First I would like to introduce to you our guest Mr. Gerard Fischer, the Director of the Department of Economic Affairs and Natural Resources in UNMIK's Pillar II, Civil Administration. He will speak about today's launching of the new mobile telephone system. I would like to remind the journalists that you're invited to a reception just after this briefing at the Grand Hotel, in the first floor pressroom, to inaugurate the new system. Mr. Fischer will also be speaking about motor vehicle insurance.
This morning the Kosovo Transitional Council is in the process of meeting. The main topics on the agenda are the situation in Mitrovica and the issue of missing and detained persons.
Dr. Bernard Kouchner is proposing to take the issue of missing and detained people from Kosovo before the United Nations Security Council when he goes to New York in early March. He is asking the KTC to issue, with him, a joint statement from the people of Kosovo, addressed to the international community expressing concern over the fate of detainees and missing persons. He has taken this issue very personally and seriously and has raised it with every foreign government he has visited since being named the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
Dr. Kouchner continues to demand that detainees in Serbian prisons be released immediately and without conditions. He cites the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) in saying that while at least 496 Kosovo Albanians have been released from detention since June, more than 1,600 remain in Serbian jails.
In addition, the many persons who remain missing continue to be what he calls an "open wound" for Kosovo. According to the ICRC, some 3,000 people are unaccounted for. These are mostly Kosovo Albanians.
The fate of missing persons from non-Albanian communities is also of grave concern. The ICRC also has recorded a list of 346 missing Serbs, most of whom disappeared after 10 June 1999. There were also 39 Yugoslav Army soldiers missing in action.
IAC and Mitrovica
Yesterday the Interim Administrative Council issued a strong statement on the need to determine a political solution to the situation in Mitrovica. That statement is available outside as part of yesterday's press release, No. 166. In it the IAC proposed the transformation of Mitrovica into what they are calling a "United City" that is without lines of division and in which the rights and security of all national communities are respected. As part of this plan, residents expelled from both sides of the city should be returned home; freedom of movement in both directions would be facilitated; further expulsions would be prevented; and the property of those displaced would be protected.
After the meeting Dr. Kouchner elaborated on some further aspects of his strategy for Mitrovica, which revolves around expanding public services and economic aid to the area once law and order are restored.
Some of these measures include establishing a special Joint Administration for Mitrovica, with its own special administrator. He pointed out that Serbs and Albanians had both agreed in principle to this idea earlier, but disagreed on members and representation. The Kosovo Serb leaders met yesterday with the Regional Administrator Mario Morcone to discuss these joint structures.
Dr. Kouchner also plans to launch what he is calling a 'Mitrovica Appeal', which is a call to the international community for assistance to Mitrovica, in terms of money and in terms of greater public awareness of the real situation there. He believes that creating jobs, through 3 to 4 small industries and the revival of aspects of the Trepca mine, is a particularly important goal as a means of building self-confidence in the communities of Mitrovica.
He also supports the plan of building a footbridge across the Ibar River, linking a predominantly Albanian apartment block on the north with the south bank. This project should be completed in two to three weeks by KFOR engineers. The idea was discussed yesterday with Kosovo Albanian leaders in Mitrovica who endorsed it. Also yesterday, the UNMIK head of education visited Mitrovica to talk about locating educational facilities on the south side of the town. That person met with both local and international officials there. This afternoon Dr. Kouchner and the UNMIK Pillar heads, along with General Reinhardt and his top staff, are meeting to further develop the short- and long-term strategies for Mitrovica.
Today the Regional Administrator, Mario Morcone, and General Saqui de Sannes continue their meetings with Mr. Rexhepi in Mitrovica on the returns of recently displaced Albanians from the north side of the city.
We would like to say one thing about the march to Mitrovica on Monday. We felt that the TV coverage presented a rather skewed image of what was really for the most part a very peaceful and organized and dramatic event. Partly because of where the cameras were positioned and partly because of the nature of TV news, the image presented was of a certain amount of mayhem, which was actually a very small part of Monday's events. After Dr. Kouchner, General Reinhardt and General Ceku addressed the crowd, people basically went home. We all got the message and we hope that the outside world will get it too.
From UNMIK Police, we can tell you that as of today there are 424 UNMIK Police in the Mitrovica region. Eighty-four are deployed in the north side of town of Mitrovica and 42 are on the south side; 126 officers are awaiting deployment to the north side of the town. By 15 March, 560 UNMIK Police will be deployed in the region with the majority in the city of Mitrovica.
In other police news, the body of an elderly Albanian man was found shot to death yesteday near Djakovica. In Grebnica, also in the Pec region, another Albanian man was shot to death by unknown persons in his house. UNMIK Police and Carabinieri are investigating.
We are pleased to report that seven Serb members of the Kosovo Police Service have started work in Gracanica at the UNMIK Police station.
