Serbia + 1 more

Summary of Press Briefing by UNMIK Spokesperson 21 Feb 2000

Format
News and Press Release
Source
Posted
Originally published
UNMIK Spokeswoman Ms Nadia Younes
General Wesley Clark

SRSG Bernard Kouchner met this morning for over one hour with Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General Wesley Clark to discuss, obviously, the most recent developments in Mitrovica, as well as the joint UNMIK/KFOR strategy to, first, re-establish security and law and order, and then, as the General himself said it, to work on longer-term measures for job creation and economic possibilities.

KPC

SRSG Bernard Kouchner, at noon, addressed key leaders of the Kosovo Protection Corps as they begin their first training course at the leadership academy at Pristina University (near Pristina hospital). The course an introduction is to the roles of and the relationships between KPC, KFOR and UNMIK. After that, at 1 p.m., the media is invited to attend the meeting.

Mitrovica

Regarding today's march which is ongoing toward Mitrovica, UNMIK Police are present, monitoring the situation, and they on hand if needed for the safety of the marchers and crowd control.

IAC

Let me repeat the statement issued by the Interim Administrative Council (IAC) on Friday.

'The IAC urges the political parties to show responsibility and to contribute to stabilizing the security situation in Mitrovica. The IAC recognizes the democratic right to hold demonstrations. However, for security reasons, demonstrations are currently banned from parts of the city of Mitrovica.

Regarding the demonstration march from Pristina to Mitrovica, planned for 21 February, access to the city of Mitrovica will be denied (to demonstrators), apart from a delegation which will be received at UNMIK' headquarters by the Regional Administrator for Mitrovica, Mr. Mario Marconi.

Tomorrow, at its regular meeting, the IAC will discuss the situation Mitrovica and the new UNMIK strategy on Mitrovica. They will continue their discussion on preparations for election, focusing on pending regulations on Political Party Registration, the Central Civil Registry and the Central Election Commission. As you know, the IAC has been discussing these items for quite a few meetings. They are expected to reach final agreement on the first four regulations setting up administrative departments and get an update on the status of the 15 other administrative departments and the regulations which will spell out their roles and functions.

The IAC will also discuss candidates for the position of co-heads for those departments remaining without directors named. They are the department of Civil Security and those departments whose co-heads are to represent political independents and minority communities.

UNMIK Police update

The UNMIK Police reports one murder over the weekend. On Saturday in Mitrovica, a fight broke out between three Serb neighbors in the village of Jasenovik. One man stabbed two others with a knife. Both victims sustained injuries and one later died.

Sporadic grenade attacks continued around Kosovo. Yesterday evening, a bomb was thrown at a Serb owned house in Kosovo Polje causing damage but no injuries. In Gnjilane yesterday two grenades were thrown at a Serb-owned house, breaking windows.

Please note that today's press briefing by the Commissioner is cancelled.

Salaries

Salaries for public workers for the months of January and February will be paid beginning 28 February, a week from today. The salaries should amount to 50 percent more income per person than the stipends previously paid to public workers. We will have the schedules for you, department by department, at the briefing on Wednesday.

Telephone system

We will have an announcement on the startup of the Alcatel telephone system on Wednesday by which time we expect the satellite link to be functioning. The press is invited to a reception on Wednesday, beginning at noon, in the Grand Hotel press room on the first floor, to inaugurate the new mobile network.

In the meantime, of course, almost everyone here has been enduring a break in telephone service. This began on Thursday when some engineers working in Luzan, between Pristina and Mitrovica, accidentally cut the cable. Later, earth was piled on the spot of the break, and those dispatched to fix it could not find the broken line. On Saturday night, the break was located. But the equipment to repair it doesn't exist in Kosovo. As with earlier repairs, it is necessary to seek assistance from Serbian Telekom and arrange an escort from the border. We expect these repairs to be done today.

Power update

On the power situation, the restrictions regime continues to be four hours of electricity on and two hours off. While we are producing a total of 385 MWs from Kosovo A and B, and importing 120 MWs, two units of Kosovo A need to be taken down for repairs. Two other units are being primed to replace them. This means that we can expect the current level of electricity to remain about the same, or perhaps to be somewhat less over the next two days.

OSCE visit

I have an announcement from the OSCE. The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ms Benita Ferrera-Waldner of Austria, will visit Kosovo tomorrow, Tuesday, 22 February. Ms Ferrera-Waldner will meet with the Head of UNMIK, with political leaders and will look at the OSCE Mission activities in and outside Pristina.

KFOR Spokesman Lieutenant Commander Philip Anido

I'll talk about two points. One, of course, is the situation in Mitrovica, and a little bit about the march that is going to Mitrovica today.

KFOR soldiers, supported by the UNMIK Police, began the second day of searches in several neighbourhoods in Mitrovica this morning,at 11 o'clock. They are looking for small and large caches of illegal and dangerous weapons. Holders of these weapons will be detained and turned over to UNMIK Police. And those who are suspected of having been involved in recent violent actions will be arrested.

Yesterday, 11 arrests were made, all for weapons violations. The men included 10 Albanians and one Serb. Following identification and interrogation, nine were released. One Albanian and one Serb remain in custody.

