Yugoslav Troops Have 11 Days to Pull Out

By Thomas W. Lippman, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, June 10, 1999; Page A24

The military agreement that provided for an end to NATO's air war against Yugoslavia requires withdrawal within 11 days of every one of the estimated 40,000 Yugoslav army troops, security police, paramilitary irregulars, border police and any other security forces operating in Kosovo.

They are to begin pulling out today from the northern part of Kosovo, a province of Serbia, the dominant republic of Yugoslavia, and must take their antiaircraft equipment with them and mark minefields and booby traps as they go.

Two senior Yugoslav generals and British Gen. Mike Jackson, who is to command the NATO-led peacekeeping force that will enter Kosovo, signed the "Military Technical Agreement" after five days of negotiations in a restaurant and a tent on the Kosovo-Macedonia border. It provides for an immediate cease-fire, ending also all "hostile or provocative acts of any type" by Serb security forces against what remains of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population, followed by suspension of NATO airstrikes today as soon as the Serb pullout is verified to have begun.

The agreement requires all forces under Belgrade's control, uniformed or not, to begin withdrawing today from the northern part of Kosovo, designated Zone 3. When that happens, NATO will suspend the air campaign, which began   March 24. The international peacekeeping force would begin moving into Kosovo as soon as the U.N. Security Council adopts a resolution ... already agreed to by the United States, Russia and other key members ... ratifying the deployment.

Within six days, the Serbs are to have completed their pullout from southern Kosovo, along the Macedonian border, an area designated Zone 1. Within nine days, they must be gone from Zone 2, the western part of Kosovo bordering Albania. All are to be out of the province in 11 days. At that point, the suspension of bombing would become a permanent bombing halt.

The agreement does not specify how many troops and police must evacuate any area on any particular day. Asked how NATO would know if the exodus is sufficient to demonstrate an intent to comply fully, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said, "I think it's a judgment call" to be made by the NATO commander, Gen. Wesley K. Clark.

NATO agreed not to bomb the departing Yugoslav troops and police, provided they follow designated exit routes and leave Kosovo at specified crossing points. Once out of Kosovo, the Serbs must go an additional three miles, leaving behind a "Ground Safety Zone" to which they can return only with Jackson's permission.

In accordance with last week's political agreement, an unspecified number of Serb forces will be permitted to return later, under conditions still to be negotiated.

Local Serb police already in the three-mile buffer zone are permitted to remain. In the air, the Serbs are required to stay at least 15.5 miles outside Kosovo's boundaries, and by the third day they are required to move all antiaircraft weapons and radar at least that far out of the province.

The departing forces are prohibited from encouraging or supporting "hostile or provocative demonstrations," and required to cooperate with the incoming peacekeepers. The agreement also requires them, within two days, to furnish Jackson with detailed information about mine fields, buried explosives, traps or any other "physical or military hazards" that the peacekeepers might encounter. Jackson has the authority to assess compliance and interpret the rules of the agreement.

Under the agreement, Jackson is authorized to use whatever force he deems necessary to enforce the withdrawal and to keep the peace after the Yugoslav forces go. He has "the authority to take all necessary action to establish and maintain a security environment for all citizens of Kosovo," including ethnic Albanians and the remaining minority Serbs.

At the same time, however, a provision of the U.S.-drafted peace agreement that Belgrade rejected in February as especially unpalatable has been dropped from the new military agreement. It would have limited the peacekeeping force to troops from NATO countries. Another would have allowed the peacekeepers to go wherever they wanted and do whatever they wanted throughout Yugoslavia, not just in Kosovo.

A little-noticed appendix to that peace plan ... which the Kosovo rebels accepted but Belgrade spurned ... would have provided that "NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations."

The agreement signed yesterday, by contrast, says only that the security force will "operate without hindrance in Kosovo" and have the right to use whatever force is necessary to maintain order there.

Quelle: The Washington Post, 10.6.99