24 August 1998


Press Release
SC/6562



SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE CEASEFIRE IN KOSOVO; URGES POLITICAL SOLUTION TO CONFLICT

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The Security Council this afternoon called for an immediate ceasefire in Kosovo, emphasizing the need for the achievement of a political solution to the conflict by the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Albanians.

In a statement read out in a formal meeting of the Council by its President, Danilo Turk (Slovenia), the Council urged the two sides to enter immediately into a meaningful dialogue leading to an end to the violence and a negotiated political solution to the issue of Kosovo. In that context, it supported the efforts of the Contact Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States), including its initiatives to engage the two parties in discussions on the future status of Kosovo.

The Council reiterated the importance of the implementation of its resolution 1160 (1998) of 31 March, by which it banned the sale or supply to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, of arms and related materiel of all types. By that resolution, it also decided that States shall prevent arming and training for terrorist activities in Kosovo.

In its statement today, the Council said it remained gravely concerned about the intensified fighting in Kosovo, and that given the increasing numbers of displaced persons, coupled with the approaching winter, the situation there had the potential to become a greater humanitarian disaster. It affirmed the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes. In particular, it emphasized the importance of unhindered and continuous access of humanitarian organizations to the affected population.

The Council reaffirmed the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The meeting, which was called to order at 1:08 p.m., was adjourned at 1:14 p.m.

The full text of the presidential statement, which will be issued as document S/1998/PRST/1998/25, is as follows:


"The Security Council has considered the report of the Secretary-General of 5 August 1998 (S/1998/712) submitted pursuant to its resolution 1160 (1998) of 31 March 1998.

"The Security Council remains gravely concerned about the recent intense fighting in Kosovo which has had a devastating impact on the civilian population and has greatly increased the numbers of refugees and displaced persons.

"The Security Council shares the concern of the Secretary-General that the continuation or further escalation of the conflict in Kosovo has dangerous implication for the stability of the region. In particular, the Council is gravely concerned that given the increasing numbers of displaced persons, coupled with the approaching winter, the situation in Kosovo has the potential to become an even greater humanitarian disaster. The Council affirms the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes. In particular, the Council emphasizes the importance of unhindered and continuous access of humanitarian organizations to the affected population. The Council is concerned over reports of increasing violations of international humanitarian law.

"The Security Council call for an immediate ceasefire. The Council emphasizes that the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Albanians must achieve a political solution to the issue of Kosovo and that all violence and acts of terrorism from whatever quarter are unacceptable, and reiterates the importance of the implementation of its resolution 1160 (1998). The Council reaffirms the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and urges the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Albanian leadership to enter immediately into a meaningful dialogue leading to an end to the violence and a negotiated political solution to the issue of Kosovo. It supports in this context the efforts of the Contact Group, including its initiatives to engage the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Albanian leadership in discussions on the future status of Kosovo.

"In the regard, the Security Council welcomes the announcement by Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the Kosovo Albanian community, of the formation of a negotiating team to represent the interests of the Kosovo Albanian community. The formation of the Kosovo Albanian negotiating team should lead to the early commencement of a substantial dialogue with the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with the aim of ending the violence and achieving a peaceful settlement, including the safe and permanent return of all internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes.

"It remains essential that the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Albanians accept responsibility for ending the


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violence in Kosovo, for allowing the people of Kosovo to resume their normal lives and for moving the political process forward.

"The Security Council will continue to follow the situation in Kosovo closely and will remain seized of the matter."

Report of Secretary-General

In its consideration of Kosovo this afternoon, the Council had before it a report of the Secretary-General, covering the period since 2 July (document S/1998/712).

The report highlights several communications from Member States and regional organizations relating to developments in Kosovo, as well as the steps they had taken to give effect to the prohibitions imposed by resolution 1160 (1998). These include a ban on the sale or supply to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and munitions, military vehicles and equipment and spare parts for them. The Council also decided in the resolution that States shall prevent arming and training for terrorist activities.

Annexed to the report is a communication of 24 July from the Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), conveying updated information on the situation. In addition to the OSCE, replies were received from the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Western European Union and the Danube Commission. These replies are annexed to earlier reports (documents S/1998/470 and S/1998/608).

The Secretary-General states in his present report that while all the organizations he has contacted have stated their readiness to contribute actively to the monitoring of the prohibitions imposed by resolution 1160 (1998), at this stage, the overall resources pledged by them would not allow for the establishment of a comprehensive monitoring regime as envisaged in the resolution. Nonetheless, their proposed contributions, coupled with that of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP), provide a useful framework for reporting on violations of the prohibitions and for assisting the Committee established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1160 (1998) in discharging its mandate.

[The Committee, consisting of all Council members, was established to facilitate implementation of the arms embargo, including the consideration of alleged violations of the ban and the recommendation of appropriate measures in response, as well as the promulgation of guidelines as necessary.]

