On midnight of 7 May, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), led by the United States, flagrantly attacked the Embassy of China with three missiles causing deaths, injuries and serious damage, the Chinese representative told the Security Council early this morning as it met at China's request.
The bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO had caused enormous damage and now China's sovereignty had been violated as well, as had the basic norms of international relations, he continued. China registered the strongest possible protest.
Speaking again at the end of the meeting, he said the argument that NATO did not intentionally bomb the Embassy and therefore it had not contravened the convention on diplomatic protection was absurd. Whether deliberate or not, the incident was a blatant transgression of international law, and NATO must take responsibility for its actions. China hoped there would be early action on a draft presidential statement it had distributed.
The United States representative said that the facts had not yet been confirmed, but that NATO was investigating the matter. NATO did not target civilians, or embassies. If it was responsible for the incident, he was deeply sorry. However, one man alone was responsible for the crisis: Slobodan Milosevic.
How many people must die or be left homeless, and how many countries destabilized to punish one person? the representative of the Russian Federation asked. NATO's actions had created a humanitarian catastrophe and thrown Europe back into the past. They should cease immediately.
* Revised to incorporate summaries of statements inadvertently omitted.
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The representative of the Netherlands said he could not accept comparisons of accidental casualties with systematic killings, rapes, intimidation and the burning of houses for which Belgrade was responsible. Collateral damage was always deplorable, particularly when it entailed civilians' loss of life, but it was, by definition, accidental.
France's representative said his Government was working with other States on a diplomatic solution based on a number of elements, including an international security presence endorsed by the United Nations, the return of displaced persons and refugees, substantial autonomy for Kosovo within the sovereign integrity of Yugoslavia, and demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army. It sought a Council resolution endorsing those principles.
The representative of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia said NATO was waging total war against a sovereign country and its people. The Council had failed to condemn it or halt it. The entire international legal system was at stake. That was perhaps the Council's last chance to exercise its authority and its duty under the United Nations Charter.
A diplomatic solution was still possible, Belarus' representative said. The Council had a key role to play, in accordance with its powers under the Charter. NATO's actions were contrary to international law.
Iraq's representative, calling for immediate cessation of NATO's acts, said the United States flouted international law and the rights of nations and peoples. In Iraq, "smart American bombs" had spared no church, school or hospital. However, the country had withstood the assault and rebuilt what had been destroyed. The people of the Yugoslavia would do so as well.
Cuba's representative said he hoped it would not take 20 years for the war to be viewed as a mistake. That had happened in the past, and only after four million Vietnamese and 50,000 United States citizens had died.
Also this morning, statements were made by the representatives of Argentina, Namibia, Canada, Bahrain, Malaysia, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Gabon, Albania and India.
The meeting, which began at 3:43 a.m., adjourned at 5:06 a.m.
Security Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning at the request of the Government of China, contained in a letter dated 7 May (document S/1999/523). [The meeting was held after the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was bombed on 7 May.]
QIN HUASUN (China) read a statement from the Chinese Government that said that at midnight of 7 May, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), led by the United States, flagrantly attacked the Embassy of China with three missiles from different angles and caused serious damage. Two people had died, two were missing and many were injured. Flagrant bombing by NATO, led by the United States, had already caused enormous casualties and now it had gone so far as to bomb the Chinese Embassy. That was a violation of the sovereignty of China, and of the basic norms of international relations. China expressed the utmost indignation and severe condemnation of this barbaric activity. It made the strongest protest. NATO, headed by the Unite States, must assume the responsibility. China reserved the right to take further measures.
The working buildings and the residence of the Embassy in Yugoslavia -- indeed the whole Embassy from the fifth floor to the basement -- had been destroyed, he said. All Embassy staff had either been sent to hospital for treatment or had been withdrawn to hotels. That was a serious incident and deserved the utmost indignation and the strongest condemnation. Even in times of war it was recognized that diplomatic institutes should not be violated and diplomats should be protected. Violation of those principles was a serious threat to the maintenance of necessary and normal international relations. The indiscriminate attack constituted a serious breach of international conventions. It was a crime of war and should be punished. China demanded a NATO investigation of the incident and that NATO account for it. The frenzied bombardment by NATO, led by the United States, of Yugoslavia over the last 45 days had resulted in civilian casualties. It had now violated a mission. This was shocking. NATO should stop the air strikes immediately and unconditionally.
A. PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said the facts had not been confirmed at this time. NATO had opened an investigation of the matter. If NATO was responsible for the incident, he was deeply sorry. NATO would never target civilians, or an Embassy. One man alone was responsible for the crisis: Slobodan Milosevic. NATO was responding to a year of terrorism by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia against its own citizens. Efforts had been ongoing for months to have a solution, but Mr. Milosevic had never cooperated. That country would be pressed until it responded. He had conveyed his Government's regrets and condolences to the Chinese Ambassador, and the United States Secretary of State was doing the same to China's Foreign Minister.
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SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that the events were unconscionable and flagrantly violated the United Nations Charter. Every day there were more reports on civilian casualties, the destruction of civilian property and the social and economic infrastructure. All norms of international law were being flouted. Now NATO had struck the Chinese Embassy, resulting in deaths and material damage. He expressed deepest condolences to the Government of China and the families of the victims.
The Russian Federation was outraged over the barbaric action, he said. The Council could not allow the event to pass without consequences. NATO's military adventurism had no relationship to efforts to protect civilians in Kosovo and prevent a humanitarian crisis. To the contrary, the humanitarian slogan was being used to cover up NATO's attempts to destroy the world order, which was based on respect for international law. That was the big picture, not the fact that one person was responsible. How many persons must die or be left homeless, how many countries must be destabilized to punish one person? he asked. The members of NATO should think before it was too late and immediately cease their actions which had created a humanitarian catastrophe and thrown Europe back into the past.
It was essential to shift to a political settlement, he said. The Russian Federation had from the start advocated a peaceful settlement within the context of the United Nations, and had been working toward that goal, which must be reached. For that to happen, there was need for an immediate halt to the strikes.
ARNOLD PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said he joined the delegation of the United States in expressing deep regret about the incident, on the assumption that it would be confirmed to have been caused by NATO action. Collateral damage was always deplorable, particularly when it entailed loss of life of civilians. It was, however, by definition accidental. The Embassy had not been targeted deliberately, so the action could not be condemned as a violation of diplomatic immunity or an attack against the country concerned. It was of deep concern that air strikes in which his country had participated had led to loss of life. But there had been no choice but to launch those strikes after Mr. Milosevic ignored the Security Council's demands contained in several resolutions.
It was true that there were many more refugees today, but no civilized Government could have foreseen the sheer ferocity of Belgrade's determination to drive out the ethnic Albanians, he said. "We can not be held responsible" for the fact that Mr. Milosevic had seized the opportunity to implement his "final solution". He said he could not accept comparisons of accidental casualties with systematic killings, rapes, abuse, intimidation and the burning of houses, for which Belgrade was responsible.
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FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina) said that the situation was one that would not allow the Council to remain silent. What had occurred must be profoundly regretted. The loss of lives of diplomats and the collateral damage saddened Argentina. More information was needed to clarify what had happened and therefore it was necessary to promote an investigation. He hoped the Belgrade Government would enter into serious negotiations on the Kosovo crisis, thus helping the diplomatic initiatives of friendly countries. That was the sense of the Secretary-General's statement issued last evening. He extended to the Government and people of China profound sympathy and understanding of the legitimate feelings that inspired them at this time.
ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) expressed sympathy to China and condolences to families of victims. This event was subject to an investigation by NATO authorities. France had undertaken action to put an end to intolerable actions of the Yugoslav authorities, that had rendered necessary the severest of measures including military action. At the same time, France supported the Secretary-General's initiative of 9 April. It was also working with its eight partners on a diplomatic solution.
He said the principles of that solution included an immediate cessation of violence, the withdrawal of military police and forces, an international security presence endorsed by the United Nations, the establishment of a provisional administration in Kosovo based on a Security Council decision to guarantee the provisions and to allow Kosovars to live a peaceful existence, the return of displaced persons and refugees and access for aid agency, substantial autonomy for Kosovo within the sovereign integrity of Yugoslavia, demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army, stabilization of the region and economic development.
France wanted the Council to adopt a resolution under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter to endorse the principles for settlement, and thereby allow peace and stability to return to the region.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said he was dismayed and shocked that just when diplomatic efforts had consolidated towards a much needed political solution for Kosovo, military action had intensified resulting in loss of life and destruction of property. He recalled the recent successful humanitarian visit to the region by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, resulting in the release of the United States prisoners of war. The Secretary-General of the United Nations had undertaken a mission aimed at finding a peaceful solution. Importantly, the statement of the Group of Eight Ministers had provided a flicker of hope. Namibia had underscored that continued hostilities in Yugoslavia would have unimaginable consequences.
