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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Ambassador John Menzies, Director of the Office of Kosovo Implementation, and others
Briefing on Kosovo leaders' "Pact Against Violence" declaration,
Washington, DC, July 25, 2000

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MR. REEKER: Good morning, and welcome to the State Department. We are very pleased this morning to have Ambassador John Menzies, as well representatives from the U.S. Institute of Peace, to give this briefing on the "Pact Against Violence" Declaration from Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb leaders who participated in the USIP-facilitated workshop at Airlie House in Warrenton, Virginia, this past weekend.

I am going to turn the podium over to Tom Switzer from the Policy and Public Affairs Office of the Bureau of European Affairs, who can just run you through this morning's program and introduce Ambassador Menzies.

MR. SWITZER: Thanks, Phil. Good morning. This morning's program will be an off-camera, on-record briefing, as Phil stated, reading out and summarizing the declaration resulting from the workshop of Kosovar leaders held in the Airlie House in Warrenton, Virginia. I might mention that this is intended as a press event and not therefore subject to questions by anyone except journalists present.

I think without further ado we'll introduce Ambassador John Menzies, who will make opening statements, then we will pass the podium to our guests from the Institute of Peace who will make further comments, and then take questions from you on the floor.

Ambassador Menzies.

AMBASSADOR MENZIES: Good morning. At the outset I would like to thank the United States Institute of Peace for its groundbreaking work in the Balkans and for chairing this conference and for the successful outcome which it has achieved. I would also like to thank the participants who showed tremendous courage and presence of mind and heart by their attendance at this event and expressed a desire to move forward.

This conference did, in fact, provide the first opportunity since the war for a broad group of representatives of Serb and Albanian communities to meet face to face. Perhaps the most difficult decision in a peace process is the choice to meet the other and to work together. At this meeting, the participants crossed that threshold. The event featured a productive, useful, and yet emotional and difficult dialogue among the participants. There was talk of suffering and of guilt. There were accusations, but there was also talk of reconciliation and the way forward. And it is a joint way forward that was discussed.

After an arduous, sometimes contentious process, there was a declaration upon which the participants agreed. The declaration is a very good start, but it is a beginning only. The dialogue begun at Airlie House will have to continue in Kosovo. Both sides understand this, and the Department endorses this effort.

As you can see, the declaration commits both sides to cooperate in the areas of elections, media, civil society, security, and returns. I will allow USIP to go into greater detail on the declaration.

More important than the declaration itself is the dialogue which took place. It was profound, it was heartfelt -- the discussions took place on very painful issues that are very present. During the breaks, Albanians and Serbs did not separate, but mingled and continued the discussions begun in the sessions.

Early in the process, the Chair underscored the fact that the group needed to be truthful. We wanted no empty posturing; we wanted no empty paper, no empty programs. A philosopher of this century writes, "The truth is what joins us together, and truth has its origin in communication." The communication process begun here, we hope, will create a new truth for the people of Kosovo.

I would like to relinquish the podium at this point to Harriet Hentges, the Executive Vice President of the United States Institute of Peace, and to Daniel Serwer, who is the Director of the Balkans Initiative.

Harriet.

DR. HENTGES: Thank you, John. Our objective in undertaking this dialogue, this workshop, is to help create the necessary conditions for peace-building in a post-conflict society. This is the first -- this is the fourth in a series specifically with this -- with these communities. We do it in other contexts, but this was indeed an ambitious first step in dialogue. We do this this morning to help the press and the general public better understand the complexities of peace building and the particular situations under which these dialogues took place.

I think it's useful to comment on three aspects of the dialogue. The first is the atmosphere. As John has indicated, they were difficult but they were also open, workable, constructive. It was clear that the wounds are still raw. That is to be expected. It would be surprising to all of us if they were not.

The process. A great deal of exchange, learning, a deepened understanding of the wounds on each side. Some of the participants used phrases - historic, surprising, gratifying, difficult.

The results. There was agreement on some concrete steps in four areas. In elections, it will be clear from the declaration that they agreed to disagree. Again, this should not be surprising, and their differences are laid out in the declaration. At the same time, they did agree to accept the results of the election subject to a certification by the Special Representative of the Secretary General that the elections were free and fair. And as you know, this happens after elections, not before.

There was a recognition that a building of civil society, a strengthening of civil society, was required and is a necessary element of building democracy in Kosovo. And they agreed that ways had to be found to build that civil society.

