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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press availability on the Kosovo Peace Talks
Rambouillet, France, February 21, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, Paris, France
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say that I would describe the situation in this way today, that the Albanians are working very hard and I think moving towards a "yes." The Serbs, on the other hand, are refusing to engage on a basic part of the agreement which is the military aspect of it, and that is where we are.

Everybody is over at Rambouillet working on various parts of this, and meeting in a variety of groups, and they understand the importance of dedicated work and they know they are dealing with very difficult decisions. We know they are dealing with difficult decisions. And the work goes on.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, but even you acknowledge the Albanians, who you thought would have a reason to accept this agreement, have not yet said yes. What happens if the whole thing fails?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, as I said, I think that they are dealing, and I think we have to appreciate this, with decisions that affect their lives. It is a question of war and peace for them. I think we need to understand the difficulty of the decisions that they are making. And it is my belief that they are moving towards yes.

QUESTION: What if they donít?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: If they do not, let me go through the scenarios again. If we have a yes from both sides, we will have an implementation force. If the talks crater because the Serbs do not say yes, we will have bombing. If the talks crater because the Albanians have not said yes, we will not be able to support them, and in fact we will have to cut off whatever help they are getting from the outside. If it fails because both parties say no, there will not be bombing of Serbia and we will try to figure out ways to continue trying to deal with both sides because this is very important as the outside powers, the Contact Group, the negotiators, have to try to figure out a way to get to yes.

QUESTION: How long will you keep at this?

QUESTION: (In French) Could you tell us in French please, (inaudible)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (In French) Well, I really believe that what is happening now is that the Albanians are working very hard to have a "yes." But the problem is that the Serbs -- (inaudible)

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, how long are you prepared to keep at this on the scene? How long are you prepared to keep personally on the scene engaged, and when you say the Albanians are moving towards a yes, what have they told you today that moves them further towards a "yes," that they didnít tell you yesterday?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say this, first of all, I am prepared to be as helpful as I can, but I have made no decisions about how long I will stay here, but I felt that my participation today was useful.

I am not prepared to go into the internal discussions, but I had a sense that the Albanians, as a group, understood the necessity of moving forward, and actually had believed that they had said yes yesterday. So I think that they feel that there were some misunderstandings yesterday, and that they want to clarify that, and that is the basis of my belief.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, what are your feelings about how cooperative is the Serbian side?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The Serbian side is not cooperative. The Serbian side believes that it can have half the deal, which is to talk about the political part of the document. There are not two documents, there is one document with two parts to it, or many parts to it, and one part of it is the political part and another part are the military and police aspects to it. And there is no deal and no cooperation if they are not willing to engage on what is a basic aspect of the agreement.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, how are you dealing with the question of a referendum, something that is going to express the will of the people after three years?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The word referendum is not in the agreement, but we recognize that it is important when the three year period is up to consider the voice of the people among other considerations that have to be taken into regard. But the whole issue here is to focus on the three year period, and to make sure that the various institutions that are set up through the agreement -- that is local elections, local police, a variety of local institutions, a constitution, a presidency, a parliament -- that those institutions are given a chance to function so that the people of Kosovo, the Albanians as well as the other communities, have an opportunity to be able to have some control over their lives. So we are focusing everybodyís attention, both the Albanians as well as the Serbs, on the three-year interim period, and that is what this work is about.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, when you say there was a misunderstanding yesterday with the Kosovo Albanians, could you elaborate on that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that they were very concerned about the fact that they wanted to make sure that people understood that they wanted the will of the people to be a part of it. They had basically thought that the agreement, the political agreement for the most part, they felt that they had agreed to it. And I think that they in fact, if you follow some of the wires, that they felt that they had said yes, and that there was a misunderstanding.

QUESTION: (In French) Madame, why do you think that the Serbs are the main ones responsible for the blockage?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (In French) Because I think that -- (inaudible)

[End of Document]

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