31 May 1999
by Mr Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman
and Colonel Konrad Freytag, SHAPE
Jamie Shea : Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
It is General Jertz's birthday, and therefore Colonel Konrad Freytag of
SHAPE is allowing General Jertz to have a nice birthday and is replacing
him up here on the podium.
Last Thursday the world spoke through the United Nations International
Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and it condemned the crimes
against humanity that have been committed by President Slobodan Milosevic
and his government in Belgrade. We have seen in the last year murders,
massacres, forced deportations, all because of who somebody is, or what
that person believes, ethnic identity and not because of any actions that
individuals may have committed.
These crimes are an assault on the values that NATO was created to defend
and which it has successfully defended now for 50 years. By the way, they
are the values of any civilised democratic community of nations, and every
leader of this Alliance shares that conviction. Over the past few days
you have heard from Chancellor Schroeder, from President Chirac, from
Prime Minister Blair, from Foreign Minister Dini and many others, all
making it clear that NATO is fighting a just conflict. And later today
President Clinton will give a major address on the same topic from the
Arlington National Cemetery on the occasion of Memorial Day in the United
States. The President will make it clear that our commitment to these
values, to freedom, to the rule of law, to fundamental human rights of
the individual, is what we are defending in Kosovo. That is the reason,
and the only reason, why we are there today. He will also make it clear
that the Milosevic regime and its campaign of ethnic cleansing imperils
those values in the Balkans, but not only in the Balkans, throughout the
whole of Europe, if those abuses are allowed to stand, and that we have
no choice but to stand up for what we believe in.
In other words, there is always a cost to defeat an evil, it never comes
free unfortunately, but the cost of failure to defeat a great evil is
far higher in the long term. So this Alliance will not be shaken, we will
not stop and we will not let up until Milosevic and his killing forces
withdraw from Kosovo. We will not let up, we will not stop, we will not
flinch until the refugees are allowed to return to their homes and NATO
is allowed to help play its just role in guaranteeing their security.
Ladies and gentlemen, democracies are always reluctant to use force,
that is the way it should be, they prefer to settle disputes and crises
peacefully, but when they are given no choice but to use force to uphold
their values, they do not back down either. They continue, patiently,
doggedly, until their objectives have been achieved.
Now dictators usually miscalculate the resolve of democracies to stay
the course, at least at first, but sooner or later they realise that democracies
will continue until they prevail. NATO is not a quitter and I hope that
President Milosevic, after 67 days, is finally beginning to realise that
because it will hasten the solution to the crisis.
Thank you. I will now ask Colonel Freytag to give you the overnight
Colonel Freytag : Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Yesterday, NATO maintained its pressure on the Yugoslav leadership.
Another day of good weather enabled us to fly almost 800 sorties. Our
air attacks included 323 strike and 92 air defence suppression sorties
out of precisely a total of 772. We struck highway bridges at Vladicine,
Bare and Donjetrinjanga, further impeding the lines of communication for
the Serbian security forces into Kosovo.
Earlier, as General Jertz explained the importance of Serb artillery
and the damage we are doing to those batteries in Kosovo, he mentioned
that Belgrade was sending replacements into Kosovo and I can report to
you that yesterday NATO struck some of those replacements on the road
to Kosovo, a total of 7 artillery pieces.
Other targets engaged included a radar site, 2 mortars, 10 other revetted
positions, 12 tanks, 6 armoured personnel carriers and other military
vehicles. We again hit airfields at Nis and at Ponikve. Airfields are
priority repair tasks for the Yugoslav military and they are a priority
target for NATO. We hit President Milosevic's communications, his radio
and TV relay and broadcasting sites shown on this slide. We struck Serb
military storage areas, including ammunition and petroleum sites, and
a petroleum refuelling station. We also hit a military barracks, as shown
on this slide.
We hit a command bunker located at Avala and air defence command posts
at Novi Sad and Rakovica. Serb border posts were struck, which have been
used to keep refugees from fleeing the terror inside Kosovo.
Electrical power was interrupted by a strike on a power transmission
tower near Belgrade. There was no Serb aircraft activity and there was
only intermittent use of air defence radars yesterday. The Serbs know
that if they transmit, they risk being struck by NATO suppression aircraft.
