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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #49, 99-04-14

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From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


Wednesday, April 14, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1	NATO allies remain united on action over Kosovo; front-line states 
	 also supportive.
2,3-4	German discussions fully in line with NATO conditions.  They are 
	 dependent upon Milosevic agreeing to NATO conditions.
3	U.S. discussing various ideas in German plan.
3	German Foreign Minister Fischer an important participant in NATO 
	 discussion of Kosovo.
7	U.S. would welcome UN approval of an international security force.
4-5	Hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians in Kosovo are Milosevic's 
5	Reports of condition of refugees inside Kosovo impossible to know 
	 for sure.
5-6	U.S. has seen numerous reports of sexual assaults against women 
	 in Kosovo.
6	Rape is a war crime, and can be prosecuted as a crime against humanity.
6-7	U.S. continues to believe that any peacekeeping force should have 
	 NATO in core leadership role.
7-8	Clear that Serb leadership had planned to commit this barbarism.
8	Protective power issue still not resolved. Switzerland one alternative
	 being explored.
9	U.S. heartened by international response to NATO action.

RUSSIA 1 Secretary Albright, Foreign Minister Ivanov agreed on halt to killing in Kosovo, removal of Serb forces, return of refugees and access by aid agencies. 1,2 No agreement reached on international security presence after Serb forces leave Kosovo. 4 Secretary Albright, Foreign Minister Ivanov agreed to keep in touch, meet again soon. 4 Meeting was important in effort to bring into line Russian, NATO positions on Kosovo. 6 U.S. would welcome Russian participation in a Kosovo peacekeeping force.

ISRAEL 10 Current settlement expansion is contrary to assurances of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

INDIA-PAKISTAN 10 U.S. regrets both countries' decisions to test missiles, though they violate no commitments given to U.S., nor U.S. law.


DPB #49

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14, 1999 12:00 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Let me say, just on a procedural note, the Secretary will be speaking about 12:45 p.m.; so we're going to try to end this briefing in about a half an hour.

First of all, the Secretary had a very good trip to Brussels and Oslo, during the course of which it became very evident that our NATO allies are united in their determination to prevail in this conflict, in their determination to insist that President Milosevic accept NATO's conditions and accept them clearly and in a verifiable way before NATO would discontinue its air campaign.

That message was loud and clear from the NATO allies, and Secretary Albright was particularly heartened that in her dinner with a number of the front-line states that are not members of NATO, they were also equally united in the determination of NATO to confront President Milosevic's policies in Kosovo.

On the trip to Oslo, the purpose, again, was to work with Russia. Russia has played a constructive role in the past in joining the international consensus in the months prior to Rambouillet to press the Serbs to meet the demands of the international community and to pursue a peaceful solution rather than these barbaric war-like policies that are being conducted in Kosovo.

The Russians agreed with us on some points: on the requirement that there be a verifiable halt in the killing; the requirement that Serb forces -- the paramilitary, military and police forces -- be removed; a requirement that the refugees be returned; and a requirement that international aid agencies have access to them.

We continue to disagree on the modalities or the details of how an international presence would provide security for Kosovo after President Milosevic's forces have withdrawn. That was discussed and we did not achieve agreement on that. As the Russian Foreign Minister indicated, they remain of the view that they can't really talk about anything specific until the Serbs have accepted that.

So all in all, it was a successful effort to keep the Alliance unified, to keep the countries in the region unified, and unified in a very simple message -- that they are determined to continue this air campaign, to prevail, and that the ball is in President Milosevic's court to finally stop the marauding, stop the barbarism and pursue a peaceful solution.

QUESTION: The German Government has offered a plan leading to a permanent cessation of NATO bombing activities if Milosevic takes certain steps. Do you have a response for us?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, Secretary Albright spoke to German Foreign Minister Fischer on the way back from Oslo, as well as to a number of the countries that are now in Bonn meeting with the Germans as part of the European union, and along with Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.

The German discussions are fully in line with the conditions that NATO has laid down. I won't list them all for you because you're all becoming quite familiar with them. But they basically boil down to the Serbs out, a NATO core force in and the refugees back. The German ideas are being discussed and raised for how to implement the process for achieving a settlement in Kosovo. But they are ideas that would be implemented following the agreement by President Milosevic to the conditions that NATO has laid out. So for us, this is a beginning of a discussion of the modalities of how NATO's conditions would be implemented, but in no way departs from NATO's conditions. We're expecting, and very pleased to expect, that the European Union, like NATO, will lay out very clearly the requirements for President Milosevic.

