Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 200 - 219)



  200. If I can clarify about the Ground Safety Zone, the Covic plan suggests that the Ground Safety Zone could be reduced in width and the response appears to be that is being entertained as a notion but that confidence building has to occur first. If so, what sort of likely timescale are we talking about for a possible re-ordering of the Ground Safety Zone and the rules that pertain to it?
  (Mr Crawford) If you imagine the zone as a band around Kosovo, there are different ways of dealing with it. There are various so-called Covic plans around there at the moment. One original idea was instead of having a band five kilometres thick all the way around, to have a band four kilometres thick or three kilometres thick. We now seem to be moving more to an idea where you actually abolish the zone altogether in certain parts of that band and in the area where there is a particular crisis you actually try to have special arrangements for that. I think there are different variants out there, this is the point. I am fairly confident that this has not yet been agreed in detail. There is an issue of sequencing which I think you are right to point to. How do you choreograph the synchronised reduction of the zone both with confidence building measures down there in the high tension area, but also if you are the Albanians in Kosovo what you do not want is the zone to be abolished in areas where there are not Albanians or all of a sudden the VJ just surge forward and start pointing their tank barrels over the border. There are issues even where there are not ethnic tensions as to how the zone would be abolished or scaled back in a way which is helpful to everybody. I think what is impressive, even though we know there are elements out there on the Serb side who are dangerous and want to have a go and go in there and sort it out in a very violent way, is there is a sense among the senior leaders, so far as I can tell, of a need not to rise to provocations, to keep on with what you might call a diplomatic track because that is actually in Belgrade's national interest. That is an encouraging development by any standard given where we were between the VJ and NATO not that long ago and we need to be encouraging that, and that is really what we are doing.

Sir David Madel

  201. Are you saying that the senior military want to push it along the diplomatic track as well or are there growing numbers of senior military in Belgrade who accept that is the best way to deal with the matter?
  (Mr Crawford) There is an issue, of course, between the military and the so-called MUP, the internal affairs police. When you are down there you meet people who look like military, Rambo figures bristling with weapons and funny hats and so on who it turns out are policemen. They do not look like policemen as we understand them in this country. There are issues as between the MUP, who traditionally were the guys who went in there and did some rather nasty security work, and the army, who in a way do not want to get involved. All of this is frankly a bit unclear. I do not want to say all the commanders say this, or all the commanders say that. I met several senior people when I was down there who made a good impression, frankly. They talked about all this and they said "we do not want to have another punch-up, we know it will be disastrous, let us try and work this out". We do have to be aware that among the ordinary Albanians living in the area there is a long tradition of discrimination and persecution of some sort, and on the other side there are (a) people who want to have a go at them because that is just what they are good at doing, or bad at doing I should say, and (b) there are people who find it hard not to respond to provocation but if one of your friends is shot or something your instinct is to fire back. I do not want to give the impression that the thing is solved but I had a slight sense when I was there, and it could have blown up this afternoon while we are having this meeting, of a certain uneasy stand-off appearing. One of the other things that is going to have to happen is while that stand-off is happening we do not want the ethnic Albanian insurgents to completely pour into the zone and just dig more trenches and bring in more heavy weaponry because that is just going to become a nuisance. There is clearly a role for KFOR in terms of monitoring the border and holding it back. How would I sum it all up? I would sum it all up by saying there is a strong political impetus from Belgrade to use political, economic, what you might call normal measures to solve this. Does everyone share that? No. Are there people on the Albanian side who want to fight? Yes, the situation is tense. I have a feeling in terms of the way the Skopje Summit came out, the noises coming from us, the noises coming from NATO, extremism is seen to have no support whatsoever.

