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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
and the Ministers to the Contact Group on Kosovo

Press Conference, Lancaster House
London, United Kingdom, March 9, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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U.K. FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Good afternoon. We have had a full and lengthy discussion of the situation in Kosovo. And at the conclusion of that discussion we are in full agreement with the text that is in front of you that strongly condemns the activities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in Kosovo over the last seven days. We have made it quite clear that we cannot support the violent repression of non-violent expression of political views. And we totally condemn the possibility that extrajudicial killings may have occurred in Kosovo over the past seven days. We all share the same sense of shock, dismay and deep concern at the number of fatalities in Kosovo over the past week.

We met here today at short notice, at my invitation, acting not just as the British Foreign Minister, but as the Presidency of the European Union and we met today for a full morning of discussion because of our deep concern and because of our determination that Belgrade will understand that its behavior in Kosovo cannot be regarded simply as an internal matter. Serious violations of human rights, of civil liberties, of the freedom of political expression, are matters of concern to every member of the international community and cannot be regarded simply as an internal matter.

I am pleased to say that our statement which is currently about to be distributed to you does not simply use tough, strong language, does not only make clear that we condemn what has happened over the past week, but also spells out strong, comprehensive, vigorous action. We have adopted an action plan of a dozen different points which are designed to bring stability to Kosovo and to end the violence. We have agreed that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia should consider the prosecution of anyone who may have committed a violation of humanitarian law in Kosovo. We are clear and she is clear that she has the legal authority to do that. We invite her to consider whether indictments might be appropriate in the light of the evidence of the past week. There must be no impunity for those who break international law.

We have called upon the government in Belgrade to provide access to Kosovo for representation of the international community, of the OSCE, of the Red Cross, and also for Ambassador's representatives of the Contact Group in Belgrade. We need to know what is happening in Kosovo. An international scrutiny and presence on the ground may be one of the best ways of deterring the violation of human rights and the breach of international law.

We strongly support the work of Saint Egidio in order to complete an education agreement which would enable Albanian students to return to University after seven years in which that education has been interrupted. And we've also indicated our support for a continuing UN force in Macedonia to make sure that we stabilize the countries of the region and prevent this conflict from spilling over. On top of that action plan, in order to provide it with backing, to make sure it is taken seriously in Belgrade, we have also proceeded to a number of sanctions which we will apply now and which will remain in force until we are clearer that specific steps have been taken by Belgrade to end the violence and to end the repression in Kosovo. We have agreed to go to the Security Council for a comprehensive arms embargo against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. We have agreed to refuse to supply equipment that might be used for internal repression. We have agreed to deny visas for senior members of the government of Yugoslavia. And we have agreed that we will impose a moratorium on government credit for investment and trade with Yugoslavia, including in particular the privatization of the Serb state enterprises which currently provides the basis on which President Milosevic is able to pay his way.

Russia has indicated that for the present time it can agree to only the first two of those items but has given an undertaking that unless there is an improvement in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and unless Belgrade complies with specific steps we are calling for, Russia also will consider applying the full list of the sanctions I have outlined to you.

Finally, I end with an appeal to President Milosevic on behalf of all the members of the Contact Group. The situation in Kosovo cannot be resolved by heavy handed policing activity. And the international community will not tolerate the use of the police in such a repressive way as we have seen over the past week with so many deaths. The situation in Kosovo cries out for a political solution. We demand that President Milosevic now commence a political dialogue with the moderate, peaceful leadership of the Kosovo people in order to find a solution that provides the increased autonomy that the people of Kosovo want and to which they are entitled.

Any questions to any of the members of the Contact Group? Yes?

QUESTION: Foreign Secretary, can you just tell us a bit about the apparent Russian change in position, in particular on these first two points of the punitive measures against Belgrade on an arms embargo and equipment which might be used for repression. How did this come about, we understand it came about very recently. And to what extent does this change the extent to which the pressure on Belgrade may yield result?

