Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
THURSDAY 18 NOVEMBER 1999
1. Gentlemen, without a voice but nevertheless
may I welcome you three to our Committee. Each of you has a key
perspective on the problems surrounding Kosovo, the past and the
future. First, Mr Emyr Jones Parry, the Political Director of
the Foreign Office. I believe, Mr Jones Parry, you attended the
Rambouillet talks throughout. Then, Sir John Goulden, our Permanent
Representative to the UK delegation to NATO and, I believe, Sir
John there at all the key times.
(Sir John Goulden) Yes.
2. Then Mr Brian Donnelly, currently the Director,
Regional Crisis, and you were, I believe, our last ambassador
to Belgrade until March of this year.
(Mr Donnelly) Yes.
3. Can I begin in this way. This is a continuation
of our inquiry into Kosovo. We have met the Foreign Secretary
during the time of the continuation of the conflict. As a Committee
we will be visiting the area next month, visiting both Kosovo
itself and Montenegro to try to ascertain the position on the
spot. We shall be working closely, paralleling Whitehall-ism,
inter-departmentalism, with our two sister committees, the Defence
Committee, which is looking at the deployment of British forces
in the area, and with the International Development Committee
which obviously focuses on the humanitarian side, the civil reconstruction.
The lead is taken as the Foreign Office takes the lead, so this
Committee will be looking not only at the lessons of the past
but also at the Stability Pact and a way of trying to ensure a
more stable Balkans in the future. I begin with: the personality
of President Milosevic; while he is an indicted war criminal,
he and his cronies in their corrupt regime are seen as a key part
of the problem. There is an attempt to isolate them and to reward
their neighbours. Is this a fair summation of the current Western
and FCO view of the President?
(Mr Jones Parry) If I may, Chairman, thank you for
the welcome. I simply say we welcome the opportunity to address
the Committee, to brief you. We have put in two memoranda. We
are absolutely at your disposal and are happy to provide whatever
information you need after this meeting in detail. In terms of
your intended visit to the region we will take on whatever responsibility
you would like by way of arrangements and so on to help you with
4. Thank you very much.
(Mr Jones Parry) In terms of Milosevic, if I may,
I would like to ask Brian to give you some outline of Milosevic
as a personality. He has been very close to him.
(Mr Jones Parry) Let me just retrace the history,
if I may, Chairman. He was elected in 1988 on very much a nationalistic
platform, a man who has been at the heart of most of the problems
which started with the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. He is
a man who, with his famous speech in Kosovo, actually sparked
a lot of the disintegration. He is a former Communist, a very
hard man who has played the nationalist card consistently.
6. And who ended the autonomy of the province
(Mr Jones Parry) Indeed. He has been party to most
of the things that have produced the difficulty. He is a man who
has been obdurate throughout the process of negotiation. Chairman,
you referred to Rambouillet, we negotiated and facilitated negotiations
in good faith but the problem at the end of the day was not just
that we were reconciling things that were very difficult to reconcile
but at the end Milosevic was not straight and would not allow
the negotiations to proceed. In the end he spurned an offer which
could have averted what came out of it. He is a man who is, in
our book, culpable for much of this. He was indicted by ICTY.
A major part of our policy now is to actually work with the democratic
opposition that we can actually further the cause of democracy,
that we can look forward to a prospect that Kosovo will remain
within that country but that, of course, is very difficult to
achieve if Milosevic is still there. If I may I will ask Brian
to give you a pen picture of how he has seen him from the local
(Mr Donnelly) I am not sure whether anyone really
understands Milosevic apart perhaps from Mrs Milosevic. I think
it is well known that they are extraordinarily close and work
very much together. Emyr has said that Milosevic comes from a
Communist past and I still vividly recall my first meeting with
him when I presented credentials in December 1997. Just by way
of background, the programme Only Fools and Horses is very
popular in Serbia, the Serbs actually see quite a lot of themselves
in the characters and my first impressions of Milosevic were very
much this edifice of a Communist apparatchik but with a
veneer of Del Boy on top of it which makes him immensely plausible.
He can make what arewhen you go away and think about itabsolutely
outrageous statements but he puts them over with a degree of plausibility
which I think helps to explain why over a period of ten years
he has seen a succession of visiting statesmen of very high seniority
and experience and has managed to survive all of that and to prolong
his position and to leave in many people's minds a doubt, until
relatively recently, as to whether he was the problem or whether
he was part of the solution.
7. What is your view?
(Mr Donnelly) I have no doubt that he is part of the
problem and we must treat him as that.
8. And always has been?
(Mr Donnelly) With hindsight I think we can say he
always has been but, as I say, he does have this air and this
manner. There is a degree of bonhomie about him when you
meet him. I would not say charm because there is a sort of sinister
quality behind it. He listens to arguments, he responds to them.
