Belgrade TV 1835 gmt 27 Jun 92

Excerpts from ''exclusive'' recorded interview with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic at the Serbian Presidency in Belgrade by Panos Panayiotopoulos, editor of the Profil programme of the Greek television station Antenna.

[Panayiotopoulos] ...Mr President, most of the international public considers you responsible for the bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia. Of course, the public in Greece does not hold the same view. Why have you not managed to convince other countries that you are right?

[Milosevic] Because neither truth nor justice are on the scene at present, but force and interests. It is otherwise logical that the public in Greece has a different view in relation to the public views that have been created with a long, well-organised and well-paid media war concerning the real state of affairs in Yugoslavia. The public in Greece, our next-door neighbour, knows very well what is happening here.

It is well-known that the public's memory, especially at times of crisis, is very short, but everything that happened took place in a short period of time. I therefore hope that the facts and everything that happened in Yugoslavia, all the stages that Yugoslavia went through in the process of disintegration, with all the attempts by strong and formidable interests to take control of this region, will not be erased from the public's memory just like that.

Therefore, bear in mind the facts. How did the clashes in Yugoslavia begin? They began with unilateral and violent acts by the republics that opted for secession. Our stand, our position, has been from the very beginning not to deny any Yugoslav people the right to self-determination. However, we think that this right should be affirmed peacefully, legally and by respecting the same right of other peoples who live in Yugoslavia.

[Q] Allow me to ask you another question, Mr President. Why are you not succeeding in convincing the international public?

[A] Just because there are very strong interests in the total disintegration of Yugoslavia, and because a media war is being waged for the interests. This war is making it difficult for a small country such as the present day Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, or Serbia, to penetrate the worldwith truth in the right way. However, I consider this situation to be only temporary, because no one can hide the truth. I am convinced that it will not be long before the real background of everything that has been happening in Yugoslavia in the last few years is seen.

Let me add to this answer a question. How was it possible, for instance, that before the sanctions were introduced against Yugoslavia, the well-known report by the UN Secretary-General was late? The answer to this question is probably much easier than to the question why we are not successful in the media war in which we are obviously not succeeding in any respect. Or, how is it possible that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, or Serbia, is accused of aggression in Bosnia-Hercegovina without having a single soldier on the territory of the country that it is accused of carrying out aggression against? Or, how is it possible that Serbia is sending hundreds of tons of food and aid to the citizens of Sarajevo with humanitarian convoys, aid that is distributed equally there to the Muslims, Croats and Serbs, and that this has never been mentioned once in the Western press, which is not favourable to us. Or, how is it possible that tens of thousands of Muslims are fleeing Bosnia to Serbia, knowing for sure that they will be treated here like all other citizens and that they will receive all the necessary help? Has anyone ever seen the victims of aggression fleeing to and looking for shelter with the aggressor? Or, for instance, if Serbia had carried out aggression against Bosnia-Hercegovina, would it be possible to hide this fact from the 10 million of its citisens who would have at least some connections with these phantom forces sent by Serbia outside its territory?

[Q] We are not talking about any particular interests, which do exist. They certainly do. The question is Why do you not make the slightest attempt to change public opinion? At least this is what it looks like from outside. For example, why do you not denounce the leaders of the irregular Serbian units that have been active in Bosnia-Hercegovina during this period?

[A] I think that for anyone who is well-intentioned, we are taking all steps in all our acts - not only for the sake of persuading the international public but also for the sake of stopping this tragic war in Bosnia-Hercegovina - to help to ensure that it stops. We are not helping any irregular groups at all. On the contrary, paramilitary groups are banned in Serbia. If your observers were attentive, they could have recently seen that the government of the Republic of Serbia has discussed a report in which it can be seen that some 1,300 - I can no longer remember the exact number, but it was between 1,300 and 1,400 citisens - who for various reasons had weapons and were located near the border were sent to court. In other words, the appropriate measures were taken against all such cases quite legally.

Therefore we definitely do not help paramilitary groups, but of course we are helping the Serbian people in Bosnia-Hercegovina. We are helping others in Bosnia-Hercegovina, but our help is quite legal and in conformity with all international principles. This involves above all material aid, food, clothes, medicines and all those basic foodstuffs and fuel. In other words, everything that is necessary to ensure that people live there. Is it for example logical to you that various countries in Europe, for example, Austria and Hungary, help the Croats and Muslims and for the Serbs not to help Serbs?

