Serbia + 1 more

Summary of Press Briefing by UNMIK Spokesperson 20 Mar 2000

Source
Posted
Originally published
UNMIK Spokeswoman Ms Angela Walker
IAC

The Interim Administrative Council will meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. The Members will discuss the Central Fiscal Authority's activities, including the endorsement of the revised Kosovo Consolidated Budget Regulation and the Tax Administration Regulation. They will also discuss finalizing the Central Election Commission. In addition, Deputy SRSG Daan Everts will give a presentation on a draft regulation on an Ombudsperson.

Kouchner and NGOs

Today, at 18.30, here in the KFOR press center, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Bernard Kouchner, will meet with representatives of local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Kosovo. The forum will discuss issues relating to the coordination of activities between UNMIK and the NGOs. They will also look at the re-orientation of the involvement of NGOs from relief to reconstruction. Finally, the discussion will also focus on capacity building and funding of local NGOs.

Bulgarian Official Visit

Yesterday, the SRSG met with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Ivan Kostov, and the Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister, Marim Rajkov. Dr. Kouchner commended Bulgaria's contribution to the peace efforts in Kosovo, in particular the confidence building process. During the talks, the Bulgarian Prime Minister proposed increasing the number of police officers serving with the mission. And he offered to help promote the ongoing dialogue between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs.

Gracanica Clinic

On Saturday, Dr. Kouchner inaugurated an emergency health clinic for the Serb community living in Gracanica. The clinic was set up after the Serbs made a request, since they were unable to seek medical treatment outside of their community because of security concerns. Dr. Kouchner said the opening of the clinic was part of UNMIK's agenda of coexistence, a confidence building measure meant to improve living conditions and protect all the communities living in Kosovo. The clinic will be run by Medicins du Monde Greece and is funded by the Greek Government, with additional donations from UNMIK and NGOs.

Electricity

Regarding the situation of power supply, Kosovo B, Unit 1, is back on again, producing 250 MWs of electricity. None of the units of Kosovo A is currently operating, but repairs are ongoing. Units 1 and 3 should be running again later this week, maybe as soon as tomorrow. We are currently receiving imports of approximately 115 MWs from Albania, Serbia and Macedonia. With the available electricity the regime since the weekend has been three hours on and three hours off in two different groups.

Mine Danger

We have received information that there may be a danger of land mines and cluster bombs in the area known as Kojlovica, in the northeast side of Pristina. This area is a social gathering spot for picnics and leisure activities. We would like to advise all residents to avoid this area until it is properly checked and cleared.

World Tuberculosis Day

The World Health Organization is launching the Kosovo 2000 Tuberculosis Action Plan on World TB Day, on the 24th of March. There will be a media preview at WHO's office at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

Police

From the police, on Friday at 2200hrs, a 19-year-old Albanian male was stabbed in the DARDANIA area, in Pristina. The victim was evacuated to the hospital but late died from his injuries. The incident occurred as a result of a fight between a group of youths. On the 18th March at 1100 hrs, a 16 year-old male Albanian surrendered himself to UNMIK police and confessed the offence. UNMIK Police arrested the suspect and confiscated the weapon used in the incident. The suspect is being held in the Detention Center. The investigation is ongoing.

On Saturday, at 2145 hrs, UNMIK Police patrol found a body of an Albanian male shot once in the head inside his vehicle near the gas station on VITINA in GNJILANE. The victim was a former police officer. UNMIK Police is investigating the murder.

Mitrovica

In Mitrovica, a total of 566 police officers were deployed as of the end of February, as part of the special measures announced by the SRSG undertaken by UNMIK after the breakout of violence early February in Mitrovica. Five hundred and ten Police Officers are deployed today, due to regular rotation and training.