We have a press release from the OSCE on yesterday's visit of the Chairperson-in-Office, Mrs. Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
During her visit she pledged that the required funds in the OSCE for the registration would be delivered as soon as possible. She handed over pistols from the Glock company in Austria to the Kosovo Police Service, hose side arms are being donated by Austria.
KFOR Spokesman Lieutenant Commander Philip Anido
We will stay on the subject of Mitrovica today and then we have two announcements to make afterwards.
Yesterday there were two disturbing incidents involving KFOR peacekeepers. At 3 p.m. young men threw stones at KFOR German soldiers and their vehicle in the district of North Mitrovica. In the Roma district, several kilometres north of the city on the road to Zvecan, shots were fired at a KFOR French soldiers. A search of the area is underway. A few remains of shell have been found, but luckily no one was injured in either incident. The curfew was in effect last night from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and once again no incidents were reported concerning security. The search for weapons recommenced at 5 a.m. this morning in several quarters in both north and south Mitrovica. In the area known as Little Bosnia, just north of the Eastern Bridge, KFOR French soldiers cordoned off a number of streets, and KFOR American soldiers conducted a search. We have preliminary reports that a number of rifles, one rocket-propelled grenade and a quantity of ammunition were confiscated and several men have been detained for questioning. KFOR patrols will continue to maintain a high presence in all neighbourhoods of the city, and the search for weapons in buildings, houses and vehicles will continue. Furthermore, the practice of rotating companies of mechanized infantry and specialized units from the many nations represented in the other KFOR brigades, will be maintained. It is in the very best interest of all citizens of Kosovo to assist KFOR and UNMIK Police in ridding their communities of dangerous weapons. KFOR appreciates the cooperation of many good citizens and families who welcome the presence of KFOR peacekeepers as they conducted their house searches yesterday, he day before and in the days ahead. Now for the two announcements. We have here in the front row, Brigadier Richard Shirreff, the new commander of Brigade Centre. He will hold a brief press conference right after this event. Tomorrow, MNB South, the German-led Brigade, is holding a day of media activities. Media are invited to leave the KFOR main area by helicopter and fly to the south.
Mr. Gerard Fischer, Director of the Department of Economic Affairs and Natural Resources, UNMIK Civil Administration (Pillar II) I would like to talk about two issues. One is the mobile telephone and the second is insurance.
On the mobile telephone I would like to announce that the PTK, the local telecommunications company of Kosovo, together with Alcatel/Monaco Telecom, is going to operate as of today. This system has significant advantages. Firstly, all income will accrue directly into the Kosovo Consolidated Budget; in other words, it will stay inside the country. Secondly, the service is expected to improve significantly as a result of the fact that we have between 500 and 600 channels available, as compared to the 50 or 60 channels that we had with MOBTEL. MOBTEL will continue to exist for the time being. PTK has also planned significant expansion. In the first immediate case, the service of the new mobile system will be available in Pristina, at the airport and also, in all likelihood, it will cover Gracanica, which is rather significant for the minority. Furthermore, already now the Blace/Pristina road, the most trafficked road, is being covered by this system at this point in time. Lastly, in spite of the fact that MOBTEL has a possibility to influence the price with the pre-paid cards, if those cards are purchased in Yugoslavia at the black market price. We have adjusted our pricing system in acccordance to that, so a local phone call per unit will be 0.40 deutsche mark. Of course this is the first phase of the system. The next phase is the expansion of the system to the seven major cities; that would occur no later than six or seven weeks from now. And finally the full service of Alcatel/Monaco Telecom in cooperation with the PTK will be available no later than September for total coverage of the province. That is the news on the mobile telephone system.
As you know, we started to register vehicles. We had not been able to get an insurance company on board. The first insurance company that we have been able to sign up and issue a licence to is the Insurance Institute of Albania, INSIC. They are authorized to sell third-party liability insurance. The process will be that everyone who presently is driving around with the only recognized vehicle licence plates will have to come again and insure the vehicle and after that will get a permanent registration. These insurances will be available at the the sites where the cars are inspected and where the licence plates are being issued. Everyone in Kosovo will have to have third-party liability insurance. Secondly, and very importantly, we also are going to introduce a green card system that will entitle people to go abroad. We noticed from our small, not very sophisticated surveys that probably 80 to 90 per cent of the people would like to travel outside Kosovo. For them there would be a green card insurance.
Q: Today a meeting on returnees was supposed to be held by a Committee that includes the administrator of Mitrovica, General Saqui de Sannes and Albanian and Serb representatives. Do you have any details about the return dates?
SM: I know they are meeting Mr. Rexhepi today. I have no information on a meeting with Serb leaders today. They will be discussing the modalities of return, but I don't have any dates or time on the returns.
Q: Can we use green cards without passports? When will they be issued?
