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Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Afternoon. Welcome again to our daily briefing. As you know, the eyes of the world are at the moment focused on a small border crossing on the border of Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, because it is there at Blace that a few hours ago began an important meeting, a meeting between General Jackson, the Commander of the NATO forces, and two Yugoslav military representatives. I want again to emphasise that this is not a negotiating session and it is not a place for haggling or equivocation. This is not the place to discuss the size of the positioning of the conference table. This is a place for decision and action. We expect the Yugoslav military representatives to accept the terms that will be put to them by General Jackson and we expect them to have the authority not only to agree but also to order the immediate implementation of what is agreed. As I have said before, NATO will remain fully vigilant until we see specific steps and until we see the Yugoslav forces actually withdraw. It is not enough to talk about withdrawing. If I can use a term from chess: President Milosevic, it is your move.
General Jackson will be making it crystal clear to the two Yugoslav military representatives what they have to do. Firstly, that they have to commit themselves, and Yugoslavia, to a phased and rapid withdrawal of the Yugoslav ground forces. This means that all personnel, all organisations with a military capability, must start to withdraw. This will involve of course units of the regular army, but also armed civilian groups, national guards, border police, army reserves, military police, intelligence services, police of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, local special riot and anti-terrorist police and any other groups or individuals that will be designated by General Jackson. It will also mean that as these military and police forces leave, they will have to stick to a firm schedule, using designated assembly areas and designated routes, and also designated areas that will have to be vacated. The withdrawal of the Yugoslav armed forces must be completed within 7 days from the entry into force of the agreement. At the same time, the Yugoslav military commanders must provide General Jackson with all relevant information concerning the location of landmines in Kosovo, be they anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines or booby traps. Also the Yugoslav armed forces must withdraw Yugoslav air and air defence forces from Kosovo and they too must leave according to a firm schedule. This means that all aircraft, radars, surface to air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery must be removed from Kosovo to other locations beyond the boundary between Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia, and these air defence assets must be removed very quickly to allow for the safe operation of the NATO air surveillance operations which will verify the withdrawal of the Yugoslav forces, and naturally we will be expecting the full cooperation of Yugoslavia with the alliance's verification activities. Until this agreement is obtained from Yugoslavia on all these points, and until we see the beginning of the effective withdrawal of the Yugoslav forces, the NATO air operation will continue. As I said yesterday, NATO will remain vigilant. In dealing with President Milosevic we remember that "once bitten, twice shy".
At the same time our preparations for the Peace Implementation Force are now in full swing. In the next hours, SHAPE's revised operational plan for the Operation Joint Guardian will be arriving here at NATO headquarters, together with the suggested rules of engagement, to be approved by NATO Ambassadors soon. General Jackson now has the operational command of all of the forces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia -- and his headquarters is on 24 hours notice to move. All nations that have proposed to participate in the Peace Implementation Force have reconfirmed their participation, and as you know many additional force elements are now en route to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, even in advance of the Activation Order coming from the North Atlantic Council.
Let me make one final point. As the Serb forces pull out and the NATO forces move into Kosovo, we expect the Kosovo Liberation Army to exercise restraint and not to attempt to take advantage of the situation. We expect also the personnel and units of the Kosovo Liberation Army to abide by the instructions of the Commander of Kfor, General Jackson. NATO forces will be operating under strict rules of engagement and of course they will not tolerate any hindrance to their mission or to their speedy deployment throughout Kosovo. And we hope very much that we can count on the goodwill and the constructive attitude that was shown by the Kosovar Albanian community during the peace talks at Rambouillet in France. More specifically we hope that the Kosovo Liberation Army will renounce violence and act in conformity with the conditions that were laid down in the peace plan. We hope too that the leadership of the Kosovo Liberation Army will fully cooperate with the international peace force on all issues related to demilitarisation. That way a better future lies with certainty for all of the people of Kosovo.
Now I would ask General Jertz to give you his usual military update. GENERAL JERTZ:
Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Acknowledging the fact that NATO and Serb military leaders at present meet for a military technical agreement on the deployment of an international security force in Kosovo, NATO continues its air campaign. Yesterday NATO aircraft flew more than 500 sorties. Strategic military targets in Serbia were struck, as depicted on the slide. Inside Kosovo, in addition to a command post at Pristina and ammunition storage sites, we struck a variety of armoured vehicles and heavy weapons. Once again our primary effort was against Serb forces still conducting offensive operations. NATO's Air Forces will continue to hit military targets until NATO's appropriate authorities are satisfied with Serb forces' withdrawal. Until now ground fighting is still ongoing within Kosovo, with emphasis along the Kosovo Albanian border.
