Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador Christopher Hill, Round-table discussion with representatives of the Serbian independent media, Belgrade, Serbia, December 15, 1998


AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I am delighted to meet with you all again
informally. We are a little bit late because we had to change our
schedule today, and we went to Pristina because of the situation down
there.  So let me just say that I was last here on October 13, and the
situation has changed in many ways that you know better than I since
then.  Some are for the better, some not for the better. And the
situation changes every day.  Yesterday was a very bad day in Kosovo,
with three incidents.  One a tragedy -- the loss of three French
diplomats on the road.  It made Ambassador Hill, Ambassador Miles, and
me think about Mount Igman, because once again three diplomats were
killed in a road accident which was caused by the situation, not an
ordinary road accident, and we share the French loss, and we have
expressed our condolences officially to the French Government.

The second incident was a very serious border clash, with over 30
Albanians killed in a series of engagements along the border, most of
them in the fourth or fifth of a series of engagements in the early
morning hours of the night before last.  Kosovo Verification Mission
personnel immediately went to the scene -- a response that is
completely different from the UN in Bosnia. They were there very
quickly.  We have photographs -- photographs of the bodies, of the
prisoners.  There are seven prisoners; we are going to gain access to
the prisoners now.  We don't know all the details -- for example, we
don't know where they were coming from and where they were going -- but
the 25 of the 31 who were killed appeared to be killed about 1,800
meters or less from the Albanian border.  And it looks like they may
have been trying to go back out, but I can't be sure.  All our
information is third hand.  Ambassador Miles and I and Ambassador
Walker talked to the Verification Mission personnel who had been out
there.

The third event that took place yesterday took place in the Panda Bar
in Pec, a Serb bar, about 9 p.m. last night.  Somebody went in and
sprayed the place with fire.  Our reports are that six people were
killed -- teenage boys -- and 15 were wounded.  Whatever the
provocation and whoever committed this event, it is outrageous and
unacceptable.  This is not correct under any circumstances.  The KVM
personnel in Pec are gathering information, and as soon as we know more
about this we'll share it with you, of course.  That's what the Kosovo
Verification Mission is there for.  We can't prevent these incidents.
Even if they were armed, we couldn't prevent them.  But we sure as hell
can do as much as we can to learn about them and to report to everybody
and to try to take corrective actions.


There is also a demonstration that was going on earlier today, and may
still be going on, in Pec by some Serb citizens against the KDOM,
against the International Verification Mission.  This doesn't make any
sense at all.  If it's an attempt to threaten the lives of the
international verification group, it's completely misguided, it's not
going to intimidate us, and the KVM is in fact there to bring stability
to the region.  It's also in contravention of the agreement between the
OSCE and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which guarantees the
security and safety of all the international verification people.  And
that's a very serious and solemn commitment.

Those were the events of the last 24 hours.  That isn't why we are
here.  I was asked to come here by the Secretary of State and the
President because 2 months after the trip there has been some progress
and there have been some setbacks, there has been some compliance and
there has been some non-compliance, and we felt that it was time for a
review. And so Secretary Albright and Chris Hill and Ambassador Miles
thought it would be useful for me to come out.  I was in the area
anyway.  I want to stress that.  I had a long-planned trip to Istanbul
and Athens in regard to Cyprus.  So it was not hard to come out here.

And we will be meeting with President Milosevic in about 2-1/2 hours or
less.  I'm not going to go into details of that meeting.  I'm not going
to go into details of what we are going to discuss with him.  But I
will express, as Ambassador Hill and Ambassador Miles have many times,
our enormous concern about independent media.  A free and independent
press is an essential part of any democratic society.  We can only
react with the strongest feelings of concern and outrage when actions
are taken which constrain it, and some of the people in the room are
representing organizations which are not publishing right now.  And
that's a great concern to us.

I also want to point out that two Tanjug journalists were freed by the
efforts of KVM.  Those two men would be dead today if it were not for
the efforts of Shaun Byrnes and Ambassador Walker and Ambassador Hill
and Ambassador Miles.  They would have been dead.  And they are alive
because of the efforts of the International Verification Team.  That is
our commitment to independent media, whether it's Serb or Albanian or
Croat or Muslim, and we will do that for any journalist any time.  But
we cannot condone crackdowns on press freedoms.  So that's why we are
glad you came here today.

