[ IFOR Header / Goto Index ]

NATO News Conference of Secretary General and SACEUR

19 January 1996

Good afternoon.

This has been a busy and important week for NATO. We started with the important announcement by the French Ambassador of France's intention to enhance significantly its participation in Alliance defence matters, which was warmly welcomed by all the Allies. We also had the very well-received visit of the new Polish President. Today is an important day because it is D+30 in Bosnia, and SACEUR and I would like to update you on the status of Operation JOINT ENDEAVOUR and on compliance by the parties with the terms set out in the military annex to the Dayton Accord.

Let me say at the outset that Operation JOINT ENDEAVOUR is firmly on track. The Force deployment is progressing well - and I saw for myself during my visit to Bosnia last week how things are evolving. This achievement is a tribute to the men and women of the Implementation Force and the ability of this Alliance to organise and mount such an operation. It is also a tribute to the good cooperation shown by the parties to the Peace Agreement.

We should recognise and applaud this fact. Bitterness and mistrust must be replaced by a shared determination by the peoples of Bosnia to live together under one roof again, in peaceful co-existence. It is not surprising that the first steps in this direction, towards reconciliation and reconstruction, have been tentative. But they are being taken.

Let me say a word before I give the floor to SACEUR about compliance at D+30.

  • The parties have demonstrated compliance with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and have refrained from offensive actions.

  • The parties have completed the withdrawal of their forces from the agreed ceasefire Zones of Separation. IFOR will continue to closely monitor compliance with the Zones of Separation - and enforce it if necessary.

  • However, the requirement of the parties to cooperate fully with the ICRC by releasing prisoners of war by today may not be fulfilled. Any backing away from this requirement over POWs would seriously impair the new spirit of cooperation and confidence we are seeking to foster in Bosnia. We strongly sympathise with the Bosnian government's desire to account for missing persons and will press for this to happen. But the two issues are not linked - POWs must be released.

Les efforts des organismes civils pour assurer la paix en Bosnie sont tout aussi importants que la mission de l'IFOR. Celle-ci soutient ces efforts en contribuant crer un environnement sr et stable dans lequel les organismes puissent poursuivre leur travail.

Les tches accomplir du ct civil sont diverses et difficiles - la supervision d'lections libres et justes, la bonne organisation du retour des rfugis, pour mentionner quelques unes.

Ce mercredi, comme vous savez bien, M. Carl Bildt, Haut reprsentant responsable de la coordination des diverses activits des agences civiles, a rencontr et reu le soutien total du Conseil de l'OTAN.

L'OTAN soutient aussi pleinement les efforts du Tribunal international pour faire traduire en justice les criminels de guerre. Je viens d'avoir une entrevue avec M. Goldstone, membre du Tribunal pnal international pour l'ex-Yougoslavie. Je lui ai donn l'assurance que l'IFOR cooprera dans toute la mesure de ses moyens l'action du Tribunal.

Je voudrais vous rappeler que l'IFOR n'est pas une force de police. L'arrestation de personnes accuses de crimes de guerre est du ressort des autorits de l'Etat. Mais l'IFOR dtiendra et transfrera au Tribunal toute personne accuse de crimes de guerre avec laquelle ses forces viendraient entrer en contact dans l'excution de leurs tches.

NATO strongly supports the UN Transitional Authority in Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES), established under UN Security Council Resolution 1037. We fully expect all parties to assist the UNTAES in carrying out its mandate.

On the basis of the new Security Council resolution, NATO is now examining how IFOR can best cooperate with UNTAES and help with its protection, including through close air support.

Let me conclude that my overall view at this moment is optimistic. Much has been accomplished in a very short period of time.

Judging from my visit to Bosnia, COMIFOR and the forces under him have established an authoritative presence in Bosnia and they have gained the respect and confidence of the three parties.

