Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
With Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev
Joint Press Conference, Presidential Palace
Helsinki, Finland, June 18, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, June 19, 1999
PRESIDENT AHTISAARI: Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, I welcome you all to this occasion and I do apologize for this very late hour but like so often its always worthwhile to wait for the good things to come.
I want to congratulate the both delegations, their leaders and their members, for the work done during these three days. We have seen the finish of the final round of the talks on the implementation of the international security presence for Kosovo. I think these have been very important three days. And I think it has been also important to thoroughly discuss the different aspects of the participation of different contributing governments in the international security presence in Kosovo. It has been important to go into details in order to avoid any misunderstandings in the implementation phase.
When I have been as a host of these talks following the discussions during these days, I'm absolutely convinced that we all have had a common aim to create through these arrangements stability and conditions in which the people who are living in Kosovo can live peacefully to whatever population group they belong and also that we will be able to create conditions of safety for the people to return, those who are refugees at the moment, and those who are displaced persons.
I want to once again thank the both delegations for the work they have carried out here in Finland. I must, nevertheless, add, that had they not finished their work tonight I threatened to start reducing the Finnish traditional hospitality to them. But I didn't need to go that far and I'm thankful that we could finish the work today. I will hand over to Secretary of Defense Cohen to start the proceedings.
SECRETARY COHEN: Thank you very much, President Ahtisaari, for your very warm and gracious hospitality, for all the help that you have given the United States and Russian teams. I must say that your creativity, your persistence as a mediator has helped to bring us here today. I'm pleased to announce, as we did momentarily ago by signing that important document, that Minister Sergeyev and I reached an agreement on Russian participation in KFOR, the Kosovo peace implementation force led by NATO on terms that meet the requirements of both NATO and Russia.
Our agreement meets two fundamental requirements. It preserves the unity of command necessary to make KFOR an effective military force, and it gives Russia a unique role by providing for operations of Russian forces within KFOR sectors run by the United States, France, and Germany. In addition, we have agreed on a plan to open the Pristina airport to all KFOR nations and on arrangements for operation of the airfield once this agreement is approved by NATO's North Atlantic Council.
President Clinton and President Yeltsin instructed both of us to work out the details of Russian participation in KFOR because they recognized that cooperation between Russia and NATO is the key to Europe's stability. Russia, along with President Ahtisaari, helped to achieve the Kosovo peace agreement. So it is appropriate that Russia now participate in the enforcement of that peace.
Command and control was a key issue during our talks. Russian troops will serve within KFOR's unified command structure and under the commanders of the sectors in which they serve. Russian forces will remain under Russian national command and control, and there will be a Russian representative at all levels of the NATO chain of command for KFOR.
As I told Minister Sergeyev, Secretary Albright and I will present this agreement to the North Atlantic Council of NATO in Brussels for consideration and we are confident of its approval.
This agreement protects NATO's fundamental interests. It provides the following: the common mission and purpose of NATO and Russian forces; unity in command under the commander of KFOR; a NATO chain of command with Russian representation at SHAPE, at AFSOUTH and KFOR headquarters; political direction by the North Atlantic Council with consultations on Russian participation through the Permanent Joint Council; participation under NATO's operating plan with common command structure and rules of engagement; single systems of airspace management and ground movement control; the allocation of functions at Pristina Airfield and a guarantee of common access.
Again, I want to thank President Ahtisaari, and the government and people of Finland for their encouragement and support and their very generous hospitality. And I would like to say a word about Minister Sergeyev with whom I have spent so much time during the past three days. He is a very tough, but a very fair negotiator. He is an experienced military leader who has balanced Russia's needs with Russia's commitment to working for a more secure Europe.
And I would like to take this opportunity to thank Secretary Albright, for her coming to Helsinki, for lending her support for these long and very demanding hours of negotiation. It made an enormous contribution to the success of making this agreement so we are indebted to you.
I also want to say to Minister Ivanov, this is the first chance I have had to meet you. I must say I have been very impressed by your energy and your dedication to reaching a successful conclusion. There are many people in this room and in this audience that I could single out for expressions of gratitude. I would like to mention just two or three. First, General Foglesong, who has labored long and working with Secretary Albright and myself in so many different ways -- he was instrumental for reaching this agreement. Walt Slocombe, who is with us this evening, once again someone who has served for so many years in the Department of Defense, for his expertise and his brilliant analytical mind for the contributions you have made, Walt Slocombe. Ted Warner, who is also with us, whom I have known for so many years, thank you for everything you have done in helping to make this possible, Ted. And Toria Nuland, who is sitting over there at the side. Toria, you have been indefatigable in your effort to bring about this agreement.
Finally, let me say that this agreement recognizes the stakes that Russia and NATO share in Europe's future. It also shows that the U.S. and Russia can work together on important security issues. As major powers, we share a responsibility to work together for peace and stability, and we have shown that we can measure up to and meet that responsibility. So, again, President Ahtisaari, thank you for your generosity, your efforts in helping to bring this peace about, and this peace agreement, implementation agreement about.
