24 May 1999
by Mr Peter Daniel and Major General Walter Jertz,
Mr Isa Zymberi, in Brussels and Mr Fatmir Gashi in Kukes
I am sorry for the delay, it was due to a technical problem which I
think we have now resolved. I would like to first of all introduce you
to Mr Isha Zymberi, who is from the Kosovo Information Centre in London,
and also signal the presence in the room of the Albanian Ambassador to
NATO, Artur Kuko, who is in the front row. We will be going to Albania
in a minute or two, but first I would like to give the floor to Mr
Zymberi who has a short statement.
Thank you very much. I have just had a brief meeting with the Secretary
General, Mr Solana, and the following is approximately the message that
I had to convey.
On this 61st day of the NATO campaign against the rump Yugoslav
Federation, I wish to state that the Albanians in general, and the
Kosovar Albanians in particular, are 100% behind NATO. Although Kosovo
has seen destructions as never before, although the people of Kosovo
have been subjected to genocide and suffering of enormous proportions,
they continue to ask for an intensification of the NATO campaign.
The Albanians of Kosovo have no doubts that NATO will achieve a full victory over Milosevic and his morally bankrupt regime. The Albanians
strongly believe that NATO victory will include the total fulfilment of
the five NATO demands, they maintain that these demands cannot be
complemented, or modified or changed in any way. Deviation from any of
these demands will make the NATO victory incomplete. We want a NATO
victory that will bring a just, stable and permanent peace to Kosovo and
the region as a whole. We hope that the moment which will mark the end
to genocide in Kosovo and the reverse of ethnic cleansing is not far
away. I must say that there is some urgency in this aspect.
As we enter the third month of the NATO airstrikes against the rump Yugoslav Federation, many will say it has taken too long. That is
true. But I am inclined to attribute the length of time to the
stupidity and madness of Milosevic and his regime.
Out of over 25,000 sorties undertaken by NATO so far, as you know there
have been a number of regrettable mistakes involving a number of
casualties. Since it was the Albanians who suffered the highest number
of casualties resulting from such unintended action, maybe we should
have the main say about this too. No-one should pretend to be more
sorry about these victims than the Kosovar Albanians themselves.
Serbian concern about these victims is experienced by the Albanians as
an offence on top of all the other appalling horrors that have been
coming from Belgrade. When the air strikes began NATO was aware that
the whole campaign was not risk-free. The Kosovar Albanians felt also
that NATO bombing was a risk worth taking. Therefore the Albanians are
of the opinion that NATO should not be distracted by these mistakes.
The Albanians can make a difference between the deliberate and
accidental, even in the most difficult circumstances, and this is part
of their tradition. This is a war and nothing can be 100% perfect.
The people of Kosovo are heartened by the fact that NATO is preparing
40,000 plus troops for deployment in Kosovo. The Albanians of Kosovo
applaud the brave NATO military personnel, they are aware that those angels of our skies risk their lives day and night in order to bring
peace to a long-suffering people. These pilots will remain our heroes
of peace forever.
Finally, I hope that Milosevic will soon be delivered that personal
bomb, the indictment in The Hague Tribunal. Thank you very much for
Thank you. The way we intend to proceed, now we are going to go to
Kukes in Albania where Fatmir Gashi, who was an English student and
formerly as well an interpreter for the OSCE in Kosovo, and who just
made it across the border in the last two days with the group of men, I
know you are familiar with the story, will be joining us and there will
be a short conversation between Mr Zymberi and Mr Gashi and then we
invite your questions to either of the gentlemen.
Fatmir Gashi, could you please tell us briefly your story since you
were forced to leave your house, your home, on 14 April this year.
I would like to say first Thank God there is someone who is concerned
about the destiny of Albanian people.
It happened just like this. On 14 April we were forced to leave our
houses by both Serbian police and paramilitary forces. They said to us,
go straight to your motherland, Albania, and to your President Bill
Clinton and your grandmother Madeleine Albright, and all those bad
things. We had to walk about 110 kilometres. During the trip there
were occasions of beating people.