Finally, the next class of the Kosovo Police School is starting on 27 March at the Police School at Vucitrn. The lists of selected candidates will be displayed at all regional police HQs in Pristina, Prizren, Pec, Gnjilane and Mitrovica, as of yesterday. The selected applicants should collect their invitation letters from Regional Police HQs at Pristina, from 8 a.m. till noon, starting today until Friday. No applicants will be admitted to the Police School without the invitation letter.

KFOR Spokesman Lieutenant Commander Philip Anido

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I will give you four points today: the Exercise Dynamic response 2000; an update on Mitrovica; an arrest in Mitrovica; and weapons confiscation in Multinational Brigade (MNB) East.

Yesterday evening, several convoys of U.S. Marines arrived at their staging base near the Skopje airport in preparation for Exercise Dynamic Response 2000. During the next few days they will prepare for their move on 23 March to the forward assembly area near Prizren, in Kosovo.

The other troops which make up the Strategic Reserve Forces, from the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Argentina, will arrive in theatre by road, rail and air during the days ahead. The majority of the troops will rendezvous in their staging areas in the vicinity of Prizren, ready to start the maneuvers on 27 March.

Some 1,500 soldiers and 220 vehicles are involved in the joint exercise. They will practice rapid deployment, inter-operability, command and control coordination, and combat tactics. The purpose of Dynamic Response is to show NATO's and the international community's readiness and resolve to reinforce KFOR troops on peacekeeping duty in Kosovo, should the need arise.

Media will receive an update and a formal briefing about media opportunities in the course of the exercise on Wednesday, 22 March.

In Mitrovica, KFOR soldiers have established the first stage of the confidence area in the vicinity of the Eastern Bridge. The zone will be expanded in the days and weeks ahead in a step by step process. Any people who are determined to threaten the public peace will be removed and prevented from entering the area. KFOR and UNMIK Police will maintain a very visible presence in the confidence area in order to provide the peaceful environment that will allow citizens of all ethnic groups who live and work in the neighbourhood to move freely and rebuild normal lives.

On Saturday evening, an Albanian man was arrested by KFOR troops and UNMIK Police in connection with the violent unrest that occurred in Mitrovica on 7 March. He is in UNMIK Police custody for questioning.

Yesterday in the MNB East, KFOR U.S. troops confiscated a significant cache of weapons during the search of an Albanian house in Cernica. One sub-machine gun, two magazines, a quantity of ammunition, UCK uniforms and maps were confiscated.

In Donja Livoc, KFOR U.S. troops searched three Albanian houses. One AK-47, three machine guns, seven full magazines with 30 rounds each, and a large quantity of ammunition were confiscated.

Questions and answers

Q: There have been reports of some Serb special forces infiltrating into the northern Mitrovica. Is it still an ongoing process? Do you have any indications of that?

PA: As you know, the whole area of north Mitrovica, up to the boundary, is a Serb-dominated area, where Serbs live. People are allowed to move back and forth from Serbia into that area. If we had any indication that undesirable people, people who stir up unrest, were moving into that area, as individuals or in any numbers, we would apprehend them. But right now, if you are thinking that there have been any significant groups of military or other authorities, that's not the case.

Q: There has been no formal announcement of General Nash being appointed as Regional Administrator for Mitrovica. Is he really the choice of Dr. Kouchner, is he in fact going to be appointed?

AW: I can tell you that he is in fact being appointed and he is the choice of Dr. Kouchner for the job.

Q: The recreation area to the northeast of Mitrovica is the site where some 22 cluster bombs have to be removed from. What precautions are being taken to close that area? For how long are you going to keep it closed?

AW: UNMAC (UN Mine Action Clearance) officials came by our office on Saturday. They are going to start checking up the area for the cluster bombs and clearing them. I've made the announcement here, to put out in the press. We are trying to warn the population, and they will be closing off the site. As for the duration of this exercise, I will have to check it with UNMAC.

Q: When you announced the "confidence area", you said that only those people who lived in the area would be allowed access and others would be kept out. What I witnessed myself, when I went there the day after, was that nothing had changed. The bridge watchers were back in their place. What do you mean then by that "confidence area"?

