Updated: 24 September 1999 KFOR Press Statements

Press Centre

21 Sept. 1999

KFOR Press Conference

by Dr Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary General and Lt Gen Mike Jackson - COMKFOR

Introduction by Dr Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary General

Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for coming and let me tell you first that we, Mike Jackson and I, are very happy to be facing you to answer to you questions after 2 little very light statements. It is a good day for us. But, this is not an end, but a beginning. Demilitarisation is not necessarily accomplished by simply dismantling military structures and collecting soldiers' arms. The concept of complementing demilitarisation through the transformation of former fighting forces, is well established in peacekeeping practice. It became an integral part of the Kosovo peace process.

As a result of the KLA undertaking on demilitarisation and transformation presented to KFOR Commander, Mike Jackson in June. In close consultation with UNMIK, KFOR subsequently developed a concept for a civilian, disciplined, uniformed and multi-ethnic emergency response service closely modelled on the Security Civil of France, that could provide needed emergency and other specialised services while absorbing substantial KLA manpower and directing its aspirations.

Yesterday, I signed UNMIK Regulation No 8, authorising the establishment of such a service: The Kosovo Protection Corps.The Corps will provide disaster response services including, major fires and industrial accidents or spills, perform search and rescue, provide a capacity for humanitarian assistance in isolated areas, assist in de-mining and contribute to rebuilding infrastructure and communities. The Corps will consist of up to 3,000 active and 2,000 reserve members who will be recruited and screened on an individual basis, in much the same manner as the Kosovo Police Corps.
At least 10% of the Corps will consist of minorities. Members of the Corps cannot hold public office or actively engage in political affairs and are prohibited from involvement in the law enforcement of the maintenance of public order.

KFOR will provide day to day supervision of the Corps under policies and priorities established by UNMIK. A transition period of at least 60 days will be required to stand up the Corps. These preparations include the processing of applications, the procurement of basic equipment, and the development of training programs including abroad. Taking into account, among other things, his enormous contribution to the successful demilitarisation of the KLA. I have appointed Agim Ceku as current commander of the Kosovo Protection Corps. I look to him to lead the new members of the Corps of the footstep of Cincinnatus, the model citizen soldier of ancient Rome.

Who left his plough standing up in the field, to answer to the call to arms, and at the end of the war, refused all honours in order to return to his civic duties. This story of a brave and honourable citizen soldier has been repeated in virtually every nation represented in KFOR and UNMIK including in my home. Over the centuries, we all have learned that the price of liberty is constant vigilance and readiness to sacrifice. But we have also learned that there is a time for everything including a time for arms and a time for tools. This is the time to build Kosovo and to build democracy. Thank you.

Statement from Lt Gen Mike Jackson - COMKFOR:

I will follow with some remarks if I may and then the Special Representative and I will very happily take your questions. Well, it's 92 days ago, that the UCK voluntarily declared a timetable within which it would demilitarise in accordance with the requirements of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244. This declaration was made in the form of an undertaking of demilitarisation and transformation, which was presented to me by Mr Thaci on the 21st June. It contained a series of deadlines, that the UCK was to meet leading up to the full demilitarisation by midnight on the 19th September.

At 9.30 p.m. yesterday evening, in accordance with the terms of that undertaking, General Ceku presented me the signed declaration, stating that the UCK had complied fully with the requirements of the Security Council Resolution. I can confirm that I am satisfied that the requirements have indeed been met. Obligations to demilitarise have been carried out, and that I have accepted General Ceku's declaration of compliance and so informed the Special Representative. Just in passing, I note that under now KFOR's' secure control, are over 10,000 weapons and over 5,000,000 rounds of ammunition. I do not underestimate the effort both physical and - not to be forgotten - emotional, that this is taken, but it has been necessary. The conditions of repression here in Kosovo that forged the UCK have gone.

The security of Kosovo is now the responsibility of KFOR alone and one that KFOR exercises with great diligence. So the full and successful demilitarisation of the UCK marks the end of one era, but as Dr Kouchner has already made very clear, it heralds the beginning of another. So the process of demilitarisation is now complete and the process of transformation, the second part of the undertaking, can now begin. Last night, also marked the full acceptance of the transformation process by the UCK. In the manner again which Dr Kouchner has already described. I would also like here to offer my thanks to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Clark who came down here yesterday particularly to help the final negotiations, which led to the transformation process.

I would also like to offer my thanks to the institute of Migration, the IOM, who've done a great deal of work along side KFOR in the transformation process and will be hard at work over the next few days. I believe very strongly, that the Kosovo Protection Corps, offers those members of the UCK who fought for Kosovo, the opportunity, if they so wish, to join it, and to help rebuild Kosovo and shape a better future for coming generations. It will not necessarily be easy, but it will be certainly worthwhile and I have no doubt, that under the leadership of General Ceku, who I have come to know well, it will work.

Thank you very much.

Dr Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary General:

So, we are open to your questions.