Two missiles were fired at NATO aircraft yesterday, one ballistic, one
guided, and anti-aircraft artillery fire was light. All NATO aircraft
On the ground, the UCK continues its operation in south western Kosovo
in the vicinity of Mount Pastrik. I think we have told you over the past
couple of days about the fighting ongoing in the strategic area of Mount
Pastrik, and I say strategic because from Mount Pastrik there is a commanding
view of the approaches to Kukes in Albania. Kukes, as you know, houses
refugee camps and an airfield crucial for humanitarian relief. From Mount
Pastrik one can see north along the Djakovica Valley, east to Prizren
and across the valley to Suva Reka and Ovalovac. These areas are important
because the lines of communication and supply have been highly contested
by Serbs and UCK. Yesterday we learned that the UCK were being forced
back towards the Albanian border. Today fierce fighting continues on the
slope of Mount Pastrik. Numerous Serb infantry, armour and paramilitary
elements are reported concentrating in this area. NATO aircraft are taking
advantage of this opportunity to attack the now more prominent concentration
of Serbian war machinery. We have recent unconfirmed reports that Serb
tank and artillery are shelling the civilian population in the Djakovica
valley and in the areas around Mount Pastrik. Further north, near the
Kosovo border with Albania and Montenegro, UCK and Serb forces are fighting
for control over borders and the lines of supply and communications.
That, ladies and gentlemen, concludes my portion of the briefing.
Jamie Shea : OK, we go to questions.
George Foris, Magyar Nemzet : Two questions to the
Colonel. First, there are reports that two NATO bombs landed on Hungarian
territory. They didn't explode, they just landed there. I wonder if you
can comment on it and if you can say whether they were coming from the
Hungarian air space or if it was mistargeted from Yugoslavian air space?
And secondly, as far as the UCK offence is concerned, how much does it
affect altogether the NATO operation? At the beginning there were some
sceptical voices from NATO military persons, and do you have any evidence
that it could be harmful, or is already harmful, in terms of the humanitarian
Colonel Freytag : I will answer the first quickly.
I have no reports seen and I cannot confirm anything on this. I will go
back to my headquarters and we will address that tomorrow.
Jamie Shea : George, on the UCK certainly, as I said,
there have been the indirect beneficiaries of NATO actions. In fact last
week they were able to occupy three villages where the Yugoslav forces
had withdrawn under the onslaught of a NATO strike. So, tactically, yes,
although I again stress that we have no direct relationship. But again
we have a clear objective here of striking at the Yugoslav forces wherever
they are in Kosovo, no hiding place. If the UCK are able to benefit from
that, so be it. That's one more convincing reason for Milosevic to withdraw
Fred Colman (USA Today): Two questions on the bombing
of the bridge at Varvarin: first of all, can you confirm that the attack
took place at 1.00 p.m., or at least in the middle of the day; and second,
if it did take place in the middle of the day, how does that square with
your repeated assertions, NATO does everything to avoid civilian casualties,
since clearly you are going to take more civilian casualties in the middle
of the day, than you would in the middle of the night?
Colonel Freytag : You are aware of our press release
of yesterday, and there is nothing to add. But I confirm to you again
the time; it was 11.01 zulu time, which is 1 p.m.
Jamie Shea : Fred, I've got some civilian casualty
figures for you this afternoon. 550,000 internally displaced persons in
Kosovo; 883,500 refugees in neighbouring countries, 75% of which are women
and children; 193,845 Kosovar refugees elsewhere in the world from Austria
to Australia, spread across the globe. Currently, 1,582,345 displaced
persons and refugees resulting from the Serb actions in Kosovo, 93% of
the original population of Kosovo; 225,000 men missing, but at least 6,000
killed in summary executions, 10 mass graves. That is, I think, the vital
casualty statistics as far as NATO is concerned, and that is the generation
of Milosevic's bullets, not NATO's bombs.
Antonio Esteves Martins, RTP: I have got a question
for Colonel Freytag concerning the attack on the convoy where some journalists
were hit. I know the pilot is going on debriefing. Do you have an idea
about what the target really was, what kind of aircraft, and what really
happened? And another question after this, our local correspondent was
hit, and she was invited on the night of Saturday to go, she was a little
bit hesitating about whether to go or not, is it possible for NATO to
know whether, in some areas of Kosovo or elsewhere, western journalists
are trying to do their job? And, Jamie, Chernomyrdin is going back probably
to Belgrade together with President Ahtisaari, would this make a difference
if President Ahtisaari comes back with something more than just a declaration
of Milosevic, and what do you really need to start thinking about the
Colonel Freytag : If, I could begin. There was only
one NATO attack which took place near the location at which the journalists
are reported to have been injured. The media reports are a bit different.
At 15.15 hrs local time yesterday, NATO aircraft carried out attacks on
a tunnel on the Prizren-Prezovika road. We attack tunnels like this because
you can use those tunnels for secure storage of VJ and MUP equipment as
well as to hide people. All attacks were successful and the bombs hit
the target areas at both ends of the tunnel. This was a legitimate military
target. The air crews did not see any civilian vehicles in the area.