There were also discussions about the media, which they understood to be crucial to democratic development, and there were a number of representatives of the media there. And they had an open and I think one might say cordial discussion of issues in which they agreed. Differences surely, but certainly they pledged to professionalize the journalism field and profession within Kosovo.

And the major issue, of course, relates to security. Both sides recognize that a pact against violence was required, and they pledged themselves to that. They had also agreed that it would be important to highlight and make more visual that pact, and so they pledged a campaign against violence that would begin with a Day Against Violence. And I believe that the UN in Kosovo will be supportive and helpful to them in this regard.

They also called on the international community to do its part to increase the security, and there are specific recommendations which you will find in the declaration. And I urge you to look at the full text of the declaration. It is only two and a half pages long, but it is precise, and they spent a great deal of time and attention on the words.

Those of us who were involved have committed to work with them to implement these, and I'd like to thank the State Department for their role in not only requesting us to do this, but supporting it step by step. It was a very happy collaboration, and we are grateful specifically to John Menzies, but also to Chris Dell, Head of the Chief of Mission in Kosovo, Phil Kaplan here at the State Department, and a number of the press people. We felt truly partners in this.

And I also want to note with great appreciation the participants. They were indeed a pleasure to work with; they were inspiring, and they are committed, and for that we should give them a great deal of credit.

I'd like to make it available to questions. I do want to note that Daniel Serwer, who heads our Balkans Initiative and who was the spearhead behind this, is also available for questions. And, Dan, I don't know if you want to make a statement before questions, but thank you.

QUESTION: Could one of you give us an idea of the demographic situation in Kosovo: how many Serbs have left, how many are left in Kosovo, and how many Kosovar Albanians there are, and finally how many live more or less side by side, as in Mitrovica?

MR. SERWER: I don't think we're the best source of information on those issues. I mean, I could give you numbers but they might not accord with the numbers the UN has come to. I think it's best to check with the UN Mission in Kosovo about those questions.

QUESTION: Is there an agreed-upon number of casualties, killed and missing, since the start of hostilities?

MR. SERWER: Not to my knowledge.

DR. HENTGES: They did have extensive discussions on the number of missing people who were still in prison, the kidnaped, and this is an issue of grave concern to members of the community. And that number is not precise.

QUESTION: Was there any discussion about the future status of Kosovo?

DR. HENTGES: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Why is that omitted from any of the declarations so far?

MR. SERWER: It's omitted because there's no agreement whatsoever on that subject. They remain - no consensus in that direction. The issue was not on the agenda. Of course, it's an overarching issue that affected the discussion any number of times, and it's quite clear that there is no agreement.

The philosophy of this event was that even disagreeing on that big issue, that these are people who have to live in the same place, who have to coexist, and that in order to do so they need to recognize that there are areas they can work together in that are of mutual interest, even if they can't agree on that big issue. And what the statement does is to define those areas of mutual interest: security, elections, civil society, return of refugees and displaced people.

DR. HENTGES: I would reinforce what Daniel said about it not being on the agenda. The two co-chairs for this, Chairman Chester Crocker, Chairman of our Board of Directors, and Steve Hadley, a member of our board, in opening the session said that the question of final status - that we were not there to discuss that, and so specifically took it off the table. And that was an assumption of the session, not because it was not of interest to them or anybody else, but that we wouldn't have gotten anywhere. And we had not invited them to discuss that; we had not selected them on that basis. So we just agreed that that was not a subject of the agenda.

QUESTION: Then on a smaller subject, given that the language on Serb returns -- maybe the State Department has to comment -- the State Department had some sort of agreement with Bishop Artemije to support Serb returns earlier this year which was -- well, it was rather vetoed by the authorities in Kosovo. Does the State Department now feel that they should go ahead with that Serb return program?

MR. SERWER: Work on that program has never stopped. We continue to make progress. We're still investigating the options and the opportunities. This event helped us gauge the preparedness of the people to work with us on this project. So it is moving forward and more will be revealed about it in due course.

QUESTION: Well, are there any specific numbers?

MR. SERWER: No.

AMBASSADOR MENZIES: If you read the text of the declaration, it makes very clear that there is a need for adequate preparation for return of refugees and displaced people; that the communities receiving them have to be prepared to receive them.

QUESTION: The way the meetings have been described, it appears it was perhaps a cathartic process for the parties to get together. Is that a fair characterization? And how binding is the declaration? And what expectation do you have that when the parties return to the civil society, which you say has been fractured, that they will continue these talks and that they will live up to the commitments they have given?