Let me also say that, in bringing peace to the Balkans, NATO hopes to make concrete progress towards the building of a new Europe. Through IFOR, we have assembled an international coalition for peace, with over 30 nations acting as one in implementing the Dayton Accords.

This is a very hopeful development for the long-term security situation in Europe. But for the immediate future, much depends on the Bosnian parties themselves. It is they who must take the first steps, by reaching out to each other and beginning, together, the formidable task of rebuilding their country and building a common future. IFOR's job, on the other hand, is to create a secure environment under which this process of reconciliation can go forward, by insisting on full compliance with the undertakings agreed in the Dayton Accords. And on this we are off to a good start.

I will now ask General Joulwan to provide you with further details on Operation JOINT ENDEAVOUR and the status of compliance at D+30.

SACEUR: Thank you very much, Secretary General, and thank you for your leadership of this Alliance. Thanks also to the North Atlantic Council for their support during the first 30 days of deployment. If I may, I would like to go back to December 20th. That was the transfer of authority from the UN Protection Force to NATO and IFOR, and we are now 30 days past that date. If I may, I would like to use the charts behind me to give you an overview from two aspects.

One, the movement of the force which was our phase one and phase two mission: to prepare the forces and then to enter Bosnia - to give you an overview of how we have completed that task. And the second, to talk about two areas of compliance: the zone of separation, and the removal and identification of mines. I might add that the final recommendation will come from a Joint Military Commission meeting that will take place in Sarajevo tomorrow, and we will then get the final report from the commanders in the field.

If I may, Secretary General, I would like to refer to this map and to demonstrate what our intent was in moving into Bosnia, and what we've accomplished. The intent as set out in OPLAN 10405 was to come into Bosnia in what we call simultaneous deployment - not just coming up through one road or one port from Split, but to try to come into the country rapidly. The mission that the Council had given me was to rapidly deploy. And so to do that we came in not only from the ports, but we used rail through many of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, and also by air into airports in not only Bosnia but also the surrounding countries.

This simultaneity - even putting two bridges now across the Sava River - allowed the force to move in there very rapidly and set the best conditions for success. I might add that, as of today, we've had roughly 1800 air flights into the region, 28 ships have docked and have off-loaded their cargo along the Adriatic coast, and nearly 300 trains with 30 or 40 cars each have transported men, materiel and equipment into the region. This is a massive undertaking - the largest operation in Europe since the end of World War Two. It's that professionalism, that control of air, land, sea and rail movements, that allowed the force to get set up and be in position by D + 30.

We are on track. We have met the D+30 requirements, and the operation has been successful because of the cooperation here at NATO, by the ACE Movement Control Centre at SHAPE, and the cooperation of the nations. We have 34 nations now that have joined us. We are deconflicting 34 moves into this region, and I might add that the Russian move is taking place now by both air and rail into Bosnia - that is taking place today. So we've had very good success in getting the force into the region. That was our first task - how do we get it in there.

Now if I can go to this chart, it shows here where the force is located and also the zone of separation. I'd like to talk about that. Again, our plan, our goal in OPLAN 10405 was to get ten brigade headquarters into the region by D+30. Ladies and gentlemen, ten brigade headquarters are on the ground now in Bosnia. And they're broken up into Sector North, Sector Southeast and Sector Southwest. And these are their locations. It's multinational brigades, and they are set.

So the command and control that we wanted in by D+30, and the force presence that we wanted, are set. Twenty-three manoeuvre battalions are on the ground now. And as a result of this rapid deployment, as a result of the command and control, that presence and that working at the Joint Military Commission level with all the parties involved, has provided some very good results. In my report to you as we look at this map - and it will be updated today, this is one day old - the good news here is along this line of separation, what is shown in green, red and blue is very significant. Red and blue determine the different parties.