  202. Have KFOR got enough people to monitor?
  (Mr Crawford) KFOR have certainly got enough people to monitor their side of the border. How they monitor it and how far they go in arresting trouble makers of different sorts or cutting off supplies is another question. KFOR are not really meant to be in the zone, the zone is not there for KFOR, so it is an issue which needs to be talked about about how far, if at all, KFOR would go into the zone, for example, to protect EU monitors if they were there. There are all sorts of technical issues on this which I do not want to give the impression are solved or are even clear. The main point, I think, for today is that the context for this looks fairly positive at the moment and we have to patiently build on that.

Sir Peter Emery

  203. Before I call Mr Maples, Mr Rowlands and I went down to the Presevo Valley and we were with the 45 Royal Marine Commandos and were able to see certain of the areas in which the Kosovo Albanians were actually training with gun drills and firing and everything else. We were told, and reassurances were quite obvious from the marine who was briefing us out of the blue, he did not expect us and was really quite brilliant, that they have 60 of these every fortnight, they just come in and train for a fortnight and then they disappear and another 60 come in. This is part of the more extreme aspect of the KLA. They were saying "if we are going to have any peace at all we have got to really put an end to this sort of thing and here we are not allowed to go into the zone, we have to sit here and just watch what is happening." They were pretty disappointed about it, although they are doing their job very well.
  (Mr Crawford) I would not dispute any of that. I am here representing the British Government in FRY, I am not really here to represent NATO. When I met our troops in Kosovo the other day they were saying that when the British had gone in to deal with this issue they had very quickly intercepted all sorts of people and taken them off and broken things up in a way which other NATO contributing countries apparently were not quite so keen to get involved in. I do not want to point at any other NATO contributing countries but it is not on the face of it very satisfactory that the zone is being used in this way. I think the danger of this situation developing is now clear to all of us and I think NATO is now moving to take more precise steps to deal with exactly the sort of thing you are talking about. What exactly those steps are will remain to be seen.

  204. The point that I was trying to make was the military were saying they cannot do anything until the politicians begin deciding how, in fact, we can narrow it or how, in fact, we can begin stopping the insurgents going in. In fact, it was quite amusing because many of them trained in Lympstone in my constituency and they were saying "Hi, Sir Pete, have you come down to solve this for us" and I had to disillusion them somewhat. There is no doubt the feeling that they are doing their job but they feel that to some extent they are protecting what is likely to become a rebel element.
  (Mr Crawford) I am not disputing that, I can understand why they think that, but all I can say today is, if you like, the politicians, ie governments contributing to NATO, are not only seized of this situation but they are engaged in a way which was very hard to predict even a month or so ago in detailed consultations with Belgrade in a spirit of partnership, intelligent, hard-nosed partnership, which is a very, very new and positive thing in terms of dealing with it. I think there is a bigger point in all this, if I can just float it, which is that following the end of the Cold War, in normal circumstances if we had not these disasters in the former Yugoslavia we would have wanted the Yugoslav armed forces collectively to be part of Partnership for Peace and those sorts of programmes. Now, because of everything that has gone on, it has been very difficult to take that forward but if we can move in the coming years to a sense in which the VJ and NATO, instead of opponents, start to become partners, this sends a very powerful and positive signal for peaceful co-operation across the region. I think you are starting to see in Kosovo signs that the UNMIK authorities are seeing the need to talk to Belgrade in a much more structured way as well. Things are moving down there even though it is not altogether very obvious and we are certainly encouraging these trends.

