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Washington Journal: Albright Addresses Serbian People

Prague, 12 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The following are remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in an address recorded yesterday and intended for broadcast to the Serbian people.

"As Russia, Japan, the United States and Europe work together on a plan for an international security force for Kosovo, I would like to talk with you about peace. But we must first speak about something you may not know or even suspect -- how Belgrade's police and security forces are violating the most basic human rights of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Seven hundred thousand ethnic Albanians -- one-third the population of Kosovo -- have fled across the border to Albania and Macedonia.

600,000 more are displaced within Kosovo. I cannot believe that you believe what your spokesmen are telling you: that these are 1.3 million actors who have been paid to pretend that they were driven from their homes and subject to unspeakable barbarity.

They are ordinary people, and they tell reporters and aid workers that they were not fleeing NATO, but murderous Serb troops and paramilitaries. Hundreds of thousands had fled their homes before the NATO campaign began. Serb forces have burned or destroyed more than 500 Kosovo villages. And in satellite photographs, we can see evidence of new mass graves across the region.

When this conflict is over, good and decent Serbs will be appalled at what has been done in your name. You did not shoot sons in front of their mothers, chase families into minefields, or select out young women to be raped. Some Serbs have tried to protect ethnic Albanians from these outrages. But the world knows that your military, paramilitary and police forces are doing all of these things in Kosovo.

When this conflict is over, the world will remember that Slobodan Milosevic did not give his people much of a choice. But he had a choice. The United Nations Security Council warned Belgrade a year ago to stop the ethnic cleansing and resolve the Kosovo conflict peacefully. The international community said time and again that NATO air strikes would result if atrocities continued.

And the international community proposed a peace plan that would have left Kosovo a part of Serbia and introduced observers to protect all of Kosovo's citizens. Think back to March; Serbs, like the rest of the world, believed that Milosevic would go to the peace talks and try to get the best deal he could for himself and his country.

Instead, he chose the worst deal for everyone -- except himself, his wealthy cronies and the extremists around him. He left the people of Serbia to face danger alone. He put in motion a plan to ethnically cleanse Kosovo. And NATO responded as promised -- because we could not stand by.

NATO's air campaign will continue until atrocities in Kosovo have ceased, all Yugoslav security forces have left Kosovo, and there is agreement on an international security presence that will allow refugees to return to the region in safety. Belgrade's announcement of a partial withdrawal of Serb forces falls far short of these conditions. We deeply regret the loss of life and damage from the bombing. But we must remember that Serb authorities have never admitted, let alone regretted, the death of even one innocent Albanian. Indeed, Belgrade's military campaign is directed first and foremost at civilian targets.

That is something no civilized nation can accept. It is far beneath the standard that Europe sets for its partners. And it is something the Serb people should not let happen in your name.

We support the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. We want to see a Kosovo protected by an international security force, in which Serbs and ethnic Albanians can live in peace with each other. And we want to see a democratic Serbia enter modern Europe and join the community of Euro-Atlantic democracies. That is where you truly belong. But first you must put the ugly specter of ethnic cleansing -- this dark chapter from Europe's past -- behind you once and for all."