THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
||June 18, 1999
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON AGREEMENT FROM HELSINKI
In Front of Cologne Cathedral
10:08 P.M. (L)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let me say, first of all, how
pleased I am and appreciative I am for the efforts made by Secretary
Cohen and Defense Minister Sergeyev to reach the agreement under
which the Russian forces will join KFOR in Kosovo.
I have been briefed on the terms of the agreement. They
provide for unity of command. They provide for a significant range
of responsibilities for the Russians, which I think are entirely
appropriate and will enhance the mission's effectiveness. And I am
fully supportive of this agreement and very pleased by it.
This has been a good day. We are achieving our
objectives now. We know that we have 35,000 Serb forces out, 19,000
KFOR forces in. Now we have the agreement with the Russians and the
Kosovars are going home. So I feel very good and very grateful for
And, again, I know that Secretary Cohen and Mr. Sergeyev
have worked very hard, and I'd also like to thank Secretary Albright
and Foreign Minister Ivanov, because I know they've been also in
Helsinki working away. So I'm very pleased.
Q What will the Russian troops be doing and why is
it significant that they would not control a sector of their own?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, for one -- the main reason is
they are actually needed in more than one sector.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Because even though the Serb
population of Kosovo is concentrated primarily in one north
central sector and then a northeastern sector, they're actually
-- the religious and cultural sites are spread throughout the
country and there are pockets of Serbs throughout the country,
and we think it's quite important that every effort be made to
secure both the physical sites and the personal security of the
Serb minority, as well as the Kosovar Albanian majority. And we
think it will give confidence to them if the Russians are in more
than one sector.
Q Will the Russians answer to the NATO commanders?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: They have worked out their
agreements on unity of command, and Secretary Cohen and Mr.
Sergeyev are discussing it now -- I think the briefing is going
on now, so there's no point in my trying to answer their
questions for them. They'd do a better job than I would, and if
made a mistake just have to clean it up.
Q Is this better than Bosnia, sir?
Q The House vote to kill the gun legislation -- was
that inevitable to kill the legislation because of changes the
House wanted to make on gun control and the background checks?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Did they do that today?
Q I think they're about to.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: They're going to kill it all?
Q They have killed it all.
Q They have.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, then maybe that means we'll
go back to square one and pass a good bill.
Q What happened? A month ago it was so different,
PRESIDENT CLINTON: They made a -- the decision made by
the leadership not to act before Memorial Day gave people -- gave
the NRA time to mobilize and lobby and put pressure on the House,
and gave people's attention time to wander from the heartbreak of
Littleton and the determination to do something about it.
But I think people still feel very strongly that
there's more we can do to protect our children, and my attention
hasn't wandered. I've been working on this for years and I've
seen a lot of ups and downs, so I'm more than happy to keep at
it. And I would just urge all the advocates of sensible
legislation to keep their spirits up and keep working and keep
fighting. And I'll be there with them and we'll get some things
Q Is this more than Bosnia for the Russians, Mr.
President? Is this an enhanced role than what they had in
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Yes, I would say so, because -- but
it's different. You see, in Bosnia, we shared a sector in
Bosnia, and we worked very well together. I think all of our
people will tell you they were very well pleased. And then the
French had a sector and the British had a sector, and there were
lots of other countries involved, just as there will be here.
There will be nearly 30 countries involved.
But the -- we didn't have the same dynamic here. We've
got just two ethnic groups and the Serbs are a small minority,
but they're a substantial number of people and they're spread
out. You know, of course, I hope that conditions will be such
that those ordinary civilians who didn't commit any crimes who
left will feel that they can come back, too.
So I think having the Russians there and then playing
the administrative role at the airport gives them a broader range
of responsibilities, because as I said, I think it's perfectly
consistent with the mission. I think it will help us to send the
message, to model the message, to both groups that we really do
want all law-abiding people to be able to live in peace in
Kosovo, and we intend to honor our commitments to that end.
So I feel quite good about this and I've reviewed the,
as I said, the terms of command and control and the basic
elements. I think it will work. My test about all this has
always been will it work; will it bring the Kosovars home; will
it enable them to live in safety with self-government; will it
enable us to protect everyone's religious and cultural and other
appropriate sites. I think the answers to all those questions,
if this agreement is faithfully implemented -- and I believe it
will be -- the answers to those questions are, yes.
Q Do you trust the Russians?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, we -- all I can tell you is,
every time I've had an understanding with Boris Yeltsin he's kept
it. And we did work with them on a consistent, long-term basis
for years now in Bosnia and it's worked out. So I believe now
that the agreement is worked out I think it will be honored. I
expect it will be honored.
Q Despite last week --
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Yes, absolutely.
Q Thank you, sir.
END 10:15 P.M. (L)