|Updated: 20 September 1999||KFOR Press Updates|
KFOR Press Statement
by Lt. Colonel Robin Clifford
Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon.
As you are all aware, today is K+90, the day by which the UCK has voluntarily declared that it will demilitarised in accordance with the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. I thought now would be a good moment to explain the implications of it and what we expect to see on the ground today and tomorrow and to give you some view of how we maybe see things progressing. However, before I go on to that I'd just like to commend the UCK leadership and soldiers on the professional and dignified way in which they conducted their parades, yesterday and over the last few days. As a soldier myself, I appreciate the amount of effort that went into putting on a good parade and I think they did extremely well.
Now, as you will already know, the UCK have already handed in their weapons, less those required for personal protection and guard duties; and according to the terms of the undertaking, from midnight tonight those ex-UCK members will also cease wearing either military uniforms or the insignia of the UCK.
Now the undertaking also calls for a written statement of full compliance to be submitted by General Ceku to General Jackson as has happened on all of the previous deadlines that the UCK have met. Announced with the other deadlines once General Jackson is satisfied that full compliance has occurred, he will make a public statement to that effect.
Now a few words on the subject of non-compliance. As you will also all be very well aware, KFOR is authorised to use military force if necessary to enforce compliance. However, we also realise that there may well be isolated cases of involuntary non-compliance due to either ignorance or misunderstanding. KFOR troops will treat each and every case on its merits and will adopt a flexible attitude to enforcement. Our aim is not to provoke confrontation, our aim is to achieve a solution. However, I would say that any deliberate act of non-compliance or any criminal activity will be dealt with swiftly and robustly and particularly, anyone found carrying an illegal weapon will - as we've done in the past - be detained and have the weapon confiscated. We are also aware that there a some people who are still determined to destabilise Kosovo and they may try to use this particularly sensitive period to carry out acts of either violence or intimidation. KFOR is prepared for this and will take all necessary steps to ensure that it continues to provide the secure and stable environment in which the transformation process can continue. I would remind you that this is only one bit of the overall transformation process. That also includes the formation of the Kosovo Police Service and the resettlement programme that is currently being done by the IOM.
Finally, before taking your questions I would just like to correct a statement that appeared in the press yesterday in which General Jackson was quoted as having said that the term 'personnel' as used in UN Security Council Resolution 1244 when describing those Yugoslav and Serb individuals who may return to Kosovo does not include the VJ. Now, this is incorrect, General Jackson did not say that. The UN Security Council Resolution 1244 does not exclude the VJ from any personnel who may return to Kosovo and General Jackson has always been very clear on that issue. However, this will not be until COMKFOR, in consultation with the SRSG, decides the time for any return of Yugoslav or Serb personnel is right and that time is not yet.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much and I am now prepared to take any of your questions.
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: I would not say that there is a hitch and you are right, the scheduling for today has not gone quite right as we had originally envisaged that it would. This morning General Ceku, I understand was elsewhere with one of his zone commanders and therefore, not able to come to see General Jackson. General Jackson is also concerned that were he to give a Press Conference this afternoon at which he would then, of course, declare his satisfaction with full compliance of the terms of the undertaking, fifteen or so hours ahead of the deadline, would not necessarily be entirely sensible. So he has decided to wait until that deadline has passed before giving his assessment of full compliance, which he has done in the past.
Question from CNN: Will there be a signing ceremony tonight between General Jackson and some KLA representative on the completion of the demilitarisation and the transformation of the KLA to a civilian corps?
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: There are a number of strands on that particular question. Firstly, I should say that the deadline for tonight is a deadline of demilitarisation as laid down in the terms of the undertaking. Any transformation into a future organisation will not happen immediately, it will not be a question of just taking off one hat and putting on another. There will be a process - quite a long process in which the current members of the UCK will play their full part. The IOM, I know, began their recruiting process yesterday and it will continue on throughout the rest of the week. As I said, this organisation that we are calling the Kosovo Corps, for want of a better title, is but one part of the process to full resettlement. It is not just for members of the UCK, it is open for all communities here in Kosovo and everybody will apply on his or her own merits and will be selected on his or her own merits and undergo a training process before this new organisation will finally kick up, which could be anywhere between 60 and approximately 90 days. It will take a long process before we get up into the full, available to actually stand up, new organisation. As for this evening, well, General Ceku as at midnight ceases to be Chief of Staff for the UCK because the UCK ceases to exist, so any signature that he might give in that capacity will have to be done before midnight tonight.
Follow-up question by CNN: (Inaudible due to Journalist not waiting for roving mike)
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: I sincerely hope so and I see, as you may have heard, a Reuters report, saying that is what the UCK leadership has announced. I very much hope that this will be the case.
Question by BBC: It is clear there are still differences over the transformation of the KLA. Can you elaborate on what these differences are and how serious they are?
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: Well, as I have answered in the last question, there are some areas of detail of which the UCK leadership wishes to continue to discuss. But as I said, the transformation process, which is already happening and on which there are three major strands to which I have already illuded, is going on at the moment and it will continue to go on. The role that the current UCK leadership will play in any future organisation is something that is still being discussed at the moment and I think it will be inappropriate of me to announce it now what these discussions are.
Question by ABC News- Nightline: Even after this agreement is concluded, it seems extremely likely that there will be weapons still in private hands outside military control in Kosovo. Give us your sense of the scale of that problem and what the rules of engagement, or the rule for KFOR, will be in dealing with those weapons in private hands?