Yesterday the Chinese Embassy had been hit, he said. That was a serious development. There had been fatalities, injuries and missing diplomats reported. Namibia extended its profound sympathy and condolences. The
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bombing of the Embassy could escalate the conflict. He awaited the results of the ongoing investigation by NATO. Namibia was convinced that the pain and suffering of Chinese diplomats and of innocent civilians could have been avoided if the will for a political solution existed. It was still possible and necessary to find a timely political solution. It was imperative that the Council became actively involved in the search. The Secretary-General must continue to work towards a cessation of hostilities. Namibia reiterated its call for an end to the bombing Only then could diplomacy be meaningfully used.
ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said the Council was assembled to consider a tragic event that had occurred in the context of military action brought about as NATO sought to put an end to the acts of the brutal regime in Belgrade. Protecting the people of Kosovo and permitting their safe return were NATO's purposes; it did not attack civilians or embassies. Canada therefore deeply regretted the accident that resulted in deaths and injuries. Just days ago, a blueprint had been drawn up for settling the conflict in a way that would facilitate the return of all Kosovar refugees and allow the bombing to be concluded. For the first time in weeks, the shape of a possible settlement had become visible and Canada was anxious to pursue it. He expressed condolences to the people and Government of China for the deaths they had suffered.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said his delegation regretted the strike on the Embassy of China in Belgrade following the war of the recent weeks. The crisis must be resolved by diplomatic means, as the Secretary- General had reaffirmed in his statement. A diplomatic solution must ensure to the Kosovar Albanians their right to live in dignity and stability. He affirmed the right of all refugees to return in safety. He called on all parties to intensify efforts to resolve the crisis by diplomatic means. Every day without a solution resulted in more victims. He hoped that the last chapter of this bloody conflict would be closed in the way that allowed justice for the Kosovar Albanians.
RASTAM MOHD. ISA (Malaysia) said he was shocked and distressed to have learned about the incident, which was apparently the result of NATO's ongoing strikes. Malaysia extended deepest sympathy and condolences to the people and Government of China. He took note that NATO was investigating the incident and awaited the result.
The loss of civilian lives was a matter of serious concern, he said. Malaysia condemned the humanitarian crisis which had deteriorated further as the crisis dragged on. Civilians must be able to return in security and with dignity. His delegation was convinced that a political solution must be found. It therefore welcomed efforts aimed at reaching a political settlement, and the Council should be allowed to exercise its primary responsibility in that regard.
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DANILO TÜRK (Slovenia) said it was with shock and distress that his delegation had learned of the events. He deplored the tragic incident and expected that NATO's ongoing investigation would provide additional information with all the relevant facts. Slovenia deplored every instance of loss of life, destruction of property and other incidents causing harm to civilians. He conveyed condolences to the people and Government and China.
The incident was part of a wider situation, which was not new, he said. The vicious spiral of violence had begun about 10 years ago, and the humanitarian consequences were serious. Council members were aware of the extent of the humanitarian crisis that resulted from the systematic policy of ethnic cleansing against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. He hoped the Council would soon act on a draft resolution that had been circulated for consideration. The Council was aware of the diplomatic efforts, including those of the Secretary-General and the members of the Group of Eight. All such efforts must continue with vigour and commitment, and the Council must be actively involved in the process. It was high time to take decisive steps towards resolving the crisis and establishing lasting peace.
Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said his country shared Council members' concern over the incident and he expressed condolences to China, to the injured and to the families of those killed. However, he wished to restate some essential points. The Kosovo crisis was "unpleasant". Over one million people had been beaten out of their homes, and several thousand had been killed, as a result of President Milosevic's decisions, and yet midnight Council meetings had not taken place concerning this. NATO had taken forceful action to reverse this tragedy. The Council should not be in the business of selective concern. People in Yugoslavia had suffered from President Milosevic's policies and still did so. President Milosevic carried the responsibility.
NATO did not target civilians or embassies, he said. It was a distortion to suggest that the Embassy had been deliberately attacked. Everyone agreed the conflict should cease. Yugoslavia's acceptance of the Group of Eight statement was the key to that cessation, and that key lay in President Milosevic's hands.
