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President Clinton's Remarks upon Departure for Germany

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 4, 1999


The South Grounds

5:09 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. As you know, I am leaving in afew minutes for Europe. But first, I would like to say just a few wordsabout what we've been doing on Kosovo in the last 24 hours, and what weintend to do over the next few days.

Yesterday, I met with Mr. Chernomyrdin, the Russian envoy. Ireaffirmed our support for his efforts, and our willingness to seize everydiplomatic possibility for Serbian authorities to meet the requirementsthat NATO has articulated. I reaffirmed what all the allies have agreedthose requirements are, including withdrawal of Serbian security forcesfrom Kosovo, and the deployment of an international security force withNATO at its core. Only then will the refugees have the confidence toreturn, which is, after all, what we are working for. Only then will theKLA have an incentive to demobilize, which will contribute to peace andstability of all of Kosovo's people, including its ethnic Serbs. Only thenwill we have a chance to achieve a durable solution to the problem ofKosovo.

Tomorrow I will meet with Secretary General Solana and GeneralClark. We will discuss the progress of NATO's air campaign, whichcontinues to grow in intensity and impact. I will speak with the airmenwho are flying missions over Kosovo and Serbia out of Spangdahlem, Germany,and visit our humanitarian relief operations at Ramstein. Our men andwomen in uniform are doing their jobs with uncommon courage and skill.They have the support of the American people. They should hear unqualifiedsupport from their leaders in Washington.

On Thursday, I will meet with Chancellor Schroeder and go to arefugee reception center in Ingelheim, Germany. We will hear the storiesof the people fleeing the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. We will assure themof our determination and resolve to see them return with security andself-government. That is what our effort in Kosovo is all about.

We need to remember that there is no middle ground betweenreturning these innocent people to their homes and turning away from theirfaith. Whatever can be negotiated, it is not that. They have to be ableto go home safe and secure. We cannot see what we have seen with our owneyes and take refuge in the false comfort of indifference or impatience.We have to take a stand. We have done that. We have to see our effortthrough. We will do that.

I want to thank again all of our allies for their steadfastsupport that we are jointly giving to our common efforts. We will continueto do that until our simple and plain objectives are met.

Q Mr. President, what can you negotiate without giving up yourcore demands?

Q -- Milosevic is prepared to move toward NATO's demands atall?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know what he's prepared to do. Iappreciate the fact that he let our American soldiers come home. That wasthe right decision. They weren't even involved in the operation.

It seems to me that if he asked the question, what is best forthe Serbian people over the long-run? What is most likely to preserve theterritorial integrity of Serbia over the long-run? What is most likely togive us the result where Serbia can join with its neighbors in a commonendeavor to promote prosperity and peace, and therefore the naturalstrengths that Belgrade and Serbia have because of the size of theircountry and the abilities of their people? What is most likely to promotethat? Then the answer will clearly be, letting the Kosovars come home,having an international force to protect them and the Serb minority inKosovo, and then getting on about the business of building a better futurefor all the people of Southeastern Europe.

So, I think if the right questions are asked, then this is not adefeat for Serbia we're seeking. What we're seeking is the simple right ofthe Kosovar Albanians to live in peace in their own land, without fear ofcleansing because of their religious or their ethnic background, and asimple statement that in Europe there will be no more ethnic cleansing. Wewill not usher in the 21st century with the worst nightmares of the 20th.

Q What can you negotiate, Mr. President?

Q Are you any closer to a negotiated peace?

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