I'll be happy to answer any questions from any of you.

QUESTION: Would you discuss your meetings in Pristina?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: We only had very little time in Pristina.  I have
already told you about the main meeting, which was with the Kosovo
Verification Mission, which briefed us.  We had time for brief meetings
with two political journalist personalities, Blerim Shalla and Veton
Suroi.  Dr. Rugova and Dr. Agani were out of town, so we didn't have
the chance to meet with them.  We had very little time.  The trip was
just laid on at the last minute.  But it was very useful.

QUESTION: Ambassador Holbrooke, how long will you tolerate the Albanian
side resisting the direct negotiations with the Serb team?


AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I don't think that's the correct judgement of
what Ambassador Hill is doing.  Ambassador Hill is responsible for by
far the most difficult part of this extraordinarily difficult problem,
which is the political arrangements between the Albanians and the Serbs
in this country.  And the emergency -- the rampaging and pillaging of
the Serb security forces this summer -- is not going on at this time,
and the Kosovo Verification Mission is building up rapidly in order to
bring some security and stability to the region, notwithstanding the
problems that occurred yesterday.  But what Chris Hill is doing is
addressing the core problem, which all of you in this room understand -
- viscerally and emotionally and politically -- and the way you phrase
your question is already an editorial statement, which you are welcome
to, but I don't accept the judgement.  We have made progress.  Very
little, but progress in this sense.  Ambassador Hill is now an
interlocutor between Serbs and Albanians in an attempt to settle the
political future.  We are not going to go into the details.  I don't
happen to think any purpose is served by printing drafts or proposals,
many of which are completely out of date, some of which never were
anything more than . . .

AMBASSADOR HILL: By publishing drafts . . .

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Yes, by publishing drafts or discussing their
details.  I read the other day in the paper that both sides have
rejected his latest draft.  That's fine, but that isn't exactly what
happened.  Chris is working toward a goal, and we are aware of the fact
that at this point the drafts don't satisfy either side.  That's what a
negotiation is, and if they want to reject it that's fine.  That's for
your benefit.  But we know what we are doing. We know where we are
trying to go and you all know the immense difficulty of trying to get
there.  And the important thing to me is that both sides are engaged.
Now, in the Albanian side they have a dilemma.  They don't have a
clearly delineated, legitimate government that has been elected through
a fully free process that represents everyone.  They had certain
elections which other people dispute and they have a problem which is
caused in my view by the history of the last decade, and therefore it's
very difficult for the Albanians to move forward.  We've been very
frank about this.  But on the basis of the trip Ambassador Miles and I
just made, where everyone is waiting to see Ambassador Hill -- Chris
was there yesterday; tomorrow we are going to Rome; he will see Italian
Foreign Minister; and Thursday Chris is going to be back in Pristina --
and both sides are working on it, I don't accept your statement that
anybody had rejected anything in a definitive manner.  The problem is -
- the real risk is -- that the security situation would deteriorate and
adversely affect the political process, which is so difficult, and that
is what we are most concerned about.  I think Ambassador Hill's efforts
have been extraordinary and will be pursued with the total support of
the United States Government, President Clinton, Secretary Albright,
and everyone else on down.

QUESTION: Sorry if I misunderstood, but my question was about direct
negotiations between Serbs and Albanians and bringing them to the same
table.  How important that could be.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I understood your question.  (Laughter.)  I
understood it.  I didn't answer that part deliberately, because that's
a tactical question.  The two sides did have two face-to-face meetings
-- on May 22 and then Rugova and team met with President Milosevic and
then there was the second meeting in Pristina few days later.  And then
the talks broke down because of the security situation and the fighting
that took place.  When it is appropriate for there to be direct talks,
there will be.

But I want to say something about Bosnia, which is, by the way, clear
in this book.  Direct talks never resulted in any progress in Dayton or
in the field.  It is the nature of the negotiation that outside people
whose goal is to help the two sides close the gap will play a central
role.  There will certainly be direct talks sometime in the future.
When is up to Ambassador Hill and up to the Albanians and up to the
Yugoslav authorities.  And they will decide.  You may want to answer
the question more specifically, if you wish.

