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News Archive 1999

Peace at last?

Wednesday, June 9th, 1999

NATO and Yugoslavia signed an agreement for the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo. After five days of talks, representatives of both sides announced that an accord has been signed.

Commander of KFOR, British General Jackson said that military-technical agreement details how army, police and other forces should conduct a phased verifiable and orderly withdrawal from Kosovo, and that document is also providing a legal basis for the internatinal security force. He added that KFOR will be deployed very soon into Kosovo. Yugoslav Deputy Foreign Minister Nebojsa Vujovic said on Wednesday Serb forces would start withdrawing from the southern province of Kosovo on Thursday morning. He also urged NATO to stop bombing immediately. Unofficial sources said that several of NATO demands has been changed: Yugoslav army is given 11 days to withdraw instead of seven that was initially required, instead of 25 kilometre buffer zone around Kosovo, proposed demilitarized zone is now five kilometers, and NATO also promised to end the bombing right after Serb withdrawal starts. Soon after news of a withdrawal deal reached the Belgrade, celebratory gunfire started. But, sources said that on Pristina, capital of Kosovo, mood was completely different. There was also a gunfire, but there people was shooting in anger. Most of the Albanian population of Pristina fled the city so most of city's current populations are Kosovo Serbs. Albanian sources said that Serb soldiers, police and armed civilians were rampaging through the streets of city and breaking into Albanian homes threatening to kill remaining ethnic Albanians before they leave Kosovo. According to the Serbian sources, Kosovo Serbs held a meeting today in Priština, where the Bishop of Raska and Prizren Artemije, and Momcilo Trajovic, leader of the Serbian Resistance Movement from Kosovo, appealed on Serbs to "remain calm, stay in their ancestral homes and organize in case they need to defend it." Serb TV announced news of signing the accord as a "great victory of peace policy of president Slobodan Milosevic". TV also said that signed accord means "an end of NATO aggression on Yugoslavia".

New round of talks on military-technical document

High-level talks between Yugoslav officials and NATO representatives on military-technical document started Tuesday at 21.00 CET. Before the talks NATO officials said they were expecting Serbian side to "quickly sign" the document that covers withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. Talks have been paused three times when Serbian delegation returned to Yugoslav-Macedonian border for consultations with Belgrade. They first left at 03.00 in Wednesday for two hours, then again left for about four hours at 09.00 before coming back, and third time at 17.00 CET. After that, NATO announced that talks has been adjourned until Thursday morning, but only one hour later, Serbian delegation returned to Kumanovo. NATO spokesman, Major Robin Clifford said the NATO representatives are prepared to continue discussion as long as it takes, and that there is no deadline. NATO also gave some indications on difficulties. It seems that there are disagreements on how many Serbs could remain in Kosovo. On Tuesday it was announced that Serbian side asks for 10.000 Serbian troops to remain on Kosovo. NATO said that after all of the Serbian troops withdraw from Kosovo, some "hundreds, not thousands" could return to guard religious sites, clear minefields and monitor the borders. Also, NATO indicated that there are problems with "timing and sequencing" of withdrawal, because Serbian negotiators showed reluctance to sign military agreement until UN Security Council resolution was adopted.

Security Council waits for bombing to halt

The United Nations Security Council is waiting for a halt to Nato's bombing of Yugoslavia before it will discuss and possibly vote on the draft resolution drawn up by the G8 countries on Tuesday. Russia and China insist that NATO formally end the bombing before they will approve the peacekeeping force within the Security Council. NATO is willing to suspend its campaign but wants to see a "substantial" withdrawal begin before the bombardment ends.

First NATO units may be in Kosovo in four hours

NATO said on Wednesday its spearhead units had been put on four hours notice to move into Kosovo once Serb forces pull out. British combat engineers equipped with "Mamba" mine clearance vehicles would clear a route for the vanguard of the main force to push through to the provincial capital Pristina where it is to set up its headquarters. In Macedonia, NATO forces now stood at 17,500, bolstered by the arrival on Tuesday of a further 800 British and French soldiers. These troops, known as KFOR, are commanded by Britain's Lieutenant-General Mike Jackson, whose headquarters in Macedonia has now been put on 24 hours notice to move into Kosovo and set up in Pristina. KFOR is expected to number 50,000 men in total, with 90 percent of those troops from NATO, but Shea said the initial units would be enough to prevent a "security vacuum" after the Serb forces withdraw. They would also identify safe routes for hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees to return and safe places for them to stay.

Contradictory statements about bombardment halting

Germany said today that NATO had halted its campaign of air strikes against Yugoslavia and a deal on a withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo was close to being struck. "Since this morning, the air strikes have stopped," Hans-Peter von Kirchbach, the chief of staff of the German Bundeswehr, told a daily news briefing. Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping, who also attended the briefing at the defence ministry, said the bombing effectively stopped at 09.00 Wednesday morning. "There has been an effective abandonment of attacking measures since 9 a.m. this morning," Scharping said. In Cologne, US State Secretary Madlene Albright said she could not confirm that NATO had effectively halted the bombardment. "The sequence of events is that Mr. Milosevic accepts the military, technical agreement, there is a ceasefire and verifiable withdrawal and then there will be a suspension of the bombing," Albright told reporters in Cologne. "The air campaign continues," said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart in response to comments by German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping. Lockhart said the situation was the same as it has been, that the air strikes would not stop until Serb forces begin a verifiable withdrawal from Kosovo.

Possible withdrawal preparations?

NATO officials are monitoring early indications of Serb preparations for a troop withdrawal from Kosovo, as NATO forces prepare for a peacekeeping mission in the province that would include using heavily armed Apache helicopters now based in Albania. "In certain areas the Serb forces have slowed down their operations in recent days and have begun grouping for what may be a withdrawal," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said today in Brussels. The Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug said, meanwhile, that the first groups of Serb policemen from combat units in Kosovo had already pulled out from the province. "The first group of police officers engaged in combat in Kosovo returned to Jagodina (central Serbia) carrying out withdrawal orders from the Yugoslav Army Supreme Command," Tanjug said. NATO had seen heavy equipment transporter vehicles marshalling near the southern Serbian city of Nis and heading towards northern Kosovo. Other vehicles had been seen heading north from the Kosovo town of Podujevo while some Yugoslav army units were preparing to use buses to withdraw.

Source: Free Serbia

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