Question by Reuters:

Question to try to quantify the weapons, the statement says that a limited number of weapons will be available for personal protection and then it goes on to talk about the number of 200 for guarding and protection duties. Does this mean that there is limited number of weapons is in addition to the 200 and how many is that going to be? And just a supplement, we gathered the Albanian translation of this Kosovo Protection Corps can also be Kosovo Defence Corps, wouldn't it have been better to avoid that ambiguity also bearing in mind that the logo of the new Corps is strikingly similar of that of the KLA.

Answer from General Jackson:

Right, let us deal with the question of weapons as I know this is could to be a contentious issue. What has been laid out is that there will be 200 small arms, we must be clear about that, available for routine site guarding. There will be a number of locations where the Corps is obviously based and I note again taking the model of the French Security Civil that they do guard their own locations. This is an important factor, we are not yet into a fully peacetime security environment, I hope it will become very quickly but I accept we are not there yet.

Therefore it is necessary for the Corps to have them the ability to guard its own locations. In addition, there are also inevitably personnel who regard themselves at risk and the reasons I think are pretty obvious for that. There is a very careful system which has been agreed with the Commissioner of the UNMIK police, whereby individuals who feel themselves at risk and there are obviously, we need to acknowledge here the senior leadership or ex-leadership should I say more carefully of the UCK who will be concerned.

I cannot give you an exact figure but I do assure you that the whole of the weapon's regime has been worked out so that every thing and I mean everything is very carefully controlled by my delegated powers from the Special Representative and we have been extremely careful here. I can assure you that there is no question of unregulated weapons. I hope that answers you questions sufficiently carefully.

Let me now turn to your second question, which is the symbol of the new Corps. I think it is fair to say, and certainly honest to say, that this was a matter of some difficulty when arranging the transformation. The reasons I think again are obvious, the UCK fought and died under the symbol which became for them one of great emotion and significance, obviously wish to see some form of continuation of elements of it. I understand that, I mean I am a soldier in the British Army, which has gone through many reorganisations and symbols matter and people do want to see a carry over.

So, I wanted to make quite clear to you that I accept that emotional transfer that something needs to recognise it. It was very difficult for the leadership of the UCK, some whom will no doubt become members of the Protection Corps to accept for example that the double-eagle symbol would not be suitable for the new structure which would be open for all citizens of Kosovo. But they have done so and you will see that the central motive is a simple geographical (shape of Kosovo)..(inaudible due to change of cassette) .. to the ex-members of the UCK and a lot of hard work went in to the selection of this, it has to be obviously acceptable to the International Community as a whole. I know that there is two meanings still aware. But rest assured that in English the name of the new structure is the Kosovo Protection Corps.

Question from Guardian:

Question to General Jackson can you give us some more details about some reports coming out some Serbian paramilitary activity in certain areas of Kosovo particularly in the north, in Mitrovica region? What kind of threat do think this posses? Also to the statements made in the recent days by Serbian generals that they are massing forces or they could be prepared to send their forces back in to Kosovo because KFOR is not doing a good enough job in protecting the Serbian minorities here. Thanks.

Answer from General Jackson:

I take it in reverse if I may. Yes, I think we all heard some loud noises coming from Belgrade and elsewhere. But frankly there is no evidence whatsoever on the ground that these noises have any manifestation whatsoever. As to your question about paramilitaries I always find that this is a very difficult phrase because what is the definition of a paramilitary? I am not quite certain. If you mean illegal arms are being carried by people who are unauthorised to carry them and committing criminal acts I am quite happy to answer that question on that basis. Yes, I accept that there are illegal arms in northern Mitrovica, but lets be clear there are illegal arms throughout Kosovo and I shall continue with KFOR to reduce as sharply and as quickly as possible that number of illegal arms. But I accept that Mitrovica is a particular problem we are making progress there, I believe weapons are being confiscated and arrests are being made.

Question from the Washington Post:

Two questions: First, on the last issue, going back to the previous question could you say more about whether or not you have seen any evidence that people have associated with Serb Security Forces re coming from Serbia into cities in Kosovo such as Mitrovica with the expectation or with the plan to make any kind of propitiation?

Answer from General Jackson:

I have no evidence of members of a formed organisation from Yugoslavia or Serbia, depending on how you look at the structure, no evidence of members, as I say, of formed organisations. So I think that I cannot add anymore to that.

Follow up question:

Does that mean that you do have evidence that individuals are coming?

Answer from General Jackson:

The boundary between Kosovo and Serbia is, of course, an open boundary, it is just worth reminding ourselves what 1244 says about soviereignty arrangements, it is an open boundary and people can come and go subject of course the their obedience to law and order. It is therefore a difficult task to identify somebody who is coming with malice of forethought to somebody who is going about their lawful business. We are well are aware of the problem, but as I say there is no evidence to say that members of official state organisations are involved.

