|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
Joint press availability
Washington, D.C., May 25, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. I am delighted, once again, to welcome to the Department of State Joschka Fischer, the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Foreign Minister and I have developed a very close working relationship over the past months, and we speak on the phone almost daily. So I'm very glad to have him here in person today.
As many of you know, Foreign Minister Fischer comes from a political party with both pacifist and activist roots. He is not one to advocate or support the use of force lightly. But he assessed the situation in the Balkans and came to the same conclusion as our NATO partners -- that Milosevic's campaign of terror in Kosovo must be stopped.
The purpose of today's meeting and lunch we are about to have is to continue our joint efforts to bring the crisis in Kosovo to an end on terms that the alliance can accept. Serb forces must leave Kosovo so that refugees and displaced persons may return safely to their homes. An international military presence with NATO at its core must be established. The people of Kosovo must be allowed the democratic self-governance they have long been denied.
The United States, Germany and our other allies are solidly behind these key objectives. We will not settle for less.
In fact, if you look back over the past several months, the striking feature is that NATO's 19 democracies have remained united in our determination to prevail.
There's been a lot of public discussion, but our inclusive political systems and the rightness of our cause have given us a staying power that Milosevic's brutal policies simply don't have. That is why a key element in our discussion today involves planning for success; by which I mean the preparations we are making to enable an effective international force to enter Kosovo when the conditions are right. This planning is moving forward quickly on an alliance-wide basis.
Today, NATO completed its review of updated planning for implementing the peace when our conditions are met. NATO's plan envisions an international security force deployed in Kosovo with a mission to deter renewed hostilities and establish the security necessary for the refugees to return.
Given the new circumstances, including the enormous humanitarian crisis caused by Milosevic, the international force will be larger than originally foreseen. The headquarters and leading elements are already in the region, where they are helping to relieve the refugee crisis. NATO's military authorities will now be considering what additional forces are required so that the force can deploy rapidly and effectively into Kosovo once Milosevic accepts our conditions and begins to withdraw his forces.
In addition, Foreign Minister Fischer and I have also been discussing a joint initiative to stabilize, transform, and eventually integrate the countries of the region into the European and trans-Atlantic mainstream. Several commentators in Germany have called this stability pact a new Marshall Plan. That label may be an exaggeration, but our goals are indeed high -- to build a foundation of peace and prosperity in the region; one which will hopefully, in time, include a democratic Serbia.
Finally, I want to say that I am looking forward to my upcoming visits to Bonn and Cologne for the US-EU and G-8 meetings and to seeing the Foreign Minister again at that time.
FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: Thank you very much for the possibility to have these very productive talks today. Indeed, we have a close working relation that developed in the last weeks. In Kosovo, there is a war, but this war started in '91, not 60 days ago. It started with the break-up of Yugoslavia and it was driven by a policy of ethnic warfare, of ethnic cleansing by Mr. Milosevic and the government in Belgrade. It started in Slovenia; it happened in Croatia and then in Bosnia. More than 200,000 people are killed and now we have, as some American commentators used it, the endgame in Kosovo. I hope it will be the end game because if Milosevic can continue, we can see the next -- what will happen in the Sandjak -- the Sandjak is a region between Montenegro and the heartland of Serbia. There are living mostly Muslims.
You will see an overthrow of Montenegro and you will see, as a result, the refugees and displaced persons of the Kosovar Albanian people cannot go back; you will see that the Albanian nationalism will explode and this will have severe consequences for stability in the whole region, especially in Macedonia.
So I think that this aggressive nationalism -- this policy of aggressive nationalism of Mr. Milosevic rooted in the ‘30s -- not in the ‘90s -- of European politics must be stopped and will be stopped. There is, from my point of view, no alternative to the five points of the international community; of the European Union, of NATO and of the statement of the UN General Secretary. It means that all the refugees and all the displaced persons of the Kosovo Albanian people must go back and can go back in a safe environment. And this safe environment means that the Serbian and Yugoslav forces will be out of Kosovo and a robust international peace force -- and this robust means NATO core -- must be in to guarantee that the refugees and displaced persons can go back.