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Well, first of all James, I would want very much the focus to be on what is a long, tough statement with some very strong measures in it. I understand the media interest in how we arrived at this but the process is actually much less important than the outcome and the pressure it will now apply to Belgrade. It is certainly the case that we have worked hard in the last two hours to try and find the widest common agreement because common agreement among us is one of the best pressures that we can provide on Belgrade. I have been engaged in telephone conversation with Mr. Primakov, as also has Madeleine Albright and Klaus Kinkel within the last hour and it is the result of that direct contact with Moscow that we have been able to find much more common ground between us. It is the case that Mr. Primakov will be going to Belgrade in the next two weeks, as also will Mr. Kinkel and Mr. Vedrine.

We very much hope that having adopted unanimously two sanctions against Belgrade, having adopted by a very clear majority of five out of six two other steps for immediate action and also now having got a commitment from Russia that it will join us after two weeks if there's no progress, I hope that we have reinforced the message that will be carried to Belgrade by those of our colleagues and by others over those two weeks. President Milosevic had better recognize that if he does not move in the next two weeks all six members of the Contact Group will be carrying out all four measures.

QUESTION: Kosovo Information Centre. Question in French.

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE ALBRIGHT: Let me say that I feel very satisfied with the statements made today by Foreign Secretary Cook on behalf of the Contact Group indicating the seriousness of purpose that we share in having President Milosevic understand that the time has come for a political settlement. The United States believes that it is essential to move forward in that direction and that the very strong statement that has come out here in terms of a determination to follow through on sanctions if he does not follow through on a political settlement is a good position. And the United States continues to say that our options are open. Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Nicolai Afanasyevskiy will speak on behalf of (inaudible)

RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER AFANASYEVSKIY: I want to add two words to the answer of Mr. Robin in answer to the question from the BBC correspondent. We could accept the proposal of the arms embargo because it legally concerns both Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the terrorist groups in Kosovo.

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Can I ask if there are questions to my other colleagues in order that they may have the opportunity to comment. Yes.

QUESTION: David Buchan, Financial Times, with a question to Mr. Afanasyevskiy. Is it clear that now Russia will rescind or cancel it's recent arms agreement with Serbia? And a question to perhaps Minister Dini. Will Italy withdraw from its participation in the privatization of the Serb telecoms?

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: In fairness, David, I would have to say that steps we will take now will apply from now. Do you want -- Nicolai did you want to say anything more than that?

DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER AFANASYEVSKIY: The decision of (inaudible) our position we adopted here is to pass by normal official channels, the Security Council especially, and we shall see what consequences it has for our countries, for our relations with others also. We are not the only concerned.

QUESTION: I am from Atina Television in Athens. Have any of the Contact Group countries expressed the view that military action should be taken into account as a possible measure for the future, and are you as a Contact Group supporting the Albanian Government's proposal that Greece mediate between the Kosovo Albanians in Belgrade?

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: First of all we did not specifically discuss the Albanian proposal but we would warmly welcome any attempt to get a dialogue going between Pristina and Belgrade. All members of the international community have a constructive role to play here. No, we did not discuss military intervention, that is not on the agenda at the present time. But we have adopted some very tough measures, a very clear action plan. We now expect results from Belgrade on that. Any of my colleagues?

QUESTION: (inaudible) Are you going to contact the Contact countries? The ones that are nearby like Greece and other countries, because they are concerned about the situation, aren't they?

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Indeed they are concerned and have every reason to be concerned. My Minister of State Mr. Lloyd will be leaving shortly to visit both Macedonia and Albania I am myself in frequent contact with Mr. Pangalos who is the Foreign Minister of Greece. I will be seeing him on Thursday and Friday and Saturday when he will be joining me here in Britain. We have made arrangements for me to have a bilateral with Mr. Pangalos and plainly one of the major issues we will be discussing will be the situation in Kosovo. Now can I repeat my invitation are there any questions to my colleagues? Sir.