2nd Follow up question:

I am sorry, if I could also prevail on you to answer one more question. On the subject of the armaments that the KLA, ex KLA leadership will be allowed to retain for personal protection, you said that you could not give us a number. Is that because there is not a limit, that is actually undefined, and if it is actually undefined how can you claim that the number of weapons is under strict control?

Answer from General Jackson:

Because the authority to carry that weapon is mine. Unauthorised carriage of weapons means confiscation, it is perfectly simple. I assure you there are no weapons out there which are not under control. I know you will all fuss and bother about this but I am giving you my assurance. Alright, non.

Dr Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary General:

Let me add something, certainly no official comings of trouble makers, but a lot of non official people are coming and despite of the non agreement of that coming through we discovered that some of the incidents have been organised, and not only in Mitrovica. The number of those people is certainly high and we have to be very suspicious, why are they coming? Because each incident and more, each attack, attempt, murder is a success for Milosovic. You have, we have to understand that. The reason why we are very tough on asking the peoples of Kosovo to understand that and to stop harassing and to stop bothering and to stop attacking the minorities.

Answer from General Jackson:

If I can just go back to avoid yet another question on numbers and the statement of principles will be available to you afterwards. But let me just read, if I may, one of the paragraphs from it, is that no member of the Kosovo Protection Corps will be permitted to carry arms of any kind, unless authorised to do so by the Special Representative, who has delegated day to day supervision to me, and I can assure you that the appropriate arrangements have been made.

Dr Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary General:

Of course that statement, the letter which was signed will be available to you and the regulation, the principles, the letter naming General Ceku etc.

Question from Time Magazine:

The Serbs in Mitrovica are saying that their answer to this Kosovo Protection Corps will be a Serb National Corps. Will you be arresting these people, they are voting on it, I presume today, will you be arresting these people? Secondly, will you give me some clarification on these 200 weapons. Are these the only weapons that will be in trust or are we talking about more?

Dr Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary General:

Well on the second question, yes.

Answer from General Jackson:

I think that I better take this one. Again you'll see from the documents..

Dr Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary General:

Of course, you will see that he is better than me on the use of arms.

Answer from General Jackson:

It is a military aspect, but I am sorry. The first thing is, as I say, that we have some 10,000 weapons. Now these weapons do not belong to KFOR, that is quite clear, and it is therefore, the phrased used in the document is that they are held by KFOR in trust, because who knows where the future will necessarily take us and it is not for me to assume ownership of these weapons. Now, within the document you will see that there is the figure of 2000, are particularly put to one side, to use a common law garden phrase, again in trust because it's from that 2000 that the 200 in use weapons will be drawn. I do assure you again that those weapons are in KFOR hands and will remain so and under our security, it is all very clear there. I hope that that puts your mind to rest.

Dr Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary General:

Let me answer to your first question in 2 parts. First I understand that some people including some Serbs, in Mitrovica or elsewhere, are not for the moment confident in the civilian destination of the Corps, I understand. This Corps must be not an army, and it is not an army, believe us, it was an army yesterday and we break the army, we demilitarise. It has been a fantastic success, I have been involved in a lot of peacekeeping operations and it has been quicker and apparently more of a success than in Nicaragua, Mozambique etc.

Secondly, now this a Corps of good will, but the period of transformation is very important, too much to streamline, to establish with that people through General Ceku, and of course through General Mike Jackson, a sort of programme, project, if we are succeeding, if we will be able to build this Brigade or Peace Corps of rebuilding. I asked General Ceku yesterday on. The people of Mitrovica will discover and close to them that these people of the Corps are rebuilding their Kosovo and in that field it will be very good, that on the otherside of Mitrovica is part of Kosovo. They will start to rebuild it themselves, we will see. You know are taking the point today, today, this is not the day of demilitarisation, it is at midnight today.

Okay, then they have to start the process of work, project, utilities, goodwill, relations with the others, rebuilding their neighbours house which ahs been destroyed, talking about 5 Brigades and providing protection etc, etc. They will be invited, not all of them but several hundred of them in Civil Security Programme in France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, everywhere in a lot of countries they will discover the strength of such a Corps and will change the perception of the Serbs in Mitrovica, I hope so, otherwise they will not be allowed to build anything.

Question - from unidentified journalist:

Mr Kouchner, Mr Thaci, if we got it right announced yesterday, the forming of a new party, creation of a new pary. What would be the possibility of the members of the new Corps to get into this party and do political action here in Kosovo?

Dr Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary General:

Of course to be a member of the party should, of course be allowed, but to be publicly running for election, or to be publicly involved in that parties activities is not permitted for the member of the Corps, clearly. Mr Thaci is no longer a member of the UCK, KLA and he is completely free and we congratulate him, he offered us the statement before you, and he has to change the name because for us it was, at the beginning, the Kosovo Democratic Party, which is a good name. I do not know if he is maintaining this appilation, I do not know. He offered us also, a sort of conference in the end of October, very good, to be in democracy another member of a new party, we are very happy with that.

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