PA: It depends where you were. If you were in the area of the Western Bridge, then that area looks pretty much the same. The first stage of the confidence area has been established near the Eastern Bridge. And we have confirmed that people are more comfortable, the boundary that has been established will be strictly maintained. As for the western area, the confidence zone will be established there during the days and weeks ahead. And you will find it similar to the one in the Eastern Bridge: the identifications will be required by KFOR and UNMIK Police, and UNMIK Police will be patrolling both sides of the Ibar River.

Q: Can you describe what are the rules in this "confidence area" and why is it different from other areas? What is it about?

PA: That central area around the bridge in Mitrovica has been an area of unrest, of provocation, an area where people were afraid to go out. We want to make it an area where the people who belong there, who work there, can be in that area and live in peace without violence and intimidation. That's exactly what the establishment of the confidence area will enforce.

Q: Is it true that the Bulgarian President offered to act as a middleman between the Albanians and the Serbs?

AW: Yes, I mentioned that in the briefing. He did offer to mediate.

Q: Can you give us an update on the Czech soldiers who were arrested by the Serbian police? Where were they actually arrested--in Kosovo, in the buffer zone or in Serbia?

PA: They were about 75 metres across the boundary line, in the Ground Safety Zone. And that episode is now completed. They returned unharmed, their vehicle was recovered with all equipment accounted for. But they went across, on the Serbian side of the buffer zone.

Q: When the Albanian man was arrested, was there any lawyer with KFOR or UNMIK Police--whoever was arresting him-to explain to him his basic rights? Do you have any information about the bridge watchers? I've heard that they are now in a shop of an Albanian... Are the Serbs allowed to make any arrests of KFOR in the buffer zone? Could you also give us more details about this mediation offer from the Bulgarian President?

PA: On the arrest of the Albanian, there was a KFOR patrol, and the actual arrest was made by the UNMIK Police. I don't know whether there was a lawyer present. In general, we are very respectful of an individual. He's been arrested on suspicion, his rights will be respected, he is not guilty until proven so. I must assure you that the arrest was made with all due respect for his condition. The right to arrest throughout Kosovo rests with KFOR and UNMIK Police, and nobody else. As for the bridge watchers, I don't know the case you are talking about. I don't know anything about the Albanian shopper, I can't comment on that... The Serb local police would be allowed to detain-the word "arrest" is too strong-KFOR troops in their area. We are not allowed to go into their area. It was very rugged, there were trees, it was hilly, and the boundary is not marked because it is just the provincial boundary. And, clearly, we intend to stay on the Kosovo side while conducting our patrols. We are strict about that, it was an error in location, and everyone understands that it was an unintentional error. But the Serbs had the right to detain us as intruders.

Q: But are the Serbian police allowed to detain KFOR soldiers in the 5-kilometre zone? Is it part of the Kumanovo Agreement?

PA: I will have to say yes, because the local police on the Serbian side are the authorities for law and order in that area. And it would be seen by them as an intrusion if KFOR went in there. We don't mean to, we don't intend to, and it's not in our plans. You know that our area of operation is within Kosovo. So, I have to say that we were within their right, and they did it professionally and with all due respect.

AW: As I mentioned, the Bulgarian President had offered to facilitate the discussions between the two sides, and the SRSG had taken that offer under advisement. I don't know any definite time or other details of that offer.

Q: Was General Nash officially appointed? Who might be his deputy? Will it be someone to balance the ticket for the Serb population? Has General Nash any plans to visit the northern part of Mitrovica?

AW: The problem with the appointment right now is that the paperwork is basically being processed in New York, and that's why there has not been an official announcement. We can confirm, however, that the appointment has been made and that it has the full backing of the SRSG, Dr. Bernard Kouchner. I'd like to clarify what you mean by balancing the ticket. There are currently negotiations ongoing to decide on the deputy, but nothing has been decided at this point. And General Nash did visit Mitrovica yesterday with Dr. Kouchner, and he will be there again today. I can check on his itinerary for you after the briefing.