After we arrived in the village of Granik, which is 2 km far away from
Klina, we were stopped by 3 policemen and they said find some place in
this village and stay there for a few days until we receive new
commands. There were very bad conditions, we had no food, no flour,
something else to feed our children. During those days there were two
cases of raping. One case was very close to my place, I slept there.
Three policemen came and took three women, two of them were married and
one was single, it happened in the midnight, they held them until the
morning and brought them back and we could see that they were abused and
they were bruised yellow. They survived a very bad night.
After 5 days of staying in that village, precisely on 23 April, we were
told to leave that place and go back to our home town in Mitrovica. So
we left that village and on our way back we were stopped in Srbica, it
was 22 km far away from Mitrovica. We were detained, 190 men, I was
among them also. One of the policemen came near me and said: Hello,
OSCE spy. Where are your OSCE friends? Where is NATO? Where is Bill
Clinton? And they used very, very bad words for all OSCE member
countries and NATO.
After that they sent us to prison in the school building in Srbica.
After two days, precisely on 27 April they took 50 men and they sent them
in a village called Ternata, it is 3 km far away from Srbica. They
first started to shoot from the tanks and from the cannons in that
village, in the direction of that village, and after they stopped they
pushed our men to hold each other handed and they said to them, go
forward, don't you try to escape or look behind because you will get
killed. They said to them: Get inside in each and every house and
search if there is someone. After they searched all the houses they
started to burn all, so the village of Ternata doesn't exist any more.
Those men who were used as a human shield told personally to me that
they saw over 300 KLA soldiers. As soon as the KLA saw them they said
don't you try to shoot on them because the Serbs are using them as a
human shield, so they are our men. It lasted over 4 hours. After that
they have been brought back in the school. Sometimes we had no food for
over 50 hours. There were a lot of children who were from 15 - 73
years, a lot of mentally retarded and handicapped people. They didn't
choose them, then we suffered a big torture there.
Maybe we can stop there. If there are any specific questions,
you might answer the questions. Thank you very much indeed.
Mark Laity, BBC:
A question first of all to the Kosovo Information Centre
representative. What you said today is obviously what NATO wanted to
hear. Is there really 100% support when they know that if this fighting
continues that there will be more people who will die, more mistakes
will be made? The question to Fatmir: you have had your own personal
circumstances. Are you aware of what has happened to other people, have
you any awareness that there are many, many tens of thousands of men who
are missing, do you have any sense of what has happened to them, any
information that has come out about those who are still inside?
I think I said here today what I think. Many people, at least all those
that I have been in touch with, and according to the information we have,
are saying. It is true that when the Albanians signed the Rambouillet
agreement, in a way they placed their fate in the hands of the
international community and NATO. It is also true that Milosevic as a
result, especially after NATO started the airstrikes, has accelerated
his programme. But many people were going to die anyway because that
was part of the programme of Milosevic and many people were going to die
without being made a mistake, but targeted deliberately.
Can you repeat your question please, I couldn't get it clear?
We have heard your personal story, but there are many, many tens of
thousands who are still missing. Are you aware of the fate of other
people who you may have met on the way.
I left over 2,000 men back in the prison in Snekronica. Among them I
left my two younger brothers, two uncles and two cousins of mine. I was
told from some men that there are concentration camps all over Kosovo.
During our trip we couldn't see men or Albanians because all the
villages were empty, all the villages were burnt, totally destroyed.
Are you aware of any forced labour camps, do you know anything about
people being taken and used for forced labour to dig fortifications for
the troops and so on?
There were some cases during our stay in Srbica. They also took about
20 men to open places for machine guns in the surrounding of Srbica.
Are you surprised that they let you go? Do you know why?
I am really surprised, I don't know, but I think that they have
something on their mind because they had all of us on their hands and
suddenly leaving us to go free. During our trip from the prison of
Snekronica until the border of Albania I was really scared, I thought
they are going to use us as a human shield, because we had no information
back in jail what is happening on the international scene, or in Kosovo
or somewhere else. So personally I was terrified, totally scared what
is going to happen to us.
