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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Ambassador Christopher Hill,
U.S. Special Envoy for Kosovo

Remarks at meeting with members of the independent media, Belgrade, Serbia, December 3, 1998

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AMBASSADOR HILL: I have a meeting later this morning with President [Milan] Milutinovic [of the Republic of Serbia] to present to him a draft which reflects some comments that we've received from both Serbs and Albanians. We are going to have discussions about this. I want to emphasize that all of these drafts are rather living documents, that is, they change, and probably there will continue to be adjustments as we receive additional comments. I do believe that the draft we have is one that can provide a real, solid framework for a peaceful political settlement in Kosovo, one in which everyone in Kosovo can enjoy the rights that they are entitled to. And, I think especially, it's a settlement which will, hopefully, shift the momentum from one of violence to one of political settlement.

We have been in touch with a lot of different organizations and governments as we've moved ahead here. We are continuing to work very closely with the Contact Group. Also we are working very closely with the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe]. Not only the OSCE on the ground (in Kosovo), but also the OSCE election office, ODIHR [Office of Democratic Initiatives and Human Rights]. We are looking at ways to help establish a local police force. We are also beginning to look at the process of what might be needed in Kosovo in the economic area, to make sure that it can be successful and people can put down their guns and take up jobs. We have, I suppose, a long way to go still, but I do believe we are making progress and I hope I'll going to have some good meetings later today. We will be in Pristina tomorrow, and we'll continue on in the days and weeks ahead. So with those opening comments, why don't I go to your questions.

QUESTION: Are you meeting Milosevic today?

AMBASSADOR HILL: No. I have not requested any meeting with Milosevic.

QUESTION: What about the comments that were lately made by Serbian officials which sort of openly denounced your plan?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well, we welcome comments, both private and public. I respectfully disagree with some of the characterizations in some of these comments, but this is a political process and people have right to make comments on these drafts.

QUESTION: Do you take those comments as a rejection of the plan?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I certainly take some of those comments as a rejection of some of the elements of the plan, that's for sure. But I think we are still at a stage where people certainly can object to elements of this draft. We are not at a stage where this is some sort of "take it or leave it" plan which has to be considered as a whole, and people have right to look at specific sections and say what they think about those specific sections. We tried to take some of these comments -- especially the ones that are specific and constructive -- we try to take those into account in seeing if we can improve the draft. The sort of generalized comments, which somehow attribute bad motives, are obviously comments that I find less useful in the process.

QUESTION: Mr. Hill, can you comment on what has been said lately in Washington, that President Milosevic is -- let me put it this way -- a nuisance? Is he a key player still? It was said after Dayton that he was not a key player any more, then he became a key player again; it's like a changing of roles?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I've seen the same articles you have. I understand why you're asking me those questions. As interesting as the question is, I am sure, you would find the answer even more interesting. But let me say I am here to work on the negotiated settlement to the problem in Kosovo. I work with the relevant people in this process, and continue now to do so. This is the job that Secretary Albright has asked me to carry out, and I can neither add nor detract from the various comments that have been said on and off the record in various news media. I am working on a political settlement in Kosovo and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Does this help you? They are also reading these articles. You come and you are talking to the same people that U.S. State Department is denouncing. How does this help your negotiating position?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Again, we are working on negotiating a settlement. We have a draft, we think it's a pretty good draft. We have some new comments [that] we think we made an even better draft. We're just proceeding. And I hope that everyone looking at this draft, looking at this proposed political settlement, will look at whether this helps the situation in Kosovo, whether this is a framework to find some peace and stability in Kosovo, and whether this can begin the long process of helping Serbia and Yugoslavia rejoin the family of the international community. I think people should be interested in the Kosovo problem because they understand that this is essential to the future of this country. I really don't want to get into these other issues which have arisen in recent days.

QUESTION: Did you receive objections from the KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] to your draft, and what will be their role in the negotiation process?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I have always made very clear that we don't really choose the people who come forward to participate in the political process. There is a certain self-selection there. To be sure, we have looked to Dr. Rugova as playing a leadership role in the Albanian community. The KLA has indicated an interest in playing a kind of political role. We believe this is the only role to play in Kosovo. We believe that there is no military solution in Kosovo.