Jamie Shea : Antonio, let me just add that we appreciate,
and admire sincerely, the courage of western journalists trying to get
into Kosovo to report on the horrors that are going on there. That's an
extremely important function, and it's not easy. But we do not know about
the transport of journalists inside Kosovo. That information isn't passed
to us and we cannot guarantee their security.
You asked me a question on the diplomatic front. Well, you heard what
President Ahtisaari said last night in a series of interviews. I think
he gave a very firm, clear message, that he too is encouraged that Belgrade
is now showing signs of accepting the G8 conditions, but he too wants
to know what the details are before giving a judgment. He shares the position
of the allies in that regard. Knowing President Ahtisaari, when he does
decide to go to Belgrade, and that's his decision, he will be taking a
very, very firm message with him that there is no negotiation and that
Milosevic must accept the five conditions. And I know from his experience
in the UN that he is a very firm and convincing person to carry that particular
message. Of course we know about the news that there can be perhaps a
meeting tomorrow in Bonn - I don't believe it's officially confirmed yet
- with Mr Chernomyrdin, Strobe Talbott once again, President Ahtisaari.
Anything that can keep the diplomacy moving forward, which can use that
diplomacy to pressurise Milosevic, make it clear to him that he has to
accept the five conditions, is something that we welcome.
Dimitri Khavine, Russian Line : Although the figures
you have released are very impressive and terrible, still can we hope
to get some explanation tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, about the
timing of this strike, because it's very important to understand the targeting
policy? Why it was stricken just exactly in time when the civilian casualties
are most probable. Could we hope to receive the explanation?
Colonel Freytag : Dimitri, I don't think that we will
have more details tomorrow than that what we have already released to
you in writing last night, and what I have repeated this afternoon. We
are not on the ground; we cannot confirm Serb press reports.
Dimitri: No, but about the timing of the strike. From
the common sense, it is exactly the time when the traffic is most intensive
there. It's not like in midnight.
Colonel Freytag : Well, as we said in our press release,
this was a legitimate military target because it belonged to the major
lines of communications, that's why the bridge was hit on two ends and
Jamie Shea : Dimitri, I hope you'll ask Belgrade to
give some timings about some of these other civilian casualties that I
have referred to.
Julie, National Public Radio: We talked about the stepped
up bombing campaign. It has clearly been accelerated, it has reached its
most intense level, you say, today. At the same time, so have the number
of incidents that have affected individuals and civilians here. But doesn't
this leave NATO open to the criticism that it in fact is not doing all
it can to spare civilians, and that you can't square both the acceleration
of the campaign with the notion that you are doing all you can to save
civilian lives - to minimise.
Colonel Freytag: I do not confirm the word incidents.
This is in the Serb press reports and I am not confirming this, and NATO
has not confirmed that this was an incident. We have confirmed that we
targeted and we struck a militarily important target.
Jamie Shea : Julie, we have been engaged in this because
the Government in Belgrade has been deliberately targeting large numbers
of its own civilian population for months. We have made it clear that
we would have preferred to solve this through other means except the use
of force. But we are not going to be deterred, having started to do this,
until our objectives are met. That's clear.
Griselda Pastor, Cadena Ser: Sur le voyage de Monsieur
Ahtisaari toujours, n'y a-t-il pas une contradiction entre dire presque
qu'il est vaincu militairement et aller Belgrade aprs les inculpations
du tribunal de La Haye ?
Jamie Shea : J'ai toujours dit trs clairememt qu'il
appartient aux envoys internationaux de dterminer avec qui Belgrade
ils veulent parler. C'est leur decision et pas la ntre, nous respecterons
bien leurs dcisions, ils choisiront leurs interlocuteurs qui leur paraissent
a mme d'accepter et de mettre en oeuvre les cinq conditions de l'OTAN.
Jake Lynch, Sky News: Jamie, it is just on the reports,
I believe on ITA/TASS of the package that Mr Chernomyrdin has been discussing
in Belgrade, one element of it being that ground troops from the main
proponent countries of Operation Allied Force be kept away from peace-keeping
duties. Now, I am sure, Belgrade and indeed Mr Chernomyrdin might have
their own motives for suggesting that, but let me just ask you, don't
you think that does have some good sense for NATO in one respect. You
said, from there before, that it's important that this force will be seen
as fair and even-handed. You said earlier, that the KLA, for example,
have become the indirect beneficiaries of the bombing campaign. Don't
you feel that it's possible, at least in some areas, that it there are
ground troops carrying out peace-keeping duties from those countries,
they may become a focus of resentment, and therefore prolong the conflict
between the actual people on the ground who must eventually live together
and therefore at least in some areas, it might make good, prudent common
sense for NATO to keep out of them?
