ROBIN COOK, British Foreign Secretary: Last night NATO forces carried
out further attacks throughout Yugoslavia. For the first time, Tornado
aircraft from RAF Brugen in Germany took part in the attacks. The mission
achieved its objective. It was a demonstration of NATO's commitment
to intensify the air campaign and to pile the pressure on President
Milosevic. Sir Charles Guthrie will give you the details in a moment.
After all the atrocities of the past two weeks, no decent person can
now deny that NATO is right to fight the evil of President Milosevic.
All decent people must have been moved by the plight and suffering of
the victims fleeing from President Milosevic's persecution. They are
commonly described as refugees and therefore I will describe them as
refugees, but strictly speaking they are not refugees who chose to flee,
the citizens herded in their thousands out of Pristina and forced on
to crowded trains were not people fleeing from the regime but people
being forcibly evacuated by that regime. It would be more accurate to
describe them as deportees. What we are witnessing is mass deportation
on a scale that Europe has not seen since the days of Stalin or Hitler.
Britain is playing a leading contribution in answering the desperate
plight of the refugees arriving in Macedonia. We have already announced
20 million pounds to immediate emergency supplies and that is the largest
European contribution to the refugee crisis. As you know, Clare Short
has been one of the first to visit the region and to see for herself
how we can best help. General Sir Michael Jackson is in overall command
of the NATO forces in Macedonia and is leading the military operation
to meet the needs of the refugees. Our forces are preparing food and
delivering it to the refugees, building camps for the refugees, managing
the air bridge to bring emergency supplies into Macedonia and providing
the transport to get those supplies to the refugees.
There are three distinct steps required in our response to the refugee
crisis: the first is to meet their immediate needs for survival; the
second is to find an interim solution where they can stay in security
and basic comfort; the third must be to achieve their return to their
homes in Kosovo with an international guarantee for their safety.
The immediate needs of the refugees are for shelter, food, sanitation
and medical supplies. They need those essentials today. The only way
in which we can respond with the urgency that requires is to meet those
needs in Macedonia at the present time. I am grateful to the government
of Macedonia for responding positively to my proposal for international
sanctuaries for the refugees within Macedonia. The first site has been
identified at Barajda (phon) which we believe can provide temporary
accommodation for up to 100,000 refugees. I have been in conversation
over the weekend with Mrs. Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees,
and Mrs. Bonino, the European Commissioner for Development, and also
General Sir Michael Jackson. We are all committed to working together
to turn the site as quickly as possible into a place of refuge for the
This morning I have spoken to David Manning, the Special Representative
of the British Government in Macedonia. He has told me that in the past
hour the first buses have arrived at the first of our sanctuaries, bringing
refugees from the fields just over the border from Macedonia. Within
the next 24 hours capacity at the site will have been constructed to
hold the first 20,000 refugees. We will continue to expand on that site
and we are also exploring the
possibility of at least one other site for a sanctuary which could hold
an even larger number. The second step in our response is to find an
interim solution to which the refugees can then move on. Most of them
will wish to remain in the countries of the region and many of them
have relatives with whom they will wish to stay, but all the countries
of the region are poor and it is right that Western Europe and the United
States should help with the interim burden. Britain has already taken
10,000 refugees from Kosovo, only Germany has taken more. Jack Straw
has committed Britain to taking some thousands more and he will be attending
a special meeting in Luxembourg on Wednesday to discuss Europe's response
to the refugee crisis. And the third step in our response must be to
compel President Milosevic to reverse his programme of ethnic cleansing.
President Milosevic must not be rewarded for the appalling brutality
and killings of the past two weeks by being allowed to keep Kosovo without
the Kosovars. That is why NATO has confirmed that the objective of our
military action is to achieve a Kosovo in which the refugees can return
and live in safety, that means that President Milosevic must withdraw
his army, his special police and his paramilitary thugs and accept an
international military force which will give the refugees the confidence
they need before they can return and rebuild their shattered homes.
There has been speculation that when President Milosevic believes he
has done enough damage to Kosovo, he will announce peace in Kosovo,
and ask NATO to halt its military campaign. I tell him now, don't bother
offering peace unless you are prepared to reverse the ethnic cleansing
of the war. Peace in Kosovo without the population of Kosovo would be
a hollow mockery. NATO's campaign will continue until the refugees can
return to their homes under international protection.
I am impressed that resolve and determination among the allies is strengthening
with the mounting evidence of the atrocities and the brutalities in
Kosovo. Last night I spoke to my colleagues, the Foreign Ministers of
France, Germany, Italy and of the United States. All of us are resolute
in our agreement to NATO's objectives and determined to see the ethnic
cleansing put into reverse. I also spoke yesterday to President Djukanovic,
the President of Montenegro, to assure him of our continuing commitment
to Montenegro retaining its democracy and its autonomy from Belgrade.
We will not forget our debt to those who have stayed strong in their
commitment to democracy and decency in these dark days in Yugoslavia.
And on Thursday the European Foreign Ministers will meet with the Foreign
Ministers of the countries of the region to demonstrate our commitment
to helping them with the economic burden of the crisis and to show our
shared resolve to achieve the safe return of the refugees to their homes
in Kosovo. President Milosevic has condemned his country to isolation
from modern Europe, we will not allow him to condemn the people of Kosovo
to a life in exile.