Earlier in the summer, the KLA tried to claim that it had taken, I don't know, perhaps 40 per cent of Kosovo, and liberated it. Later in the summer, the Serb security forces showed that they could unliberate or re-liberate any area of Kosovo where they chose to do so, and they did. At the same time they also claimed that they could destroy the KLA, which they obviously could not do. So, I think both sides have taken a turn at showing that there is no military solution to this.

I think for the KLA or for people who are in, or engaged in armed struggle, I think they need to realize that it is fruitless and that it is a much more positive position to try to engage in the political process. Indeed, the KLA has indicated an interest in the political process. I think it's in everyone's interest that the KLA or people in the KLA become more interested in the political process. They read our draft, they provided some comments, and I would hope they will continue to want to do so.

QUESTION: May I repeat the question I always repeat? It's about the kidnapped Serbian victims. Two journalists have just been released from the kidnappers, but what is the situation with the 200-300, I don't know the exact number of kidnapped people. Have you got their names and the places where they are imprisoned? And what is with Mr. Slavuj? We have absolutely no information about him. I mean, the time is passing.

AMBASSADOR HILL: Yes. Look, I want to stress to you that I have never had a meeting with the KLA where I have not raised this issue. There is absolutely no justification for kidnapping. Last week I also had a meeting with the families of people who were kidnapped from the electrical production facility north of Pristina. There is no reason for kidnapping, no justification, and it has to stop, and everyone needs to be released. I don't have the information that you've asked for, but it is not because I haven't tried to get it, and I will continue to try to get it. Kidnapping in any form simply cannot be tolerated.

QUESTION: The last draft which was so criticized was from November 1. Do you have a new one now today?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well, we are going today to give President Milutinovic a draft which, I think, says December 2 on the top. Many elements will look very similar to the November 1 draft, which, by the way, was also rather similar to September 30. But I want to stress that these documents undergo changes almost before the ink on them dries, so what we will have today is something dated December 2.

QUESTION: Can you give us any details? Anything that is substantially new?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I'd rather not, until I've presented it to the Serbs and Albanians. But I want to stress that this is not substantially new. This reflects comments from both sides. All I can say is, it's better.

QUESTION: About the local police force, I read the information in the last couple of days somewhere that this is now also on your agenda -- the training of the local police. Could you tell us something about that?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Yes, this would be in the framework of the OSCE. We would like to see if we can be helpful, in helping to train a local police which would be responsible to local government. We don't have local government there yet -- in our view, we don't have local government which reflects the popular wishes there, and so another element of the agreement is having elections for local government. You've seen those provisions of the previous drafts, and they are, of course, still in the new draft. Ultimately, we need a local police that is responsible to local government, but if we wait for local government, there will be too much of a time lag in creating the police. So, we would like to proceed with some training of police now. You know, there is a lot of distrust of the police, from both sides. The Albanians don't want to see Serb police, and Serbs don't want to see Albanian police, etc. We would like to begin the process of training local police to international standards, so that when we do have a local government there will be a well-trained cadre of people for the police.

QUESTION: How will you pick up members of police?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I think that is still being worked, but this is something that OSCE will be very much involved in. I know there are some organizations who propose to offer local policemen to us, but I don't think that will be the procedure we choose.

QUESTION: Do you have any time scale here?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Oh, the sooner the better -- so I can go back to sunny Macedonia where things are moving ahead very nicely.

QUESTION: I mean in the sense that if spring comes without any reasonable settlement we are going to have violence again.

AMBASSADOR HILL: I feel a sense of urgency in the situation Kosovo. I think we have a cease-fire which is holding, but which would be very much strengthened by a political settlement. I think a political settlement would break the momentum of arming and fighting and change that to a political process. I am very concerned that we get something going certainly before the spring season, which should be a time for plowing, not for fighting. But you know, all I can do is try to get the two sides to agree with my views on that. I can't unfortunately, force them to that conclusion, as compelling as it may be.

QUESTION: I've just met some journalists from Albanian state Television in Thessaloniki, and they complained about the still open market for arms in Albania, and they complained of Albanians from Kosovo coming there and purchasing arms and all the equipment necessary, practically in the streets at the market. Are you informed about this?

AMBASSADOR HILL: We are informed about it, and it goes to a very fundamental question of the Balkans -- which is that the Albanian state needs to be greatly strengthened from what it is. A lot of countries are very concerned about this, including my own, and Italy. Work has been done to strengthen institutions in Albania. A lot more work needs to be done, and I think ultimately a durable settlement in Kosovo must go hand in hand with a durable political strengthening of the Albanian state.

