NATO-Yugoslav Talks Break Down, Air Campaign Continues
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 7, 1999 Talks broke down over the weekend between NATO and Yugoslav military leaders in Kumanovo, Macedonia, and NATO officials vowed to continue and intensify the air campaign against Yugoslavia until an agreement is reached.
British Lt. Gen. Mike Jackson, NATO commander in Macedonia, said the Yugoslav generals would not agree to the timetable set for withdrawal of all Serb forces from Kosovo. He said NATO will go back to the conference table whenever the Yugoslavs are ready to deal in good faith.
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic agreed to NATO conditions presented to him Thursday by Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. These conditions were for the Serbs to stop fighting, for them to withdraw from Kosovo, for refugees to return under protection of an international force with NATO at its core and a return of limited autonomy to Kosovo.
On Saturday and Sunday, Jackson met with Yugoslav army officials to work out the details of the withdrawal. He delivered NATO's position: Yugoslavia has seven days and three safe routes to remove all its army, paramilitary and special police forces from Kosovo. Only after NATO authorities verify the Serb withdrawal would the air campaign end, U.S. officials said. In fact, even as both sides talked, NATO aircraft pounded Serb troop concentrations in Kosovo and strategic targets in Serbia.
NATO troops are ready to enter Kosovo as soon as the Serbs begin leaving. British and French troops will lead NATO into Kosovo once the Serbs come to terms.
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said the first U.S. service members in Kosovo will be from of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, now aboard the USS Kearsarge in the Aegean Sea. Plans are for the Marines to land at Thessaloniki, Greece, and move up to Skopje, capital of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Kosovo will be divided into U.S., British, French, German and Italian sectors. The U.S. section is the eastern part of the province.
The Marines will occupy the area and scout for locations for camps and headquarters, Bacon said. Total U.S. forces for the international security force -- KFOR -- is 7,000. The total NATO security force will be about 48,000. Portions of Task Force Hawk, the U.S. force based in Albania, and U.S. Southern European Task Force in Italy may reinforce the Marines, Bacon said.
He said KFOR will protect all Kosovars, including the 100,000 Serbs who still remain in the province. "The Serb minority will be allowed to stay if it wants to stay," Bacon said. "We're already getting some reports and suggestions that most Serbs will want to go."
The Yugoslav military also must turn off air defenses all over the country. Surface-to-air missile batteries and anti-aircraft artillery must be the first Serb vehicles out of Kosovo.
Once out of Kosovo, no Yugoslav army forces can come within 25 kilometers of the border with the province.
The United States has more than 700 aircraft committed to Operation Allied Force. The Air Force deployed some F-16s to Turkey, but will wait before deploying two squadrons of F-15s from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.