of Belgrade.

On the question of the new start ups we have been receiving these applications. KFOR which has the capacity and basically the control of the allocation of frequencies has been receiving these requests. We have been working with KFOR on registering these requests and working out a procedure by which we can offer these start ups a provision license to operate until there is a regulatory framework in place. It is quite clear that needs to be a code of journalistic conduct, there need to be regulations that all broadcasters will have to abide by. So that is something that will take some time to do, a team from OSCE visited here at the end of last week and through the weekend.

We met on that and they will be returning with a fully fledged media team to begin working on this question of the regulatory framework and how we will grant these licenses. On the issue of Radio Television Pristina this is a particularly thorny issue. We have of course claims and counter claims by different groups to be able to return to work there. We have held discussions with a number of people who put themselves forward as representing the workers of RTT. We have tried to work out something where we could begin some limited broadcasting and hold off the bigger management questions and policy questions at RTT.

It was not possible to do that and we couldn't have agreement from them on actually creating a mixed working environment, where Serbs and Albanians would work together. That issue is going to have to await the establishment of an independent media board which will be chaired by an international of UNMIK, someone who will be identified and detailed from OSCE or in consultation with OSCE. That media board will ultimately have to work out the procedure by which RTT is brought back on the air. In the mean time, because of the information gap that exists, we are starting to prepare some very very limited programming which should not be confused with bringing Radio Pristina back on the air.

We will be doing perhaps as little as an hours programming a day on matters that we think are of concern to the population, particularly the role of the civil administration and the international organisations here. We hope to have that on the air within the next few days and to expand on that a bit. This is one of those areas where it is felt that if we rush to quickly fill this vacuum, we may in fact be creating bigger problems down the road if there is not a clear regulatory framework.

Question (Inaudible due to individual not speaking into the microphone)

Answer from Maj Joosten: Starting with your last question. I do not have the details with me so I am unable to give you the answer right now but I will look into that and give you an answer afterwards. About the list of missing persons, we have received from Serbia a list of missing persons if we come across people we will check the list and see if they match and will inform the Serbian authorities on this. Of course we are concerned about law and order, as we are about creating a secure environment. As soon as we receive allegations that their might be a UCK prison somewhere we will conduct operations as we conducted yesterday.

Question from Richard Lloyd-Parry from the Independent: Yesterday leaders of the authodox church announced that they were withdrawing their co-operation with KFOR because of what they said was their failure to protect the Serb population. Could you tell us your reaction on that and in substantive terms how will this affect your work in Kosovo?

Answer from Maj Joosten: The only thing I can say is that I have only seen the media reports and I would like to see the possible letters or the explanation to COMKFOR and then I will be able to give a reaction to your question.

Question: Until now what kind of contact and co-operation have you had with the authodox church?

Answer from Maj Joosten: Well we have an excellent co-operation with the authodox church, as you know Gen Jackson has had several meetings with the authodox church. I believe in several areas we provide some protection to churches or monasteries, I am not exactly aware of where and how many locations.

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