So some of the details are things to be discussed, but the important point is they are all things that would happen after President Milosevic agrees to the conditions and provable actions were taken to ensure that that was true.

QUESTION: The report said that this was discussed by the Secretary and Mr. Ivanov yesterday. Can you confirm that? Can you say anything about how the Russians -- whether the Russians gave any signs that Mr. Milosevic was moving towards any kind of settlement along these lines?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, when you say settlement along these lines, what these lines are, are NATO's conditions; that is the Serb forces out, the NATO core force in and the refugees back. If President Milosevic were to agree to those conditions, that would be agreement to the political objectives NATO and the United States have set out.

Secretary Albright discussed many things with Foreign Minister Ivanov. I wouldn't be able to get into the details of all of that. But they focused their energies on what the conditions were and less on how to implement those conditions if they were accepted. The German discussion that they have generated is about how to implement the acceptance of those conditions. Secretary Albright and Foreign Minister Ivanov, by contrast, were focused on what the conditions were and not implementing all the conditions because, as you know, the Russians don't yet agree to one of the main conditions, which is the international security force.

QUESTION: What about one of the details, which would be that the bombing campaign would be suspended if Milosevic starts withdrawing some of his forces out of Kosovo? What's the U.S. position on that detail and the German position?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we're discussing various ideas in the German plan. All I can say at this point is, we know what are demands are and we will know that Milosevic has agreed to those demands in a provable way when we see it. Beyond saying that absent agreeing to those demands, we think it would be inappropriate at this point to discuss the details of how that would be implemented. But clearly the idea here is that NATO would discontinue its bombing when and as President Milosevic met the conditions.

QUESTION: You discussed NATO unity; however there's a lot of uneasiness, particularly among the SBD -- part of the ruling coalition government -- saying that they, in effect, have been kept in the dark by the Americans, particularly, on exactly what's going on, even some of the details of the refugees, the numbers and places. One, have you received such complaints from either the Germans or any other NATO members? And, two, do you think there's any merit to the fact that they could be given more information to better judge the situation?

MR. RUBIN: Any alliance with 19 members in it, it's going to be impossible for every member to know every fact on a real-time basis. Even in this information age, there are limits to communication capabilities. But I have been told by Secretary Albright in general about the context of her regular, nearly daily calls with Foreign Minister Fischer; and on the contrary, I've never heard any suggestion that Foreign Minister Fischer feels out of the loop. On the contrary, Foreign Minister Fischer has been an important participant in these discussions and added information, for example, about various details about what the Serb plan for the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo looked like.

So on the contrary, I've never heard that; but again, with 19 countries it's just physically impossible for every country to be involved in every discussion at all times.

QUESTION: Going back to the German proposal that the first questioner referred to, you haven't said -- I'd like to ask you now -- does the U.S. Government think it's a profitable path to pursue?

MR. RUBIN: We think it's wise for our allies and we to engage in a process of planning for Serb acceptance of our conditions, and that that's perfectly appropriate. We need to work on that, and it is appropriate for us to have intensive discussions on the process by which our political objectives can be achieved.

QUESTION: Does that mean that the U.S. accepts the German plan?

MR. RUBIN: On the contrary, what I said was that we think it's appropriate for us to discuss these matters. We think the German ideas for how to implement Milosevic's acceptance of these conditions is constructive and we will be discussing it with them. The plan and its details are very extensive -- far more extensive than that which has been reported in the press -- and we will keep our discussions diplomatically of those details private until the appropriate time. But we think it's a constructive thing to do, which is to discuss in advance how to be ready for - implement Milosevic's acceptance of these conditions. But the ball is in Milosevic's court to accept the conditions.

QUESTION: Right, is it an acceptable framework within which there can be minor details --

MR. RUBIN: Well, the framework is the NATO conditions, the five points that I won't bore you by repeating. That's the framework by which the German discussions and details are being made. So we are fully in sync with that framework, as is the European Union and as is the NATO alliance and as was Secretary General Kofi Annan in his statements.

QUESTION: Jamie, a few questions on the Russian meetings -- sort of what happens now. Did Secretary Albright either ask Ivanov to talk to Milosevic about that meeting and get back to us? Do we expect him to do that? And how do we continue keeping up with the Russians on this? Do you expect another face-to-face meeting soon; will this be done by phone?