There is a great deal of eye contact when he talks to you. Fundamentally
there is a gulf between what he says and reality. When I saw him
that first time he denied that there was a problem in Kosovo and
some of the themes that he then put forward were ones that we
saw repeatedly come up over the succeeding 15 months, ones in
which he would maintain that basically the problem lay with just
a few Albanians who werehe saidseparatists and terrorists
and not with the great mass of Albanians. His view was that somehow
you could easily cut off the heads of, as it were, and as it turned
out almost literally, the separatists and terrorists and the problem
would go away. He never seemed to come round to the proposition
which the Foreign Secretary put to him in February of last year
that the way to deal with separatists and terrorists was to make
a serious offer for political autonomy, for self-government for
the Kosovars which would undermine those who were arguing for
independence and who were trying to pursue that objective by military
means. You had a man who was authoritarian in style, authoritarian
in the way he operated, not one who would suffer fools gladly,
he would easily burst into outbursts of rage if it suited him,
a degree of theatricality, but fundamentally someone who was not
prepared to accept that there was a problem of the size and scale
that we saw in Kosovo and, therefore, immensely difficult to conduct
serious negotiations with him.
9. His record has been disastrous in the sense
that through his lack of political judgment he has led to the
break-up of the Republic of Yugoslavia, you now say that, yes,
he has always been part of the problem. Was it not therefore just
a little naive throughout last year and earlier to see him as
part of the solution? For Holbrooke, for example, to reach a deal
in October, well knowing his background in the region, his background
in the Bosnian situation, what he had failed to do in Kosovo,
were we not pursuing a naive pipe dream then?
(Mr Jones Parry) Can I take that question, Chairman,
and say there have been times when Milosevic has been a convenience
for the West in the sense of Dayton. There were moments when he
was instrumental in getting key accords signed and in some of
the implementation afterwards, the Americans believed he was helpful.
It has always been the plank of policy that we have sanctions
and we maintain the outer wall of sanctions has been consistently
applied because Milosevic was someone that we were very cautious
of in terms of Kosovo, in terms of Dayton, in terms of war crimes.
Those policy objectives remain, and our caution, but the fact
is he was always the head of Government or the head of state of
a country which we recognised. In the end, if you were working
on the assumption that there should be a solution politically
arrived at within the FRY, it was necessary to negotiate and talk
to the people in control.
10. Did we have serious expectations that he
would deliver on the undertakings that he gave to Mr Holbrooke
(Mr Jones Parry) We have always been very cautious
about any undertakings but putting the KVM in for a period of
time was very important in actually securing on the ground clear
information about what was happening. It did help but, of course,
in the end he made the conditions for the KVM impossible and he
went back on the agreement. Everything we did throughout that
period was backed up by consistent warnings and preparations by
NATO throughout that period. NATO did not just act after October,
it had been issuing warnings and preparing throughout the summer.
11. All of which had been ignored?
(Mr Jones Parry) We had to go through a process.
Sir Peter Emery
12. Good morning, gentlemen. Is it not true
that we were giving these strict warnings further than just sanctions
about NATO intervention to protect the Kosovo Albanian population
and why did we not proceed on those warnings? Was an element of
this because the Russians were trying desperately to urge us to
hold off in order that they could attempt to obtain a solution
with Milosevic which would stop us having to intervene? Mr Parry?
(Mr Jones Parry) In terms of policy the policy was
clear throughout, it was to get a negotiated settlement which
would provide for some autonomy for Kosovo within the FRY and
would permit a process of reconciliation and certainly stability
in the region. In terms of warnings the question assumes that
we did nothing. What I want to be clear about is we have gone
through a process from the beginning of diplomacy, sanctions,
diplomacy and sanctions, the threat of force, preparing to use
that force, activating ACTORDs, the process of negotiation again.
We tested it to destruction. If you like, we can be criticised
for having gone the extra mile. We went the extra mile. We convened
in January all the parties to talks in Rambouillet. We went through
15 days or so of intensive negotiations driven by two foreign
ministers and the international community pushing. At the end
of that process we had failed, that is clear, because Milosevic
would not accept the outcome but why had we not acted in another
sense? To act militarily, if that is behind the question, let's
be clear, you needed to establish a consensus that all the parties
were prepared to act, you needed to have a legal basis for acting,
you needed to have demonstrated that it is the last resort and
you have tried everything else. We did over a period of time in
a concerted way dictated by very clear objectives throw everything
at the problem.
13. You have not, if I may remind you, mentioned
what I was asking about -the Russian pressure on us during that
(Mr Jones Parry) The Russians in terms of the objectives
were part of it, were working closely with us. They were very
much part of the Rambouillet process. Where the Russians diverged
from us was in two crucial aspects. One, they refused to allow
Security Council Resolutions to be based on Chapter VII or to
explicitly authorise the use of all necessary measures. When it
came to Rambouillet itself they distanced themselves from the
military annex that was tabled, but the Russians were ambivalent
14. I have not finished yet. I have a question
for Mr Donnelly in a moment. When you say we were having to obtain
the legal aspect for action, we were no better prepared for that
in January than we would have been in the autumn because we have
created really new humanitarian law which is not necessarily based
on the United Nations nor, many would argue, based on international
law although we believe there is an absolute necessity to be able
to protect populations on a humanitarian basis. That existed as
much in October as it did in January.
