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Macedonia: Another Very Strong Message

Macedonia: Another Very Strong Message

Press Point by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, and the Foreign Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1), Dr. Srgjan Kerim, March 19, 2001.

Spokesman: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Secretary General and Minister Kerim have just finished their meeting. They will say a few words and then we will take your questions. The Secretary General will start.

Secretary General: We've had a very useful meeting this morning discussing the issues in and around the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. I made it clear to Minister Kerim that NATO strongly condemns the armed attacks that have taken place against soldiers and policemen from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Reiterating again a strong message which I put in the strongest way possible that those responsible for this violence are inflicting serious damage to the interests and the image of ethnic Albanians in the whole region and they should stop and they should stop now.

This is the time in the Balkans where decisions should be taken by the ballot box and not by the bomb or by the bullet and that is a message that these extremists are receiving from Tirana, Pristina as well as from the democratic Albanian representatives in Skopje. NATO commends the measured response of the government in Skopje to the acts of violence from the extremists who are trying to break up their country, to destabilise the democratic government in Spoke, and there is another very strong message that needs to go from here today, as it will go from the EU, the UN and elsewhere, and that is we will not contemplate the changing of boundaries by violence and we will not contemplate the breaking up of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and those who try to seek that by whatever means are doomed to failure. This is a volatile part of the world, but NATO is determined to do it, to make sure that these extremists are marginalised and that their power and influence is neutralised there.

All of the North Atlantic Council, all the ambassadors to NATO, will be visiting Skopje on the 3rd April and then the following day going to Pristina in Kosovo. The border presence of KFOR is being strengthened right round the border and boundary and territory and especially with a view to interdicting any supplies that might be going from Kosovo into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We are strengthening our diplomatic presence in Skopje at the present time and will be adding to the help and assistance that we will be giving both from NATO and from the NATO nations to the government of Skopje as well. We very much welcome the virtually unanimous statement of the parliament of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the clear signals that it gives that the democratic process will be adhered to, that reforms will be put in place that will recognise the role of Albanians within the society, but that there can be no question of breaking up the country or federating or cantonising that country now or in the future. The European Union will be listening to Minister Kerim this afternoon and I will be attending that meeting of the General Affairs Council ministers of the European Union. We all stand fair and square behind the democratic government of the democratic parties that have formed in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and I'm therefore pleased to say today that that common front is one which gives a very clear signal to the extremists that the work that they do is to the disadvantage of Albanians, that they would be advised to stop their violence and focus on the ballot box to get the changes that they want, that they feel are necessary.

Minister Kerim: Ladies and gentlemen I would like to stress the importance of today's meeting with the Secretary General Robertson once more. I came to Brussels to NATO Headquarters in order to convince myself that we are working closely together with NATO to get rid of extremists and violence as a means for achieving political goals in the Balkans. In this case, what they are trying is to impose a new agenda to the Republic of Macedonia, to its citizens, including the Albanian population, in Macedonia? We are not going to allow them to do so, we are going to condemn them politically as Secretary General Roberston already stressed, everybody from Tirana to Brussels from Washington to Berlin, Paris and London, and everywhere in this world is condemning them and it's a very clear message. Diplomatically they are isolated and they will remain so once we have a very clear stand from NATO and the European Union today.

I have met the Troika this morning. It has been confirmed once again that we are working closely together. The fact that Secretary General Robertson is going to join this session this afternoon in the European Union headquarters gives you already an idea of how close and co-ordinated this Cupertino is and this action will be, and as far as security measures are concerned, I am pleased to state that NATO will take additional measures to seal off the border, to indict the routes they are using to endanger our country and to penetrate there, and all these measures are a demonstration of a firm conviction that we have to defend a model of inter-ethnic relations in the Balkans which have been approved by the international community.

It's nothing new, it's not a surprise, it's just a consequence of behaviour on the side of NATO and the European Union and my government and I'm very glad to state that all the measures which I have conveyed here which have so far been undertaken by the Macedonian government are firmly supported and we will closely co-ordinate in not only developing further and new measures but also trying to be efficient in their implementation and I'm looking forward to that and once again I would like to stress that this meeting with Secretary General Robertson was again more proof that we are on the right wave.

Secretary General: One further point is that the North Atlantic Council will be meeting at five o'clock this afternoon to examine the current situation.

Question: Secretary General you have always said that you have an indication that the conflict, the crisis in Macedonia is not linked with the extremists in Kosovo, which is not the Macedonian position. Have you changed your mind, do you agree now with the Macedonians who say that those extremists come from Kosovo into Macedonia?