Mr Maples

  205. We have talked about the Presevo Valley and the Liberation Army, so-called, there. There is a similar extremist, terrorist movement, or whatever one wants to call it, in Albania, part of Macedonia, and at the same time one is seeing the Albanian attacks on Serbs, and I know there have been Serb attacks on Albanians as well but Albanian attacks on Serbs, in Northern Kosovo. Do you think these are co-ordinated? They all seem to have the objective of an independent Greater Kosovo taking in the Albanian populations of the Presevo Valley and Macedonia. Do you think that they are being co-ordinated or are they just sui generis local happenings?
  (Mr Crawford) I think it is generally difficult to know given the way things operate in that part of the world how far things are, in a sense, formally co-ordinated. Is there a little office somewhere in Switzerland, or wherever it might be, where Albanian emigre groups are working this out? Is there a nerve centre? It strikes me as not altogether likely, although I would not completely exclude it. Does one thing lead to another thing? Are there groups down there who are all cousins to each to some degree co-ordinating informally and trying to push forward a radical Greater Albania agenda, the answer is yes, these people are clearly there. This is something that the Serbs are worried about. They say "we know the Albanians" and there is a sort of now or never movement by them. They feel they have really done a good job on Kosovo. One of the senior Serb ladies who was involved in the Presevo Valley incident said to me the other day "the trouble is a lot of people do not realise that Milosevic has gone and things have changed", and I said "but maybe it is the other way round, that because Milosevic has gone and because there will be a process starting, it pays extremists to create new realities on the ground so they get a better negotiating position". It is very important, I think, that we send a powerful signal to extremists across the region, whoever they might be, that that sort of thing is not going to be at all acceptable. I think we are doing that. Part of what we are seeing may to some degree be desperate lunges for people who are feeling that time is not on their side any more. Having said all that, it is very depressing that still in Europe you have got these, if you like, fascist groups of different sorts still having a go at each other. I said to Mr Covic when he presented his plan, the plan is called A Plan to Deal with Albanian Extremism in the Presevo Valley area, "this plan looks great, the only problem with it is the title, what you should be calling it is a plan to deal with everyone's extremism", because we would not have this problem in this part of the world if we had not had a lot of so-called Serb extremism as well. These extremisms depend upon and, as it were, feed each other.

  206. I understand what you mean about probably not formally co-ordinated, but do you think that these objectives of a Greater Kosovo, to put it like that, are shared by the mainstream political opinion within Kosovo itself or do you think they have just got friends among former KLA supporters in Kosovo?
  (Mr Crawford) To be honest, I do not know the answer to that. If you were the Albanians in Kosovo and were asked "would you like to have a Greater Kosovo everything else being equal?" you would probably say yes. Is it something they think they are ever going to get, it is hard to say. Is it something worth fighting for, probably not, "let us consolidate Kosovo first and then worry about so-called Greater Kosovo later on". There has always been an issue down there as to whether or not we are talking Greater Kosovo or Greater Albania. These groups exist and we know they exist. It is one thing even if they exist pursuing these objectives politically, it is another thing using what you might call ethnic cleansing and murder to accomplish them, and that is the trouble we have down there. If people want to talk about a Greater Kosovo or a Greater Serbia or a Greater anything, let them talk, the main thing is they should not fight about it and try to use revolutionary violence, which is really what we are talking about, to accomplish their objectives.

  207. You sound reasonably confident that KFOR can deal with this but so far the Presevo Valley goes on being a different story every week and now we are seeing stories coming out of the Albanian part of Macedonia. You talk about new realities being written on the ground, are we seeing new realities as this happens?
  (Mr Crawford) We have seen some new realities. It will take a while now to roll back that network of trenches and weapons which these people have brought into that particular part of the zone. I have to be confident that KFOR can cope with this because if we cannot cope with this—

  208. They have let it happen.
  (Mr Crawford) Sure, but I think there is a question of what you mean by coping with the Presevo Valley. If the Presevo Valley goes really wrong, and this is why we are all worried about it, if it goes spectacularly wrong, by which I mean Albanian extremist groups provoking a really major military confrontation and we have tens of thousands more refugees streaming into Kosovo, streaming across the region, that will set back everything we have tried to achieve. Quite how we will "cope" with that will be very difficult.

  209. There were newspaper stories, and I know no more than that. This is the American sector, is it not, the Presevo Valley is bordering the American sector of Kosovo?
  (Mr Crawford) Depending on how far you define it, yes.

