Updated: 25 May 1999 Press Conferences


25 May 1999

Press Conference

by the Secretary General of NATO, Mr Javier Solana
and the Spanish Prime Minister, Mr Aznar

Secretary General: Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you that for me it is a great pleasure to receive here in the NATO Headquarters the Prime Minister of Spain, and let me take advantage of this opportunity to say a few words in my mother tongue - Spanish.

In these past days, we have had the German Chancellor, the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the Prime Minister of Italy, and once again today, with your presence, we are showing the solidarity, the cohesion of our allies. As you can imagine, Mr Aznar has first had a meeting with me where we have gone through the basic elements of NATO's agenda and afterwards he has received an intense and excessive briefing by the Chairman of the Military Committee and by General Clark. I think that with this he is taking with him a vision of the Alliance, he already had this knowledge with the position as representative of his country.

I would like to say that we have talked of all the different points concerning Kosovo, the air campaign, the humanitarian aspects, the diplomatic aspects and also the wish for peace and the building of a peaceful and long lasting peace in the Balkans.

Spain of course remains a resolute member of the Alliance. Throughout, Spain has been a firm supporter of NATO's action in Kosovo, Spain has been firmly committed to the achievement of our objectives. And let me also say that Spain has given strong political support, it has been backing all the activity of the Alliance, not only this campaign, but from the very beginning in Kosovo and in Bosnia.

On the military side Spain's personnel are on the ground already, in the region and ready to contribute to the Kfor at the moment that it starts its deployment. Aircraft from Spain are also taking part, as you know, in the air campaign. But Spain is also committed to the diplomatic effort, the Prime Minister has been visiting a good number of countries in the last few weeks in order to maintain the diplomatic channels also in good shape.

But let me say that Spain has been a country that has been involved in the Balkans from the very beginning. In 1992 the first Spanish troops were deployed in Bosnia under the flag of the UN at that time, and ever since the Spanish troops have been deployed in the Balkans in the mission of peace, in the mission of reconstruction in that part of Europe, in all the different chapters of this complicated life in the Balkans since 1992.

I would like to thank you very much the people of Spain, my country, the Prime Minister, for their support, for their solidarity.

Once again, Mr Prime Minister, thank you very much for being here with us.

Mr Aznar: Good day to all and first of all I should like to thank Javier Solana, the Secretary General of NATO for his welcome, for his words here. I must say that we have spent a very intensive morning's work here at the Atlantic, but obviously with great ease of communication, not just for questions of language but also because obviously we have the same approach, the same understanding of the positions and the objectives here for the Atlantic Alliance in the search for a peaceful solution to Kosovo.

As you know, Spain as an Alliance member is fully engaged, fully committed in finding a solution to the Kosovo crisis, both from the political point of view and the diplomatic point of view which Spain is supporting with determination and a resolute approach, and obviously we agree with the Alliance strategy from the military point of view. And I wanted to say briefly here that we do support the policies and the strategy from the Alliance, without wavering, it is a full support, a whole-hearted support, and we hope that the Alliance's strategy will work, will be maintained and will continue. We must try and be successful, the Alliance must be a success because the success here will be the success of the respect of human rights and good neighbourly relations in the Balkan region, help to refugees and so on. So if we are not successful, if the policy is not successful, we think that any totalitarian regime and policies will win.

So from that point of view we have to solve the very serious humanitarian problem which is one of the fundamental reasons for the Alliance to support the return of refugees to their homes.

Now all this we have talked about today, we had a meeting with the Chairman of the Military Committee, with SACEUR, General Clarke, and with the North Atlantic Council, and therefore I would like to say that I am very pleased to be here this morning and this afternoon here in Brussels and that in the coming days and coming weeks, which will very probably be important weeks, we hope that the path embarked upon by the North Atlantic Alliance will be more and more appreciated and understood and be effective so that it actually leads to a success in its operations and to a solution for a stable peaceful area in the Balkans.

Thank you very much.

Question: Mr President, at the Washington Summit you said that a political and military victory was going to be achieved, but in order to achieve it do you think that to continue with the attacks until the five conditions have been met, or as Mr D'Alema proposed in this same room, to make a pause before expecting Milosevic to change?

Mr Aznar: I would like to give my conviction, my firm point of view on the Spanish position here and the Atlantic Alliance. I would like to say that at the present time we would like to see reasons, we would like to see causes which would allow the Alliance not to continue with its present strategy. But as things stand, unfortunately there is no reason, no cause for the Atlantic Alliance to change its strategy or have some pause in the bombings. Obviously for this to happen, first of all the Atlantic Alliance would have to have the respect of the different conditions or there must be full agreement and that obviously means that the conditions of the Alliance will be complied with. As long as the conditions are not complied with, I would like to say that I see no sufficient reason for any change of strategy from the Alliance, quite the reverse, quite the contrary, I would say that those who defend a possible political and diplomatic solution, as you might call it, we know that it is only by maintaining the present Alliance strategy, and if necessary by increasing the effectiveness of its actions, will we be able to have this political or diplomatic solution which goes through the compliance with the conditions. If it were not the case we would be committing a twofold error: a political error because we would not be continuing with our objectives; and a military error because the Alliance would not be successful in its approach.

And secondly I think it is absolutely basic to maintain the internal cohesion of the Alliance. We have pressures from outside all the time obviously not to prove our effectiveness, but also to prove our unity and cohesion here and this unity must be maintained permanently every day. Obviously there are different sensitivities but we must be very firm on this decisive approach because we have to maintain the capabilities of the Alliance.