QUESTION: Does Mr. Milosevic at this moment comply with all your resolutions, I mean especially about the police position in Malisevo?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I am working on the political settlement. I am not the person who can, up to the minute, give you a statement on compliance. I would rather not get into the statement of compliance, because I am not the one to do that -- which is not to say that I feel that he is in or out of compliance, just that I don't want to be the one to make news on compliance statements.

QUESTION: To go back to my original question. Do the Serb authorities take this approach in negotiations that this is a process that has to go on, like you're saying, or have they sort of cemented their position in their own proposal.

AMBASSADOR HILL: I hope they haven't cemented their position, and I must say I am a sort of old fashioned diplomat who would like to have traditional diplomatic channels for discussing these things. But we live in an era when public diplomacy, as symbolized by this meeting today, is very much a factor. I know that there are some reasons why the government here would be talking very openly about what the settlement is, but you'll have to ask them. The Albanian leaders in Kosovo also at times find it useful to make statements to the press. I hope everyone understands that, at the end of the day, everyone has to make tough decisions, and that then, when we do get an agreement that people really can agree to, they will stick with it and implement it. There will be a lot of public statements between now and that time, but I think people ought to try not to let the cement dry. Because it just makes it that much more difficult to break it up.

QUESTION: Both sides, both Serb and Albanian, in Belgrade and Pristina, are hearing words about Kosovo as a third republic, or a part of the Federation. A lot of Albanian leaders said that as well. However, the Montenegrins strongly, adamantly, protest against that. Now, will that disrupt [the] general situation?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well, as you know, our agreement, the basic outlines of our agreement, remain the same. Which is, that we are addressing the internal aspects of Kosovo, to try to strengthen institutions there, to recover self-government, to create an assembly, to create an executive, by whatever word you want to use, for these institutions. We are not addressing any external matter, that is, external to Kosovo status. Ultimately, that is something that people may want to address, but our draft does not create a third republic. For example, it addresses internal aspects of Kosovo and leaves the door open to further developments of Kosovo's status. Whatever Kosovo is, whether it stays the same, or whatever it were to become, it needs a legislative body, it needs some sort of executive body, it needs some sort of leadership of that executive, it needs some local police, needs an economy, needs some way to raise revenue -- all of these issues are foreseen in our draft. We are not attempting at this point to address the broader issue of what Kosovo looks like in the Yugoslav state.

QUESTION: I asked you that because there is a lot of feeling in Montenegro that by putting out one fire we could ignite another one, we can start [a] crisis in Montenegro, and that could create a lot of troubles in the region.

AMBASSADOR HILL: Yes. We have consulted with the Montengrin leadership on what we are doing, and I must say, I would like to consult more with the Montengrin leadership, and we will do so in the next week or two. Obviously, Montenegro has a great interest in how Kosovo is resolved. I think we will stay in closer contact with the Montenegins as we get to what I hope will be some sort of end-game process. But there is no point in creating a situation in Kosovo which causes problems in Montenegro, and we are very respectful of that fact.

QUESTION: There is one another shift now. All these last four months you were coming, taking all the comments, but there has been no face-to-face negotiations. Now Belgrade started again face-to-face with the Albanians. How do you comment on it?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well, I am not opposed to having face-to-face talks between relevant forces to try to resolve these issues directly. I have absolutely no objections to that. I think for face-to-face talks to be successful they must have a purpose, they must result in a specific accomplishment. I would hope that as we get to a point where there might be face-to-face talks that both sides would want to use these talks for substance. I've been trying to point out to people that you don't need face-to-face talks to resolve this thing. In fact, in the whole Bosnian negotiations we rarely had them, and I must say that when we did have them, we regretted having them, because people reverted to maximalist views, and I don't know if the sight of each other made them even more grouchy. My point is, we can do this without them, but if people would like to have them in a sincere way that would be wonderful.