GF: You may be surprised to find out that a lot of people have valid passports and they travel. We see them on airplanes, leaving with passports. In addition to that, as you know, UNMIK is trying to persuade the European Union and other players to recognize UN-issued travel documents and I think this is at a very advanced stage. We expect to have an answer on the issuance of travel documents within the next 60 days, I would assume.
Q: On the issue on insurance and green cards, what about vehicles of dubious or unknown provenance?
GF: That is a relevant question because it is a significant portion of the total fleet in this region. We have a list provided by Interpol and when it comes to inspection, those things will be clarified.
Q: Will Interpol or any other agency like Interpol be helping you with the registration?
GF: Not with the registration per se. The registration is done by the UNMIK Administration with the local structures that exist. Presently, as you know, we are operating in only one place, but in the next few weeks we will open other sites in other areas of Kosovo. I think there will also be a directive that stipulates the urgency to register cars and a deadline will be set. We assume that in the foreseeable future all vehicles will be registered with the officially, internationally recognized registration.
Q: Eleven Albanian houses in the north and south of Mitrovica were occupied by Serbs. Why were they not stopped? Secondly, there seems to be a full strategy for Mitrovica now?can you provide details?
SM: The strategy is evolving. We've announced elements of the strategy as they have been approved. The strategy will be presented to the Security Council shortly.
GF: I can only add that the strategy for Mitrovica is an evolving process. Of course, an evolving process is dangerous in the sense that we have no time to evolve here. But there are elements that I think are not just UNMIK and KFOR; there are also the local communities and the willingness to cooperate and isolate extremist groups on either side in order to make any type of strategic plan implementable. A plan is only good if it can be implemented.
Q: Does this mean that mean that you don't want to impose the strategy, but that you just want to want to make it in cooperation with the local leaders? Is this the right time to impose the strategy?
GF: It's a matter for KFOR and UNMIK to find the right mix. There are certain things I'm sure can be done on the civilian side with increased interaction and with a phasing in of certain structures and phasing out of certain structures that have been active. That is being worked and I think within the next few days we will be able to start something.
Q: On the 11 I have no report from UNMIK Police.
PA: I don't know of the incident you are talking about, but one of the priorities of UNMIK Police and KFOR is to protect private property, to protect people who are fearful of their lives. If these are real incidents they have to be reported to UNMIK and KFOR and we'll take measures to protect these people.
Q: This information was in today's UNMIK Police report.
PA: If that's the case, it's a criminal act if someone moves into someone else's house.
Q: Some reports say that in Operation Ibar eight Serbs were arrested for illegal possession of weapons.
PA: The latest report I have is that men have been arrested, but I don't know what their ethnicity is. I did hear that journalists reported the ethnicity, but it hasn't been confirmed to me by UNMIK Police or KFOR, so I can't add to that.
Q: Can you be more specific on the weapons that were confiscated? Were they confiscated in the Little Bosnia quarter? Do you know the ethnicity of the owners?
PA: The area was Little Bosnia and the owners are those people we were just talking about. The ethnicity I do not know yet.
Q: There have been various reports over the last few days of Yugoslav force activities at some points along the border between Kosovo and Serbia. Do you have any information about that and is there any concern from KFOR?
PA: It's all speculative. We're hearing reports, too. KFOR is very present. Our area of operation is Kosovo and that's where we will stand firm. People within Kosovo know that, we know it and the Yugoslav authorities know that as well. Beyond saying that we are very tight in our area of operation.
Q: Do you have any ideas about numbers? There have been some suggestions that these are simply spring maneuvers and every army has that.
PA: The Yugoslav Army is a professional army. They maneuvers, they train at unit levels, and larger levels. They are entitled to do that. I won't add to it. I don't know many more details, but certainly KFOR and other UN forces are watching.
Q: There have been reports out of Washington that seek to put all the blame for Mitrovica on Belgrade. Do you know anything about this? Does KFOR take any responsibility at all for the situation in Mitrovica or is it all Belgrade's fault?
PA: That question was answered by General Clark a few days ago. What's happening in Mitrovica is a long-standing situation. KFOR are there with UNMIK to create a peaceful environment in Mitrovica. We all know it' s difficult problem. There are people on both sides, on the Albanian side and on the Serb side, who have their agendas. We are there to impose to impose the United Nations agenda and the agenda of the vast majority of people who want an open city, a city where people live cooperatively and have a normal, reasonable life. As I say, people have different agendas, KFOR and UN know what our agenda is and that' s what we will be imposing over the weeks and months and possibly years ahead.
Q: Would you say Washington's comments indicate that Washington has its own agenda also?
PA: Obviously Washington has an agenda, and it's the agenda that KFOR and the UN have. As I say, we want a prosperous Kosovo that rebuilds democratically and rejoins the community of nations. So clearly Washington has the right agenda.