MR. RUBIN: On the second point, Secretary Albright and Foreign Minister Ivanov agreed to keep in regular contact. They discussed their intention to meet again face-to-face soon. No time was put precisely on that, but clearly soon. So I expect her to be in regular contact with Foreign Minister Ivanov.

We think this was an important step in trying to bring the Russian position as far in line with NATO's position as possible. Some progress was made, although there remains a big difference on the question of what international presence would provide security for the people of Kosovo.

Ivanov indicated publicly that he's prepared to go to Belgrade or prepared to travel to Washington or other places to pursue a peaceful solution. Provided that peaceful solution is based on our political objectives, that's fine with us. We're not going to tell people not to go to places.

Milosevic knows what he has to do. This isn't a communications problem; it's not a nuance problem. The ball is in his court to accept that the Serb forces are withdrawn; that the refugees who have been through so much terror and tragedy get to return; and that a NATO force be deployed to provide for their security and to provide for us to find a way to move forward on the political side.

QUESTION: Jamie, what's the latest you have on the condition of the 700, 000 IDPs in Kosovo, in terms of reports of starvation, death from exposure, hunger? Any numbers you have now?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, the numbers are very, very difficult. I don't want to put out numbers and then be in a position to say that we had them wrong. Clearly, there are hundreds of thousands of people in Kosovo who are displaced, who are without sufficient food and shelter and care. These are, in a sense, Milosevic's hostages. He's refusing to allow the basic rules of the road to be implemented. That is that international relief agencies get access to them so they can help them provide the bare minimum. They are his hostages.

We are working with the international aid community to try to get access to them. We're working on our own ideas to try to assist in this regard. They are his hostages, and this is a further element of the tragedy of Kosovo where President Milosevic has imposed these brutal and terrorizing conditions on the people there.

We're looking at it -- there are some numbers from the UNHCR that go very high in the 700,000 to 800,000 range; there are some numbers from NATO in the 250,000 range. But either way, we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are in the hills, who are out of their homes, who are denied shelter, denied food, denied medicine and are suffering greatly.

I received a report from the Kosovar Liberation Army today that some 10,000 people have disappeared from Drnica. Again, it was a report from them and you all can make your own judgment about that. The information we have is not very good, so this is one of many reports that we have. The international aid community has received some horrific reports from refugees that are deportees who are expelled from Kosovo - about the conditions in Kosovo.

But with respect to the numbers, I'd prefer not to use numbers at this point, other than to say it's clearly hundreds of thousands. NATO has put the number in the 250,000 range; the UNHCR number is much higher. A lot of it depends on where your baseline was -- did you start from 250,000 displaced persons who may be in somebody else's home? But until these relief agencies get access to Milosevic's hostages -- that is, the people of Kosovo he's denying this information to -- it will be impossible to know for sure.

QUESTION: This is a quick follow-up. Any refinement of the ideas on how to get aid in, either by land corridor, air drops or whatever, anything?

MR. RUBIN: Well, clearly, this is a matter that's receiving urgent attention by the senior officials of our government and senior NATO officials. There clearly is some hope that the Greeks, who have some non- governmental organizations operating there, will be in a position to assist. People continue to study the other options that you're familiar with. But I don't think anybody has settled on one course, other than trying to make it clear to President Milosevic that these are his hostages and that he is going to be held accountable for the conditions that they are living under.

QUESTION: Do you have any more specific corroboration of rape reports? And do you have anything on the British Defense Ministry report today that Ratko Mladic is once again active and active in Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN: On the second, we've seen that; we are aware that the British have said that. It wouldn't surprise us in the least, given the behavior of Arkan and Mladic in the past. But I don't have any specific information to offer you on that.

With respect to the rape issue, we have seen numerous reports of sexual assaults against Kosovar Albanian women. It often takes time to confirm these reports, but there are so many credible reports from throughout Kosovo that the conclusion is inescapable that Milosevic's forces are using rape as a weapon of terror in Kosovo. The law in this matter is very clear: rape is a war crime and a human rights violation. Rape can also be prosecuted as a crime against humanity. The Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal ruled that rape can be part of a campaign of genocide.