Pursuant to the Council's request to the Secretary-General concerning recommendations for a comprehensive monitoring regime, the report refers to


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the outline contained in his report of 30 April (document S/1998/361). It also recalls his statement that the United Nations was unable, within existing budgetary resources, to establish and administer such a regime. It reiterates his view that such a regime would require the deployment at key points of teams composed of qualified experts, as well as the creation of a fully equipped communications centre to support the work of the monitoring teams and to interact with the Sanctions Committee and its secretariat. The teams would advise and assist neighbouring and other States responsible for enforcing the mandatory measures contained in resolution 1160.

The report notes that through the adoption of resolution 1186 (1998) on 21 July, the Council had authorized an increase in the troop strength of the UNPREDEP and an extension of its current mandate for a further six months, until 28 February 1999, including the tasks of monitoring the border areas and reporting to the Secretary-General on illicit arms flows and other activities prohibited under resolution 1160. In the absence of an integrated coordinating mechanism, representatives of participating organizations, UNPREDEP and the Secretariat must exchange information on the monitoring of those prohibitions.

The Secretary-General's report also finds that the continuing conflict has led to a growing number of internally displaced persons and refugees, causing further instability. "The international community", it states, "risks once again being placed in a position where it is only dealing with the symptoms of a conflict through its humanitarian agencies". The situation is aggravated by the failure of the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Albanian Kosovars to enter into serious negotiations on the future status of Kosovo. Given the responsibilities of the United Nations in the wider region and the ethnic make-up in neighbouring countries, the Secretary-General expresses his alarm at the prospect of further escalation of the conflict, which has dangerous implications for the stability of the region.

Turning to the situation on the ground, the Secretary-General states that increased heavy fighting between the security forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army has been reported from several areas in Kosovo. The numbers of civilian and military casualties are at their highest point since the outbreak of the conflict. The attitudes of the two sides appear to be hardening with every day of fighting. There is no progress on renewal of dialogue. Most disturbing are reports of increased tensions along the border between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Albania.

Continuing infiltration from outside the borders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia of weapons and fighting men is a source of continuing widespread concern, the report states. The sharp escalation of violence and the reported use of excessive force by security forces against civilians as part of the


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government operations against the Kosovo Liberation Army are cause for both distress and alarm. A particularly dangerous element is the move in certain quarters away from a willingness to search for compromise on a basis of multi-ethnic communities. Centrifugal tendencies appear to be gaining ground.

The report further states that unrelenting violence has led to a dramatic increase in internally displaced persons in Kosovo and Montenegro since the last report. According to estimates by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 100,000 people have been driven from their homes. Between 70,000 and 80,000 people were internally displaced in Kosovo by the end of July, and authorities in Montenegro had recorded 22,000 internally displaced persons from Kosovo by 22 July. With local food production at a standstill, food shortages could worsen sharply. Given the increasing number of displaced persons and the approaching winter, Kosovo has the potential of becoming a "humanitarian disaster".

The number of refugees in northern Albania remains approximately the same, at around 13,500, the report states. While one of the main refugees locations, Tropoje, lies just seven kilometres from the border, the proximity of the border has not created a security risk to them at this stage. With the increasing militarization of the border region and the escalation of tensions in Kosovo, however, destabilization of the Albanian border region is possible. United Nations agencies, meanwhile, are intensifying their efforts to prevent a major humanitarian and refugee crisis.

Letter from Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

The Council also had for its consideration of the item a letter dated 13 August from the Charge d'affaires, a.i., of the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Vladislav Jovanovic, addressed to the Secretary-General. The letter is in connection with the report of the Secretary-General on Kosovo. It also addresses a statement made by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on 11 August at the noon briefing on that same report.

According to the letter (document S/1998/757), the report is "full of incomplete data and arbitrary assessments and stands in stark contrast to the situation on the ground, from which inappropriate inferences are made". Also, it adds, "the statement of the Spokesman is incongruent with all previous positions of the United Nations on the situation in Kosovo and Metohija to the point of being ill-intended and tendentious".

The letter goes on to say that the wording in section IV of the report, on Kosovo and Metohija, "conceals the true nature of the hostilities: the terrorist attacks of Albanian separatists which disturb public peace and order and take a heavy toll in innocent human lives". More than 100 foreign


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diplomats in both places had been daily witnesses to these atrocities. A ceasefire could only be reached when terrorism was stopped.

The letter goes on to state that for the sake of objectivity, the report of the Secretary-General should point out that the leaders of the political parties of the Albanian national minority of Kosovo and Metohija were responsible for the absence of dialogue. The authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia were ready to resume the dialogue on substantive issues immediately. The criticism of these authorities for the lack of such action was therefore entirely unwarranted.

The letter states that the impression of the Yugoslavian Government was that much of the misperception of the situation in Kosovo and Metohija in the United Nations stemmed from the lack of first-hand knowledge of the events taking place on the ground. In order to obtain a better picture of the situation, and the measures taken by the Governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia, and to solve the problems in Kosovo and Metohija, an invitation had been transmitted to the Secretary-General by the Yugoslavian Government to visit that country at his earliest convenience.

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