25 May 1999
by the Secretary General of NATO, Mr Javier Solana
and the Albanian Prime Minister, Mr Pandeli Majko
Let me say this, it is a great pleasure for me and for the Council to receive once again the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Majko, which is not the first time he visits us, but today he has come in the format of the PFP Confrontation mechanism, according to Article 10, Article 8, of the PFP framework document.
Let me say that we are very, very thankful to the work and to the manner in which the Prime Minister has handled a very difficult situation, not only in his country but also in the region. And I would like to underline three aspects. First the political manner in which he is handling his country and the manner in which politically he is also supporting the aims of NATO in these moments, moments of difficulty but moments in which we have the commitment to resolve the crisis that has been created by President Milosevic in Kosovo. Secondly, I would like to thank also the Prime Minister for their support to NATO militarily.
As you know, the airspace of Albania is open to NATO Air Forces, Albania is receiving the Allied Harbour Operation, in which 8,000 soldiers from NATO are helping the humanitarian crisis, and he is helping us with all the facilities which are necessary in order to fulfil our mission in Kosovo. And, thirdly, I would like to thank him for the manner in which he is handling the humanitarian crisis. I had the opportunity not long ago, a few days ago, to visit his country, to visit the camps, to visit the manner in which the country - Albania - is so generously taking refugees. I would like to underline that over 400,000 refugees are already in Albania, and out of those, 300,000 are in families, in families of Albanian people who have opened their houses to receive them. I think it is something we have to underline and it is something that we will never forget, the manner, the generosity in which your country has done the immense sacrifice of accepting that very, very numerous number of refugees.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for your visit, thank you very much for what you are doing and the floor is yours.
I would like to thank Mr. Shea and my good friend Mr Solana, the Secretary General, for the invitation. We come as friends here and we come to stress the good cooperation that we have with NATO. I met the Secretary General and we had a good meeting with the Ambassadors. We are satisfied, we are dealing in a very satisfied mood because we see that we and the other countries in the region are enjoying the solidarity of NATO.
I stressed Albania's willingness to cooperate with NATO, independent of the cost it will be for Albania and for the Albanians in view of the pressure from the Milosevic regime with ethnic cleansing and the humanitarian catastrophe which has overwhelmed the region. We support NATO's efforts and the fulfilment of the five conditions by the Milosevic regime.
Mr. Solana, the Atlantic Council has today decided to send in more troops to the Albanians, even to Albania. I would like to know which are their exact number? And, to the Prime Minister of Albania, would you accept an invasion from your country if necessary of Kosovo?
Let me say that what has been approved this afternoon is the update of KFOR and now will go into the military channel to make the appropriate updating of numbers etc., so I cannot answer the question at this very moment. What has been approved by the Council politically is the update of the KFOR plan. But now as I said the military have to continue working on it and to start the conference to see how the countries offer their forces and I will be able to answer that precise question in the coming days.
A very interesting question and a very sincere question. You used the word invasion in your question. On the basis of this logic, of this word, it wasn't NATO which began the operation. If we didn't use this word then Milosevic would be free to continue whatever he wants. I would like to tell you all that for information reasons, or because of the situation in the media, you are better informed as to how many Serbs are dying during the NATO air campaign, which is obvious that it should be transmitted, they are mistakes that are made, but I don't know how much information you have about those who are suffering in Kosovo itself at the moment. I received word yesterday, yesterday hundreds of people came across the border who were freed from prison camps in Kosovo, and there were dozens who died, who did not survive their stay in the camps. There is an estimation of thousands of people who have died in such situations up to now in Kosovo. I wonder why we are talking about the word invasion, how does that co-ordinate with the word massacre, and what is more important, who is the invader? Are we to stop massacres from being committed by using what you called an invasion, or taking advantage of an invasion, are we to defend civilians from armed bands, are we to defend women and children? Under such circumstances, can we really use the word invasion?
Mr. Solana, does this huge increase in the NATO force on the ground in the region create for NATO the option, should it take it, of going into Kosovo if Mr Milosevic does not agree a peace deal?
The updating of KFOR is, as you know, prepared to be deployed for a peacekeeping mission, not for any other purpose. But as I said before, all options are open and we are working on them because we don't want to take off the table any option. But the strategy we have at this point is the air campaign and the deployment of troops for a peace keeping mission. What we are updating now is the volume of force for an update of KFOR, nothing other than that, KFOR.
I will use this opportunity to ask the Albanian Prime Minister, as far as we know there is initiated within the government in Tirana to bring together the leaders of the Kosovar Albanians. What did you achieve at this stage and when do you expect President Rugova to visit Tirana and to meet with the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army?
We have done what we had to do, we invited everyone to Tirana, I think that is the best place for a meeting and to share our common worries about the future of Kosovo and I hope we will succeed.