(Mr Jones Parry) If I could address the question of
intervention. There are three bases classically for intervention:
one, United Nations Security Council resolution specifically authorising
it; two, being invited in to do it; three, in self-defence. None
of those actually pertained in this case.
15. That is right.
(Mr Jones Parry) What we needed to do was to be in
a position depending on the position on the ground that we could
intervene on the basis of humanitarian law as it had evolved,
or on the basis of a Security Council Resolution that had been
adoptedand two were adopted in this period up until the
end of 1998. Crucially as the events had developed there was a
whole series of actions on the ground which led us to a very clear
legal view that provided the action was targeted solely at averting
a humanitarian crisis, because that crisis was manifestly appearing
before us on the ground, and because the action we were going
to be taking was going to be proportionate because it was targeted
solely at averting that crisis and because we had no other alternative
left to us, we believed we were legally justified.
16. Mr Donnelly, what advice were you giving
to the Foreign Office over this period? You were the Ambassador.
(Mr Donnelly) Of course. I will try and give you as
clear a picture as I can of what you will understand was a confusing
and often complex situation. Perhaps I should say that for about
a year leading up to the eventual conflict we were trying to provide
more or less daily situation reports (sometimes more than once
a day) of what was going on. It was not a question of one-off
advice, it was a question of advice accumulating and evolving
over the period. On a daily basis we would try to cover issues
such as the situation on the ground as we saw it, what was happening
with the Serb forces, what was happening with the KLA. We tried
to reflect what the current reading of the political mood was
in Belgrade and how that was affecting the situation. We would
try and get a read on the current thinking of the Kosovo Albanian
politicians and we would try to reflect the current humanitarian
situation. If you like, over a period of time one was accumulating
judgments rather than taking them one-off at a particular moment.
In the days and weeks immediately preceding the conflict I think
we would say that there was growing evidence of conflict on the
ground in Kosovo. The situation had been deteriorating gradually
since Christmas. Emyr has mentioned the role of the KVM and I
would endorse that from my own personal experience with them in
Kosovo in the weeks immediately after their deployment. The British
contingent was there very quickly and I think, without false modesty,
was by far the most effective in the early days while the overall
structure was being set up. They did make a difference. My advice
to them had been to act like nosy parkers and to make sure everywhere
there was any sign of trouble they went round and talked to people
and they got out of their vehicles and made their presence felt.
17. Mr Donnelly, did you have anyone permanently
from the Embassy in Kosovo at the time?
(Mr Donnelly) When the KVM force was being set up
we assigned somebody formally as my deputy to work in liaison
with them and he was permanently in Kosovo. Otherwise one of my
staff was in Kosovo most of the time and what I tried to do was
arrange a rotation system between my defence attaché and
political staff so there was always a presence in Kosovo.
Sir Peter Emery
18. Mr Donnelly, I have been led to believe
certainly from the summer and into the autumn that you were advising
the Foreign Office that Milosevic had no intention of giving up
his plan for ethnic cleansing and the situation was likely to
get worse and not better. Is that not the case?
(Mr Donnelly) I would not characterise it like that
because, as I say, the advice I tried to give on a day-to-day
basis reflected what was going on on the ground. The long-term
trends showed through the summer of 1998 clearly there had been
increasing violence. We had the October settlement after which
there was a decrease and for a time it looked as though it might
be possible to bring the parties closer to agreement on a political
settlement. After Christmas there was a gradual deterioration.
I think both the Serbs and the KLA to some extent were looking
for trouble and they found it. The crucial difference between
the two sides was that the Serb idea of policing was one of indiscriminate
use of heavy weapons including tanks and armoured vehicles with
anti-aircraft guns used as direct fire weapons. We saw in the
massacres at Racak and Rugovo clear harbingers of what was likely
to come, in other words, all the signs were there (in fact it
had already begun) of a resumption of the kind of violence we
had seen the preceding summer and therefore it removed, if you
like, any lingering doubt that the October settlement might lead
to peace on the ground.
19. Are you therefore, Mr Donnelly, saying that
you were not warning the Foreign Office in that period from the
autumn on that the situation was likely to get much worse and
that there was very little chance of a political settlement?
(Mr Donnelly) I would not say I was and I would not
say I was not, Sir Peter. I said the situation was a complex one.
What I was trying to do was provide the information about what
was going on on the ground, what the Serbs were thinking, how
the Albanians were reacting so that judgments could be helped
to be formed in London as to what would be the appropriate diplomatic
and military action. I do not think any one of my colleagues would
have attempted to gaze into a crystal ball and say exactly what
is likely to happen in six months' time. I think we were all agreed
that the balance of probabilities was that there would not be
a political solution and the Serbs would continue and indeed intensify
their military activity again in the summer of 1999. That would
have been fairly common ground.