If they won't go back, if Milosevic will win, this wouldn't be not only a moral disaster, but also a long-lasting, destabilization of Southeastern Europe. This is unacceptable. Today, in Kosovo, they are fighting two political principles -- a principle of the European past, an aggressive nationalism, against the Europe of the future, the Europe of the integration. With the help of our allies in NATO, especially with the United States, I'm sure that we will win this confrontation because there is no other alternative.
It would be a disaster for the future of Europe if this principle of the past, aggressive nationalism, would be the winner of this confrontation. I think Belgrade must understand that they have to accept the return of all refugees. So I'm here today to discuss, based on the success of the military campaign, to discuss the integration, the fortressing of our political efforts to get a political solution based on the success of the military campaign. We are working on now different tracks and we must bring these tracks together and it must lead to Security Council resolution based on the five principles -- transforming these five principles into a Security Council resolution and then in definite end of that war with the beginning of the return of the refugees and displaced persons.
I think we have made substantial progress on the level of G-8. We have made substantial progress in the talks of Strobe Talbott, together with Ahtisaari and Chernomyrdin. We must now bring these different tracks together; and these are the main reasons for my short visit here. And you'll see us again next time in Europe. I hope next time that we can open the door to peace. We have reached now the door -- this is the progress we have made -- while we're not able to open the door. Now we have to manage to open the door and to stop fighting and stop killing and stop this ethnic war in the Balkans. I hope that we are successful.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, with all the difficulties on the military front, evidently there are difficulties also in trying to deny Yugoslavia the oil it needs. There seem to be leaks in the voluntary embargo. I know there was some consideration of stronger action, but you always need a consensus. So you seem to be depending on a voluntary cut-off. It's not working, is it? What might be done to keep Yugoslavia from getting the oil it needs for its war machine?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, Barry, as you know, making sure that they do not have oil is one of the big aspects of the air campaign; and some of the targets are specifically the petroleum storage areas. At the same time, it is evident that there is a shortage of oil, and that is effecting the ability of the military machine to move forward. We also believe very strongly that, by and large, the oil that is coming in by sea and going through Montenegro has been substantially been cut down. So, as a result of a voluntary visit and search regime, that is working.
We are concerned, however, by what we are hearing more and more about the traffic up and down the Danube. We have been talking to the riparian countries about that. The sanctions coordinator, with a group of experts, has in fact gone to the region in order to be able to assess what is going on and determine how we can work with the regime to try to cut down the smuggling and the stuff that's going on.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up. Has a direct appeal been made to Ukraine, which seems to be responsible for much of the Danube traffic?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have been speaking with the Ukraine, and I will do so. They have been, I think, on the whole, very cooperative with the efforts that we're all undertaking, and they want to be cooperative. I will be talking with them about some of the allegations.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you and your German visitor, Minister Fischer, see eye to eye as far as the involvement or non-involvement of the United Nations is concerned in the Kosovo conflict? And if I may ask both of you, what do you consider, at this stage of the war, to be the proper role of the Security Council?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The Foreign Minister and I see eye-to-eye on a great deal --
FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: And ear to ear.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: And ear to ear, yes, though I have less problems with my ears than you do.
But I think that we really have spent a lot of time talking about the unity of the alliance, our determination to follow through on the air campaign and working towards, as I said, preparing for success.
I believe that we do agree that we see a role for the United Nations and the OSCE and the EU in the post-conflict situation. We also do agree that, as the Foreign Minister said, that there should be a Security Council resolution. The question is about the timing of it. But we do think that it needs to embody the five NATO conditions. So we do see a role for the UN. We do not see -- at least the US does not -- in terms of the peacekeeping operation, we think that it needs to have a NATO core and a NATO command structure; and I think we agree on that.
FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: I think it would be very important to get a Security Council resolution because this would mean that there is, for Milosevic, a clear signal that he is completely isolated. I think the process of getting such a resolution will put tremendous pressure on Belgrade, and therefore we are working on that. I think this is very important.
On the other side, it's quite clear that we are -- our policy is based on the five principles and it means, once again -- this is for me the most important point and it makes clear how united the alliance is -- that the return of all refugees in a safe environment. From that point you have to look back, step by step, what is required to get this return of all refugees and displaced persons in a safe environment. They will go back only if there is a security and this security guaranteed by a robust international force; and this means NATO core and on the other side, that the FRY forces -- the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia forces -- are out. I think this is very important to understand and we are focused on this crucial point -- the whole alliance. This to transform into a Security Council resolution, together with Russia, we are working very hard.