There was also yesterday and in the last 24 hours some cross-border artillery firing into Albania, and even some mortar fire into Macedonia. Air defence radars were quiet and there was no Serb aircraft activity at all. NATO pilots reported the firing of anti-aircraft artillery guns and one shoulder launched missile was shot at NATO aircraft. All NATO aircraft returned safely.
On the humanitarian side, countries continue to maintain their strong and most welcome efforts. There were 14 flights into Albania and 10 flights into Macedonia, carrying food, water, medicine and general supplies. This brings the total of supplies delivered by air to 16,475 tons. We are continuing to improve conditions in the refugee camps to help the victims, the real victims of this conflict - the displaced people of Kosovo who have lost almost everything they had. But improved camps and humanitarian aid flights, however welcome, are no substitute for a safe return home. To that end, if the outcome of the current meeting produces a solid basis for a cease-fire agreement, we are planning a smooth and rapid force entry into Kosovo as already has been said by Jamie. The goals of that force are to stabilise the situation within Kosovo quickly in order to get the refugees back home as rapidly as it is possible, to do so safely, and also to ensure their security after they return.
This, Ladies and Gentlemen, concludes the operational update of today. ANTONIO:
General, in this agreement that is under discussion now, is there any reference to the KLA withdrawal and the delivery of the weapons because probably this is also necessary to make Kosovo a little bit more quiet. And Jamie, is there any link between the help the west will give to make things go normal, reconstruction in Yugoslavia, and the presence of President Milosevic? People in the west would not really understand because taxpayers are paying and that the man that is behind the whole thing remains in power?
The fighting between the UCK and the Serb forces, especially close to the Albanian border, is still ongoing. The disarming of the KLA of course will be a matter which will be discussed pretty soon, but it is a separate issue and it is a difficult issue.
Antonio, naturally there will be humanitarian assistance to Yugoslavia, to help people there who may be in need. But as leaders of the European Union and North America made it very clear yesterday, there will not be any type of reconstruction help to Yugoslavia under the present management, that is clear. And I think the ability to receive reconstruction help will be a powerful impetus to the democratisation process which we hope will take place in Yugoslavia tomorrow. I think certainly today the Yugoslav people will be looking at the situation and I think they will be putting one very important question to President Milosevic: "How is it, Mr President, that you have accepted now, after 72 days of a very, very intensive air campaign which has obviously had a severe impact on our country, essentially the same peace arrangements in Kosovo that you could have had for nothing in Rambouillet on 23 February? Why have you put us through all of this misery for essentially the same result?" And I think it would be very interesting to hear what President Milosevic's answer to that question is going to be. JEAN-MARC, FRANCE 2:
Si j'ai bien compris, l'OTAN adresse un double avertissement aux Serbes et aux forces de l'UCK de ne rien faire que puisse compromettre le retablissement de la paix civile au Kosovo. Est-ce bien la signification du double avertissement que vous avez adresse tout a l'heure ? JAMIE SHEA:
J'ai simplement dit qu'il faudrait que tout le monde joue le jeu. Cela va de soi. Notre focalisation immediate est, bien-sur, sur le retrait des forces serbes qui est la "condition sine qua non "de toute paix et de toute solution politique a l'avenir pour le Kosovo. Mais nous avons egalement dit que lorsqu'une force internationale de securite sera pleinement deployee au Kosovo, cette force sera parfaitement capable de fournir la securite pour tout le monde et donc il n'y aura plus de role, plus de raison d'etre de groupes armes, et nous comptons, cela va de soi, sur la cooperation de tous les chefs politiques de la communaute kosovar et, en particulier, sur la volonte de l'UCK, de mettre en oeuvre, a partir des accords de Rambouillet qu'ils ont signes et qu'ils prevoient leur demilitarisation.
