Cohen Says Serbs Must Adhere to U.N. Resolutions
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 1998 Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said he doesn't think NATO will be satisfied if Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic stops aggression against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo but doesn't meet other conditions of U.N. resolutions.
"He can't pick a la carte which provisions he will comply with and leave the others open for negotiation," Cohen said to reporters Oct. 2 at the Pentagon. A U.N. Security Council resolution of Sept. 23 demands an immediate cessation of hostilities between Serbian-led government forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents. The resolution also calls for credible political dialogue between Serbian and ethnic Albanians, an end to attacks on ethnic Albanian civilians and withdrawal of special Serbian military units.
"Most of the NATO allies recognize Milosevic always pulls back at the last moment only to have the capacity to engage in the type of atrocious behavior he has in recent weeks," Cohen said. "I don't think any of the NATO allies are going to be satisfied that he simply stops the killing momentarily, or that that will measure up to the requirements of the U.N. Security Council resolution."
In response to reports that it will take at least two weeks of preparation before NATO could launch air strikes against Serbian forces, Cohen said, "If action is required, it would take place before that time. There will not be a two-week hiatus between now and the time that would be necessary to provide relief for the people who are currently suffering."
If NATO decides to launch air strikes, Cohen said, he expects hundreds of aircraft and all the NATO countries to participate. He said the United States has made no commitment to use ground forces.
Air strikes against Serbian forces could send a message that Milosevic has to agree to the Security Council's resolutions and demands. "If he refuses to do so, we're in a position as a NATO organization to inflict substantial damage on his capacity to harm innocent people in the future," Cohen said. "Whether air strikes will lead to the kind of peaceful solution we hope will be achieved is still a question."
Acknowledging that air strikes could complicate the possibility of reaching a political settlement, Cohen said what's complicating the situation now "is Milosevic's troops viciously murdering a lot of people."
"That's got to stop," Cohen said emphatically. "We've seen from his past behavior that, absent any creditable threat to take action against him, he's unlikely to stop this kind of behavior.
"What's complicating right now is how do you get 50,000 people down off the hills and into their villages and homes?" Cohen said. "How do we do that in a short time frame to ensure that they don't starve or freeze to death?"
Serbs' efforts to crush separatist resistance in Kosovo, populated largely by ethnic Albanians, have reportedly killed hundreds of people and driven an estimated 275,000 people from their homes.