|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright|
Press Conference at NATO Headquarters
Brussels, Belgium, April 12, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. As Secretary-General Solana said, we have had a good, productive meeting. We have a long road ahead, but no one should doubt NATO's determination -- or our unity.
Our purposes are clear -- and they have broad international support, including a very positive statement by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. NATO opperations will continue until our terms are met. Milosevic must ensure a verifiable ceasefire and withdraw his military, paramilitary and police forces from Kosovo.
He must also allow all refugees to return, with full access for humanitarian assistance and with the deployment of an international military presence.
And the people of Kosovo must be given the democratic self-government which they have too long been denied. Clearly, Milosevic is trying to divide NATO. But we will not be divided. We will stand our ground. And we will be patient.
But that does not mean we will be patient or complacent with the humanitarian crisis created by Milosevic's depredations. We can be very proud of the work that our troops are doing to help the refugees.
Every NATO country is contributing. This morning, I had my first face to face meeting, although we have been on the phone a lot, with new Greek Foreign Minister Papandreou, who described his country's constructive role in helping refugees and supporting the front-line states.
True to form, Belgrade is taking every opportunity to make a bad situation worse. We are deeply concerned that as many as 700,000 people are at risk within Kosovo. It appears that Belgrade is deliberately depriving them of food and shelter. If these people are allowed to die, we will hold Serb authorities accountable.
We are receiving many, many credible reports of atrocities. NATO this weekend released images of what appear to be mass gravesites in Kosovo. We should not be surprised if more graves are found.
Belgrade has been warned. Those found responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held accountable. Our nations are providing information to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. And the Tribunal will follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Belgrade must also allow Dr. Rugova and his family to depart Serbia as they have requested.
NATO is committed to supporting the fragile democracies surrounding Serbia, which are facing immense political and economic pressure. And we have reminded Milosevic that any attempt to overthrow the democratically-elected government of President Djukanovic in Montenegro will have the most serious consequences.
We must also begin to forge a broader strategy to ensure that NATO forces will not again be called to fight terror and destruction in this corner of the continent. Our explicit goal should be to transform the Balkans from Europe's primary source of instability into an important part of its mainstream.
To succeed, we must work closely with the European Union, the OSCE, and others. And we will keep trying to find a way for Russia to be part of the solution in Kosovo. Tomorrow I will meet with Foreign Minister Ivanov to discuss how we might bridge our differences.
For over a year, the Alliance has been working to make NATO as successful at dealing with the challenges of the future as it was in meeting the threats of the past.
We are on course and in shape to live up to NATO's best traditions and meet the terrible challenges of our time. This will not be easy or simple. But we will go forward -- in the Balkans, at the Washington Summit, and into the future.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, as the tasks of this force, the name keeps changing and maybe the mission changes slightly, but let's call it for the moment at least, the NATO-led peacekeeping force, as their tasks multiply do you anticipate there will be a need for more than 29,000 or so troops originally anticipated and corresponding increase in the 4,000 U.S. troops that would be on the ground in that permissive environment of course?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Barry, I think it's fair to say that as we look at what a force would be like in a permissive environment, we will take all aspects into consideration, but there has been no discussion whatsoever, about changing the numbers or our proportion in it.
QUESTION: Two questions if I might please, first, NATO has been trying very hard to attack Serbian fuel stocks and yet there are still reports of fuel imports getting into Serbia. Are you satisfied with the current state of sanctions? And secondly, is NATO currently in a position to rule out partition of Kosovo as any part of an eventual solution?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that as far as I am concerned sanctions can always be tightened to try to make sure that there is not access to fuel. Clearly that is something we think is important, to try to make sure that fuel that is necessary for military activities is, in fact, that the supplies are a bit lessened. There is on the question on partition, there is no discussion of that. Or that is not an option that is being considered . Certainly not an option that I favor, and there are a number of ways that people are looking at what a future state would look like. But while there are kinds of discussions exploring various modes, the idea of partition is not one with a lot of favors.