Q: If in expanding the confidence zone in Mitrovica you will have to shut down the Dolce Vita and move the people from there, how are you going to deal with the Serbs, how will you explain it to them?

PA: I can tell you that we are going to do everything that is appropriate and required to maintain a peaceful and non-violent environment there. Obviously, the more we can achieve through agreement with the people on both sides, with their leaders... it would be ideal. If we need to use greater strength to enforce the confidence area, then we will have to use that. But there are discussions going on, the area will be established. But exactly how our men will do it, I can't set that out right now. The feelings of the Serbs, as the feelings of everybody here, are extremely important. They have to be confident in that area. They have a system set up right now, which gives them a certain level of confidence. If that's inappropriate to the larger plan of UNMIK and KFOR, then they will have to put aside the measures that they use-the bridge watchers are one of these measures. But we want all people to feel comfortable, to live cooperatively and move around cooperatively. That will definitely be our objective. And the sooner that happens, very much the better. But we will see what exactly will be vital to both communities, there will be appropriate agreements. But enforcing law and order is the most important thing there for now.

Q: The finding of the unexploded ordnance throughout Kosovo is obviously dependent on the information form NATO forces that had put it there in the first place. Are the UNMIK Mine Action Coordination Centre and UNMIK as a whole satisfied with the timing of the information that they are receiving from NATO forces about the whereabouts of air strikes inside Kosovo's boundaries, particularly from the Americans?

AW: I think you have to ask the Mine Action Centre people specifically, if they are happy with that. But I can tell you that we have been receiving information on these sites in Kosovo, and I know that they have been receiving it in a reasonably timely manner.

Q: It's now March. The strikes around those five hills to the northeast of Pristina happened in between last March and last May. It seems to have taken awfully long time to discover up to 22 cluster bombs within a couple of thousands metres from the city?

AW: As I am sure you are aware, there cannot be clearance during the winter months because of the danger to the clearers themselves. So once the cold weather started, once the snow started, once the ground started to freeze, it could not have been cleared.

Q: But the local population informed UNMIK and KFOR of the presence of these cluster bombs strike sites as early as last July and last August, and nothing since then has been done. And it's very, very, very basic to mark up the sites with the red-and-white tape...

AW: As I am sure you are aware, there is a major problem with the cluster bombs and mines throughout Kosovo. Obviously, they are trying to make it a priority. And that's why we are making this announcement today. We are doing the clearing as fast as we are capable of doing it.

Q: Last week you made a big point of announcing the "confidence zone", and General Reinhardt said that "we are making progress, it's a step-by-step process, we are moving the bridge watchers"... And now you are totally back off. What kind of message do you think you've sent?

PA: We haven't backed off anything, and I think we are sending an extremely strong message of confidence. KFOR has been very determined and successful in many areas of Kosovo to achieve the ends of weapons searches, of restricting violence... Mitrovica now is a focus point. And to do it properly, it takes time, to achieve that confidence area. We are doing it methodically, we are doing it step-by-step. And I think that once it's established and you look down at the sequence of things, you will realize that it was done in a very professional and a very determined manner.

Q: I just want to know why did you do that? Last week you announced it as a big step, and now you step back?

PA: I don't think we have taken a step back. Last week, at the press conference we announced that we were establishing a confidence area. And what we are doing in Kosovo and in Mitrovica, we are doing it for the people and with the people. It's better to do it with them than with strength and force. So, what this stage of the process allows us to do is to work with people to allow them to see to some extent what is going on and for them to realize that it is very clearly in everyone's best interests. We are trying to send a strong message to the vast majority of people that we are here for them to give them an environment in which they could create a normal life, and give a strong signal to extremists that we are not going to put up with their agenda.