So it shows movement, clearing - voluntary clearing, withdrawal from the zone of separation. Here in green is totally withdrawn. So both parties have pulled back from this entire sector. You can see around Sarajevo the movement, and we expect to see that, when the final report is given, even around Gorazde. This is excellent news and I think it's very significant on the professionalism of the force that's been committed. But it's because we've been able to move rapidly into this region that I think we have the results that have been realized so far.

This will be further updated over the day and into tomorrow, and the final report will be forthcoming. I can report now, Secretary General, that in the area of the zone of separation the commanders report there's a high probability of compliance for that requirement. Also in the removal of mines, we've had excellent cooperation with the parties. And because we have had a presence by the command and control element there, and working with the Joint Military Commission, COMIFOR and his commanders have had reports given to them in excess of 1400 different minefields have been identified throughout this 1,000 kilometre zone of separation, and there's a high probability of compliance there. I might add because of terrain and weather, we're not going to be able to remove every mine. But the trend in both these areas is very positive, and at D+30 we're very encouraged by what has occurred there. It's a great testimony to the plan itself, but also to the professionalism of the leadership on the ground and the troops of the IFOR.

Montserrat Radigales, El Periodico: You just mentioned you were able today to assure cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal to Mr. Goldstone. I wonder if there has been from his part a specific request as regards access to the Lujbja mine, where there have been allegations that there are mass graves and also maybe now that D+30 has passed and IFOR will be freer from its priorities because there have been consistent reports of particular cases where accused people have been maybe sitting in a bar with the local population with IFOR soldiers around and nothing has happened. Have you been able to give Mr. Goldstone assurances in that respect?

Secretary General: General Joulwan and myself have had a productive, very positive meeting with Mr. Goldstone, which is continuing now. Let me tell you that the cooperation between NATO and the tribunal, in particular with Mr. Goldstone, is going very, very well. We have, as you know, a mechanism for cooperation and we are trying to work on the details today, but both parties, both Mr. Goldstone and NATO, are happy with the way things are going, as far as cooperation is concerned. But let me insist once again that IFOR has a mission, which is a basic mission; we look with great concern at the situation of the war criminals, which I have mentioned in my first intervention, but we will try to help, but keeping in mind that the first task we have is the one that General Joulwan has just presented and it would have been impossible to cover the thousands of kilometres of this line if we had not done what we have been doing, but let me tell you that we have enormous concern and preoccupation for the three issues you have mentioned and we guarantee that the work with Mr. Goldstone is going very, very well. They are talking now, they are working now with our teams, they think that the details they are working on now will be solved today.

Frederick Bonnart, NATO's 16 Nations: My question is to General Joulwan. IFOR has been criticised, as you know, for lack of reaction to certain attacks which took place, obviously individual attacks, but how is IFOR going to be able to deal with individual terrorist attacks which are liable to take place?

SACEUR: Let me respond by saying that there have been incidents here where there has been sniping fire at the IFOR forces and they have responded immediately. There was some sniping when the streetcar accident happened and there was an immediate response. So I think the message is very clear. The rules of engagement allow IFOR to take action when threatened or fired upon and in every incident so far that has occurred to my knowledge they have returned fire and when they can see the target they have returned fire.

Frederick Bonnart, NATO's 16 Nations: What happens when the terrorist action is not against IFOR itself, but against part of the population?

SACEUR: Well, again, the instructions to the forces, they will not sit passively by and watch an atrocity take place or even a terrorist act take place. Again, I think it is very important that that be understood. Let me also say, though, that they are right now not going to get into police functions either, so there is a fine line here: terrorist acts that threaten them and they have knowledge of that, or in the vicinity, they will do all they can to take action against them.

Gyrgy Foris, MTI: First to SACEUR; as we know the situation is getting worse and worse in Mostar, at least it's very serious and delicate. Does the IFOR have any scenario should a really bad situation emerge there - fights start, etc. - and does the IFOR have any scenario if the Federation itself collapses, for example, which creates an absolutely new condition and situation in the country and to the Secretary General - back to the cooperation with The Hague and with Mr. Goldstone. Are IFOR and NATO ready to go beyond its mandate. I mean, for example, as we know, in The Hague they would like to get some protection for their investigation. On the other hand, as we know, Russia would oppose this. What is going to be your stand on that point?