Mr Gashi, you said that Serbian police asked you where are your OSCE
friends. Tell me, how did you feel in the time that you are in the
prison, where are those, your friends, and do you think that they really
cared enough about you and your estimated 2,000 colleagues who worked
for them? And did you have any indication from I suppose that there
were your Serbian colleagues working for OSCE, do you know any example
that any Serbian colleague was interested to know what is happening to
No, they were not interested to know about me. While I was in
interrogation, one Serbian investigator asked me why did you work for
OSCE, did they give you any special job to send any radio locators near
the army bases, have you said where Serb forces are hidden, have you
talked lately to NATO forces in Brussels? I have told them I worked
with several Serbs back in Srbica who were also interpreters. They said
we don't care about them, we are interested in you, you are going to be
cut in pieces, your life depends on us.
Mr Gashi, thank you very much for being with us this afternoon. Thank
Thank you very much and I hope NATO will proceed. I want you to say
that people of Kosovo are supporting NATO bombings so you have to
intensify, believe it or not. I was there until the day before
The way we are going to proceed is with General Jertz who will do his
daily operational briefing, and then I have a few short announcements
and we will take questions in the usual way.
Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Yesterday poor weather, both at some NATO aircraft bases and over some
target areas, resulted in the cancellation of several strikes. However,
targets were struck both in Kosovo and Serbia. In and around Kosovo we
attacked Serb ground forces, including a radar site and a command
centre. In addition, at least one tank, seven armoured vehicles, twelve mortar
positions and nine artillery positions were hit.
This image shows the result of a recent attack against armour at Stimlje
last week. Special police headquarters at Urosevac and Prizren were
struck, disrupting the control of the ethnic cleansing operations in the
Strategic targets were also struck in Serbia. Ponikva airfield was
attacked, restricting the capability of the few remaining Yugoslav
aircraft to support Serbian ground operations against Kosovars. The
radio relay site at Pristina and the TV relay station at Kacanik were
struck, further degrading Serb military command, control and
communications systems, and by that the Serb ability to transmit
The accuracy of such attack is demonstrated by this series of images on
a similar target. The first photograph shows the Savac broadcast
facility before it was struck. Now the attack video. And finally the
post-strike image shows the aerial on the ground, after the attack.
Electrical power transformers at Nis, Drimno and Novi Sad were attacked,
disrupting Serb command and control, air defence systems and propaganda
transmissions. The petrol storage site at Sombor was hit also. This
continued our campaign to limit these essential supplies to the Serb
ground forces involved in ethnic cleansing operations throughout Serbia
Three surface to air missiles were launched against NATO aircraft,
unsuccessfully. I am happy to say all NATO aircraft returned home
Coming back to ground operations in Kosovo once more, heavy fighting
continues near the Albanian border between Serb forces and elements of
the UCK. There is evidence that the UCK is attempting to open further
supply routes into that region.
There has been a report on Albanian Television that displaced persons in
Kosovo, especially in the towns of Stimlje and Urosevac, are being
encouraged to register with security inspectors of the Serbian state
security. The issue of these so-called green cards is supposedly to
enable better distribution of humanitarian aid. If that is the case, it
is to be applauded, but all past evidence suggests that there may well
be a more sinister purpose, particularly in this case as the operation
is reported as being led by Dragan Cergovic, the former Police Chief of
Stimlje. Cergovic has a reputation for crimes against Albanians and his
name has already been passed on to the International Tribunal in The
Humanitarian flights continue with two into Albania and eleven into the Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Nine convoys in Serbia and Kosovo have
been notified for coordination purposes.
That completes my briefing of today. Thank you.
Pierre Julien, RTL:
Le rfugi albanais, tout l'heure, nous a parl de camps de concentration. Comment se fait-il qu'avec les radars, avec les satellites, avec les reconnaissances avion ou les drones, l'OTAN n'ait pas encore la preuve de ces camps de concentration au Kosovo
Il faut aussi penser que ces camps de concentration, s'il y en a et je ne le confirme pas, existent dans des facilits qui ont un autre usage, d'habitude et il se trouve qu'il y a beaucoup de monde sur place qui pourrait ... tout a fait normal, mais je ne veux pas commenter davantage l-dessus, mais comme je vous ai dit, nous ne pouvons pas le confirmer et on pourrait avoir des camps facilement dans beaucoup de facilits autour du Kosovo : dans des coles, des anciennes facilits militaires, des manufactures. Il y a plein d'endroits o on pourrait tablir une telle facilit.