  210. That they were not being perhaps as forward, as proactive, in trying to prevent this as they might have been, or indeed as the British or other countries there might have been. Do you think there is any evidence of that?
  (Mr Crawford) In so far as you can see these training camps within a couple of hundred yards of the American base, it is hard to deny that proposition. The question is not to some degree how we got there, the question is what we do with it now. The big policy point is that NATO as a whole, including with the new American administration, is working hard to deal with this. What I feel about this is that for ten years we have had the proposition that everything which is Belgrade is Milosevic and is therefore bad and, therefore, because we found this Milosevic factor so striking and so startling and so awful, we have ended up giving support to other movements in the region who were against Milosevic who under normal circumstances we would not necessarily have liked very much. The issue now is how do we realign the whole basis of our effort down there to take account of the fact that Belgrade, for all the problems we have got, is fundamentally becoming part of the solution, not the large part of the problem. That means that Kosovo Albanians and other groups in the region have to deal with a Belgrade which is now a partner, and that is basically a very positive thing I suspect, what we wanted our policy to achieve. That does mean quite a lot of people in the region, to some degree us as well, have to rethink what we are doing and look at things in a different light and send slightly different messages to the Kosovo Albanians that they cannot carry on as if Kosovo is an island in the South Pacific somewhere which has no real links with Belgrade, or has no more links with Belgrade than they have with New Delhi, it is not going to be that way. We all have to calm down a bit and try to look at these issues which are incredibly complex and intractable and have gone on for a long time but in a more measured, structured, reasonable way.

Mr Mackinlay

  211. On this constitutional area of the Federal Republic, you are accredited to the Federal Republic but the way I understand it is that you deem that you have almost equal responsibility and have access to the Serbian Government. Would I be correct in that? Are you equally accredited to them? How does it work?
  (Mr Crawford) I am accredited to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which means I am accredited to the whole space of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which is Serbia and Montenegro. The Kosovo part of Serbia is now under international control but I am regarding it as a normal part of my business to go down there and talk to people and see how we can make that happen.

  212. But you are in normal contact with Serbian Government Ministers, are you not?
  (Mr Crawford) And with Montenegrin Government Ministers. The day after I visited Kragujevac I went down to Podgorica to meet President Djukanovic and people there. I have now done two visits to Montenegro in the five weeks I have been there. I am accredited to the country as a whole.

  213. One of the things that is exercising us is I think there should be a presence, a Consular General in Podgorica. I do not know if that is a matter you would like to comment upon?
  (Mr Crawford) There are not many Ambassadors in the world who would not like to have rather more troops on the ground. Whether you have a Consular General, whether or not you have a British office, if you say to me, "What would someone do down there for 40 hours a week, 50 weeks of year?" it is not completely clear to me at the moment whether that would be a good use of resources I have at my disposal. Whether or not that might be a place we would want to come to in a few months' time, fine, I do not think that is a problem. I think we can do quite a lot. It is only a half hour flight and you can visit it regularly and follow it on the Internet. The Montenegrins come up to Belgrade. It is not as if we are unsighted as to what is happening there.

  214. One of the things which struck me after my visit was that in terms of good governance Serbia would be better off and able to focus on rebuilding its economy, international relationships, et cetera, et cetera, without the incumbrance of the Federal tier. I guess you are somewhat constrained by what you can say about that. Just observing what is good governance, it is better that way, and the impression one got from Serbian people we met was that they would not burst into tears if this almost charade of federalism was lifted (by Montenegro seceding) and it struck me that that was really the mood, although they could not say it in quite those terms. What say you to that?
  (Mr Crawford) That is not an unfair characterisation of the situation. On the other hand, there is not, as far as I can tell, at least at the moment, a clear convincing majority of people in Montenegro who want to break away. My guess would be that what the majority of people in Serbia and Montenegro would want would be for these politicians to get together and sort it out. Montenegro is now very, very semi-detached, as it were, from Serbia, and that will tend to continue under any set of arrangements. But these two units, if one can call them that, have had a long relationship for a long time. People are inter-married. If you are independent, do you want passports and do you want possible visa regimes between these places? This is a bit difficult for people to get their heads round. You are right, there are people in Serbia who would rather see these countries to some degree become independent and remarry on a different basis.