Secretary General: Let me say a word about Mostar before the General gives the military point of view. We are very concerned about the situation in Mostar and we are very concerned about the situation in the Federation as a whole. Yesterday, there was a meeting in Sarajevo of the Contact Group countries and they have shown their concern and preoccupation to all the political leaders and the trip that General Joulwan and I made to Sarajevo and Zagreb made it very clear to both parties - both President Izetbegovic and President Tudjman - that the situation in Mostar is their responsibility and that, although the mission of the European Union is there working and working very well, a clear statement and position is needed at this moment from President Izetbegovic and President Tudjman. A lot of work has been done in the last days. At the weekend, as you know, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kinkel, was there, accompanied by Mr. Sacirbey and Mr. Granic, but still we have to continue our presence in Mostar, which is a key city for the whole peace process. We will continue putting political pressure on those who can do their best so that the Mostar situation does not degrade further.

SACEUR: All I would say on Mostar is that COMIFOR, Admiral Smith, and COMARRC, General Walker, have been to Mostar. There has been contact with the EU representative there and with the leadership to establish contact to try to keep information flow going and so there has been contact made by the IFOR with the leadership in Mostar and I believe it must continue, but I echo the Secretary General's words about the importance of the Federation here. It's absolutely critical and Mostar will be a test of that. On the investigation of war crime sites, there is a meeting going on now to work out procedures and as always at this particular stage as my instructions are, within our capabilities, we will assist and help. Let me be very clear: there is great compassion and concern on the part of all of us - that includes the military authorities - on what has occurred and what will be at some of the sites. We want to try within our capabilities to assist. To do that, that assistance will be to provide a secure environment for organisations to go out and do their work, organisations that have an interest and reason and are properly equipped and organized to go out there. When that occurs, and those requests come forward, we will be very responsive to provide that secure environment. Again, I would caution we are only at D+30, we have other primary tasks that we have to do, but I will assure you that we are very sensitive and very compassionate to this very important task that must be carried out by the International Tribunal.

Tyler Marshall, Los Angeles Times: On the Federation, you say it's the key. There are reports of skirmishes between Bosnian and Croat forces. The situation in Mostar is not good. Yesterday, Mr. Koschnick said that the position in Zagreb was fine, that Tudjman and Granic were doing all they could, the only problem was that it wasn't being carried out into deeds in Mostar and in Herzegovina. Do you envision the possibility that IFOR might have to separate Bosnian and Croat forces?

Secretary General: Let me tell you that Mr. Koschnick was here in Brussels and I had the opportunity to talk to him. It's not the first time I've done it. I have had talks also with the mayors of Mostar on several occasions and I agree with you that it is very, very important that Mostar succeeds. But we are having difficulties now, we are exerting all the pressure we can, and when I say "we" I mean NATO and the different countries, so that the situation in Mostar gets better and it doesn't deteriorate the situation in the Federation. But let me tell you very honestly that I do not contemplate the situation deteriorating to the extent that is implicit in your question.

SACEUR: If I could just add that in addition to what I said previously about what the Commander, IFOR, who has been to Mostar, also understands that the High Representative has a role to play with the police issue in Mostar, as well, and so all of that needs to be considered as we look at the way ahead, but for our part, we recognize the importance of the Federation. It must continue to be supported and that's why Mostar is so critical to all of this and we will try to help particularly in information and coordination with the EU representative in particular in Mostar.

Tom Carver, BBC: My question is directed towards the General: can you tell me when the NATO forces will be moving in force into Srebenica and if and when they do, will they actually be going to these sites and guarding them to prevent anyone digging them up?