AMBASSADOR HILL: I think you covered it.  It's all right.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Good work.

QUESTION: Ambassador Holbrooke, you have been exposed to critics for
dealing only with Milosevic, neglecting democratic institutions,
opposition, and independent media.  Will you change that attitude and
do you see Mr. Milosevic as a trouble-maker or someone who is the
guarantor of stability in the Balkans.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I don't believe any purpose is served by
characterizations of a personal nature in the middle of extraordinarily
sensitive and difficult negotiations.  We've made our views clear
repeatedly.  I have made my own views clear, and I don't see any reason
to get into that.  We are here to address the specific problems of the
region and we look forward to discussing them with President Milosevic.
I'll let others address that question other times and other ways.

QUESTION: Ambassador Holbrooke, maybe that question should be put this
way:  Do you see any change in the official attitude of, let's say,
State Department toward President Milosevic in the last 10 days or so,
having in mind some very rough and tough statements about his
personality?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I think the U.S. position has been consistent for
a long time on this issue -- for several years.  Our interests are in
compliance, verification, stability, the full implementation of the
Dayton Agreement, and getting this extraordinarily turbulent part of
the world more stable.  That's an important goal of all the NATO
countries, all the European Union countries, Russia, and I don't see
any change in that.  People say different things at different times,
but the policy is very clear and consistent and it hasn't changed in
any fundamental way -- I stress the word fundamental, because you move
around a little bit from time to time -- but there's been no
fundamental change in the policy since Dayton and before.

QUESTION:Ambassador Holbrooke, are you satisfied with compliance of
both sides with UN resolutions and national (inaudible)?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: No.  We're never satisfied.  We're not satisfied
in Bosnia.  We're not satisfied here.  That's why we're here.  If we
were satisfied, we wouldn't be sitting at this table today.

QUESTION: Can you be more specific?


AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: No. I'll take that up with the President.  I may
have more to say after I've seen President Milosevic.  This is not a
real press conference.  This is an informal meeting with an important
group of people who represent an important part of the process, and
that kind of issue.  Let's talk to President Milosevic, and then see
where we are.

QUESTION:Concerning the implementation of the Dayton Agreement you just
mentioned, part of it has to do with the tribunal in The Hague, and we
have recently heard from Milosevic, also other officials, that they
don't have an intention to deliver any suspected war criminals to The
Hague, and also 2 days from now there will be a hearing in the military
court in Belgrade where the former JNA officers Sljivancanin, Mrksic,
and Radic will be.  They are invited there as witness.  Is there any
comment on that?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Chris.

AMBASSADOR HILL:  Any comment on...?

QUESTION:The fact that Yugoslav authorities have not only refused to
fully cooperate with the Tribunal, but now have refused despite going
on with this process in the military court of Belgrade.  They have
started preliminary hearing, called Sljivancanin, Radic, and Mrksic as
witnesses, despite The Hague's demand to stop this process, this
hearing.

AMBASSADOR HILL:  Our position has been really long-standing on
cooperation with The Hague.  We feel that The Hague Tribunal is the
appropriate place for people who are accused of war crimes -- that it
is the appropriate place, that it should be judged in The Hague.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: We only have time for one more question, and then
I think...

QUESTION: We are in shock since last night we've heard the latest news
about the massacre in Pec.  The whole Serbian nation is really
engrieved because six innocent boys were killed.  What's your reaction
to that?  I know that you're going to condemn the terrorism, but how
are you going to prevent further massacres in Kosovo against Serbs.  At
this moment, as a Serb, I feel endangered, and my people in Kosovo are
endangered at the moment.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Did you hear my answer on this?

QUESTION: No, I was a bit late.  I am sorry.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: You didn't hear my answer.  Well, you should get
it from the opening statement.  I consider what happened at the Panda
Bar in Pec outrageous, inexcusable.  It's not clear exactly who did it
or what the motives were, but whatever the motives were they are
unacceptable and inexcusable, and there's no justification for it.  Six
teenage boys are dead, 15 people are wounded, I don't know how
seriously, and, on the other hand, I don't think you need to feel any
personal danger.  I don't understand why you would think you are in
personal danger here in Belgrade.