We condemn these rapes in the strongest possible terms. We have put on notice those in positions of authority in the Yugoslav Army, the Ministry of the Interior and in Belgrade. They must take immediate steps to punish the perpetrators of rape and other crimes and must also take steps to prevent such crimes from occurring in the future. Failing this, officials can be personally prosecuted for crimes, including crimes involving sexual assault committed by forces under their command.

With respect to the specific camp mentioned, we are obviously giving a lot of attention to the reports on this. We're continuing to look further into Djakovica ever since the report first came in. But I'm not in a position to go into further details, other than to say we continue to share as much information as we have with the prosecutors in The Hague.

QUESTION: Can I ask one on Russia?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Russia and Kosovo, I hope.

QUESTION: How substantial a role in terms of numbers and leadership would the United States like Russia to play in international force?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we're not at point where we're planning such force. We've said we would welcome Russian participation in such a force. When Russia participated in IFOR, those decisions were made very much at the end, once it was clear that the agreement was going to be acceptable to the Serbs. We would be delighted to begin planning with Russia, following Serb acceptance of a NATO core force going in and acceptance of NATO's conditions. We haven't begun that planning and therefore it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it at this time.

QUESTION: Also on the international peacekeeping force -- last week you were asked if the U.S. had adopted its position that it would not need to be a NATO-led force. I believe you answered that the position was that it would be a NATO-led force. Could you tell us today, is the position that any international peacekeeping force will be NATO-led in the U.S.'s opinion?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. With respect to the force, let me say that we continue to believe and it is our view that in order for any international military force to accomplish its mission, NATO must have a core leadership role and the NATO command structure must remain intact and operational. There are various ways in which such a force could be augmented with troops and resources from non-NATO countries, such as the way in which it was done in the international force in Bosnia, and SFOR is also an example of that. That continues to be our view.

QUESTION: Can I follow up? What is the difference, then, between a NATO core force and a NATO-led force?

MR. RUBIN: NATO-led is a term of art to help you understand it as simply as possible. When you say NATO must have a core leadership role and the NATO command structure must remain intact and operational, I think that makes clear what the force is in more clear military terms.

QUESTION: To follow-up on that, would you like this written into any German proposal? The German proposal doesn't specify this, as far as I know. Do you think it should, or are you happy with the rather vague formulation which --

MR. RUBIN: The German proposal, again, is a way of formulating an operationalizing the modalities of Serb acceptance of our conditions. We believe it will not be difficult to operationalize Serb acceptance of these conditions if the Serbs were finally to accept these conditions and put a stop to the barbarism they're pursuing in Kosovo.

With respect to the force, NATO planners can continue to work on NATO's plans, they can continue to think about how to incorporate other forces. The main point in the German plan that's relevant here is that this would be done ideally by resolution of the Security Council, which would be fine with us.

QUESTION: But it does make a difference. Whether you call it an international force operating under Article VII or whether you call it a NATO-led force affects whether the Serbs are going to accept it or not. So it is important to specify this in advance.

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm glad you know what the Serbs will and won't do; I haven't quite learned that yet. My view is that to the extent that the international community can understand that it is an international security force -- that is, international and involved with security and approved by the United Nations, if that were to happen -- that would be desirable. The question of how it operates, however, is a military question and you can't fudge military questions. It has to be done by military commanders and military planners, based on clear lines of authority and a core leadership role for NATO.

They will work on that, and I am extremely confident that if the Serbs were to accept an international security force -- that is, a military force to provide real security for the people of Kosovo -- that the planners will be able to work those details out. The question is whether they will accept it; and the answer so far has been no because the Serbs would prefer to go on brutalizing and killing and raping and terrorizing the people of Kosovo.

QUESTION: I was going to ask about the protective powers issue, which I still want to ask; but are you saying -- your comment just then -- are you saying that the Serbs actually want to continue to brutalize these people?

MR. RUBIN: It's very clear that's been their intention -- to ethnically cleanse Kosovo. It's been very clear that they've had an operational plan, a will --

QUESTION: They're enjoying --

MR. RUBIN: Can I finish my answer, please? An operational will and an intention to commit this barbarism. This is planned; this isn't an accident. This is something that was the result of a plan. So therefore, they wanted to implement their plan or they wouldn't have implemented it.

QUESTION: But you're suggesting, I thought, it sounded like you suggested that they were enjoying this kind of a thing.

MR. RUBIN: Well, some of them appear to be enjoying it at the unit level. We've heard stories of people who have been committing these atrocities, of saying things with relish as they go about their dirty business. I'm not saying that the Serb people want to pursue this action in Kosovo. Unfortunately, the Serb people are being held hostage to the brutal policies of their leadership.