DR. HENGES: Those are three different questions. I think it was -- and you are free to talk to the participants about that. They are here for another day or so. And that will be very individual. I think that the general tenor that would describe it is that they were all apprehensive about coming together and sitting down face to face to discuss the divisions and difficulties between them and how to overcome them.

They all recognized that there had been other sessions and that the follow-up is terribly important to these, and sometimes the follow-up happens in a way that we don't anticipate or that we don't necessarily see. We did spend a great deal of time on their coming up with things that they could agree on that they could work to implement. They and we did not want empty words in this declaration, so if we were not able to agree on something in the working groups or in the plenary we just didn't address it.

This is a personal observation, and that is that I think that they are committed to implementing this because they see it in their mutual interest, not because they said it there at Airlie or not because the State Department or the US Institute of Peace expects them to do it. This was a classic facilitation where the issues and the discussion and the conclusions come from the participants, not from the organizers. So I think that this is an ambitious first step in dialogue, but it can only be a first step and there are many little steps in between.

QUESTION: Voter registration finished a couple of days ago, and obviously Serbs are not very well - haven't responded very well to that registration. The outcome of elections, how would that reflect the fact that they intend to build a multiethnic society when the largest minority would not be represented, or at least not at all at the ballots?

MR. SERWER: This is a subject on which they disagreed, the question of participation in the elections. The disagreement is outlined clearly in the document. So, too, is some degree of agreement about what to do about that disagreement. And they noted that the Special Representative of the Secretary General can make appointments and, with some reluctance on the Albanian side, they recognized that that probably is the best that can be done at this time.

So we have here an area where the best we could do is to clarify the disagreement, and they were prepared to indicate what kind of process would be needed to overcome the problem created by Serb non-participation.

DR. HENTGES: Let me add something on that. There isn't a difference over the role of elections, or the need for them. The difference was over the conditions existing now for elections. And that's where they noted their differences, and the differences are noted in the declaration. I don't think there's anything wrong with differences being noted. That is part of the dialogue.

QUESTION: I don't believe that the entire Serb community was represented in this meeting, from what I read previously, so do you and they feel that they can actually institute some of the things that were talked about, and if, for instance, the Serbs from Mitrovica chose not to attend, can they speak for the entire Serb community?

MR. SERWER: I don't think either Albanians or Serbs necessarily thought that they could speak for everybody in their communities. On the Serb side, I would say a narrower spectrum was represented because on that side the spectrum of people willing to engage in this kind of dialogue productively is narrower. And nobody is making a claim to represent everyone. And I must say the explicit assumption of the discussions -- they were not discussions between delegations, but among individuals, and they were actually seated at the tables, mixed in alphabetical order except in one case where we made a mistake in the alphabetical order. Also in the working groups they were in alphabetical order. These were not delegations per se; they were individuals, and they represented that part of their communities that is willing to engage in this kind of deep dialogue.

QUESTION: Could you explain a little bit more what you mean by the Secretary General making appointments? I'm not up on that.

MR SERWER: This is outlined here on Page 2. They noted the authority of the Special Representative of the Secretary General to make appointments to municipal councils. All agreed that such appointees should be from the municipalities to which they are appointed. The Albanians at the Airlie meeting made clear that this point of alternative was not optimal; they were prepared to accept appointed Serb representatives.

So you have here an obviously reluctant agreement on the procedure, but an agreement nevertheless on the procedure. Yes, and it's based -- this is all based in Security Council Resolution 1244.

QUESTION: How will the declaration affect mutual participation in Mr. Kouchner's council?

DR. HENTGES: Well, we hope positively. In fact, one of the participants said to me, they've worked together, or they've met -- they've been in the same room under the council. They've now established some relationships that are constructive, and so my hope would be that that better understanding, that exchange of views, would ease that. And that is our general approach in this, that we are doing this parallel to and not separate from, even in the follow-up, we're looking at existing institutions to strengthen those through a process like this, not to create separate vehicles of communication that would compete.

QUESTION: Did they talk about this specifically?

DR. HENTGES: Not in the sessions that I remember, but certainly around the edges. Certainly I heard the phrase throughout the couple of days, but I don't remember a specific --

MR. SERWER: What I heard was that this event will improve the atmosphere among them, including in the context of the UN institutions.

QUESTION: I notice that you have about 30 participants or so --

DR. HENTGES: I think there were 39.

QUESTION: Thirty-nine? Were they equally divided? I guess they couldn't be.

DR. HENTGES: No, I think it was 16 and 23?

MR. SERWER: Something like that.

DR. HENTGES: I'd have to count.

MR. SERWER: We'd have to count. But it was about one-third Serb, two-thirds Albanian.