QUESTION: Could I ask you both, please? Mr. Chernomyrdin keeps calling for a pause --perhaps a symbolic pause -- in order to break the negotiating jam. What would be wrong with a pause? Would it violate any of the five points?
FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: Are you asking me?
QUESTION: Both please.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Do you want to start?
FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: Well, I can tell you that we should discuss this question very clear -- what will be the outcome? Will there be a pause in Kosovo on the side of Milosevic? Will this mean that the war is getting longer or not? So I think we should discuss this question together with all the other problems we have to discuss.
My main concern is how we can not come to a pause. My main concern is how we can, as soon as possible, end the killing and end the ethnic cleansing. I think we are now in a very important stage of this conflict and we should work very hard to get a political solution together with Chernomyrdin and together with Ahtisaari and all the others. We must bring that to a positive end and this means that the war and the ethnic cleansing is coming to an end and this means that Milosevic must accept the return of all refugees in a safe environment in Kosovo. And this means acceptance of the five key points of the alliance and of the international community. This is our main concern today.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That is our view and we have made quite clear the circumstances under which a pause would -- or suspension -- would come, and it has to do with the five conditions. I think there is wisdom in our position. At this stage, Deputy Secretary Talbott is in Moscow. They are talking about how that track -- the Chernomyrdin-Ahtisaari-Talbott track -- is working, in terms of additional movement in it, in terms of possible travel.
But I think that mainly we are focused on exactly what the Foreign Minister is saying -- that we would like -- that we need to focus on what is happening in Kosovo.
I must say, what I find very interesting in the news in the last 24 hours are increasing signs that the people of Serbia are losing patience with the war and the regime, and that there are more protests and various demonstrations within Serbia, in Krusevac and Aleksandrovac. They continue there. They are apparently provoked by the call up of reservists from those two towns to go into western Kosovo, where the FRY forces have been depleted by casualties incurred from the NATO air strikes and the clashes with the KLA. There are a number of other examples in terms of demonstrations and a sense that it is time for this to end. That is what we are focused on.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on the issue of the ground troops which are deployed now by NATO, first at the borders, and should be used then in Kosovo, the British Foreign Secretary Cook last week advocated a very strong position on even deploying these troops on a kind of combat mission or a semi-permissive environment; whereas the German Chancellor Schroeder rejected the position outright. Could you get some clarification in your talks today on how far the Germans would go on this issue? What is exactly the United States' position? Could you envision a situation where these troops would be deployed without meeting the five points, or without the consent of the Yugoslav Government?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say, first of all, that we all see eye-to-eye in terms of the effectiveness of the air campaign and the necessity to continue it in order to achieve our goals. We are all supportive of that. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, we also are now dealing with a NATO decision about having an expanded K-FOR be deployed as rapidly as possible in order to prepare ourselves for the end of this.
There is, as I have said, as far as the United States is concerned, we have not taken options off the table. But we are very focused now on the air campaign, on having the expanded K-FOR be able to operate effectively and make sure that the planning and early deployment of that is possible, and keep our eye on what we're doing.
What I find very helpful is the great unity of the alliance on our goals and on the return of the refugees. And when Foreign Secretary Cook was here, we agreed -- he and I agreed on this, and that agreement goes forward.
Obviously, there are a variety of discussions when you have 19 democracies operating, but we think it's very important to keep completely focused on what we are doing; and that is the purpose of the talks that the Foreign Minister and I are having.
FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: Robin Cook will be tomorrow in Bonn, so we'll have the discussion tomorrow in Bonn. I can tell you that just now, we are working very hard for a political solution. And on the other side, we have to prepare ourselves for the case of the success of the political solution. We have an agreement; we must be ready -- NATO must be ready to fulfill all the purposes which must be fulfilled. We are not talking in weeks or months, we are talking in hours and days. The experience of Bosnia was that the mistakes which were made in the beginning, it's very difficult to change in the following months and years. Therefore, I think it's very important to update K-FOR and I think we should concentrate today on this effort to get a political solution and then to transform this political solution on the ground with K-FOR.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
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