Jamie Shea : Well, Jake. Our position has been clear,
and I can summarise it as follows. No NATO, no go. Why? Because it is
to us absolutely crystal clear that if there is not an effective security
force in Kosovo, nobody is going to trust that force. No Serb, no Kosovar,
nobody. If that force is not able to uphold a climate of security, everybody
is going to suffer as a result, and we have lived through that experience
in Bosnia and we are not going to repeat that mistake. We have seen in
the past how dictators can play games with ineffective, badly armed, badly
equipped international peace-keeping forces. The climate in Kosovo is
going to be a difficult one, and a NATO core in our view is essential
to ensure efficiency. That, by the way, is not just our position. Go and
speak to half of the world, and most of the countries that have said that
they would be willing to participate, and they will say exactly the same
thing. No NATO, we don't go. Although, having put that core together we
want, and will have the participation of a number of other countries and,
Jake: All good reasons surely to have then a force
with teeth as you have often said, but I don't hear any particular reason
why it shouldn't be in some zones of Kosovo the Russian Army which provides
that. The point is, wouldn't it be prudent to make such an agreement in
the interests of basically settling things down on the ground in the long
Jamie Shea : Well, we are going to look at the precise
modalities, the precise command arrangements, we have said that, but the
principle of a firm NATO core is something that we are all attached to,
and here we are on Day 67 and we are as firmly attached to it as before.
Greg, Fox News: Jamie, just following up on the basic
theme that Jake has. Tomorrow, you have a SHAPE Force Generation meeting.
How do you generate this force when that force still might be in a little
bit of flux in terms of forward planning; that is, will it be 50,000 NATO
or might it be 35-38,000 NATO and 12,000 Russian/Ukraine, and again if
a final agreement with Belgrade puts some nationalities there, some others,
how do you plan this Peace Implementation Force which you have got to
get settled, while the final agreement with Belgrade on what kind of force
goes in there is not settled?
Jamie Shea : Well, Greg, we are planning on the basis
of a NATO force initially because we are the forces that will probably
be ready immediately to move into Kosovo as soon as the Serb forces begin
to withdraw, and to set up the advance guard of a Peace Implementation
Force. Obviously, any partners that want to contribute will do so. And
by the way, if that means the peace-keeping force becomes larger, fine.
There is not any lack of work to be done by a military force in Kosovo.
But we know that those partners want to come in to an organised force
around a NATO core. Many of them will offer specialist capabilities, rather
than large numbers of forces, and so initially we are going to put as
much of it together at the Force Generation Conference as we can, but
speaking to partners soon thereafter.
Margaret Evans, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:
Jamie, this morning when you were talking about the reports that a retirement
home was hit in Surdulica, you said that an army barracks was attacked,
and that to your knowledge a NATO missile did not go off its mark, that
it hit its target. But on the target list, there was also an ammunition
storage site that was attacked, can you tell us whether that missile possibly
missed its mark? And secondly Mary Robinson has again criticised NATO
for using cluster bombs. Can you respond to that criticism?
Jamie Shea : Well, first of all Margaret, on the Surdulica
incident, we have given you what we've got at the moment. I have nothing
more to add on that. As far as Mary Robinson is concerned, I have also
seen at least the tenor of her report, and from what I have seen it is
heavily slanted towards criticism of the side that clearly she believes
is primarily responsible for what is happening in Yugoslavia and Kosovo
today, so I at least have drawn a very, very clear conclusion, and I respect
greatly Mary Robinson and the role she is playing. She knows fully well
that we are doing out utmost to minimise any harm to civilians and we
are simply using what we need to use to stop the violence in Kosovo as
rapidly as possible. Colonel Freytag : In Surdulica,
the facts are that last night NATO aircraft attacked the military barracks
and an ammunition storage area in the vicinity of that city. Both these
targets were legitimate military targets, and both were already attacked
before. All munitions hit the planned aiming points. NATO cannot confirm
any Serb claims of casualties or collateral damage in Surdulica.
Question: Do you have any assessment on how the embargo
is being carried out by the countries around Yugoslavia and whether it
has any effect?
Jamie Shea : Last week I expressed NATO's appreciation
for the very strong decision taken by the Interior Ministry in Bucharest
to police effectively illicit traffic of oil on the Danube. I hope of
course that all of the countries along the Danube will follow the Romanian
example which can help, again, to shorten this conflict and anything that
shortens this conflict is in the interests of everybody.
