Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
THURSDAY 18 NOVEMBER 1999
20. I took some quotes down. You had "to
go through a process". You said "we might be criticised
for the extra mile but we had to do all that in order to get a
consensus before military action could take place." Does
that mean that you as a participant in the Rambouillet talks the
FCO and the British Foreign Secretary believed that there was
a political solution and it was one that Mr Milosevic might sign
up to and would actually implement or were you already before
that thinking this was a forlorn cause but going through the motions
in order to get other allies on board?
(Mr Jones Parry) I think the answer to that, Mr Rowlands,
is I hope that we were neither naive on the one hand nor excessively
optimistic on the other. We did not go through it just for its
own sake. We went through it because in the history of the Balkans
a negotiated political settlement would have served everyone far
better. One of the harshest indictments of Milosevic is that he
rejected that. Can I set a little bit of context of how we in
London were trying to react to this. It covers a little bit of
what Sir Peter said. We were trying to take at all stages an overview
of the situation against objectives to try and get some stability,
to try and get a settlement. Our inputs to that are crucially
what is happening in NATO, what is happening in the European Union,
our discussions with allies, the information we get from all sorts
of sources. What we expect from the Ambassador and what we got
from the Ambassador were detailed reports of what was happening
on the ground. His assessment as far as he was ableand
that is a heavy qualification because, with no disrespect to Mr
Donnelly, his access to Mr Milosevic was limitedour ideas
of what the inner sanctum
Sir Peter Emery
21. But better than yours.
(Mr Jones Parry) I do not dispute that. That was part
of the input. We took a series of inputs, we took the reports
from the KVM who by this stage were on the ground and out of all
that we tried to make judgments but our judgment was that the
deal which was on offer (which was a deal which Milosevic and
his representatives purported to say at Rambouillet was one they
were prepared to work towards) should be tried and we tried it.
22. Was it your judgment or the judgment of
the Foreign Office that you could do a deal with Milosevic and
he would implement that deal?
(Mr Jones Parry) I do not think there is a certain
answer to that. I am a mathematician and let me just tell you
that in terms of probability I cannot give you an absolute one
way or the other.
23. Degrees of probability, what on the richter
scale would it be?
(Mr Jones Parry) The richter is nought to one, but
let me just say that with all the pressures we were bringing to
bear, and they were considerable, and this is where diplomacy
backed by force has a role, we were actually setting ground rules
which if you were a born loser, and if you had lost everything
up to this stage, and if it was your best bet for hanging on to
Kosovo, you might have thought logically that you were prepared
to have a go.
24. You think he would have reacted logically?
(Mr Jones Parry) There are moments of logic in Mr
25. Could I ask Sir John were all the key allies
all in step, generally speaking, in these assessments or at various
times did either some get out of step and some decide to go faster
towards a military solution or others never want a military solution?
If this process was to get a consensus somewhere along the line
there might have been people wanting to go faster and others going
(Sir John Goulden) NATO, as you know, is very experienced
in building up consensus but it does not come easily on an issue
as fundamental and difficult as this. The key allies, particularly
those who were involved in the Contact Group, on the political
side, were remarkably close in their view of the problem and in
their objectivesreally right throughout. When they were
united, the other allies tended to follow their lead very happily.
There were two moments when NATO had to stand up and be counted,
apart from the moments when we were doing planning and having
exercises and things like that. They were first in October, the
time of the Holbrooke Negotiations. At that moment we threatened
that, if they did not produce an agreement, we would use force.
It was a clear statement that we would have started air campaigns
in October if there had not been an agreement. The second moment
was in March where Rambouillet and Kleber both finally were rejected
by Milosevica new humanitarian crisis emerging, 250,000
displaced persons in Kosovo, the graph clearly going up and up
very quickly. At that time too, although it was not an easy decision
for the 19 allies, they were all ready for it; because we had
been through this intensive consultation and sharing of information
and the political process in parallel. If there had not been the
political process, the extra mile, the attempt particularly at
Rambouillet, I think it would have been more difficult for allies
to have taken that difficult decision. If Holbrooke had not come
back with a deal which was not just dependent on the goodwill
of Milosevic but dependent on verifiers on the ground for the
first time, verifiers in the air over Kosovo for the first time,
and a limit on his troop numbers and his police numbers, I think
our allies would have been very difficult to convince. Both of
those two moments were moments when the allies did come together
and recognise the overwhelming humanitarian imperative to act
26. One final question on this part, Mr Jones
Parry. Mr Donnelly used the words Mr Milosevic was part of the
problem which means that there are other parts of the problem.