SACEUR: Right now, the force in the north is getting its forces together. It has about half the force in - about 11,000 of the 20,000 force in now, right on schedule - and if those requests are made by organisations that want to go to those sites, we will provide a secure environment for that to occur, within our capabilities. Now what the commander there has to balance is this mission that I've just talked about - and there is another mission coming up as you all well know, that at D+45 and between D+30 and D+45, the forces are now required to secure the areas to be transferred - and that is another task and so when you look at some of this map, for example, this area right here has to be secured by the IFOR starting at D+30. At D+45, one entity leaves and then at D+90, the other entity comes in. That goes also for up in this area, in the areas in the northern part, so all those tasks are primary tasks that need to be considered. Within our capabilities, we will provide a secure environment for organisations that want to go out to Srebenica. In my instructions, let me be very clear, we should not be in the position of guarding sites, we don't know how many there will be and at this stage at D+30, I would recommend against that. That is a proper task for civilian authorities and civilian police and we are providing other assets in the sense of some intelligence assets that are assisting, but we would prefer not to get into guarding sites at this time by military personnel.

Philippe Rater, AFP: Je voulais savoir quand est-ce que les 60.000 hommes de l'IFOR seront-ils totalement dploys en Bosnie? On avait parl de la mi-fvrier, il semble que ca devait tre plutt en mars maintenant.

SACEUR: We hope to have all the force in in our plan by D+60 and I think that will be somewhere around mid-February. It was important to show that troops are out on the ground in the zone of separation and that's why we wanted to get the force on the ground with the command and control on the ground in order to accomplish that mission and we have about 35,000 of the force in there now and the command and control and the meeting with the joint military commissions and the meeting tomorrow will be extremely important to ascertain the final stage of compliance.

Philip Smucker, Washington Times: In terms of actually providing security for grave diggers from the Tribunal, if one in fact is engaged in that, does it not raise a problem, given that we know the head of the Serb military still is Radko Mladic, who is the number one war criminal? This would seem to say that 49% of the country under his control could possibly become unstable, given those types of action, and would it not put NATO in a very difficult position politically to do that?

Secretary General: As far as the graves are concerned, we are in touch at this moment with Mr. Goldstone because what we would like of course is to protect the potential evidence. That is what is his and our preoccupation. We look with enormous sympathy at the work that he is doing and we are trying to do and provide as much help as possible but let me insist once more what General Joulwan has said. We have a mission, which is a complicated mission and today we are just beginning, it is D+30. We try to help, but within our responsibilities, within our resources and within our capacities, but I do not contemplate the answer to the question in the terms you have formulated. We are going to help, we would like to help and within our possibilities. That is the answer we can give you today. Maybe in the future we can give you another one but today this is the position that we have and that is the way we are going to do it, and provide what is to our mind a most important thing we can provide not only for Mr. Goldstone, but also for Carl Bildt. Our obligation is to provide a security environment. That is the mission that IFOR can do the best and that we are trying to do and others have other responsibilities but we have our own responsiblities; the first responsibility which is that and we are complying with that, trying to produce a security environment so that others that have other responsibilities - the civilian fields, the Tribunal, etc. - can do it in the best manner. That is our responsibility.

Jane Perlez, New York Times: There has been some thought that the Tribunal might set up its own arrest force with the authority to arrest the war criminals since they know perhaps better than many where the war criminals are and this might be a way of insulating IFOR forces from having to do the task themselves even if they fall upon these people. How did you react to that suggestion, if it came up today?

SACEUR: By working on those procedures now, what we have asked for in the instructions that I've received, which is if we come in contact with indicted war criminals in our normal activities, we will detain them and turn them over to proper authorities. We have asked for descriptions, pictures, names, so that we can disseminate those to the troops and if we come in contact with them, we will detain them and turn them over to the proper responsible authorities. If the International Tribunal sets up its own procedures, we will try to cooperate the best we can with them.

 [ Go to IFOR Index ]  [ Go to Homepage ]