MINISTER SERGEYEV: (through interpreter) both the wish and will to reach constructive and good results. Great assistance was provided to us in this work by the Finnish side and personally by his excellency President Ahtisaari. And we say thank you very much to our Finnish friends. What have we managed to achieve as a result of this work? We have achieved agreement on the principles of the contingent and the structure of the Russian contingent. We have defined the number and the procedure of the structures of Russian command in the structures of the unified command in Kosovo. We have reached agreement on the operation of the airport in Pristina. We have solved the issues regarding the zones of responsibility of the Russian contingent. In so doing, understanding was reached that the Russian contingent will remain under the complete political-military control of the Russian side. I should like to thank my counterpart, the Secretary of Defense of the United States, Mr. William Cohen for constructive work. I thank you.
MINISTER IVANOV: (through interpreter) Dear Mr. President, ministers, ladies and gentlemen. I should like to join the words that were addressed, the words of gratitude that were addressed to the people of Finland, to the leaders of Finland and to President, Ahtisaari, for the wonderful conditions and for the very conducive hospitality which were created for these most complicated negotiations. If not for the developments which require urgent decisions we, all of us, would have preferred to continue this hospitality for several more days.
We, all of us, are entering now a most complicated and requiring responsibility period in the solution of the Kosovo problem. And the situation in the Balkans as a whole would to a great extent depend on the success of our tackling of the tasks that we face. All the states which are sincerely interested in the stable and lasting peace in the Balkans should cooperate in reaching, in trying to reach, in seeking this goal. This is the wish by which were guided the ministers of Russia and the United States in the course of these most complicated negotiations. And it is thanks to this beginning and the understanding of this great responsibility that we managed to arrive at these important agreements.
The negotiations were held at direct instructions from the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, and the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. The presidents of the two countries have expressed firm intention to cooperate closely in the interests of the course at hand. In Moscow, they proceed from the understanding that this cooperation would also be conducive to the development of Russian-American relations in different areas. As regards the Atlantic questions, our presidents intent to discuss them in the course of the forthcoming meeting on June the 20th in Cologne. I am convinced that if we continue in the future as well to solve in this manner most complicated questions, then the Russian-American relations as well as the course of these as a whole would benefit by it. And in conclusion, I should like to thank my colleagues, the ministers, for the good will and for their constructive cooperation.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Twenty four years ago, the nations of Europe and North America signed the Helsinki Final Act here, affirming the fundamental importance of human rights for Europe's future. It is therefore fitting that President Ahtisaari, who himself played a critical role in bringing peace to Kosovo host us as we agree that Russia and NATO will work together to preserve human rights and promote security in southeastern Europe.
As you have heard, we have developed a set of agreed points which, if our NATO partners accept them, will allow Russia to participate fully and appropriately in KFOR. I want to stress that our efforts here have been based on two fundamental principles. First, Russia has a major contribution to make to stability in the Balkans. Russia shares our concern that conflict not engulf the region again. And Russia is a key partner in our efforts to build a secure and prosperous Europe. Russian diplomacy played an important part in ending the war and it is in everyone's interest that Russia now plays a part in securing the peace.
Second, there is no substitute for KFOR that is everywhere strong and everywhere respected. The situation on the ground remains unsettled and dangerous. Serb forces continue to withdraw. Tens of thousands of refugees, ethnic Albanians and Serbs, are on the move through a landscape that is mined and treacherous. And the temptation to settle all scores remains great on both sides. For these reasons, KFOR must and will retain a strong and unified command and KFOR will be as robust as we can make it.
The points and principles we have agreed upon today can provide the foundation for Russian participation in a strong and effective KFOR. They demonstrate the commitment of both sides to working together and to the broader strategic partnership between our countries. They reaffirm the importance of NATO-Russian cooperation to European security. And we hope they represent a first step in reinvigorating that cooperation.
I have spent a lot of hours on the phone in the last few weeks with my colleague, Foreign Minister Ivanov. And I am looking forward to even more productive work with him in the future as I know Secretary Cohen is looking forward to working with Minister Sergeyev and President Clinton with President Yeltsin. Secretary Cohen and I will send these agreements to Brussels to be reviewed by our NATO counterparts and ask their support for the result.
Let me say that through these months of working with Secretary Cohen on the whole Kosovo crisis, I think we have shown how force and diplomacy can work together. First, we had the threat of the use of force in support of diplomacy and then we had diplomacy in support of the use of force. And I think in the last days here we have shown that representatives of both our governments, as diplomats and as representatives of the military forces, have been able to work together to assure that in fact our militaries will now be able to work together to make sure that the peace is there for all the people of Kosovo. I would like to again conclude by thanking President Ahtisaari and our Finnish hosts for their great hospitality and for Finland's own leadership for peace. Thank you.