QUESTION: (inaudible) Whoever speaks about sanctions also mentions sanctions-busting. Are there any measures to prevent sanctions-busting towards Serbia within today's discussions?

EU COMMISSIONER HANS VAN DEN BROEK: We take it that measures that are being taken obviously will be complied with and in the implementation we will see how far further verification measures are necessary.

QUESTION: I have a question for Mrs Albright, if I could. I'm Steven Erlanger from the New York Times. The rhetoric of the American side has basically been this is Sudetenland. I mean, it is time for the world to react quickly so the mistakes of 1991 do not happen again because we know Mr. Milosevic and his past. Are you satisfied that reassertion of steps already in place plus a future embargo on government aid and assistance is enough of an answer to Mr. Milosevic? And if I could ask Secretary Cook also, is this not, given that no one questions the sovereignty of Serbia over Kosovo, is this not an awkward thing for many countries because what you're doing is not challenging the right of the government to repress a terrorist or independent organization within its boundaries but only are expressing distaste for the way it's been done. I mean, wouldn't this be true of Northern Ireland, too, or even Chechnya?

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: First of all, I robustly resist any parallel between the behavior of the Serb forces in Kosovo over the past week and the behavior of British forces in Northern Ireland over the last twenty weeks. I want to make it quite clear we do not accept any parallelism there. Secondly, we are insisting on the right of the international community to police international law and that means that we have a perfect right to express concern as we have done today at extrajudicial killings and the death of eighty people without any trial or any judicial process. Thirdly, we are of course condemning terrorism. We do that in the statement. Countries in the Contact Group themselves have suffered too much from terrorism to give any comfort to terrorists. But if you want to beat terrorism, you have to isolate the terrorists. The tragedy is that the behavior of Belgrade in the past week is driving more people into covert support for terrorism. What we are calling for and what we will continue to insist upon is a political solution that enables the moderate, peaceful, non-terrorist leadership of the Albanian people in Kosovo the opportunity to explore their legitimate political objectives. Madeleine.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, Steve, I don't think I actually ever used the analogy that you have used. What I have been saying is that we do not want a repeat of 1991, and the fact that it would be important for the international community as represented in this case by the Contact Group, to make some clear statements. And what we agreed to today, I think, is a satisfactory result in our effort to ensure that diplomatic efforts are backed up with effective pressure. But we obviously are going to keep our eye on the ball and make sure that this agreement sticks. If we don't get the kind of result that we want, we need to remember that the only kind of pressure President Milosevic understands is the kind that imposes a real price on his unacceptable behavior.

So I think that what has been done here in the last hours has made quite clear where we all stand on the fact that the kind of behavior that has been taking place in Kosovo is unacceptable, and that there is a price to be paid.

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Can I take one last question for any of my colleagues. Yes sir.

QUESTION: Richard Lister, BBC. Mr Kinkel yesterday in Bonn, you made reference to a possibly expanded role for the WEU in shoring up the situation in Albania.

GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER KINKEL: Can you repeat; I didn't understand.

QUESTION: Certainly, yesterday in Bonn you made reference to a possibly enhanced role for the WEU in this situation. I see no mention of the WEU in the statement and the measures released today. Can you give me the reason for that and whether you feel that the WEU still does have an enhanced role to play?

FOREIGN MINISTER KINKEL: We discussed today how to bring further in a better situation the WEU. But there was no decision today. We must reflect this and we will come to a solution. Let us wait and see a little bit. We all have to discuss what we in the organizations we discussed in this [meeting?] today.

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Thank you very much. In closing can I just say the Contact Group has resolved that it will meet again on 25th March. We will be monitoring closely the situation in Kosovo and I want President Milosevic to clearly understand we will be watching closely how he responds to today's statement. I hope when we meet again we will be able to see evidence that the situation in Kosovo is stabilizing on the basis of respect for civil liberties, freedom of expression and international law. Thank you very much.

[End of Document]

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