  215. The impression we also got, Ambassador, was that if there was this "velvet divorce" there would not necessarily as a consequence of that be additional problems in relation to Macedonia or elsewhere but the Macedonia thing, if there are going to be problems, is all deigned by demographics rather than anything else. If there are going to be problems, and we hope we can avoid it, we can avoid it perhaps by that region being embraced into the European Union or by some association, but the Montenegrin separation, if it were to come about, if it were to be voted for by the people, is not going to alter one way or the other the fortunes both of the people there and European fortunes in that region.
  (Mr Crawford) I think that is generally right. The only issue is what do we regard as a convincing vote in favour of it. I think—and I said this to them when I was down there the other week—there are two issues. There is the question of whether there is a convincing majority for independence and the question of whether there has been a convincing process? There are issues about what you might call the propaganda quality of the media on both sides down there as to whether or not the issues are being given a fair hearing, and I think there are grounds for concern on that. It is one thing there being a vote; it is another thing being a vote which in a way has been stacked by certain interests or certain politicians in a way which enhances divisions to a dangerous degree. It is one thing there being a clear consensus that this should happen; it is another thing it being rather artificially forced.

  216. A final point in this area, you diligently have this relationship with the Montenegrin Government as with the Serbian Government, you told us how you do that and I accept that wholly. There has been a dearth of United Kingdom Ministers going to the Federal Republic. Part of my question is who has been?
  (Mr Crawford) Mr Caborn.

  217. He did not go to Montenegro, did he?
  (Mr Crawford) As far as I know he did not go there.

  218. So one Minister, a junior trade Minister has been but no Foreign Office Minister has been to Belgrade or to Podgorica, so there is a no political intercourse at ministerial level with the Government of Montenegro unless they come to London, is there? I apologise I put it in that way because it is not your fault; I wanted to clarify that the answer is no.
  (Mr Crawford) The Prime Minister sent President Djukanovic a letter the other day.

  Mr Mackinlay: He writes to me!

  Chairman: We are not here to get into these intimacies! Dr Starkey?

Dr Starkey

  219. I wanted to take up the point you made at the beginning about the fact this Mr Markovic—which seems to be a terribly common name, is it like Smith or something—has just been arrested. I wonder if you could expand a trifle on whether you think that is deeply significant. The newspapers have speculated that this might be the smoking gun that leads to the indictment of Milosevic within Yugoslavia.
  (Mr Crawford) When you are there this is one of the problems we have when we look at this issue; we are looking at a different issue to the ones people in Belgrade are looking at. Part of my job is to try and enlarge the context. Markovic was brought in as a senior secret police person by Milosevic relatively late in the whole process so he seems to be implicated in things like the crash which nearly killed Draskovic, the disappearance of Ivan Curuvija, a former senior Communist, and the murder of the journalist Cuvuvija, and various of those sorts of incident. No-one, at least in Belgrade, seems to be talking about his role in Srebrenica and those other much wider questions. I think what they seem to be doing is going for people like him because, as far as I can tell, they have got evidence he was involved in those sorts of things. These are not war crimes, they are just appalling forms of behaviour. Whether or not that is a way of them easing themselves and public opinion into the wider question of war crimes issue is a good question. It probably is. That seems to be the way they are tackling it. For them the overwhelming stuff that appears in the papers down there is all about Milosevic smuggling gold out of the country, or stealing a villa, or corruption, or things his wife was involved in. It is not really about Bosnia,Vukovar, Dubrovnik, and those sorts of issues, although I think the consciousness on that is growing. The coverage on The Hague Tribunal within the Belgrade media, I would not say it is positive but it is certainly not negative in the way it was even a few months ago and a representative of the Tribunal in Belgrade who is there said he is pleased with the coverage. They are talking about The Hague in a much more matter of fact way. This seems to be an "unofficial" official campaign to bring the public round to accepting The Hague as part of the whole solution.

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