Is it that, in fact, Milosevic does represent possibly majority
Serb nationalist feeling? Are these problems dealing with the
democratic opposition? Do we have any reason to believe that in
a democratic opposition Serbia today could carry an election victory
based on reconciliation with Kosovo and reconciliation with the
(Mr Donnelly) As you know, Milosevic engineered a
referendum in April of last year which on the basis of a 95 per
cent turn out produced 75 per cent against any international involvement
in solving the Kosovo problem which they regarded as an internal
problem. Although I think it is probably reasonable to say that
the referendum was engineered to produce a result, I think the
result was also probably not far from an accurate reflection of
what people thought. The background you have to remember is that
you are operating in Serbia in an authoritarian state where all
of the principal sources of information are controlled by Milosevic
and where there is no opportunity for most people to hear a full
or complete story of what may or may not be on offer. I think
the fundamental difference with the democratic oppositionand
I would agree with you that many of them would also have a degree
of nationalism about their approach to Kosovo which would be quite
different from our'sis that at least there would have been
a genuine debate about the issues. There would have been an opportunity
for the full terms of the settlements that were offered to be
put to the people and for people to be able to make a reasonable
choice as to whether, as we repeatedly said to Milosevic, they
could have a choice, that Serbia could be part of the growing
movement towards European integration with prosperity and security
or they were going down a road to international isolation. I do
not think that picture was ever put fairly or fully to the Serb
people and I would still believe that if that could be done, and
if one could have genuinely free and independent media, then attitudes
would change. I am not saying there would be an overnight conversion
of Serbs to believe that it is right that Kosovo should become
independent, that would not happen, I think there is still too
strong a residual feeling for that but I think you would at least
have the basis for what we would regard as proper debate and proper
discussion and a proper negotiation.
27. If Milosevic is a part of the problem, what
are the other parts?
(Mr Donnelly) One of the other parts of the problem
that we faced throughout the period was, of course, that the aspirations
of the Kosovar Albanians were for independence, when, as Emyr
has mentioned, we recognised Yugoslavia, we have and remain committed
to its territorial integrity and sovereignty. So if one had a
problem the other side of the negotiating team, if you like, the
negotiating pair had objectives which we did not support either.
So it was not simply a question of solving the Milosevic side
of the problem, there were also aspects of the Kosovar problem,
the negotiating position, which had to be dealt with as well.
Sir David Madel
28. Mr Donnelly, could I ask when you first
heard about Operation Horseshoe?
(Mr Donnelly) I do not think I can go into details
about specific pieces of intelligence material. What I can sayas
I have indicated alreadyis that it was clear to me from
what we were seeing on the ground in the weeks leading up to the
beginning of the conflict that Serb forces were accumulating around
the borders of Kosovo, Serb forces were coming out of barracks
within Kosovo. They were bringing new weapons into the province
and it was clear that they were thinking about some form of major
operation. The precise nature of that operation, there were many
stories around about what they may do and may not do. What I did
not know from where I sat was which plans they would carry out,
how they would carry them out. I was looking essentially at evidence
on the ground of what Serb forces were likely to do.
29. Would it be correct to say that Operation
Horseshoe was entirely drawn up by Milosevic and his wife together
or was there an agreement at the top of the hierarchy to do it?
(Mr Donnelly) I really cannot answer that.
30. You cannot tell me.
(Mr Donnelly) What I can say is that the decision
making circle in Yugoslavia is a fairly small one. Milosevic operates
by and large through a small group of people who repeatedly appear
with him and who he consults. Equally there is a military structure
which goes back to the Tito-ist army, the former socialist Republic
of Yugoslavia army, so there is an army structure which carries
out the normal military functions of planning and preparing. I
would imagine, indeed expect, that military plans would originate
in a systematic fashion.
31. Did Belgrade make it clear that if bombing
started they would step up Operation Horseshoe, in other words
you would have Operation Horseshoe plus?