PRESIDENT AHTISAARI: Thank you. Any questions?
MINISTER SERGEYEV: (through interpreter) The Russian military contingent that will be in Kosovo will number 3,600 people. As regards to the sectors, we have found solutions to the issue and we are satisfied with the results of our work.
SECRETARY COHEN: As a matter of fact, work is underway as we speak and will continue into next week to reach an agreement as to how the demilitarization of the KLA can be brought about. Both Russia and NATO share the same objective that the KLA must be demilitarized and that that would be a cooperative effort to ensure that that occurs. I know that Secretary Albright has been in touch with members of her staff who have been dealing with this issue as recently as today. And she may wish to comment on that.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say that talks are going on right now. Hashim Thaci a number of times has made very clear that the KLA will demilitarize according to an agreement that has been worked on and they are looking to be part of the political system of Kosovo. And we have been well satisfied with the progress that they are making in putting together that military-technical agreement.
MINISTER SERGEYEV: (through interpreter) Indeed, we have found the alternative solution which will ensure such kind of deployment of the Russian military contingent that would enable it to actively participate in the peace-making activity there, to organize properly the command of that contingent and also to ensure that cooperation with the neighbors is effective in the interest of carrying into effect the common task.
SECRETARY COHEN: The agreement will become effective after it is confirmed, or in essence approved and ratified by respective NATO organization and the Russian Federation. As soon as that is confirmed then the agreement can be, said to be, effective at that time. And so we would expect the structure to be in place as soon as that confirmation process takes place. How long that would be is a matter of, I would assume, just a day or two. But that is up to the Russian Federation and of course to the NATO authorities. I would expect a very short time.
With respect to participation on the part of Russia, they will have a representative in the SHAPE headquarters, they will have a representative at AFSOUTH, they will have a representative at the KFOR commander level and they will have representatives in the KFOR staff. So at every level they will have representation. And this is a desirable objective from our point to make sure that there is a fully integrated structure so there can be a unified command with good lines of communications at all levels.
SECRETARY COHEN: There will be aspects that are quite similar to the Bosnia model which has worked very well. We base our analysis and recommendations upon that model which is somewhat different because it involves several areas of operation. As I indicated, those areas of operation would be included under the U.S. sector or the French and the German. And those were determined after we discussed this, negotiated this. I discussed it with SACEUR, General Wes Clark, and to satisfy ourselves that this would make military sense in terms of military effectiveness and that there would still be an effective chain of command and that it will allow the Russians to have a unique and very important role in the peacekeeping mission. So we discussed it at all levels with our military experts as we devised this particular program, its actual scheme.
MINISTER SERGEYEV: (through interpreter) I believe that we shall succeed in explaining to the Russians the expediency of the decision which has been reached.
SECRETARY COHEN: Under the terms of the agreement each nation is responsible for its own participation. And so each country is responsible for its contribution to the KFOR mission.
MINISTER IVANOV: (through interpreter) Yes, we are satisfied with the agreements which have been reached.
MINISTER IVANOV: (through interpreter) Do the agreements reached correspond to all the principles which were there in the task which was received from President Yeltsin? If they were not, Marshall Sergeyev would not have signed the documents which he signed today.
MINISTER IVANOV: (through interpreter) You were correct in saying that the relations between Russia and NATO are frozen now. And we maintain and will be maintaining active relations with the countries, members of NATO. After the military operation of NATO would be finally terminated , new prospects would appear as regards the relations between Russia and NATO.
MINISTER IVANOV: (through interpreter) That is precisely what they had in mind.
MINISTER SERGEYEV: (through interpreter) The agreement that was reached on this subject pertaining to the participation of the Russian contingent, revised for the participation of the officers, and commanding officers in the command structure at practically all levels. And it will make it possible to exercise a full participation in the executions of the plans and programs as well as in the planning process, as well as in the setting of the tasks and all the orders are transmitted and are conformed through the appropriate chain of command.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that the very important problem-solving that took place here today is a very good example of possibilities of our working together in a number of issues as we have for many years. But I think that it is also important not to overdraw lessons about this peacekeeping operation. Each case we take up one at the time.
SECRETARY COHEN: I think we answered that question previously that there are discussions underway that we anticipate and expect the KLA to agree to disarm consistent with the peace agreement and will pursue that goal. It is in both the NATO's interest and that of Russia and all of the people of Kosovo that this peace implementation plan go into effect. And part of that, an important part, is the demilitarization of the KLA.
QUESTION: Will the Russian troops answer only to Russians in the chain of command or to all of NATO?
SECRETARY COHEN: Russian troops like all of those who are participating in the KFOR mission would be under the tactical control of KFOR. But Russia, in terms of its operational control, or as Minister Sergeyev has indicated in terms of its political and military control, they would be answerable to the national command authorities of Russia. So that is where they would take their operational command from. They will be under the tactical command of the KFOR commander.
PRESIDENT AHTISAARI: Thank you very much.
[End of Document]