Can you tell us if there is a buffer zone around Kosovo beyond which the troops have to withdraw to and how wide it is, how big it is? And also whether there are any instructions to the Yugoslav military about where they withdraw to? For instance what happens if they all charge off to Montenegro?
First of all, there are plans of course to have that type of arrangement but the details will be worked out by General Jackson. The responsibility will be his for determining the specific military needs that he has in terms of the border arrangements for the borders between Kosovo and the remainder of Yugoslavia. I don't know if General Jertz will have anything to say on that, but my understanding is that it will be left to General Jackson to determine that. And it goes without saying that we would want, and would expect, the Yugoslav forces that leave Kosovo to go to Serbia. There are already a number of Yugoslav forces of the 2nd Army in Montenegro and we see absolutely no reason why that number should be increased. General Jertz, do you have anything to add? GENERAL JERTZ:
No more than that. It of course depends on the roads which are available for the Serb troops to withdraw, then they might of course have to go through Montenegro into Serbia, but still as Jamie said, there are no plans to actually keep them in Montenegro. So we hope and we are planning to have them all back into Serbia, that is where they belong. DOUG:
General Jackson and KFOR are ready to deploy into Kosovo, the Russians are not ready to deploy. Can you confirm that NATO will not leave any corner of that province unoccupied, waiting for Russian troops to come, when they do finally arrive to join the peace keeping mission. They will find NATO troops present virtually everywhere in the province. General Jertz, as an airman, do you think that the Air Force is going to claim full credit for this result or are they willing to share some of the credit, say, with the KLA, with the diplomatic isolation of Yugoslavia and with the threat of a land invasion which was becoming quite obvious? JAMIE SHEA:
Doug, it is our intention to have soldiers of the international security force, including of course many NATO soldiers, in every village and on every street corner, that is clear. And we are not talking about differentiated zones, that is also very clear. As for the Russians, the sooner we can conclude the practical modalities of how they will participate, the sooner they can join us, and of course it is our intention to try to get on with that as quickly as we can in coming days.
First of all, we reached our goal by an air campaign to come pretty close to a peace agreement which I hope will be, if I am optimistic, in the near future. And on your question: it was a common effort of all three Services of course, the Navy has participated, the Army has participated and the Air Force has participated. And I think that even though I am wearing a blue uniform, including the flying type, I don't think I should say that the Air Force alone has done it. Of course the Air Forces have had the biggest burden, we all know that, but once again all three Services were united together to make sure that this could happen. MARK:
We understand the G8 meeting scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed. Can you confirm that and also if it is postponed, is this going to delay a Security Council resolution and will that in turn delay the KFOR starting going into Kosovo? And secondly, if there is any protracted delay to the negotiations, even though you are flying a lot of sorties, the air strike rate has gone down, you have become more careful in what you are targeting, more obviously military targets. Are you prepared to up the operational tempo, have more air strikes more widely to put more pressure back on the Serbs?
Mark, obviously I have no responsibility for the G8, it is not my role to try to speak on its behalf. I saw like you the press reports, but I wouldn't conclude anything from that. My understanding is that these are scheduling difficulties, not political difficulties, in terms of trying to bring Ministers together in one place at one time. And I can tell you that the UN Security Council resolution text is very advanced now, there was a meeting of Political Directors in the margins of the EU summit a couple of days ago, they have made a lot of progress and I am sure that text can be sent to New York very quickly. At the same time, as you know, Germany has sent an envoy to China for discussions as well on that draft, so I think it is taking shape quickly.
As for the deployment of the Peace Implementation Force, that really is in the hands of the North Atlantic Council to decide on the timing. GENERAL JERTZ:
Mark, to make it very clear, we always attacked military targets, we never did anything else and we are ready to beef up again in case something happens, which we hope will not happen.
Yes, it is not as if any of the planes have been sent home. CRAIG:
Will the text of the arrangements that are agreed on by General Jackson and the Yugoslavs be made public, or the gist of it anyway, published here after it is done?
That again is for the Council to decide, I can't clarify that for you at the present time. But it is more important that we get it agreed than it is made public, and it is more important that it be implemented of course, first and foremost.
The Rambouillet agreement has foreseen 120 days for the demilitarisation. The G8 didn't say anything on the time limit, so can we expect that the resolution would speak about it?
