PRESS CONFERENCE BY FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA

24 March 1999

PRESS CONFERENCE BY FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA

24 March 1999



Press Briefing

PRESS CONFERENCE BY FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA

19990324

The moment that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) acted would signify its transformation from a defensive military alliance to an aggressive one, Vladislav Jovanovic, Charge d'Affaires of the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this morning.

That would be a serious blow to the structure of international relations and to the authority and prestige of the United Nations, whose bodies had been systematically pushed aside from taking part in the resolution of the Kosovo crisis, he said. One informal group, the Contact Group, and NATO, a regional military organization, had imposed themselves as the only arbiters in that situation.

He said that Yugoslavia had always been and still was committed to a political resolution to the Kosovo question. It was absolutely false to accuse his Government of being responsible for the end of the Paris talks, which had been obstructed from the beginning by Western members of the Contact Group. In Rambouillet and Paris, there had been no talks at all, no face to face meetings between state delegations and the representatives of the Albanian political parties. There had not even been talks by proxy. It had been one huge improvisation, in the absence of the rules of procedure, and a manipulation of both the Yugoslav delegation and world opinion.

The question was why Western members of the Contact Group had done everything to block the talks, he continued. NATO had been in an urgent need to justify its own raison d'etre on the eve of its jubilee next month. Everything had been done to provide NATO with that opportunity and to artificially create an opinion in the international community that Yugoslavia, Serbia, and President Milosevic were the only culprits, and that the so-called humanitarian disaster had to be prevented.

He hoped that NATO's decision would not be implemented, he said. The road to a political solution was still open. If only there was a serious interest in Western countries to achieve a final political settlement through the resumption of talks, there would not be any obstacles from his country. However, talks should be talks and not threats, manipulations or blackmail. Talks implied two sides and one goal to be achieved, and instruments to be used to achieve that goal.

He said his Government was not interested in having a war in Yugoslavia. His was a small, peace-loving, proud, sovereign country, which could never wage an offensive or aggressive war against anybody. All wars it had been forced to wage had been defensive. Yugoslavia's history had been one of resilient resistance to any foreign invaders. While it had occasionally been defeated, it had never submitted. If the war was imposed, his country would

fight by all its means until the very end of its potential. While Yugoslavia's potential was not to be compared with that of NATO, it was not to be underestimated either, he added. All the principles of international relations and historical and moral arguments were on his side.

Yugoslavia was facing aggressive separatism on the part of one national minority, as well as terrorism, he continued. His Government had a legitimate right and commitment to fight terrorism. Instead of supporting Yugoslavia in its endeavour, the Western powers had done everything to prevent it from eliminating terrorism and its headquarters.

His Government had taken all the necessary precautionary measures which the situation required, he said. The state of immediate danger of war was proclaimed, and mobilization was announced. The people were quiet and united behind the Government and its policies. There was a strong determination to defend the country and not to allow Kosovo and Metohija to be taken from it. Foreign predators had to realize that they could not achieve their goal without paying a high toll.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Security Council had been informed about the dramatic deterioration of the situation, and about the aggressive intentions of NATO countries to attack Yugoslavia, he said. Unfortunately, those two international bodies, instead of being quick in responding to that situation, had remained passive. Both were successfully blocked by the United States, United Kingdom and some other Western countries. That should be of profound concern to all other countries, who should start asking themselves who was next.

He said that he had submitted two requests to the President of the Security Council, asking him to convene an emergency session to deal with the situation. The Council was also asked to urge NATO to stop its aggressive policy, stop building up troops and arms in the immediate neighbourhood, and to start withdrawing the already deployed troops and arms in neighbouring Macedonia. Unfortunately, nothing had been heard yet. The same could be said for the Secretary-General, who had not found it necessary to take a public stand vis-a-vis the open threat by a military organization against a sovereign Member State.

What was needed was the resumption of talks, he said, which did not include an insistence that Yugoslavia accept an ultimatum, accept a foreign military presence, and then leave its territory --Kosovo and Metohija -- after a few years. Yugoslavia had already signed one document with the representatives of all national communities in Kosovo and Metohija. It was a very balanced, democratic and advanced document which dealt with autonomy and not with a quasi-State. Autonomy was the right to which a national minority was entitled, while quasi-State was not. It was a dangerous game that was being played by some Western powers, making promises to Albanian separatists to provide them with a State within a State.

Yugoslavia Press Conference - 3 - 24 March 1999

The document, which had been signed and handed over to all the members of the Contact Group and all Governments, would lead to a mutually accommodating and democratic solution, he said. Yugoslavia was ready to implement that document as soon as possible. Kosovo had never been part of any State of Albania, and had always been a part of Serbia, except during the Ottoman rule and the Second World War.

Responding to correspondents' questions, Mr. Jovanovic said that he hoped that NATO's threats would not materialize. First, there was no justification for it. Second, the path to a peaceful settlement was still open.

He believed the Security Council was the best place to debate the situation and to defend the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, he continued. His country would never shut the door to a political solution. The door had been shut by the Western members of the Contact Group and by NATO, being impatient to finally act. If Yugoslavia and its problems with separatism and terrorism did not exist, NATO would have found another pretext to display its might and exercise its muscles.

Referring to his letters to the Council requesting a meeting on the issue, he said that the first one was sent on 1 February and the second was sent on 17 March. He had not received any official reply from the Council or its President. However, he had heard in the corridors that his request had been conveyed to all the Council members. There was no realistic chance that the Council would seize the matter, due to the overwhelming presence and might of the only super Power.

Asked about the Council's role, he said that it should first remind NATO and its supporters that it was not authorized to maintain peace and stability outside of its territory. There had been no transfer of the Council's prerogatives to NATO. In the absence of the Council's defense of its own prerogatives, NATO had found themselves encouraged to go further. It was an unprecedented defiance of the authority and prestige of the Council by one regional organization.

He said that there was no need for peacekeepers in the Yugoslav territory, because it was in a position to control and rule its territory without any foreign military presence. What existed in Kosovo was not war, but terrorism that was openly assisted by some Western countries. The State had a legitimate right to do away with terrorism. He expected the Council to act quickly to prevent a further deterioration of the situation and request NATO to immediately stop its threats against Yugoslavia.

He said that regarding his Albanian countrymen in Kosovo and Metohija, the Government had already signed a document with their representatives, providing them with a high degree of autonomy. The insistence that

Yugoslavia Press Conference - 4 - 24 March 1999

90 per cent of the 1.5 million people in Kosovo were Albanian was wrong. Albanians constituted no more than 60 to 65 per cent of that population. Between 500,000 and 600,000 were non-Albanians -- Turks, Muslim Serbs and others.

Turning to the failed talks, he said that what the Contact Group had done was shameless. They had taken one paper and presented it as the final solution. That paper had not been discussed with his Government or all the members of the Group. It had been an irresponsible way of dealing with the complex issue of separatism and terrorism.

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For information media. Not an official record.