QUESTION: I wonder, from Ambassador Menzies, why or if the U.S. still supports this election since, for one reason or another, the OSCE and the UN have not created a condition in which any of the Serbs of any consequence want to participate in it.

AMBASSADOR MENZIES: We support the election because we believe it's essential to the establishment of a democracy in the region, and we're not convinced that you can not have a good election -- between now and October, that you can't prepare for that. We are pushing ahead, together with the international organizations involved - with UNMIK, with OSCE - and we've committed a lot of time and effort to assure that the elections can take place.

In terms of the participation, we believe that the elections should be held. We want everyone to participate, but some will decide not to participate, as inevitably in democracies that is the case. There are provisions -- and you see that other people at Airlie House, people were considering that as a possibility as well and were endorsing one of the approaches that can be taken by the representative of the Secretary General should that be the case. We believe the elections are indispensable. We are going to continue to press that they be held in a timely manner.

QUESTION: Do you see no point in delaying to try to create a greater willingness of Serbs to participate?

AMBASSADOR MENZIES: We don't believe that the delays will necessarily achieve that. Simply forestalling elections will not necessarily do that. We are trying to create the conditions on the ground that will entice people to participate, that will make it possible. Whether those conditions will be perfect or not remains to be seen. I doubt that they will, as the case may be. We do not believe that the elections should be stalled for that reason either. We are going to prepare the very best that is possible for these elections and the process will be fair and open, as it has been, and we believe the elections will be good. So the delays will achieve nothing from our standpoint along those lines necessarily.

MR. SERWER: I wonder if I could add that my understanding of the views that are expressed in the declaration of the Serbs who were there was that they are not asking for postponement of the elections. They are asking for better conditions before they can participate.

QUESTION: I see that under the media section of the declaration participants agreed to try to carry out responsible journalism. There has been some recent incidents of reprisal journalism in Kosovo, specifically by the Dita publication. I was wondering if there were any representatives from that publication at the conference or if other journalistic representatives were willing to make more solid commitments toward reducing that level of reprisal journalism.

DR. HENTGES: Well, as the declaration indicates, the media that were there recognize their role in reporting responsibly and that they have an impact on the environment there. And they did pledge to create both the environment and the commitments to have responsible journalism, according to Western standards. They differ on what's the best perhaps individually, not necessarily by community, about the best way to proceed.

And I think there was a general recognition that the rule of law governing this kind of environment is important, that you need a number of conditions to be in place for responsible journalism to develop, and that their own willingness to come together to discuss it, to discuss codes of conduct, to look at how the standards are set and implemented in other countries, they are well aware of this and discussed that. But there was no one there from Dita.

QUESTION: What would be the next step in your efforts regarding the obviously encouraging results in your trying to jumpstart the dialogue between two sides? Do you see any possibility in the future that for such a meeting somewhere in proper Kosovo?

DR. HENTGES: Well, follow-up was very important in the planning of this, and thinking it through and talking to the participants about it. It will take place in a variety of places. We had OSCE and UN and U.S. Office of Pristina Representatives there. We have the State Department there.

So some of that follow-up will take place there. Through the generosity of a U.S. foundation, the Waite Family Foundation, each participant was given a laptop computer. And that was meant to create the capability to continue the dialogue. There were offers from within the group to provide training to the others on an inter-ethnic basis. There was an offer by one of the groups for providing Internet access for those within Pristina. And the U.S. Institute of Peace will try to nurture and foster that. That's not one specific event; that's an ongoing thing.

The U.S. Institute of Peace does have a grants program that facilitates and nurtures efforts on the ground, and we'll be looking for ways to support that. Whether we have another meeting is something that we need to look at once we evaluate this and see what's needed next.

The other thing is very important, I think. In June -- and I can have Daniel Serwer expand on this -- we did do a meeting of, in a local community in Gnjilane, of Serbs and Albanians that was a combination facilitation and training in conflict resolution skills. And we have a training program on this. We have, even before this meeting -- and we'll continue to look at opportunities to do those kinds of things on the ground. And we'll just have to assess the need for something like this again.

I think the dialogue was good; I think there is potential from this; but I think you also can recognize that it is very expensive in terms of time and resources, for both the State Department and the Institute, so you have to be sure that you will - that it is necessary, and that there's a cost-benefit on this.

I think both the Institute and the individual participants can be contacted. Cheryl Brown is in the back, from the Institute's press office, and then Tom Switzer of the State Department, of course, can be helpful.

MR. SERWER: Thank you all for coming.

[end of document]

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