Question: This afternoon the Atlantic Council will talk about the KFOR possible ground troops. Do you agree with this deployment of the soldiers in Albania and what would be the Spanish participation to this troop contingent? Sr Solana, what is the strategic reason for bombing and leaving the population without electricity and water supplies.

Mr Aznar: Thank you for the first question. I am not going to go into speculation, because obviously the Atlantic Alliance has to take its own decisions what positions it will take and not take, but maybe the possibility of increasing the deployment of the Alliance in neighbouring countries and Spain will obviously take its decisions according to what is most in keeping with the Alliance's strategy. We obviously have to continue showing our determination there and we will bring our support to the positions of the Alliance if there is to be a deployment.

Secretary General: And all the decisions that the Alliance takes as regards military objectives are objectives which have a military content or some content in the military context. There is no other objective from the Alliance point of view. In this case the actions against the electricity grid were because it has obvious military connotations and a lot of the military actions and military activity, the command and control system for example in the whole of Serbia and Kosovo depends on the electricity grid.

Question: Prime Minister, you have supported the Alliance strategy in general. However, the Foreign Minister a couple of weeks ago made some serious criticisms on the strategy and specifically on whether the bombings were correct or not. Have you been able to raise these doubts with General Clark, do you have a different approach now?

Mr Aznar: Well we all hope that the Alliance effectiveness will win the day because we think that it is globally positive and we would like to finish with this situation as soon as possible, get it over and done with. But obviously there is certain weariness in general, a certain weariness in public opinion, and also in political circles. But this, as we stand now, is not what concerns me most, what does concern me is maintaining the internal solidarity, cohesion of the Alliance which today is producing reasonable results. Obviously as we have said, what is happening on the Serbian side in Kosovo is very different and our operation is very different from Desert Storm, and so obviously our approach is different. But when we see over the 60 or so days that we have had, we see that our Air Forces are having some effect and that they now have the possibility of deepening their actions, as the Secretary General said, there are strategic decisions on targets which are important. But what I want to say is that I do not share the criticisms, which are not justified, as regards the actions of the Alliance. I believe that we must have very high expectations from the Alliance and the Allies, but obviously when we talk about the errors and mistakes of the Alliance, obviously we do deplore these, there are mistakes, there have been mistakes in this campaign but we have to put these into perspective and compare them to other campaigns, other situations and see if things are globally positive and I think that as things stand they are positive.

As regards the Alliance and the strategic air campaign, for this to be a success so there is no ethnic cleansing for the refugees to go back, but if we can do this without any victims, with no collateral damage, with no risks, I think this would not be a military strategy but much more a miracle, and miracles are rather difficult to organise and they usually depend on divine providence. So we know that there are problems but we must persevere in this strategy and obviously we have to understand that we want to finish as soon as possible, but as soon as possible means when there will be this basic agreement for stability in the region to try and solve all these types of problems. And therefore from the point of view of the Spanish government and the Spanish government's point of view vis a vis the Alliance, we do not have any difference vis a vis the approach.

Mark Laity, BBC: You talked about the need for unity being maintained at present. There is a debate both in the media, in military circles, about how long the air campaign can continue and whether it can succeed. Do you see any circumstances in which Spain might agree to using ground forces to force their way into Kosovo, even against limited opposition, if the air campaign is not succeeding on its own?

Mr Aznar: The Alliance has to achieve its objectives and therefore has to adopt a message that enables it to do so. I think the Alliance would be acting very wrongly or mistakenly if it refused radically or expressly to make use of the measures that enable it to achieve these objectives. Secondly, as I said before, I think that the current strategy is the strategy that is giving us reasonably good results and that we have to trust it, without changing it. I want to make a clear difference between maintaining the current strategy and the studying of different possibilities for the future. I am convinced that the Alliance has already designed and planned the possibilities and at the appropriate time the Alliance could tell you them. But at present I cannot find any reason to change the Atlantic Alliance's strategy and I do think, and standing by the Secretary General, that all the military and civilian authorities of NATO have all their plans, forecasts, hypotheses up-to-date for the coming months.

Question: Germany and the Netherlands are asking for an urgent review of the targeting strategy in NATO because they fear that if there are continued incidents that damage civilian sites, public support in western countries and NATO countries will diminish. First of all do you share this concern and secondly do you think there should be such a review of the targets now being hit?

Mr Aznar: I do share the concern to have as few victims as possible and certainly not as consequences of acts by the Atlantic Alliance and I do share this concern not to have victims through actions by the Serb military forces and Milosevic. So we share this concern to avoid victims and we would like human rights to be respected as much as possible. But I do share the point of view that the military alliance may have to have new targets which would allow us to get to this end state as soon as possible. If this is not done then we will have to assume further risks at greater cost and that is why I do agree with the present strategy being maintained and new targets may allow us to continue so that we can achieve a speedy political and diplomatic solution which is what we desire. But this does not mean that we have to risk or make the Atlantic Alliance completely useless.

National Public Radio: The Air Commander, General Michael Short, suggested that it would take two more months of bombing in the air campaign in order for the Alliance to achieve its objective. Your concern here is the cohesion of the Alliance. Do you believe it is possible that between now and the end of July that public opinion will continue to support the air campaign, and could you tell us your feelings on this strategy that has now taken out the water supply in Belgrade and do you fear that it risks backfiring on the Alliance?

Mr Aznar: As regards the last question, I think that the Secretary General has already answered this quite correctly. As regards your first question, I want the Alliance to be successful and I do believe the Alliance will be successful if we have the correct approach, there may be slight differences but we have to maintain the cohesion within the Atlantic Alliance because there is broad support obviously, and so I am totally convinced that in this general atmosphere, general strategy, all the allies do agree and all the Allies which make up the Alliance.

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