Dragan Blagojevic, BETA:
Si l'OTAN a l'intention de dployer 50.000 hommes sur les frontires du Kosovo de Yougoslavie, avec l'intention que ce soit une force qui entrerait dans le Kosovo soit dans le cadre d'une opration de paix, ou dans un environnement semi-permissif comme on indique, est-ce que vous croyez que dans ce cas, la voie d'avoir d'autres forces, d'autres pays - or l'OTAN est compltement barr - sans parler d'une ventuelle influence sur la structure de commandement.
Premirement, vous avez dit qu'il y aura 50.OOO hommes. C'est une dcision qui reste prendre, une discussion qui aura lieu dans les jours venir et l' autre affirmation que vous avez faite, c'est aussi parmi les considrations qui seront prises en compte lors de la discussion qui aura lieu dans la semaine et les jours venir.
Aprs avoir cout ce matin M. Scharping exprimer le dsir qu'une solution diplomatique arrive la runion du prochain G8 au mois de juin, et il a ajout ces dsirs la possibilit d'un renforcement des forces ariennes. Est-ce que cette runion est la dernire chance pour la Russie d'y arriver avec un accord de Belgrade pour le dploiement pacifique des troupes ?
Il n'y a pas de date ultime. Cela pourrait se faire aujourd'hui, si M. Milosevic voulait accepter les conditions de la communaut internationale. Il y a srement un processus qui est en cours et, je crois qu'il est bien engag mais il n'y a pas de date fixe pour un aboutissement des discussions. Comme vous savez, la fin de n'importe quelle discussion, il faut avoir l'accord de la Yougoslavie.
Jake Lynch, Skynews:
I noticed that Mr Scharping took some pains to impress upon us that, as
he put it, there is no debate about timetables, and on a separate
occasion he said it was not a race against time and he exhorts us to be
patient. And yet we open today's Times newspaper and read about a
deadline set for airstrikes, that in eight more weeks NATO has set herself a
timetable when an appraisal will take place as to whether Yugoslav
forces still remain capable of offering organised resistance. So which
is right? And as a follow-up to that, does it remain NATO's prime aim
to return the refugees to their homes, or is it now beginning to slide
into return the refugees to their homes before the winter sets in?
No, there is no deadline and I believe that in calling for patience,
various people who have spoken out have said very clearly that we have
to be patient and see this thing through and that we have the same
objectives here, that they have been very clearly laid out, and among
those objectives is bringing the refugees back home, and that there are
certain other elements of the five points and they all work together in
order to accomplish that objective. And I have not heard anyone arguing
with the five objectives that the NATO Alliance has set for itself, that
has the agreement of all 19 countries, and beyond the 19 countries have
been expressed in a similar fashion by the Secretary General of the UN
and others in the international community. So no, we are not setting
any firm timetables. I mean the timetable, really the person who
controls the timetable best of all is Mr Milosevic, if he were to pick
up the phone, the thing could end tomorrow, it could end in an hour.
Jennifer Griffin, Fox News:
There are reports from Washington that President Clinton has authorised
the CIA to basically start a cyber war against President Milosevic and
freeze bank accounts. Was NATO informed about this decision, and if
not, how will that affect NATO unity?
I read those reports. They are, as you rightly point out, ascribed to
one of the members of this Alliance. I am not going to comment on them
and I would refer you to the care of the US authorities at their
briefing later today.
There have been Serb press reports today of extensive damage to civilian
water and electricity supplies in Belgrade and elsewhere. Can you
confirm that there has been such damage to city water supplies. If so,
is this part of a new effort to increase pressure on Milosevic by
attacking civilian targets, and if not, what is the military rationale
for attacking civilian water and electricity supplies?