(Mr Donnelly) I have no recollection that Belgrade
made any statement about what they would do in terms of increasing
or changing their military plans if bombing started. Part of their
argument was that they would not give way to threats but I do
not think they were any more specific than that.
(Mr Jones Parry) If I may add, Sir David, I think
it is fair to say the way that question was put implied we had
knowledge from Belgrade of this. We had none from Belgrade itself.
Belgrade was not giving any indication of what it would do. It
is fair to say that Holbrooke, who went to Belgrade just before
the launch of the military action, spelt out the consequences
of rejection of the Rambouillet accords. What he got was a passive
reaction and a shrugging of the shoulders, he got no counter-threats.
32. But the body language might have indicated
to him that when bombing began Operation Horseshoe would begin
very quickly indeed or Operation Horseshoe Plus.
(Mr Jones Parry) Operation Horseshoe as a concept
has come out after the event rather than at the time. What we
had at the time, and Brian can describe to you graphically what
it was like to follow in the path of where the Serbs went in Kosovo,
razed crops, destroyed animals, people driven out of towns. We
saw that together in July and that proliferated throughout this
period. Our expectations were pretty high, one, that that was
happening as we were in March, and that it was likely to increase,
but what we expected, to be honest with you, was more of the same,
people being driven out of their homes and on to the hill tops.
We had no grounds for believing in making a judgment that we could
have expected the sorts of events that then took place over Easter
or subsequently became known as Operation Horseshoe.
(Mr Jones Parry) It subsequently became known as that.
There is no document which predated the bombing which set out
the terms of this cleansing operation by the Serbs. What I can
tell youand I do not want to go into too much detail on
the sort of sources of information that we hadis that we
had throughout and this is in part the answer I tried to give
to Sir Peter earliervarious bits of information. There
was one bit of information that alluded to this sort of activity.
There was no collaboration for it and we had masses of conflicting
information which conformed more to what we had seen and what
we reasonably expected. If we are open to criticism in dealing
with Milosevic it is in part an answer to your question did we
assume he was logical? Perhaps we are open to the charge that
we addressed this through a view which said that that sort of
activity was not something that in the late 1990s we could have
expected. I am afraid we were wrong on that. It is also the case
if you make a judgment on this in trying to read into how Milosevic
approached this, one of the great things that held the alliance
together apart from the enormous effort we made to do that was
what we saw happening on the ground and in terms of an operation
of this sort what we confronted on that Easter Saturday with all
these people coming across the border if anything gelled the coalition
and said that is the enormity of what we confront, that is the
evil, that is why we are doing this. If you work backwards, imagine
would somebody do that? Would you give such an obvious advantage
to the people who are confronting you militarily? That is what
he did and I am afraid perhaps we approached it with too much
of a rational argument. I do not know.
Sir David Madel
34. Within Serbia is it your view that rather
like the late President Nasser, the more Milosevic was defeated
(just as the late President Nasser was defeated in various campaigns)
the more popular he became?
(Mr Jones Parry) There is an element of that. It is
also the case that he clothed himself in this nationalism. It
is one of the most pernicious examples of extreme nationalism
and one of the challenges of the opposition is to permit them
to be pro-Serb, that is their privilege, but pro-Serb, as Brian
said, which looks to a European destination and looks to the norms
of European behaviour that the rest of us espouse and takes its
rightful place in the community of European nations. That is not
happening at the moment and I do not know whether successive failures
build him up; I doubt it. It is arguably that he needed to go
through a period of having to put up a fight and be seen to have
lost in order to eventually come to an agreement on Kosovo but
again I cannot read too much into the psychology.
35. On an historical parallel not a million
miles from Serbia for years in the 1950s the attitude of Greece
was that there had to be a union with Cyprus but eventually the
Greek Government changed and agreed the 1960 agreement where Cyprus
became independent. Can we look in due course to Serbia doing
the same and eventually to an independent Kosovo rather than the
type thing that we have got now?
(Mr Jones Parry) I do not know. That is one of the
very difficult questions we confront. When you go to Kosovo you
will see that while things have stabilised and there are many
things we can be very happy about there are some immense challenges.