Council President DENIS DANGUE REWAKA (Gabon), speaking in his capacity as representative of his country, said he regretted the incident in Belgrade. It was extremely important that all measures were taken to protect ministries and diplomatic personnel. He deplored the loss of life and material damage, and expressed condolences to China and to the families of the victims. He called on Belgrade to seize the opportunity offered by the Secretary-General to facilitate a peaceful settlement of the crisis.
VLADISLAV JOVANOVIC (Yugoslavia) said a timely warning had previously been given to the Council about the unforeseeable consequences of the illegal
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and brutal aggression by NATO, and he had requested this aggression be stopped immediately. If the legitimate request had been heeded, much suffering would have been avoided. For 45 days, Yugoslavia had been the victim of an attack that was threatening lives, the environment and the human rights of whole country. NATO's selective targets policy seemed to mean "hit anything, anytime, anywhere". Over 1000 planes had flown more than 12,000 sorties, 3000 missiles had been launched and many tonnes of explosives used; 12,000 civilian lives had been lost and many others had been wounded.
Could a lost or ruined life be called collateral damage? he asked. Was this a fitting way to describe the deaths of 100 children? Human life had no price. NATO bombs threatened all lives. Who could live in a country where the infrastructure was being systematically destroyed? The power grid had been short circuited and consequently five million people were without power and water. NATO had used weapons banned by international conventions; 20,000 cluster bombs had been dropped. Depleted uranium ammunition had been used. Previously, no army had vandalized Yugoslavia's historic monasteries, but NATO had.
The NATO countries seemed to conceive of themselves as standard bearers of democracy, he said, yet they had bombed television centres, therefore compromising freedom of speech. Many television stations and transmitters had been destroyed.
Yugoslavia was committed to peaceful solution, he said. He reminded Council Members that all activities of the Yugoslav army had stopped on 6 April. All refugees and displaced persons had been asked to return home, and constructive talks had been held with a Kosovo leader. Yugoslavia had, however, a right and a duty to protect itself from aggression. This right was enshrined in the country's Constitution and in the United Nations Charter.
Yesterday, aircraft had destroyed the Chinese Embassy, he said. At least two missiles had struck the Embassy. According to preliminary information 26 people had been wounded -- two seriously -- and two people had been killed. The Embassy was in an exclusively residential area with no military targets around it. This attack violated the 1949 Geneva Convention, and was a war crime. It was evident that NATO was waging total war against a sovereign country and its people. Peace and security were being targeted. Yugoslavia's neighbours had been involved, their economies had been disrupted, and the regions main waterway, the Danube, had been put out of use. There had been damage to the environment.
This aggression should cease immediately, he said. The Council had failed to condemn it or halt it. The entire international legal system was at stake. This was perhaps the Council's last chance to exercise its authority and its duty under the United Nations Charter.
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ALYAKSANDR SYCHOV (Belarus) strongly condemned NATO's illegal military actions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Belarus, which had lost one of every four inhabitants during the Second World War, was deeply disturbed to see the flames of war again heating the centre of Europe. The escalation of military action, and the destruction of civilian installations and deaths were assuming horrible proportions. The strike on the building of the Chinese Embassy had taken lives and brought suffering to innocent people. He conveyed condolences to the Government and people of China.
NATO's military actions were contrary to international instruments and the rules of international law, he continued. He called for a halt to the senseless aggression and an end to the violation of international law. His Government had frequently declared its commitment to a peaceful settlement to the conflict. A diplomatic solution was still possible, and the Council had a key role to play, in accordance with its powers under the Charter. The United Nations must illustrate to the world that the ideals of its Charter were paramount.
SAEED HASAN (Iraq) expressed condolences to the people and Government of China. He condemned the barbaric act, which violated the United Nations Charter, international law, and the laws governing relations between countries. He called for immediate cessation of NATO's acts. That aggression coincided with the last Anglo-American aggression against Iraq, which started last year and continued still.