GENERAL SIR CHARLES GUTHRIE, Chief of Defence Staff: As you know, yesterday
and last night NATO forces were again in action over Yugoslavia. During
the day Royal Air Force Harriers took part with other NATO Air Forces
in reactive operations over western Kosovo. They didn't engage any targets,
indeed none was found, but this type of operation deters and suppresses
Serb action and helps achieve our aim of curbing the barbaric repression
we have been hearing about.
As the Foreign Secretary has already said, last night Tornadoes from
Royal Air Force Brugen took part in operations for the first time, an
indication of the way in which NATO is increasing the pressure on Milosevic.
A total of 6 Tornadoes took part and 3 VC10 tankers providing refuelling
support. Our pilots did well. The flight from Brugen to the target area
and back took a total of 7 hours. The targets we attacked were difficult
to hit and included a number of bridges and they indicate that our initial
impression is that all our objectives were achieved and the enemy's
ability to mobilise its military assets have been severely reduced.
The weather, which had previously been against us, has now improved
considerably and NATO will be continuing to increase and intensify its
attacks. Whilst the enemy's fire power is being degraded, NATO's assets
in theatre are increasing all the time. It has been announced that the
United States is to deploy a deep strike package to Albania for operations
in Kosovo consisting of Apache attack helicopters with the hellfire
anti-tank missile system, supported by multiple launch rocket systems.
The United Kingdom welcomes this deployment which will prove to be a
major capability enhancement, providing NATO forces with the world's
best attack helicopter and a rocket system with the ability to strike
anywhere in Kosovo. The apache is armed with 8 hellfire anti-tank rockets,
each with a range of 8 kilometres, and has an impressive endurance.
They are capable of flying a distance equivalent from London to Carlisle,
it can then lighten the target area for some time before having to return.
It is a highly survivable aircraft capable of detecting targets at long
ranges. The multiple launch rocket system, or MLRS, when armed with
the Army tactical missile system or tacoms (phon), has a range of some
165 kilometres and combined they will provide the Alliance with a very
real and potent means of striking at tactical targets.
Meanwhile the British forces in Macedonia as part of the Allied Command
Europe Rapid Reaction Corps have been heavily engaged in providing humanitarian
assistance to the massive exodus of innocent refugees streaming across
the border. Refugees in the former Yugoslavia of course are nothing
new, nor is economic hardship. Milosevic's record as President of Serbia,
and later of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, is one of economic
dislocation and social breakdown. The economy is now ruined, unemployment
has rocketed and the exchange rate has crashed. Homeless and displaced
persons, mostly the product of deliberate ethnic cleansing, have become
Over the last decade of Milosevic's reign, 160,000 have been displaced
in Croatia. Four years of war in Bosnia left 2.4 million homeless. By
this Easter weekend a total of some 375,000 have been forced out of
Kosovo. This brings to around 3.5 million citizens of the former Republic
of Yugoslavia who have lost their homes and their heritage since 1991,
and all of this has happened since Milosevic has been in power.
Our immediate priority is to help the refugees as best we can. Let me
say where we are providing assistance at the moment. At Bosani the soldiers
of 28 Engineer Regiment have been putting up tents on behalf of the
Department of International Development. These tents will house some
2,000 people. They have also distributed some 25,000 meals.
As the last tents are put up and the UNHCR able to take over responsibility,
we are increasingly shifting the focus of our efforts to the refugee
handling centre at Brouhousda (phon), shown on this map. This centre
opened last night to provide immediate life-saving support to the refugees.
The intention is that the military forces should get the camp up and
running quickly and that it will then be taken over by the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees. NATO troops will however continue to
support United Nations efforts. The Macedonian government has said that
it expects this site to house about 70,000 refugees. All through last
night every available British soldier was involved in erecting tents
and helping to receive the influx of refugees. Estimates were that up
to 20,000 refugees might arrive before dawn. So far the United Kingdom
national support element in Macedonia is already providing tents for
3,000 people and 28 Engineer Regiment is co-ordinating the construction
of an infrastructure for the camp. The British Army is trucking rations
form warehouses to the refugee handling centre and making them available
to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 27 Regiment Royal
Logistics Corps are responsible for buying and cooking the food which
is then distributed by UNHCR.
The other great requirement is medical care because of the appalling
conditions in which many of the refugees arrive and the risks of illness
once they reach the centre. Number 2 Armoured Field Ambulance, together
with medical units from the French and German Armed Forces are providing
multinational medical support. In normal times Number 2 Armoured Field
Ambulance is responsible for providing immediate life-saving care, field
dressings and resuscitative surgery for 4,500 soldiers. The 200 personnel,
including 2 surgical teams of doctors and nurses, are already doing
all they can to save the lives of the refugees and they will continue
to fill the gap until they can be replaced by civilian agencies. In
addition a first aid centre is now open with 10 treatment bays manned
by medical personnel from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway
The British forces have a long established and well deserved reputation
for providing aid in difficult and distressing circumstances. British
forces in Macedonia are playing a leading role, and an outstanding role,
in bringing aid to the refugees. Despite our assistance, the scale of
this tragedy is such that it will take time, but we will continue to
provide all possible assistance that we can to help the international
aid agencies get the situation under control.