First of all, we have not targeted the water system. The difficulties
with water supply relate mostly to the difficulties that exist with the
supply of electricity. We have not targeted, and I think we have been
very clear about that, the power plants per se, we have targeted the
transformers and the edges so to speak of the electricity generating
system and it is mainly to cause difficulties to the military complex in
the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and they have a choice, Mr Milosevic
has two choices: first choice is he can end this by accepting the five
conditions of the international community; the second choice he has,
because Yugoslavia is a country where not too many people do make the
decisions, he can choose to whom he supplies the power that exists. And
of course he deploys the people that repair the system, and it has been
repaired, it does go up and then go down, and it creates considerable
difficulty for the military, it disrupts their communications and their
command and control systems and other systems used for the repression in
Kosovo and for the anti-aircraft systems and what not. So the aim of
striking these facilities, as I say, with the case of electricity is to
cause problems for the military in the FRY and the water is a secondary
effect that we are not targeting, I repeat, we are not targeting the
We heard from our Kosovar guests today that they would like to see NATO
step up the bombing. Is there agreement in the Alliance to step it up,
especially when we have heard over the last week from a couple of
members of the Alliance suggesting there should be a bombing pause. And
General Jertz, can you tell us more about these ID cards that you
mentioned at the end of your remarks. Who is handing them out to whom,
and when did this start?
On the ID cards, we have heard the reports, within a few days only, that
these ID cards, the green cards as they call it, have been handed out,
as I indicated already, to distribute humanitarian aid. So for us, even
though it is kind of a speculation, we think that there is a sinister
thought behind this idea, to have IDPs coming out from the woods, going
into areas where they might be used as human shields. So we have no
clear indication since how many days the green cards have been handed
out, but it was already since a few days.
As to the bombing, we have told you, and some of the military commanders
have told you even in recent days, that we have stepped up our
concentration on military targets in Kosovo over the last few weeks, and
if you have been at these daily briefings, as I think you have over the
last few weeks, you have seen the red and green and other symbols that
they use in the map, increase in intensity over the territory that is
Kosovo, and of course the bombing, as General Jertz has often said, and
as we have told you and as I think you are now familiar with, is subject
to a large degree to the vagaries of weather and other conditions that
exist, and just today was a little less intense than just the last two
days, 48 hours previously, a lot of that had to do with weather. But
the concentration on targets in Kosovo, the troops on the ground to take
them out and cripple them so that they can be less effective in
oppressing the population in Kosovo, is very much a part of the
accelerated bombing, it has accelerated since the beginning and we have
never hidden that.
Could I add just a few more words on that, Peter? You know that since a
few days there are aircraft stationed in Hungary, there will be more
reinforcements coming in, I will not address the countries but they are
NATO Allies, and it will be a lot more coming in. General Clark asked
for it and he got the approval. Of course discussions are still on-going with the countries, which I can't mention at the moment,
except the one which I just mentioned - Hungary - and there are a lot of
other aircraft coming in, so the force will be built up, which means of
course that we are going to use those forces to intensify the campaign.
General, I think if I am not mistaken, there is almost double the number
of aircraft in theatre now than there was at the very beginning.
Correct, and it will be more.
The German Defence Minister, Rudolf Scharping, said today: "Serbian
people can come to Europe but without Milosevic", but in the short term,
it seems like NATO countries must deal with Milosevic for any political
outcome of this. So can you make a difference between those two points
I am not going to sit and try to split dust specks in mid-air.
Basically, at the end of the day, an agreement, no matter what the
agreement is, takes two and there will be one party, which is the party
that you are familiar with, the North Atlantic Alliance, and the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia. There will be an agreement to end this conflict
and to get the hundreds of thousands of displaced and deported people
back to their homes. So I am not going to go into semantical discussion
as to who is going to sign on what side of the bottom line, but at the
end of the day, there will be what we call an agreement, and agreement
means there will be two parties to that agreement and there needs to be
two parties to make it work.
