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NATO allows Serbian troops into buffer zone

NATO allows Serbian troops into buffer zone

Secretary General's Statement on North Atlantic Council Measures for Southern Serbia
and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


8 march 2001

NATO remains deeply concerned by recent violence in southern Serbia and in the northern part of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. I have strongly condemned these acts of violence on several occasions and continue to call on those responsible to stop immediately. Officials in both Belgrade and Skopje are to be commended for their measured response to violent provocations on their sovereign territory. NATO, for its own part, has put in place a number of measures to encourage a peaceful resolution. On 27 February 2001, NATO Foreign Ministers expressed their deep concern over the use of the Ground Safety Zone as a base for extremist activities. I note with regret that three more FRY soldiers were killed in a landmine incident yesterday. In order to address the situation in southern Serbia, the North Atlantic Council has today agreed to certain measures, including: welcoming the stated intention of the FRY and Serb authorities and representatives of the ethnic Albanian community in southern Serbia to build confidence, including through dialogue and a cease fire agreement; authorizing COMKFOR to allow the controlled return of FRY forces into the Ground Safety Zone (GSZ), into a narrow sector next to the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.This is a first step in a phased and conditioned reduction of the GSZ. Further controlled return to the GSZ should continue rapidly thereafter in defined sectors, subject to approval by the North Atlantic Council. Access to the final sector which has seen the most conflict will be authorized by Council at a later stage; confirming NATO's intention ultimately to abolish the Ground Safety Zone, but that COMKFOR should at this stage retain authority over the GSZ and Air Safety Zone under the terms of the Military Technical Agreement. With regard to the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1, NATO is fully committed to that nation's security, stability and territorial integrity. I welcome the common response of all citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, including ethnic Albanians, in condemning attempts to destabilise their country. KFOR has taken robust measures to increase security on the Kosovo side of the border. Force levels have been increased and the patrolling intensified. The actions taken in respect of the GSZ should also improve security. At the start of this week, I asked Commander-in-Chief NATO Southern Command, Admiral Ellis, to travel to Skopje for consultations with government officials there. Foreign Minister Kerim will also be attending a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council, convened at former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's request, on Friday of this week. Today, the North Atlantic Council approved further measures, including: asking our military authorities to identify additional measures to enhance security along the border between Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; encouraging nations to provide bilateral and multilateral assistance to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1 government, as required, including in the areas of demining and intelligence collection; and, requesting Commander-in-Chief NATO Southern Command to maintain close liaison with the authorities in Skopje. NATO is determined that those extremist elements seeking to sow instability or to advance their political agenda by violent means will be stopped, whether in southern Serbia, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or within Kosovo. NATO will do all that it can to facilitate the resolution of the problems in the region in order to continue to play a constructive role in the international efforts to bring lasting peace, security and stability to the Balkans. Only in this way can the peoples of that region achieve security and prosperity.

ENDS


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