One of the questions that remains is whether you keep Kosovo within
the FRY on the one hand or whether you give it independence? If
it is to have independence how is that managed in such a way that
all the regional ramifications and the downsides that Macedonia
fears and Albania is not happy about, are handled? I do not find
an easy answer to that. What we are working on at the moment is
to try and get the arrangements we have under the UN administration
to work and work for long enough that we have stability, that
we have democracy established in Kosovo, that we develop the economy
of Kosovo, that we give it hope and we see that with the Stability
Pact and everything else that there is a way of bringing all this
together. If we can get western European type reconciliation post
war into the Balkans there is hope. It seems to me the only way
in which one can envisage an independent Kosovo is in some form
of relationship among those countries which breaks down the barriers
which tries to recreate something of what is done in western Europe
so that people actually believe there is a prospect of stability
and norms that we could subscribe to.
Chairman: Dr Starkey has one or two questions
before we move on to the legal justification.
36. I want to ask one question on this bit before
reserving my right to come in later and that is really to Sir
John. You were talking about the need to find consensus within
Nato and obviously that is well understood. I want to probe what
was the United Kingdom Government's position within that consensus.
Essentially were we trying to drive this forward more quickly
and more decisively or were we hanging back on the appeasement
(Sir John Goulden) I do not think at any stage we
were on the appeasement line. We were on the sceptical end of
the spectrum of Nato about the Holbrooke Agreement. We wanted
to give it a good try and make the most of the extra things that
were added in, like the verifiers and the aerial verification
and the numerical limits we put on FRY forces. We wanted to try
and make that work because that was the best alternative that
was available. When it became clear that that was not working
in February/March, at the same time the Rambouillet Agreement
was being tried and failing to achieve, I think we were among
the governments which concluded that we needed a different approach.
We had thought even, from the autumn, that probably it would be
better to have a foreign international military force on the ground
to supervise the Holbrooke Agreement to make it work. But that
was not negotiable at the time so that was not on offer. By February/March
it was more obvious to us that anything we agreed with Milosevic,
given all that we knew about his track record, would have to be
backed up by an international force which by then was becoming
part of NATO's concept. It was one of the things we put at Rambouillet
and later at Kleber and one of the things we later had to insist
on as one of the conditions for ending the conflict. I think it
is fair to say that, if you asked my colleagues, they would say
the British Government was one of the leading forces in many of
the things that led to success. We were clearly in the lead at
Rambouillet. We were clearly one of the leading countries in stabilising
the area during the time when it was most unstable in the conflict
itself. We were in the lead in building up the force in Macedonia
that was going to go in and implement the agreement when we got
it. That force started building up in February, before we even
started the conflict, and was very much a British-led force. About
half of the troops were British and of course we led the forces
that went in in June. In those respects and in explaining through
the media and the daily press conferences and that sort of thing
my colleagues would probably concede to the British Government
a very leading role in all those very important areas.
37. If it had been possible to persuade others,
would we have preferred there to be ground forces as well as an
(Sir John Goulden) At the beginning, no. At the beginning
that was not a necessary part of the plan, nor were the military
proposing it. The plan that came to the Alliance at that stage
was an air campaign, a phased, graduated, escalating air campaign.
The preferred route for all of us, including the British Government,
was to make a success of that air campaign, which was what we
did. In the end, of course, it did succeed, we escalated, we did
what was necessary to make that succeed. At the early stage nobody
was asking for it and certainly the military were not proposing
it. But we had, of course, done a lot of planning on a "what
if" basis. The military had told us from the beginning, and
we had known from the beginning, that once you start making threats
and acting on them, you have to be willing to go right through
to the end, if necessary, to succeed. So we did know that if the
air campaign had not succeeded we would have had to consider ground
options. Towards the end of the campaign those options were increasingly
being considered between the main allied governments.
38. Was the military advice tempered by their
knowledge of political realities?
(Sir John Goulden) Almost certainly.
39. You said escalating bombing, does that mean
that the thought was if you bombed a little bit it would bring
Milosevic back to the table? Is that the escalation you are talking
(Sir John Goulden) We did not set ourselves the object
of bringing Milosevic to the table. You cannot bomb somebody to
the table and, of course, he is not at the table now.
Ms Abbott: We thought that was what you were