General Jertz, you have talked for several days about the fighting along
the Albanian Kosovo border. Can you give us any more information please
on the position of the Serb units there, how many losses have they sustained,
and yesterday you mentioned that some replacements had been sent in the
Pec area, is that happening in other areas? And do you have any more
specific information about how many people were being sent?
I don't have any more information on that. As I said, it is not
reinforcements, it is replacements, we have to be very clear on that.
Obviously the Serb military machine is trying to replace those who have been
killed in the war operations, so the fighting is on-going. We are
looking very deeply and very thoroughly into this area, but so far I
cannot give you any more details on it because we still need to have
some more confirmation. What we can see by our intelligence is that the
fighting is very, very heavy and that the UCK is almost about to get at
least a second support route into this area for them, of course making it
easier to bring supplies into the country.
Antonio Martins, RTP:
On these negotiations now, something is probably not working properly.
We know that President Milosevic already sent Mr Karic, they met twice
in Bonn the Foreign Minister of Germany, saying that he would be willing
to accept. At the same time, one week ago Lamberto Dini got President
Milutinovic on the phone saying more or less the same message. Still
nothing seems to work, where is the problem now? And General, one month
ago in an interview with General Clark, he said that this conflict was a
question of resolve, we know our resolve, he said, we don't know
Milosevic's resolve. After two months, do we know already what is
Milosevic's resolve and are you sure that bombing will be enough and for
how long can we go on bombing Yugoslavia?
There is a lot of discussion going on, there is a lot of comment and
there will be more comment because that is the nature of this
organisation. There is open discussion among nineteen democracies, but at the
end of the day there will be a consensus and there will be a consensus
that will be based on the five conditions that the international
community has set out, and the reason for that is that no other
combination of measures can bring about what must happen, which is the
return of the hundreds of thousands of people to their home and the
pacification of this area, province, that we call Kosovo. And I am not
going to add another editorial voice to what will be many editorial
voices as this discussion begins, as it now has begun, and pursues its
path in the way that I think I have described to you, towards a
The air campaign is working very well. I gave you all the numbers which
I presented last Wednesday. I know that everybody would like to stop
this conflict as soon as possible, even us the military, even us wearing
uniform, especially when you listen and hear what has been said and when
you watch TV and see people, how they are treated, especially the
Kosovars. But on the side of the air campaign, most of our weapons are
precision-guided weapons which means the destruction of the target
itself is very limited, we do it because we do want to avoid collateral
damage and then of course it is one of the reasons why in the air
campaign it just takes longer in time. If we would be as brutal as
Milosevic, not even thinking about collateral damage or other things,
this war might have been over by now, but it is not. We do stick to the
pace we are going, the air campaign works very well. I already said
that we will introduce more weapons, more and more aircraft and on the
timeframe of course I won't speculate, I don't know how long it will
take and we hope that it won't take too much longer, especially
intensifying the air campaign.
Norwegian News Agency:
Apart from continuously intensifying the air campaign, could you
elaborate on what General Clark said yesterday that the Alliance has
broadened and deepened its target lists?
Well, you know if my boss says something which is already very clear, I
would not be willing to comment any more on that, especially not on the
targeting, you know it is an operational and tactical sensitive issue,
so I am not going into more details on that, I am sorry.
You said you did not intend to target the water supply system, so how
come it doesn't work, because it works with electric power?
Pumping stations do.
All right, just a couple of announcements. Tomorrow, in the morning,
the Foreign Minister of Slovakia, who is one of two Special Envoys of
the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, will be here to meet with the
Secretary General at 8.45 tomorrow morning. In the morning again, a
little later on, the Prime Minister of Spain, Mr Aznar, will be here,
will meet the Council at noon and there will be a joint press conference
with the Secretary General at about 12.30. A little later in the
afternoon, we will do the regular 3.00, Jamie will be back tomorrow, we
will do the regular 3.00 update briefing with General Jertz. And later
on, the Albanian Prime Minister, Mr Majko, will meet the Council at 5.00
pm and there will be a joint press conference with the Secretary General
at about 5.45. And with that, thank you very much, Jamie will be back