QUESTION: Not in Belgrade, but the people in Kosovo. .

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: But if you feel in danger, that's up to you.  I
don't think you ought to feel in personal danger.  I think everyone in
Kosovo -- Serb, Albanian alike -- can feel endangered when incidents
like this happen, because they increase the tension.  Now, our job was
verification and compliance.  We cannot prevent incidents of the sort.
You can't prevent a person from walking in a bar in London or Paris or
New York or Tokyo and doing this kind of thing.  There's no such thing
as 100% prevention, anywhere.  But, for the first time, we have an
international organization put there with the full agreement of the
authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with the full
authority to look into these incidents in detail.  And just to repeat
what I said before you got here: Both this incident and the other
incident at the border with 31 Albanians killed we have had Kosovo
verification people investigating.  We have photographs with us of the
dead Albanians at the border and of the prisoners who were taken.  So
we have an ability to find out what happened, which is much better than
the United Nations' very slow responses in Bosnia in the early 1990s,
and we're going to take this up at every level.  This is the reason
Ambassador Walker stayed in Pristina -- to keep working on this.  But I
will also repeat, again, the Serb demonstrations in Pec today against
the KDOM and the OSCE Verification Mission are not appropriate.  That
is threatening to the lives of the international civilian people who
have come in to verify the agreements, and that is a very unwise thing
to do.  That kind of demonstration sends a wrong signal.

QUESTION:  It's probably very emotional in stress situation.  What the
reactions of your legal authorities would be if, for example, in the
state of Texas some people asking for the autonomy of Texas?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: You picked the wrong state, because the Texans
are always asking for authonomy.  We had a vote in Puerto Rico the day
before yesterday.  They were given a choice between independent
statehood and commonwealth.  That's the way we deal with these
problems.  They chose to remain in their present status.  Had they
chosen statehood, it would have created a different outcome.  That is
the answer to your question, and that kind of vote in Kosovo has not
been made available to the people.  So I would be very careful with the
analogies in this kind of context.  Now, an armed insurrection for
secession was tried last century, and that didn't work out too well.
But that was a different situation.

QUESTION: Mr. Holbrooke, sorry.  That was the last question, but we
have a lot of representatives here of the independent media.  Will you
offer anything to Mr. Milosevic in return to allow independent media to
work free here?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: What would you suggest?

QUESTION:There is no suggestion.  Can you stop it or not?  How can you
stop it.  It's impossible.


AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: In the 2 months since I left, Ambassador Hill has
not had a meeting with a senior Yugoslav or Serb official in which he
has not raised this issue.  He has not had one, and you all know that
on the personal level my wife -- other than the fact that she regrets
she can't be here -- has been doing everything she can also.  And we
did get your two Serb journalists out alive.  And I guarantee you they
wouldn't be out alive today if it weren't for the efforts of Chris
[Hill] and Dick [Miles] and Bill Walker and so on.  Again, we do
everything we can on this issue.  Americans don't run your country.  We
can't run your country.  We have very strong views on the importance of
independent media throughout the region.

And I want to tell those of you who sent me faxes and messages in
October that I got your messages, and every message I got from those of
you in this room and others was the same: "Don't bomb Yugoslavia,
because it will help solidify the ultra-nationalists."  We got a lot of
faxes to that effect, and we got those messages.  So we want to be sure
you all know we heard those messages, and then as soon as we left there
was a crackdown of the media.  And we're well aware of that.  We've
spoken out on that many times.

Chris, you want to add anything?  You can carry the ball on this one.

AMBASSADOR HILL:  Absolutely it's an issue that we do indeed raise on
every single occasion.  Frankly it's another issue which will have to
be solved if we're going to make progress in our ultimate effort.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: We must excuse ourselves.  We're way, way behind
schedule.  I'm very sorry.

QUESTION: You see some progress in Kosovo, but you don't see any
progress concerning the independent media?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: It's more complicated then that.  These are
issues that you just keep at, you keep at.  We're not going to let go
of this issue.  But we have to go.  I hope you forgive us.  My heart is
with you, but our schedule is not.  Thank you.

[End of Document]


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