Roy Guttman: Overnight the targets hit included 12
tanks, 7 artillery pieces, 6 APCs. It seems like a very high number and
I was wondering is this one of the highest numbers that you have so far
and is there some pattern, were they concentrated, how did it happen like
Jamie Shea : This first of all I think demonstrates
that NATO pilots are becoming increasingly adept at tracking these down
and going after them. Secondly, it shows that Milosevic is losing a lot
of hardware and consistently, every day. Thirdly, I think it shows that
the pressure must be mounting on him now to take that decision, painful
though it may be for him, but inevitable, to start withdrawing those forces
out of Kosovo or to say goodbye to them. Now as for their location, there
are many locations I think across Kosovo. Konrad, do you have anything
to add on that?
Colonel Freytag : The figures I released today are
the spotlight of today, but tomorrow General Jertz will give you a full
up-date on all the other numbers, figures and facts on destroyed artillery
pieces, on tanks, on armoured personnel carriers and so on, if you could
wait for that.
Roy Gutman: Were they concentrated in one location,
or was there a concentration that enabled you to have such a huge hit
Colonel Freytag : No it was not, if you think of a
concentration in one simple area only, no. We hit some in the north, as
I briefed, the incoming to replace forces we hit in south west, we hit
in the south and the centre of Kosovo.
Jamie Shea : Roy, not wanting to prolong this, I can
help you probably a little bit. Reports that I have are saying that tanks
were destroyed in Prizren, tanks and artillery near Kosovska Mitrovica,
artillery was destroyed near Junik west of Pristina. So as Colonel Freytag
says, wherever it is , we are going to find it.
Bill Drozdiak, Washington Post: Has Macedonia given
its approval to take in many more thousand NATO soldiers in the aftermath
of the Force Generation Conference? Secondly, have any other neighbouring
countries such as Bulgaria or Romania offered their territory as a place
to put up the soldiers? Third, is there anything more in the Chernomyrdin
proposal that seems encouraging to NATO officials, particularly if there
is a willingness or some kind of sign that they would be willing to take
at least some NATO soldiers on to their territory.
Jamie Shea : Bill, thanks for those questions. First
of all we have heard, as you know, from press reports from the government
of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that they do not rule out,
which is good, as a first reaction the stationing of additional NATO forces
but of course they would like to discuss certain modalities, practicalities.
You have seen from press reports that there is the financial question
as well. So clearly those discussions between NATO and Skopje will be
ongoing and soon. Obviously we will see how far those discussions go and
there is no decision at the present time to try to station the enabling
forces for a Peace Implementation mission in any other country for the
time being. Thirdly, I don't have any direct read-out of what happened
when Viktor Chernomyrdin spoke to Milosevic last week, of course Mr Chernomyrdin
as you know is having discussions now with western governments, you know
about the meeting that is being planned for tomorrow when I think obviously
many of those details will be discussed. We are obviously encouraged that
Milosevic at least now understands that the G8 principles are the inescapable
terms of reference for a resolution to this crisis, but we also know that
he has not given any details as to what his understanding of those seven
key principles are, or how he would intend to ensure their implementation.
So clearly there is a great deal of detail that still needs to be covered,
but we welcome the fact that Milosevic at least now is identifying the
G8 principles as the basic bottom line, if you like, which he has to respect.
Pierre Julien, RTL: Ne pensez vous pas quand mme malgr
tout que le fait de dire que les objectifs de l'OTAN sont lgitimes car
militaires, mme s'il y a des dizaines de morts innocents, pourraient
avoir des effets ngatifs sur l'opinion occidentale qui tait prpare
une guerre de zro morts?
Jamie Shea : Non, je ne pense pas Pierre ce que
l'opinion public s'attendait une guerre de zro mort. L'opinion public
comprend bien que malgr les avances technologiques et malgr l'norme
discrimination exerce par l'OTAN il y aura dans des conflits toujours
des blesss et des morts. La technologie n'est pas encore parfaite et
probablement ne le sera jamais, mais l'opinion public comprendra galement
que quelquefois un prix doit tre pay pour contrecarrer un mal, et le
mal est visible tous les soirs sur nos crans de tlvision - les rfugis,
les gens mal traits, les enfants sans parents - et l'opinion public ne
veut pas tolrer a, et donc je crois que nous avons l'opinion publique
derrire nous. L'opinion publique est beaucoup plus robuste qu'on ne le
pense ordinairement et je continuerai a lui faire entirement confiance.