I have in a press statement a list of weapons that have been confiscated so far. You will read it when you get the press release.

The search operation will continue until General Dr. Klaus Reinhardt, the KFOR Commander, is satisfied that illegal activities have been stopped, and dangerous weapons are banned from Mitrovica. KFOR and UNMIK will not allow any illegal activities to perpetuate the cycle of violence or to hold up the process of peace and reconciliation in Kosovo. Approximately 2,500 KFOR soldiers from 12 nations are supporting the operation.

On the demonstration, I think we are all aware that some 20,000 men, women and children are driving and walking up to Mitrovica today. UNMIK Police are following the parade, we've seen KFOR ambulances next to the vehicles, and we have foot patrols, vehicle patrols and helicopter observation to watch over for the safety of the people and to make sure that the demonstration, as announced, remains calm and peaceful.

The plan is to stop those protestors who arrive who arrive near Mitrovica, to hold them up in Vucitrn, to the south of Mitrovica, and then 12 people/delegates will be allowed into Mitrovica to deliver a letter to the UN officials. By 4 p.m., those people who are on foot will be picked up by bus and brought back to the Pristina area.

Questions

Q: Do you have some more information about that Serbian organization to the north of Mitrovica?

PA: I don't, Linda. I'd like General Clark's statement to stand as it was. He has confirmed that he knows that there are groups which are determined to destabilize the situation, and we are more than determined to make sure that they don't have a chance to succeed.

Q: Are you checking this Serbian group? Is it part of the operation?

PA: KFOR throughout Kosovo is looking into any illegal activity. Yes, indeed, we are watching whoever may be there, we know that there are groups with their own agendas, and we have our agenda to make Kosovo a better and a more peaceful place.

Q: OK, can you tell us more about Belgrade's influence in the northern part?

PA: Linda, let General Clark's statement stand.

Press Conference by Supreme Allied Commander for Europe General Wesley K. Clark

KFOR HQ, Pristina, Kosovo

This trip was just one of my routine trips into the region.

Yesterday, I met with the Government of Macedonia and I talked about the situation there. I came up here this morning, and I am flying over to Albania.

Obviously, I talked to KFOR a great deal this morning. I also met with Mr. Kouchner and Mr. Covey from the United Nations. I met with General Ceku and his commanders from the Kosovo Protection Corps. And then I'lll see Mr. Thaci and Mr. Xhaferi and others in Albania this afternoon.

My assessment is that we've got to continue to proceed with our work in the Mitrovica area, and we are encouraged by the operation which General Reinhardt has put together here to respond to our concerns in Mitrovica. I think it is accomplishing what it needs to do, and we are prepared to continue to reinforce or take whatever additional measures might be warranted based on the circumstances there.

In the meantime, of course, we are anxiously awaiting the full implementation of the economic recovery, the arrival of the additional police officers that had been promised, and the other measures on the civil side, which are the important and irreplaceable complement of the KFOR military activities.

Thank you, I'll be happy to take your questions.

Questions:

Q: Don't you think that placing American KFOR troops in northern Mitrovica to conduct the weapons search operation was a little confrontational?

A: I don't think it was confrontational, it was just a routine effort that follows our policy that we have here at KFOR that we will shift and move forces across boundaries as necessary and in keeping with national prerogatives to be able to put the forces where they are needed. And it was determined, as we looked all over the situation, the north of Mitrovica was the area to be looked at. I would tell you that the American troops are an American Company which is part of a French Battalion, which shows the essence of multi-nationality and what NATO is all about.

Q: After the first day of searches in northern Mitrovica, the troops found something like 17 rifles, a couple of pistols and a few grenades. Do you think you are actually finding the arms caches that you thought were there? And have you found any evidence of a Serb paramilitary organization in the north of Mitrovica?

A: We've certainly found some weapons. What such an operation does is that it demonstrates very clearly to all parties that KFOR will go where it needs to go, do what it needs to do, that it will be effective and in full coordination. An operation like this could be all that's needed, it could be the first step to some other operation. It depends to a large extent on the reactions of the parties. We do know that there is an organization in Mitrovica, and they have communications, they have other gear. What the full circumstances are, what the true nature of this organization is will have to be determined, but it is something that is of some concern. That's why we are there and we'll look at that.

Q: Is Mitrovica now a symbol for the future of Kosovo? Do you have any long-term strategy of how to solve the problem? Will I be a political, a military solution or both?

A: No. I think Mitrovica is not a symbol of the future. It is more a symbol of the past. Our strategy is very clear. We will have multi-ethnic communities and we are going to provide economic development and jobs. People are going to have self-determination and liberal lives as everybody else in the European Community does.

Q: What about the influence of Belgrade in the area?

A: Well, there is an influence of Belgrade in the area, but it's going to diminish over time. Because it's clear, in terms of political agreement, the UN and KFOR are in charge here.

Q: What about Albanian organizations?

A: There are a number of ethnic Albanian organizations here. And, as I said, we are going to talk about the findings of this operation when it's finished. This operation is focused in the north because that's where the source of concern was. Thank you once again. I am very proud of the work that KFOR and General Reinhardt are doing here. They have the full support of NATO and the member nations, and we appreciate the commitment of the soldiers here.