Secretary General: What I said was we had no information to suggest that it was people who had been operating in the current safety zone who were operating in the other border areas. I believe that there are connections between quite a lot of extremist violence in the area and in different countries, which is why the denunciation of these people has come from Tirana and Skopje and from Pristina and democratic politicians have to unite especially among the Albanian community against those who are damaging in the eyes of the world as well as in the eyes of ordinary, decent Albanians who live in these countries their interests and what they are seeking to achieve.

Question: Secretary General, we have had very strong words of condemnation from you just now but is NATO also contemplating any further real action to back up these words of condemnation? And Mr. Kerim if I could ask you are you satisfied with the kind of measures promised or being taken by NATO so far?

Secretary General: I don't know who should answer these questions first, but let me just say that NATO's remit militarily does not extend into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and indeed the statement of the Parliament in Skopje made it clear that they were not asking for help on their side of the border. What is necessary is in the very difficult terrain, the very difficult circumstances of that border area, to interdict as much of the supplies or the traffic that might be going into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. So NATO is committed to tightening its control of the border, and additional troops will be put in place in order to do that. We are determined that we will starve this limited number of localised extremists from being able to carry out their mischief and we will take what measures are necessary on the military front. On the political front we have other measures that are taking place and of course the individual NATO countries on a bilateral basis are also providing help to the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and will continue to increase that.

Mr. Kerim: What I would like to add to this is that the measures which have already been undertaken by NATO and those who will be undertaking as Secretary General already stressed are in accordance with what we are expecting NATO to do in order to prevent this violence and at the same time I would like to stress the fact that the deployment of NATO and the intention of its deployment of the border is not to scare the local population there but rather to get rid of the extremists and to give them a very clear message where NATO stands towards them and this is what we are expecting NATO to do otherwise Macedonian security forces are able and will be able to take care of the security of our country, as they have done so far.

Question: How much of this violence is the result of border agreements that were recently signed with Yugoslavia? And if it's not, what in your opinion is the reason why this violence is spreading?

Mr. Kerim: Well I can't speculate on that, I only know that the whole international community welcomed this agreement and also Albania as our neighbour has within the process of (inaudible) European Cupertino during the Summit meeting in Skopje made very clear to the Prime Minister of Albania, that they are greeting it as well. So speculations of a border delineation agreement, I don't think they make the target you know in this case. What is on the scene is people that desperately believe that they should take over the role of the avant-garde of the Albanian population in Macedonia, that they should become the new leadership which will provide for Albanians' concept which I would define wherever Albanians live as Albanian territories and this is definitely the wrongest of all approaches in the Balkans. We have been facing a ten-year long crisis and conflicts in the Balkans exactly thanks to this approach and we have to prevent the international community, by all means, for this to work. It doesn't matter who does provoke it and who does represent it, you know, it's not the nations but those kinds of people who want to impose this agenda and we're not going to allow them to do this.

Question: Mr. Robertson, do you agree with the Macedonian request for additional troops on the border on that side not on the Macedonia side but which will have another mandate, a new mission under the United Nations?

Secretary General: No there's no question of new mandates. What is required at the present moment is political calm, and the isolation of those who are undermining the democratic process in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or trying to undermine the ethnic Albanian parties in the parliament in Skopje and we can do that with KFOR on the Kosovo side of the border cutting off lines of supply, increasingly patrolling and evicting those who might use that border territory at the present moment bearing in mind that it is very forested, that it is highly mountainous and of course is covered in a large amount of snow at this time of the year, but we can make sure that more is done and we will certainly be doing so but remaining calm and isolating the small number of extremists who want to subvert the interests not just of the democratic government in Skopje but of the democratic parties representing the Albanians in Skopje. They will be isolated and undermined by everything that we do.

Question: I have two brief questions to the Secretary General. How many more troops will you put on the border and with KFOR already being overstretched as it is are there any plans to ask member states to contribute more troops to KFOR at this stage?

Secretary General: The answer to your second question is: yes of course we will be asking individual states to add to the troops they have in Kosovo in order that more flexibility can be given to the tasks that are there. We are confident that there are enough troops in place to be able to do it at the present moment, and frankly you wouldn't expect me to answer the first part of your question, because we're not going to give that sort of information out publicly. The number of troops in the border region will be adequate to the task that is set out and the objective will be pursued with considerable vigour I can assure you.

(1) Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).