QUESTION: You always say there is no deadline, you have not set yourself a deadline for the settlement; but obviously this can not drag forever. Do you have in your mind some idea when this should be finished?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well, this cannot drag on forever, and I might add, I cannot drag on forever. I really think this has to be wrapped up as soon as possible. I mean this is not getting any easier. But, if I set a deadline now, and then we miss the deadline, I think that undermines what we are trying to do. So, I try to avoid setting deadlines, so that we haven't missed any. I think we discussed earlier that we would like to see a spring plowing season rather than a spring fighting season. I think that it would be awfully helpful if we had this agreement in place before then. But I don't want to say that I am waiting to the spring to get this agreement. I would like it done as soon as possible. Maybe its because I am too close to this process, but it seems rather obvious what needs to be done, and this pretty much tracks with the paper that we've put together. Now, people can agree to that now, or they can fuss and fume and kill each other, and burn more of each other's homes, and then agree to it later. I think this is basically what we are dealing with now. The settlement's outlines are there. As I said, I welcome specific comments, but I don't think we need some whole new concept.

QUESTION: You said at one moment that there are going to be elections in Kosovo. The Serbian side is asking for a census, before. The Albanians do not agree on it.

AMBASSADOR HILL: This is an issue that I think can be resolved to mutual satisfaction. We have discussed this issue, and I think there are ways around it. Of the mountain of issues that we have to climb over, I don't think this is the major stumbling point.

QUESTION: The Serbs do not think like that.

AMBASSADOR HILL: I think there are ways to figure out who really lives in Kosovo, and who is really from Kosovo, and who therefore should be voting in Kosovo. I think there are ways to handle that.

QUESTION: It is also connected with Serbian property in Kosovo. According to our books, which we have in the courts, some big parts of the land still belong to Serbs including --.

AMBASSADOR HILL: To private individuals.

QUESTION: Yes, and including monastery properties which have been taken -- some of the Albanians living around the monasteries have taken over the land from the monasteries.

AMBASSADOR HILL: You mean the squatters on the land? These are issues not unique to Kosovo. These are issues that go on all over the place. Again, there are procedures that work elsewhere, and they'll work in Kosovo. You know, one of the problems here in the Balkans is that so many times people think these are unique issues. Unfortunately, they are all too familiar. That is another problem that can be addressed.

QUESTION: Yes, but each spring is dangerous. Since the beginning of this century there were so many uprisings and rebellions in Kosovo. I mean, some of your representatives of state haven't read our history, we can loan them books if they need it.


QUESTION: Well, I believe that you have, but some of your representatives have made some very serious mistakes about the history of Kosovo, which make people laugh here.

AMBASSADOR HILL: I know, it is not nearly as simple as some people have tried to claim, and also it is never quite so easy as to say there are just good guys and bad guys. I do believe, though, that what we've seen in Kosovo in the last century isn't working, and we ought to try something else. And I think that something else is contained in our agreement.

DAVIDSON: We have time for one more non-historical question.

QUESTION: This one is not related to the history. How does the clearly worsening situation in Serbia reflect on finding a solution for Kosovo?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I think the situation that has been created by the closing down of newspapers here is rather antithetical to everything that we are trying to do in Kosovo, and it creates a contradiction. If you look at our agreement in Kosovo, what it's really aimed at is creating democracy in Kosovo, creating democratic institutions, creating separation of power, creating independent institutions. And yet, we are doing that at a time when the direction here, frankly speaking, symbolized by these media shutdowns, is going in the wrong direction. I would like to see our agreement in Kosovo take place in a context of things here going in the right direction, that is, in a direction of greater democratization. You know, sometimes, there is a sense -- I don't want to make this a sort of congenital characterization -- but I think many Serbs feel that the international community has been opposed to them. Yet I think if things like the media law were properly vetted with international organizations, taken to international institutions that do media laws for a living, I think one could find a way to address legitimate issues in a media law, and we wouldn't have this type of problem. But suffice it to say that if we're having a trend against the free media here, it makes our lives more difficult in Kosovo.

QUESTION: What time is your meeting with Milutinovic?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I think at twelve o'clock.

QUESTION: Should we expect any media opportunity afterwards?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I usually don't talk to the media about such meetings, but maybe we could arrange, and I could release some kind of statement. But I know there has been a lot of talk about our last draft, and I just want to assure you we are taking constructive comments from both sides, we are trying to put them into the draft, and we are going to move ahead. And as for the sort of ad hominem, or general characterizations of the process, it's really too late to stop and listen to those.

QUESTION: The process is unstoppable now, it's going on, that's it.

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well, I am going ahead. I think we are on the right direction, but it does not mean that it is not difficult.

[End of Document]

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