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: Thank you for that, that is actually a very important issue and I am pleased that you made the distinction between military weapons and those in civilian hands because there is a distinction to be made there. As for my assessment of how many there are, I really do not know and I don't think that anybody else really knows how many weapons there are in this particular part of the world, it is part of the culture, the culture of owning weapons. As for our role and what we will do, the regulation and the authorisation and certification of weapons is an UNMIK police issue and they will be responsible for issuing weapons certificates should one be required in line with anywhere else. Our role is to ensure that all those weapons, that are unauthorised, i.e those illegal weapons we come across, are confiscated. If we come across somebody who has a weapon or a cache of weapons and there is no authorisation for holding those, we will confiscate them and we will destroy them. Unless, and I have to make this particular distinction, there are any weapons that may be required in an investigation for forensic exam purposes.
Question by The Guardian: You say that there are some details, there is a problem on some details between (inaudible). Can you actually, what are these details? Thank you.
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: I did not say that there is a problem on some of those details and I said that there are some details of the exact relationship for the current leadership of the UCK and any formal organisation. As I said to you colleague earlier, I think it would have been inappropriate to go through those in public forum at the moment, while they are still being discussed.
Question by Washington Post: Robin, we at least expected some kind of formal statement by General Jackson that the demilitarisation or the demobilisation part of the agreement had been complied with. This is what other NATO officials have been saying for several days, the fact that General Jackson has chosen to wait until tomorrow to say this, is that meaningful in some way? Is there some last minute question mark, about that part? - This is separate from the transformation issue that remains under the negotiation.
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: No, I understand that question. As far as we are concerned, General Ceku has said - I believe it was on Thursday - that he has handed in all his weapons ahead of schedule, which we are extremely grateful and impressed by. It is a major declaration although intent, there are still some weapons out there legally held until midnight tonight, or to say lawfully held by members of the UCK for personnel protection and guarding purposes. They are still wearing their uniforms and insignia of the UCK and while we are content that the declaration of compliance is entirely honourable the formal fact has not yet taken place because it is not actually scheduled to take place before midnight tonight and it will be inappropriate to declare that a fact until the fact has actually occurred.
Follow-up question by Washington Post: As I understand correctly, this is just a matter of following formalities. There is no last minute question mark about weapons holdings? Things that should have been turned in have not been turned in.
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: No, absolutely non at all, we are entirely satisfied that they are, less those weapons that we know, and have authorised for the reasons I have just given, everything else has been turned in, there is no last minute clinch on that score at all.
Question from Washington Times: In terms of the transformation of people that say Policemen, it is interesting to look at the new ID cards for the police do not have the insignia of the KLA but they have another insignia. I wanted to know if NATO is really satisfied that people that say that they are authorities here in Kosovo are actually stepping down in saying this is your show, we are not going to do the policing work. Because, as far as I can see the new IDs for the police which are we shown today in Central Kosovo, are those for policemen in fact and the KLA had, former cards that said KLA and now they have new cards. Are you satisfied that these people are really stepping back from policing roles that normally either the UN or NATO would be engaged in?
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: I am not entirely sure, which police ID cards you have seen. The Police force is the UNMIK police which currently provides the police force. That is the current police force here. We have under training the volunteers for the Kosovo Police Service until I think it is the second week of their training at the moment and they will of course be issued police ID cards and police uniforms when they graduate. Any other 'police ID cards' you might have seen are entirely illegal.
Question from CBS: You said that General Jackson said that the VJ is not excluded from personnel returning to Kosovo and I guess KFOR has open authority in that case so when you say that the VJ can return, how many can return and for what purpose can they return?
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: Well, the ultimate authority is in UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and those are the words of the UN Security Council Resolution not of General Jackson. It is within the confines of 1244 that selected - I believe it is stated - Yugoslav and Serb personnel may be allowed to return at the time being suitable by COMKFOR and the SRSG. That time is not yet, it does not specifically exclude the VJ and as it is reported in the (inaudible) that is mentioned (inaudible) as I mentioned earlier on.
Follow-up question by CBS: When General Clark was here, he emphasised that the Police of Yugoslav army would not be able to come back. Are you saying that this statement is just an different opinion, or..?
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: No, this is not a different opinion at all. The response that General Clark gave was to a question of the return of FRY forces and the understanding that we in military have about FRY forces is formed units, formed VJ units. This is not the case, if you look at the tasks that may be required of the individuals that come back, boarder patrolling I believe is one of them. We would expect the personnel who would come back to fulfil these tasks, are people who are best trained and able to do so. But, I was stating that there is (inaudible) in the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 that VJ are excluded when the time is appropriate and it is not yet.
Question from the Independent: The French PIO in Mitrovica yesterday denied reports that KFOR had, General Clark had said, that when he was last here that KFOR had observed a co-ordinated effort to destabilise Kosovo. Can you speak of that?
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: Well no, because I do not know exactly what the French PIO may have said, under what circumstances. What we have said here is that there has been, over 3 or so weeks ago, we started to notice that there was more organised activities on behalf of some of the Serb communities. We have always said, that actually, we have no evidence of any Serb Paramilitaries operating in Kosovo. By the word paramilitary, I mean those that we have seen operating during the Bosnia war and during the war down here, there is no evidence of that at all.
Question from the NY Times: Can you just clear up, I do not really understand how it is going to work, from midnight tonight Ceku and all commanders will be in civvies with no weapons. When are you going to give them their new uniforms and their weapons back? We know that personnel are allowed personal weapons and personal protection, are you actually going to take them away and then decide when to give them back, and how long will that take?
Answer by Lt Col Clifford - Chief PIO: ( inaudible due to technical difficulties)