Press Conference by the Head of the Albanian Mission to NATO, Ambassador Kuku
Yesterday's and today's news from Belgrade is not cause for over-optimism, the graves of Kosovo are full of the broken promises of Milosevic and we still think that the road towards peace will indeed be a very long one. We are under no illusions - any agreement approved by Belgrade will not be the end of the crisis but rather the beginning of the end. Milosevic will spare no efforts in order to make extremely difficult, if not impossible, the implementation of a peace for Kosovo.
A demonstration of this is the fact that his troops are very busy at this very moment placing mines and booby-trapping many villages and roads all over Kosovo. Serbian troops are also heavily engaged in deleting the tracks of their crimes and massacres in Kosovo. Yesterday morning, the Serbian Army has transported with trucks the corpses of 130 men they had massacred in the village of Staradan a couple of days ago, they were buried separately in the village of Rakosh.
As of this morning, the Serbian forces were still continuing their offensive in the Drenica area where more than 200,000 internally-displaced people are located. We do not have confirmed figures but it is to be expected that as a result of the shelling the casualties must be very high.
Talking about the internally-displaced persons, according to our information their situation is desperate. None of the humanitarian assistance that has entered Kosovo so far has reached them, all this assistance has been used on a "Serbs only" basis. We hope that the humanitarian air-drop operation due soon will help to address this issue.
The difficult situation also applies to those few Albanians still remaining in the cities and villages of Kosovo, they have no access to the hospitals. In the hospitals of Pristina, Per and Jakova they are told that the hospital serves the military only.
As there are no Albanian-owned shops in Kosovo any more, the Serbian-owned shops sell to Serbians only; those shopkeepers who deviate from this rule do it in a very expensive way: 1 litre of cooking oil is sold for 25 deutschmarks, 1 kilo of sugar 30 deutschmarks, 1 kilo of salt 10 deutschmarks and so on.
Thousands of Albanians remain in the prison of Metrovica, there are reports of executions in this place as well, this was confirmed by at least 162 people that crossed the Albanian border with Kosovo yesterday who were incoming from this prison.
In short, the atrocities of Milosevic's troops will only be known when NATO troops enter Kosovo but Milosevic will have no excuse for that. There are unconfirmed reports that the public administration employees in Belgrade but also people from the private sector in Belgrade are asked to sign loyalty documents in which they support their government's policy and endeavours in Kosovo; those who do not sign do not have very good prospects!
With regard to the excuse that the Belgrade regime might be looking for after this conflict is over, I have already told you that 1.5 million Albanian deportees stand ready to testify against him. On the other hand, the people of Yugoslavia themselves do not want to share the same responsibility with their leaders. Two days ago, 26 families from Montenegro crossed to Albania and asked for political asylum because they don't want their sons killed for a lost cause. This is becoming an almost every day phenomenon, there were reports also of several Montenegran families that crossed into Albania yesterday.
Finally, I want to be very clear in repeating again that Albania stands at the same front with NATO and we will spare no efforts in order to see the Alliance's five conditions met.
Questions & Answers
Question: Could you elaborate on the issue you reported about Serb forces trying to hide the victims of massacres and spell the names of the villages?
Ambassador Kuku: Yes. There has been a massacre a couple of days ago in the village of Staradran and the corpses of those massacred there were transported by the Serbian Army in trucks and also civilian tractors and were buried yesterday separately in the village of Rakosh.
Question: Where are the villages located in Kosovo?
Ambassador Kuku: That would be difficult for me, I only have the names here, I don't have a map here and it would be difficult for me to tell you whether it is north or south or whatever.
Question: And was this information from refugees?
Ambassador Kuku: Yes.
Question: So you are seeing this and also the mining of villages that you told us about as preparations by the Serbian troops because they themselves seem to think that they will withdraw soon?
Ambassador Kuku: I don't know. I don't know whether it is on orders from the bosses in Belgrade or wherever they are, they want to leave as many problems behind them as possible, they are aware that sooner rather than later they will have to leave - all of them. I must emphasise, all of them will have to leave Kosovo.
Question: Do you have news of humanitarian trucks entering Kosovo and being held or not being able to perform their duties? You mentioned also the air drop of food for refugees. Do you know when this might happen?
Ambassador Kuku: In respect of the second question, I know what Jamie already told you that operations were supposed to start but there were some technical problems with the air drop and it was postponed. The feeling is that it will resume as soon as possible, I am not able to confirm any timing for that.
The humanitarian convoys have been in several cases hindered from getting access to Kosovo as was the case with a humanitarian convoy trying to enter from Bulgaria a couple of days ago. This is the most recent information that I have with regard to this issue.
Question: Have you asked NATO to alter their strategy after they dropped bombs on Albanian territory ...away from the border?
Ambassador Kuku: To be very frank, I was amazed at the reaction of the media with regard to that incident. If somebody wants to complain about that, it should have been Albania because those bombs were dropped on Albania. Albania is not complaining, Albania considers itself at the same front with NATO, this is an incident. We are fully aware that we have to pay a dividend in our efforts and the efforts of the international community to bringing an end to the crisis and this is an incident that does not touch in any way the relations between Albania and NATO.
We are paying the price - and I am not referring to this particular incident, it is only part of the price that we are paying. We are hosting more than half a million deportees from Kosovo, the Americans have lost two pilots as you know in a training mission, the German lost the other day an officer of the German Army who was engaged in a humanitarian mission within Albania so we never thought this would be a risk-free endeavour, we never thought it would be a risk-free operation. This is an incident and it is not worth mentioning it any more.
Question: What is Albania's position regarding the dispute between Uteca, especially Mr. Tashi and Mr. Rugova?
Ambassador Kuku: I don't think there is a dispute, I wouldn't word it the way that you mention.
Same Questioner: Mr. Tashi qualified Mr. Rugova as a traitor.
Ambassador Kuku: When was that?
Same Questioner: Recently, a few days ago.
Ambassador Kuku: I don't think that is accurate. I have seen several interviews that Mr. Tashi has given to the Western media, one of them was in "Le Monde" the other day, another was with Reuters and all the Albanian political parties and factions in Kosovo do agree on their basic aim. Disagreements are more personal or on the ways they intend to achieve their goal rather than on a political basis. The Albanian government is doing its utmost in order to foster the efforts and assist the Albanian political figures and the political parties of Kosovo to forge a common front. Albania does not follow a paternalistic policy and I can tell you that you will very soon see tangible results about this.