Cologne, Germany, June 8, 1999

U.S. Department of State
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright

Press Availability Following a Meeting with the Presidency of the Kosovo Albanian Delegation to Rambouillet Conference

As released by the Office of the Spokesman

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning, I am very pleased this morning to have had a chance to resume my acquaintance with the three members of the Presidency of the Kosovo Albanian delegation to the Rambouillet conference. We had an excellent discussion, and the substance of which I will touch on in a moment.

First, I want to clarify the relationship between the achievements of Rambouillet and where we are now. The gains made there have not been lost. For it was through Rambouillet that the leaders of the important political movements in Kosovo came together and agreed on a framework to secure democratic institutions and human rights for the people of Kosovo. These accords remain the basis for building new structures in Kosovo under the umbrella of NATO and the international community.

It is because of the commitments made by Kosovo's leaders at Rambouillet that NATO was able to respond as an alliance to Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing. We told the Kosovo Albanians that if they signed the accords and Belgrade did not, we would come to their aid. And we have kept our word. When Belgrade attacked, NATO mounted an intense air campaign that has brought us to the brink of a settlement on the right terms.

In our discussions this morning, Mr. Qosja, Mr.Rugova, Mr. Thaqi and I agreed on the importance of preserving and building upon the achievements of Rambouillet. This is important, because the future of Kosovo depends on unity of purpose among its leaders, and upon their ability to work effectively with the international community. Clearly, we are united in our determination that Milosevic must live up to the terms he has accepted. We must see a demonstrable and verifiable start towards withdrawal of all Serb forces from Kosovo, before NATO agrees to suspend its air campaign. When that happens, we will enter a new phase. And together, we will begin the process of making Kosovo secure, helping the refugees and displaced to return, and implementing the development of self-government as foreseen at Rambouillet.

I am pleased that these representatives of the Kosovo political leadership have told me, without any ambiguity, that they will meet the key commitments made at Rambouillet. The KLA will demilitarize and enter into a process of transformation. Kosovo's political leaders will, I hope, cooperate to make Kosovo truly democratic. Security guarantees will extend to all Kosovars, without regard to ethnicity, and to foreigners working in Kosovo.

We agreed, as well, on the messages we must send in dealing with the immediate situation. Serb forces should be allowed to depart unimpeded, without attack by the KLA. And the refugees now in Macedonia and Albania should wait to return home until the international community has taken measures to safeguard them from landmines, and to see that humanitarian needs will be met.

There is not time in this statement to do justice to the larger issues at stake here. The Kosovo Albanian community has lived through a nightmare not of its own making. They have suffered terrible losses. The continued application of diplomacy in support of force is required to end the nightmare and bring forth a new dawn.

When that happens, enormous work will remain. For our goal is not simply to halt this crisis, but also to prevent future ones. We want to build a Kosovo where differences are settled democratically, and where children can grow up and grow old in security and hope. This will require a sustained and generous commitment from all sectors of the international community. It will require a strategy that extends beyond Kosovo to the integration of the entire region into the Euro-Atlantic community of democracies. And it will require unity, vision and courage from those who rightfully will guide Kosovo's destiny.

I am confident because the leaders that I have met with this morning intend to go forward with that vision and courage and I look forward to the day when I will meet with these leaders again—not in France or Germany or Washington D.C.—but in Kosovo. I cannot say exactly when that day will be, but I have every confidence that it will be soon.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary how close are they to a (inaudible) Moscow whether Yeltsin will approve the Security Council resolution, perhaps (inaudible)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are about to go to the meeting with the other leaders where we will get an answer as to whether my colleague, Foreign Minister Ivanov, has the instructions to go forward with the draft Security Council Resolution.

QUESTION: The question was left ambiguous in Kosovo, was left ambiguous in Rambouillet, what did you tell the Kosovars today about independence, the possibility of independence for Kosovo. Something was said that independence had now become their goal just today after your meeting.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: In today's meeting we talked about having in this agreement, as we go forward, it's based on Rambouillet, and as you know there the issue was a high degree of autonomy and self-government and not the issue of independence and we pursued how there could be political unity among these leaders in making sure that the autonomy and self-government that is part of the next part of the process is carried out.

QUESTION: On the question of independence. Jamie has said, in effect, that nothing is precluded, that we've only been talking about an interim solution here. Do you rule out independence for Kosovo?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that we have said all along that we are not here to take anybody's dreams away and the Security Council Resolution will have in it language about a political process that will describe how the final status of Kosovo will be achieved. But at this stage we are talking about getting political processes in place, getting the interim administration into place, having the United Nations fulfill its appropriate role, one step at a time. That is what we are focused on and what I hope and the leaders behind me discussed today that it is important to get them home, to get them working together and to make sure that the various parts of the interim process can get on its way.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary what sort of assurances did you get that the KLA will not fire on Serb forces as they are leaving?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: They told me that they would not. Mr. Thaqi who has made it quite clear -- maybe Mr. Thaqi would like to speak to this. (inaudible).

MR. THAQI: (English translation)The KLA very soon will declare that it will refrain from attacking any retreating Serb forces and they have said before and very soon they will declare that they will not attack militarily any retreating Serb forces.

QUESTION: Can you be any more specific? How soon? When?

MR. THAQI: (English translation) Either today or tomorrow.