London, Thursday 2 September 1999
COOK REPORTS ON DISCUSSION WITH KOSOVO ALBANIAN LEADER
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTEP INTERVIEW GIVEN BY THE FOREIGN SECRETARY, ROBIN COOK, AND HASHIM THAQI
Hashim Thaqi and I have just had a full discussion on the current situation in Kosovo. I met Hashim Thaqi on a number of occasions, both leading up to the confrontation in the spring and during the NATO confrontation which led to the liberation of Kosovo. Britain continues to be heavily committed to both rebuilding Kosovo and also pursuing those who were guilty of the crimes of war during that period of violence. No country is more committed than Britain in bringing to justice those who carried out the atrocities that outraged the world and led to our action to make sure that Belgrade could not continue that repression. We continue to support a scene of crime team in Kosovo and I can report that yesterday the British Police Force discovered another mass grave in Kosovo, in Ljubizda. It appears to be the biggest mass grave we have yet uncovered. We believe there are 50 bodies in the grave which was hidden within a rubbish dump. We are currently carrying out the work of exhuming and documenting those bodies. Already over the past two months that British team has exhumed 280 corpses from 8 different sites, including many children, one of them as young as two. We will make sure that all that evidence is available to the War Crimes Tribunal and assist them in bringing to justice those who were responsible.
But we are also addressing how we build the future of Kosovo. Britain is playing a leading part both in KFOR and in the UN mission in Kosovo. We are keen to work with all the ethnic communities of Kosovo to build a democratic, free, pluralist Kosovo which offers a future for all its people.
This morning I have discussed with Hashim Thaqi the incidents that have occurred of violence against Serb and other minority groups within Kosovo. We are both clear that such violence and intimidation cannot be tolerated and must be stopped. We are both committed to building a future for Kosovo for all its people - Albanians, Serbs and others alike. I have assured Hashim Thaqi of Britain's commitment to bringing Kosovo through a democratic political process so that increasingly the people of Kosovo themselves can run their own affairs and can build a future for themselves and for their children. We have now an opportunity to break the cycle of violence. We are both determined that that opportunity must be grasped.
I discussed the security and the political situation in Kosovo with Mr Cook. With the greatest thanks to the international community's engagement, and also our Albanian engagement, we have managed to bring peace and stability in Kosovo. We have concluded in the meeting of the transitional Council yesterday that the situation is improving every day. We were committed from the very first day when we entered Pristina to establish a society where tolerance and not revenge would rule. We feel terribly sad about the acts of violence that took place against some citizens of Kosovo after the war - acts of violence against Albanians, against Serbians and against some KLA soldiers. In cooperation with KFOR we are contributing to stability in the region. People have started to return and they have started to work as much as they can to rebuild their houses and to rebuild their future. The pupils have returned to their schools, students have returned to the faculties and universities.
But the fact that a lot of Serbians left Kosovo causes us great concern, because we are interested in establishing a multi-ethnic, equal society for all citizens of Kosovo. We ask all Serbians who left Kosovo to return, so all of us together can establish a better, democratic future. I am more than convinced that in Kosovo peace and democracy are going to prevail. Also in the process of the transformation and demilitarisation of the KLA I am more than convinced that this will be completed very successfully, in accordance with the agreement that we have signed with the international community.
Mr Thaqi, can you give us a 100 per cent guarantee that the KLA will disband as a military force by 19 September, as you promised to do? And Foreign Secretary, have you accepted Mr Thaqi's reassurances?
There is nothing perfect in this world, but I am more than sure that we are going to work in accordance with all the agreements that we have already signed and the process of the transformation and the demilitarisation of the KLA will be successful.
We are both agreed that it is very much in the interests of Kosovo that it should progress through political process for addressing its needs and that demilitarisation should be secured in the interests of all the people of Kosovo. I welcome the agreement that was signed on demilitarisation of the KLA; the timetable that was set out there is tighter than the one that we envisaged at Rambouillet, and I welcome that timetable. I would also add that we have been encouraged that so far the KLA has kept to the timetable and has actually surrendered weapons in advance of the dates by which they had to be returned.
Did you discuss the stalemate with Russian forces and how that can be avoided in the future?
We did discuss the deployment of the Russian troops as part of KFOR. In most of Kosovo the Russian forces are accepted and are getting down to business and are playing a useful part as KFOR. Russia also, of course, is an important partner for us in the Security Council where a number of other decisions will need to be taken with Russian participation.RETOUR AU DOCUMENT PRINCIPAL