QUESTION: Okay, now, what I really wanted to ask is --

MR. RUBIN: Why don't you ask what you really wanted to ask, then?


Don't get diverted next time.

QUESTION: Right. Has there been a resolution to the protective powers issue both in Belgrade and here?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to the protective powers issue, there has not been a resolution of that. We are in discussion with Yugoslavia to ensure that embassies and related interests of both the U.S. and the FRY are covered by the services of an appropriate protective power. The issue has not yet been resolved.

FRY authorities have informed Sweden that it can no longer be the U.S. protecting power in the FRY. We are discussing the situation and exploring alternatives.

QUESTION: But the Swiss said earlier today that they had agreed to at least try to serve as the U.S. protective power in Belgrade.

MR. RUBIN: That is one of the alternatives that is being explored.

QUESTION: What is your response to the group of American Albanians in New York City this last weekend who claim they're going to go over to the region and take up arms for their fellow Kosovars?

MR. RUBIN: Well, there's a law enforcement component to this, and there are some specific laws that apply. I would recommend that you pose that question to the Justice Department for them to give you a specific answer to that.

QUESTION: Jamie, President Yeltsin has apparently named former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin as his personal envoy to resolve the Kosovo crisis. Number one, what does the U.S. think about this? Did this come up in the Secretary's meetings yesterday with the Foreign Minister? And does the U.S. know if there are any meetings scheduled in Belgrade?

MR. RUBIN: We have not received a request for a meeting. It did not come up, to my knowledge. It may have been in a one-on-one session that I wasn't, obviously, in. But we have no trouble with the Russians identifying personnel to try to assist in convincing the Serbs to reverse course.

QUESTION: Jamie, how long can this war can go on? And also how long do you think he can hold out, brutalizing his people? And also where do the Muslim countries, especially in the Middle East, and the countries in Asia, especially India and Pakistan -- where do they stand on this issue?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we've been very heartened by the international support for our action, by the fact that more and more countries are seeing Serb ethnic cleansing and brutality for what it is in Kosovo. There are six or seven key countries in the Middle East and South Asia that are engaging in humanitarian efforts to assist the people of Kosovo. Some of them have been very clear in their support for NATO action; for others, they're not in a position to say that.

But we've been very heartened by the fact that the world sees that the United States is ethnic blind when it comes to dealing with atrocities; that we try to deal with these situations as best we can, and that we don't approach them in ways that are based on ethnicity. We are trying to help a people that are being brutalized and we're doing that to the best of our abilities.

As you know, we are going to have the Secretary be delivering some remarks in a few minutes. So in order for us to get to that, let's just do two more questions.

QUESTION: Non-Kosovo issues --

MR. RUBIN: Let's do it quickly then.

QUESTION: Israeli settlements and Pakistan missile tests.

MR. RUBIN: All right. Let me go through those two issues quickly, at the behest of our associated press dean of the press corps -- or I guess deputy dean.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: Co-dean.

On the settlements -- Prime Minister Netanyahu has told us at all levels and on many occasions that as a matter of policy there would be no new settlements and no expansion of settlements beyond their contiguous periphery. Contrary to what we were told, we see an accelerated pattern of Israeli actions that involve both construction of new settlements as well as an expansion of settlements well beyond their contiguous periphery.

Both sides have an obligation to do their part, to create an environment for the pursuit of peace and the achievement of peace. The issue is whether the government of Israel is serious about doing its part to create the proper environment for peace.

With respect to the missile tests let me say, while the missile tests by India and Pakistan do not violate commitments made by either country, or U.S. law, we regret the decision by both countries to test. Such actions could lead to an arms race in South Asia, further destabilizing the region. Although new sanctions are not triggered by these tests, existing sanctions do remain in place.

We have always urged both India and Pakistan to exercise all possible restraint with respect to their military programs. We hope that India will provide tangible indications that it is prepared to practice restraint -- and Pakistan as well, consistent with its declared intention. Absent these indications, missile tests can only deepen concern about the direction of security policy in the region by the governments, and could put at risk promising developments between the two countries and their neighbors.

With that, let me close the briefing. If you have any other questions, we can do it in an informal way so that Secretary Albright -- those of you who need to get up there can do so.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 12:35 P.M.)

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