QUESTION: Madame Albright, both you and Mr. Solana have mentioned the problem of people inside Kosovo who are not getting food and your wish to get humanitarian aid to them. How are you going to do that without sending in ground troops?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, it is clearly, it is a subject that we discussed in a variety of ways, small and larger meetings today. I think there are, we have asked, the military authorities have been asked to explore how that can be done. As I have also mentioned, the Greeks have been, they intend to try to be more helpful. But because we have been so concerned about the potential humanitarian disaster there, the military authorities have been asked to look at it. And as I said, these are people that are living in Serbia and it is Milosevic's responsibility to make sure that they do not starve or die from lack of medicine.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, many of the refugees are saying they will never go back if they have to live in any way under the authority of the Serbian state, and since autonomy still remains the goal according to the Rambouillet accords, even though it seems more and more a dead letter, are you picking up any support or interest of creating an international protector for Kosovo, which will encourage the refugees to go back under the protection of an international force?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that in the informal discussions that we have had, and it goes back to the question about partition, we are all trying to find a situation under which it would be possible for the Kosovar Albanians to be able to go back and live in Kosovo in conditions whereby they will not be terrified about their lives. Where the military, VJ, and the paramilitary forces and the MUP and the police would not be there in order to threaten and terrorize them, and there would be ways they will be able to exercise self-government and allow them to live with the kind of things we talked about in Rambouillet, the educational system, the ability to practice their religion and culture. I think that there are a number of ideas that are out there. None of which are those that have been settled upon by any of us. But there has been discussion of some kind of international protective status. That is among those that people talk about.
To go back again, there is some speculation, I think more in the press then among us, about whether partition is something that is possible. If you look at the map, we think those people who are talking about this, in theory, is not easily done since it doesn't run against the theory that we have about multi-ethnic society. And two the Serb parts are not all grouped together. But I think in fairness, here I have to tell you there are discussions going on about how to accomplish our goals which will allow the Kosovar Albanians to live with a high degree of self-government without the threats and terror that they have been living under, and being able to live in peace.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on the objectives you've laid out for Kosovo, if an international force does go in and Serb forces leave and the refugees go back in, should the KLA be disarmed as was originally called for in the Rambouillet agreement?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that is, we're operating on that basis, is that what we would want to try to see would be a place where it would not be necessary for there to be armed forces in order to defend the people because there would in fact be some kind of an international security force in there that would allow them to live as I've mentioned in some kind of environment of security.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, U.S. officials keep saying that any force in Kosovo would be NATO-led, but apparently the French and Germans and perhaps other Allies keep raising other possibilities like OSCE involvement and U.N. involvement that seem to leave some flexibility. Would you talk about the kinds of flexibility you see in that in order to draw others like the Russians in? And could you talk about why you're meeting with the KLA tonight?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that we believe that in order to have a force such as this be able to do its job, that NATO has to have a core leadership role in it and has to have a command structure that works to be effective. But that doesn't mean that there are not other ways that other forces could be a part of that. I mean, for instance, if you go back and you look at the way IFOR was set up that there are a variety of ways that a force that is NATO-led, or has a NATO core, or has NATO functioning within it so that NATO can preserve its ability to function, that there are other ways that that can be augmented or supplemented in particular ways. I am meeting with Mr. Krasniqi because I think that it's important to get a first-hand report about how he and the Albanians see the situation there. We are constantly trying to get information on the situation on the ground and to assess as much as we can what is really happening.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I don't mean this facetiously, but once again today NATO has insisted that it is not at war. I think to most members of the Western public, to most people in this room, this looks very much like a war. It's the largest military conflict in Europe since 1945. What advantage is there to NATO in keeping up and maintaining this insistence that it is not at war? And surely it leaves you open to questions about your resolve under situations where, for example, where NATO pilots are bombing oil refineries in one part of the country whilst tankers are still unloading at Yugoslav ports on the other side of the country.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it has to do with legal definitions, but it certainly does not have anything to do with resolve. And what we saw here in the last three quarters of the day is, I think, a really very strong and remarkable unity among 19 members of this Alliance to pursue the goals which were stated very clearly in the communique that ensure verifiable stop to all military action and the immediate ending of violence and repression, that ensure the withdrawal from Kosovo of the military police and paramilitary forces, that agree to the stationing in Kosovo of an international military presence, agree to the unconditional and safe return of all refugees and displaced persons and unhindered access to them by humanitarian aid organizations, and provide credible assurance of Milosevic's willingness to work on the basis of the Rambouillet accords in the establishment of the political framework agreement for Kosovo in conformity with international law and the charter of the UN. So I think there is that resolve, plus I think a very clear statement made by all those who intervened in the discussion as well as in this communiqué that the responsibility for the present crisis lies with President Milosevic. So I think that what is important, I think for our publics to know, is that we met today and the NATO Alliance has made its resolve very clear.
