Transcript - Press
The Right Honourable Lord George Robertson - NATO; and
Lieutenant General John B Sylvester - COMSFOR
at French DetAir, Sarajevo Airport
on 19 April 2002, at 1530 hours
Mr. Yves Brodeur - NATO spokesperson
Welcome to this press conference with the Secretary General of NATO,
Lord George Robertson and Commander SFOR, General John Sylvester. We will
start with very short statements and then we will take questions Sir
Lord George Robertson - NATO
I am very conscious I did not allow any time for questions yesterday
so I am only going to say a few words as a statement.
The North Atlantic Council, the NATO Council, came here to Bosnia and
Herzegovina to re-emphasise the commitment of NATO to the safe and secure
environment. We came to assure people that NATO is not going away and
we will remain in sufficient numbers and with sufficient strength to do
the job we set out to do.
The NATO Council and the senior staff of NATO have spread out across
the country today to see those elements of Bosnia and Herzegovina outside
of the capital city. So everybody has seen real and genuine progress that
has taken place in this country but they have also seen people who are
living in conditions that are simply intolerable in the 21st century in
the middle Europe.
So, NATO troops have done a great job but there is still a lot more that
needs to be done. But the major responsibility for doing that lies in
the hands of the people in this country and the people they elect to run
it. General Sylvester and all of the forces of SFOR are doing a superb
job and the NATO Council is very proud of them. But the next stage is
in the hands of the people of this country and they must take ownership
of their own land.
He follows me around the continent of Europe.
That is true.
Gregory Piatt - Stars and Stripes
I have two questions, one for you, Lord Robertson, and one for you, General
Sylvester. Lord Robertson, in the proposals for the draw down in the Balkans,
it is about 10,000 troops with the latest proposals that are coming out.
Now as we see NATO troops drawing down and now out of New York, Kofi Annan
is asking for a multi-national force for Palestine, is NATO considering
or will NATO consider putting a peacekeeping force into Palestine?
Nobody has asked me or asked NATO to do any planning in relation to Middle
East peace support operations. I see speculation in newspapers but I can
assure you nothing has crossed my desk in relation to peace keeping operations
in that part of the world.
Gregory Piatt - Stars and Stripes
General Sylvester, not so long a question. As you see coming out of your
six month review, do you see more partner countries taking a role here
in Bosnia and Herzegovina as Secretary General Robertson said yesterday
that there will be some troop withdrawals, do we see the Partnership for
Peace (PfP) taking more?
Certainly I have been in consultation with a number of different countries
that already offer troops here. When I say I have been in consultation
those decisions are not made by me, I am the military commander who will
apply the capabilities if and when those capabilities are formally offer
through the political authority. But I have talked to a number of different
countries who have expressed a desire to do so and they will express that
desire through, as you are probably aware, a force generation process
which will then be nominated up and in fact my political boss will be
making the decision as to whether or not those forces will come to bear
here. But yes, we are talking to a number of them.
Antonio Prlenda - Oslobodjenje
For the Secretary General, in your discussions with local officials here
I wonder what impression you have got in talking to the Republika Srpska
Defence officials because so far they have not been keen for any joint
defence structure here in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
The responsibility of the restructuring lies with the federation military
as well as the Republika Srpska military. We met the joint Presidency
last night and I made it clear to all of them that entry into the PfP
is conditional on these reforms being made. Bosnia and Herzegovina will
only get into the PfP when these reforms have taken place. And I met the
President of the Federation and the President of Republika Srpska with
their vice Presidents this morning and I made it clear to the President
of the Republika Srpska and to the Federation President that these are
clearly seen as priorities by the whole International Community and especially
by NATO. The President of the Republika Srpska tells me that I should
remember the history of why there are different armies for the Federation
and the Republika Srpska. I told him there is some point he is going to
have to forget history and start remembering the future if he wants this
country he lives in to be a member of the PfP. If Yugoslavia makes the
reforms necessary to get into the PfP, then it could be in the PfP conceivably
even this year. Then from Vancouver to Vladivostok in the whole of North
America and in the whole of the European continent and Central Asia stretching
to the Chinese border, it will only be Bosnia and Herzegovina that is
not in the PfP. So the message to the Federation and to the Republika
Srpska is 'if you want to join the world, you have to do what the rest
of the world does and have common command and control of your armed forces
and have one defence minister.'
Yasin Rawasdeh - Kuna
How do see the policy for Israel and Palestine today can reflect on the
global security policy of NATO and Mediterranean and in Europe in general?
Well I do not intend to say anything today about the conflict in the Middle
East. I think that it is better that when you are in Bosnia and Herzegovina
to talk about the problems here and there are still plenty of them.
Goran Pirolic - Fena
Recently the main prosecutor of The Hague, Mrs. Carla del Ponte said that
Karadzic could be tried in The Hague as early as October. In that regard
does SFOR or NATO have any indication of an arrest of Karadzic soon?
I hope that Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and the other indictees will
be on trial well before October. They have not been arrested yet but they
will be. Karadzic and Mladic have to be lucky every single day, we only
have to be lucky once. You saw a couple of months ago, two high profile
operations directed against Karadzic. They are not the first operations,
they are not going to be the last operations. You will not hear about
all of them, but I can promise you that in due course Karadzic and Mladic
will both face justice at The Hague and the Balkan region will be better
and safer as a consequence.
Laurent Zecchini - Le Monde
General Sylvester, I would like to come back to this question of reduction
of SFOR. As Lord Robertson said there will be further reductions in the
number of troops deployed here, there are currently about, I think, 17,500
people. Do you think you will be able to ensure the same level of security
if you have, let us say, 2,000 less people? Will it make any difference
As a responsible military officer obviously I would be expected to do
a very thorough analysis of my mission and the requisite troops that I
believed necessary in order to accomplish that mission. At the same time,
I understand that I have been given direction to consider reducing the
force. I have taken that guidance from my political and military commanders,
and I have done a professional analysis and I have provided that to the
appropriate chain of command. As in every military decision making process,
I have provided several different courses of action. The chain of command
will then make appropriate decisions and recommendations at their level
and forward that to the decision-making authority. I am confident if they
select one of the courses of action that I have submitted, or a variation
thereof, that we will be able to accomplish our mission. We will continue
to maintain a force with the appropriate capability, which is of a sufficient
enough and robust enough nature to be able to accomplish that mission.
No doubt we will see you all again some time in the future. I have no