Press statement by Dr. Janvier Solana, Secretary General of NATO

March 23, 1999

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,

I have just directed SACEUR, General Clark, to initiate air operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

I have taken this decision after extensive consultations in recent days with all the Allies, and after it became clear that the final diplomatic effort of Ambassador Holbrooke in Belgrade has not met with success.

All efforts to achieve a negotiated, political solution to the Kosovo crisis having failed, no alternative is open but to take military action.

We are taking action following the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Government's refusal of the International Community's demands:

  • Acceptance of the interim political settlement which has been negotiated at Rambouillet;
  • Full observance of limits on the Serb Army and Special Police Forces agreed on 25 October;
  • Ending of excessive and disproportionate use of force in Kosovo.

As we warned on the 30 January, failure to meet these demands would lead NATO to take whatever measures were necessary to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

NATO has fully supported all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the efforts of the OSCE, and those of the Contact Group.

We deeply regret that these efforts did not succeed, due entirely to the intransigence of the FRY Government.

This military action is intended to support the political aims of the international community.

It will be directed towards disrupting the violent attacks being committed by the Serb Army and Special Police Forces and weakening their ability to cause further humanitarian catastrophe.

We wish thereby to support international efforts to secure Yugoslav agreement to an interim political settlement.

As we have stated, a viable political settlement must be guaranteed by an international military presence.

It remains open to the Yugoslav Government to show at any time that it is ready to meet the demands of the international community.

I hope it will have the wisdom to do so.

At the same time, we are appealing to the Kosovar Albanians to remain firmly committed to the road to peace which they have chosen in Paris. We urge in particular Kosovar armed elements to refrain from provocative military action.

Let me be clear: NATO is not waging war against Yugoslavia.

We have no quarrel with the people of Yugoslavia who for too long have been isolated in Europe because of the policies of their government.

Our objective is to prevent more human suffering and more repression and violence against the civilian population of Kosovo.

We must also act to prevent instability spreading in the region.

NATO is united behind this course of action.

We must halt the violence and bring an end to the humanitarian catastrophe now unfolding in Kosovo.

We know the risks of action but we have all agreed that inaction brings even greater dangers.

We will do what is necessary to bring stability to the region.

We must stop an authoritarian regime from repressing its people in Europe at the end of the 20th century.

We have a moral duty to do so.

The responsibility is on our shoulders and we will fulfill it.