The behaviour of the United States flouted international law and the rights of nations and peoples, he continued. There had also been American aggression against Libya and Sudan. Which peoples of the third world would be victimized next? he asked. The world had witnessed the damage of the "smart American bombs" which had spared no church, school or hospital. "Brute American force" had been used against all forms of life in Iraq. However, the country had withstood the assault and rebuilt what had been destroyed and so would the people of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The continued aggression was designed to undermine States' territorial integrity and systematically destroy their cultural achievements. The international community must punish the aggressor.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said the United States and NATO termed dead civilians "collateral damage" and now cynically declared that the incident may have been an accident, that they did not attack civilians and that "the whole picture" must be considered. There was not much to investigate after seeing the terrible images which had travelled the world. His Government forcefully condemned the further act of genocide, which violated the sovereignty of China, as well as the United Nations Charter and international law.
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The Security Council could not be passive and quiet as though it was unaware of the fact that the bombing of the past six weeks had caused deaths, misery and terror to thousands of civilians, he said. The civilians killed and the children trapped in "the iron furnace" of the refugee convey might not be in the resolutions, but they were in the minds of those sitting around the Council table. Housing, hospitals, schools, homes for the elderly, historic monuments, churches, works of art had been destroyed. Civilian targets had been attacked in gross violation of the Geneva Convention. Was it possible that the Council was not calling for the end of the bombings? Headed by the United States, NATO was committing acts of genocide. The genocide must cease.
The attacks in recent hours demonstrated that there had been no progress towards a political solution, he said. Facts were more eloquent than speeches. How was it possible to consider as acceptable the nature of the agreement of the Group of Eight if it was premised on ignoring the principal cause of the tragedy, which was the NATO bombing? President Fidel Castro had recently stressed that a political and not a military solution was necessary. He had said he was convinced that the problem would not be resolved by force and that any military technology would come up against the will of any people determined to fight. A political solution was the only alternative, and it was possible if common sense and reason were applied.
Cuba hoped the Council would act immediately, in keeping with its responsibility, and assume its role, he continued. If it did not, the harm to international law and the United Nations would be irreparable. The historical consequences would be enormous if the Council continued to allow itself to be humiliated and ignored.
The Council's most urgent task was to stop the genocide and the NATO bombings, he said. Then, it must find a solution, respecting the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and other States in the region. He hoped the Council would not accept or endorse any agreement based on force or plundering, and without putting an end to the genocide first. Otherwise, it must be counted as one of the victims but also among the accomplices. It should not be 20 years before someone realized that the war had been a mistake, as had happened before, after four million Vietnamese and 50,000 United States citizens had died.
AGIM NESHO (Albania) said the bombing of Belgrade was action taken against a regime that was killing and maiming the Albanian population of Kosovo. Albania regretted the damage caused to the Chinese Embassy, but he believed that China was a country that had always shown maturity in its foreign policy. He would not like to see this incident become a force to avoid punishing the criminal regime in Belgrade.
After the massacre and deportation of 300,000 in Bosnia, one million Albanians were being expelled from their homes and even massacred with their
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children, he said. Their only hope was NATO's action. The incident might not be in accord with international agreements, but those same agreements were constantly violated by Belgrade -- which committed crimes against humanity, and genocide against Albanians and others. That suffering had not been mentioned by some speakers. Any action that served peace and saved humanity should be supported by all who respected human values and democracy. NATO was attempting to manifest the principles of the United Nations Charter.
KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said any damage to a diplomatic establishment, whether intended or not, should be deplored. This incident, along with the loss of civilian lives and displacement of people, confirmed that NATO's new approach was fundamentally wrong. It also underlined what India and others had said from the beginning -- that the solution to the problem could only be found in means other than military. Continuous bombardment in the name of humanitarian action, with consequent loss of lives and material damage, was unacceptable. There was no alternative to dialogue. Overall, the tragedy of the region continued to be of concern. The increase in tension in the region created the potential for greater instability. India urged an immediate end to hostilities, to "give peace a chance".
He expressed India's condolences to the Chinese Government and to the families of the victims.
Mr. QIN (China) said he had followed the comments by Council members and others closely. He thanked representatives for their expressions of sympathy and condolences. However, he had also heard the absurd argument expressed that NATO did not intentionally bomb the Embassy and therefore it could not be charged with contravening the convention on diplomatic protection. It was astonishing that a senior diplomat would say this. Facts spoke louder than words. Whether deliberate or not, this was a blatant transgression of international law.
He reiterated that NATO must shoulder all responsibility for its actions. He also informed the Council that China had distributed a draft presidential statement on the situation, and it hoped there would be early action on this draft.
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