QUESTION: Madame Albright, most of the questions here today are from like Neil King with the Wall Street Journal have focused on the aftermath. I seem to have missed the fact that we're anywhere near a cease-fire. We certainly could be asking these questions three or four months from now. The question that I wanted to ask is whether or not the, to pick up on the BBC's question, is this whole notion of we're not at war with the Yugoslav people or that we're not going after the political base or the actual economic base remains a sort of halfway measure, and that it's something that, there has to be a stronger sense of determination going into it.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't think that there is any sense about a halfway measure or lack of determination. I think we have wanted to make very clear that our fight is with Milosevic and the authorities and not with the people of Serbia. We have worked very hard not to have collateral damage as we go forward with this campaign, while on the other hand, the whole strategy that Milosevic pursues is to pursue collateral damage. That's the way he carries his fight out, is to create as much collateral damage as possible, whereas we are trying to specifically target the air campaign on assets that he uses to terrorize the population of Kosovo and not to have a fight with the people of Serbia, whom we hope will, at some stage in the not too distant future, be able to be where they belong which is with -- what is happening is the remarkable prosperity of the rest of Europe.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you think that the absence of the word, "NATO" in any of those five preconditions that you've read out today will help you tomorrow in your negotiations with your Russian counterpart? And secondly, do you think that that will be quite helpful in removing one of the main obstacles that certainly President Milosevic has spoken about many times as to his willingness to negotiate, which is the fact that he would not see a NATO-led force in Kosovo?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well first of all, let me say that we are in no way trying to hide NATO. NATO is the crucial aspect of this operation and is very much a sign and symbol of how we deal with threats in the 21st Century. And I think that it would be a mistake for people to think that there is any attempt not to make it quite clear that NATO is the core aspect of this. I do expect that when I meet with Foreign Minister Ivanov, we will be talking about what the common approach to this can be. After all, the Russians were very much a part of how we dealt with Bosnia and how we've dealt with Kosovo for the last year and a half, and their role in the Contact Group was very useful and their general support for dealing with the problem in a political way I think has been useful. And so the discussion tomorrow is an attempt to see where we can find common ground again without sacrificing from our perspective any of the tools that are necessary in order to be able to do the job in a way that allows the Kosovar Albanians to go back to a multi-ethnic, democratically elected self government environment that allows them not to be terrorized. So I think that that is the basis of what we're doing and I expect that we will have some interesting discussions.
QUESTION: (question not heard)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Frankly, we're not trying to please President Milosevic. That is not the goal of this. The goal of this is to be able to get him to understand these five demands that the international community is making.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, considering that President Milosevic seems to enjoy for the moment at least, pretty strong support, and that secondly, whether we like it or not, he has achieved a number of military goals in Kosovo, how do you expect airstrikes to be able to at least roll back or at least achieve the very ambitious goals of NATO of bringing back people to their homes?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that what has become evident with the military campaign is that it is systematically biting into and destroying the machine of repression that is most dear to Milosevic. And as we have said, this whole campaign requires patience and perseverance, and I am sure that in the long run or in the medium run even that he is going to be feeling this and that it will, the way that this is all designed will in fact bring us the objectives that we seek. And again I repeat that I would only wish that the Serbian people were able to have the possibility of really knowing what is going on, that Milosevic in their name is slaughtering people, putting them in locked trains, separating the males, the military-age males from women and children and the older people, that he is burning houses and practicing a scorched earth policy. I believe that the Serb people would not want to have this be done in their name because they have been and want to be a part of civilized Europe and not a part of this barbarism.
QUESTION: We're told that in the meetings that there was no discussion about ground troops, but I'm wondering if in your more private discussions with your counterparts if that came up, and secondly, if you came away with any sense from your briefings with military leaders about what kind of turnaround time it would take if and when NATO should make a decision on ground troops to actually get any of them in there.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Jackie, I really don't think it's appropriate for me to talk about my discussions with other of my foreign minister colleagues on any subject frankly, and obviously we are looking at the whole situation very carefully, having very open and frank discussions as we are dealing with this common problem. And the question about turnaround and all that, I suggest you ask the military authorities
QUESTION: What does victory mean in this war?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think what it is is what we've said many times is to achieve those five objectives which I'd be happy to read to you again.
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