The UN Security Council resolution will no doubt have a reference to demilitarisation and my understanding is there is a general reference to demilitarisation in the text. Of course once General Jackson is "sur place", on the spot, he will naturally have liaison contacts with all of the representatives of armed groups to work out precise modalities - my favourite word of the moment - or what you might call the essential specifics of how that demilitarisation is going to take place and how the international security force will oversee it. DIMITRI:
It looks like the Russians didn't show up at the Macedonian border for negotiations, although you said yesterday that they should be there. How did you know? Is there any mechanism of communications between NATO and Russian diplomats and military, have you received any calls or something, how it works now?
What happened, Dimitri, is that NATO nations issued an invitation yesterday for a Russian observer to be at the talks today, if Russia so wished, and therefore it was entirely up to Russia whether or not it wished to take up that invitation.
DOMINIQUE THIERRY, Radio France International: Deux questions sur les criminels de guerre et le TPI. Est-ce que le texte qui est negocie actuellement par le General Jackson comporte des elements sur la livraison des criminels de guerre inculpes par le TPI, sur la possibilite de destruction de preuves et d'exactions commises par les troupes serbes lors de leur retrait ? Est-ce que le texte contient ces elements ? Si non, est-ce que la Kfor aura le mandat de poursuivre ces criminels ?
La priorite du General Jackson est de faire partir rapidement les forces serbes du Kosovo. C'est un accord militaro-technique qu'ils poursuivent en ce moment. Comme on dit, 'a chaque jour suffit sa peine', et pour l'instant, avant toute autre chose, il faut faire partir les troupes serbes. En ce qui concerne le role de la force militaire internationale par rapport aux criminels de guerre, c'est quelque chose qui doit etre defini par le Conseil de l'Atlantique Nord , lorsque les regles d'engagement de la force seront determinees dans les prochaines heures. Mais je peux vous assurer, sur un plan general, que la force internationale de securite va cooperer pleinement, avec les equipes d'enquete du Tribunal qui va ,bien-sur, les suivre sur le terrain au Kosovo. DOMINIQUE
En cas d'exaction lors du retrait des troupes serbes, quelle sera la reaction des forces de l'OTAN ?
Si les forces serbes hesitent a partir ou essaient de faire un dernier 'round' de nettoyage ethnique avant de traverser la frontiere, nous considererons cela comme une violation de l'accord et les forces aeriennes de l'OTAN seront la, tres pres, pour reagir en consequence.
The current text is actually less favourable to the KLA in one or two respects than the Rambouillet text. First of all there is no provision for a referendum in three years on independence; and secondly it does away with items in the Rambouillet text like the authority to re-allocate ownership of natural resources for example. Given that, you have expressed the hope that the KLA will play the game, but what has been said to the KLA about what will happen to them if they don't? JAMIE:
You know fully well that we are going to have a very robust, large, well equipped, well led international security force in Kosovo and that is why we have got such a force so that people will be inclined to cooperate with it, we hope voluntarily naturally. That is the whole idea. There need be no competition as to who is going to provide the best security, it is clear that NATO is going to provide the best security. And indeed, as I said yesterday, the indications from UCK leaders like Mr Thaci are that he understands that fully well and wants to cooperate. As for the long term, we have not said that Rambouillet is dead, but once we have the international security force there, once the refugees are back, once we have dealt with the most pressing urgent problems, then of course it will be time to turn our attention to the political future of Kosovo and I am sure that much of what is in Rambouillet will be resurrected at that time. But we have not backed off from the fundamental goal of far-reaching autonomy for the Kosovar Albanians, so I don't think that anybody has anything to fear there. But let's allow the people to eat bread and to live under one roof first, then worry about the more political aspects later. NORWEGIAN TV:
Would you mean that in the longer future that there might be a referendum in Kosovo for autonomy inside Kosovo?
Again, this is something that it is too early to comment on at the moment. I think that if you talk to a Kosovar Albanian refugee about these questions, you will probably get the reply: Look, first let us get home, first let us rebuild our lives, let's find out where the other members of our family are and then later on we will worry about those issues. The most pressing need at the moment is for security, it is for safety, it is to get people back. You can't determine the future of Kosovo when 60% of the population are living outside the country, quite frankly. So let's get 100%, or at least the closest to it, of the population living back inside the country, then that will be the time to worry about the future.