[Q] If you allow me to insist on clearing something up. I see that other people, intellectuals like Mr Bruckner Pascal, who was in Serbia some time ago - I read what he wrote in 'L'Observateur' magazine - he also had the impression, as much of the international public after all, that Slobodan Milosevic stands behind the Chetniks and the well-known Captain Arkan. It is claimed that you are supplying them with fuel and arms and that you are supporting them morally. Why do you not arrest all those people when they accuse you of all this? Why do you not disarm the paramilitary groups?

[A] The idea of any paramilitary groups in Serbia was born when tensions emerged in Yugoslavia. It was born in the wing of some opposition parties. The authorities in Serbia reacted to this by the government proposing a law in parliament strictly banning paramilitary groups. No paramilitary groups can be in the service of a normal and regular government.

[Q] It is known that the United States does not like you personally. Nevertheless, it has been reported and we know that you personally know the current Deputy Secretary of State, Mr Eagleburger. Mr Eagleburger met you once, in 1988, if I am not wrong. What has happened since? Your relations have soured.

[A] I met Mr Eagleburger during his mission in Yugoslavia. He was US Ambassador in Belgrade for several years. At that time I was President of the Bank of Belgrade. We were not very close friends but co-operated very well. He extended great support to the development of economic relationsbetween Yugoslavia and the United States. I think that in this respect he played a very positive role. Regarding the meeting that you mentioned, the last meeting in here in Belgrade, nothing spectacular happened, nothing that would spoil these relations, nor were there any personal reasons for these relations to be spoiled. Therefore, I could not link the change in the relations with any personal background, if this is what you are suggesting.

As regards respectable US politicians who engaged themselves in one way or another in the Yugoslav crisis, I would like to say that I highly appreciate the role that was played by Cyrus Vance, not as a representative of the United States, but as a special envoy of the UN Secretary-General. He is virtually the only prominent US politician who has recently dealt with the Yugoslav crisis systematically and for an extended period of time. Therefore, there is no doubt that the fact that he dealt with the Yugoslav crisis systematically and for an extended period of time is directly correlated with the fact that he displayed the greatest possible degree of objectivity in his views on the Yugoslav crisis.

I am sure that if someone starts dealing with the Yugoslav crisis, he will not be able to draw different conclusions and that objectivity and truth will certainly outweigh the current picture which is grossly distorted and, I would say, unjust with regard to the position of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Fortunately, this distorted picture cannot remain as such for a long time. I am convinced that after a while the truth must break through all these artificial barriers and that the correct picture will emerge before the international public.

[Q] Mr President, what would you do today for the embargo to be lifted. Are you also expecting a naval blockade?

[A] I hope that when the correct facts about the Yugoslav crisis become available to the international public, this embargo will be lifted by those who introduced it. We do not hold the view that we should confront the United Nations. On the contrary, through co-operation with the United Nations, and by offering our claims to be inspected, to be verified on the spot, we can correct this picture and convince people that there are no real grounds for such an embargo.

[Q] Do you see the possibility of a military intervention in Yugoslavia? Is a military intervention by the Western powers probable?

[A] I could not indeed find one single reason for such an intervention. We are not at war with anyone. If there is a doubt that certain points, which are constantly being mentioned as possible places for military intervention, are being used for some secret operations, is it not simpler to invite as guests those who have these doubts and let them spend some time at these points and to see for themselves that any intervention with force would be superfluous, that it would be extremely unjust, and that finally it could represent an act of aggression against a small and independent country and not an act of putting things that have been disturbed in order?

Let those who have doubts be our guests. Let them see it for themselves. They should not believe what we say, let them believe their own eyes.

[Q] My next question is What do you think Greece should do to prevent the intervention of the Western powers?

[A] I believe that Greece, not only as a neighbour but also as a friendly country that has the obligation to be objective, should help the real truth about the situation in its neighbourhood to reach the international public as clearly and as comprehensively as possible. It should therefore be on the side of justice and truth.

[Q] Nevertheless, Mr President, despite the fact that Greece has been supporting Serbia, Serbia and you, as its leader, have shown considerable restraint in supporting our country, Greece, in its problem with Skopje. Do you believe that the people of Skopje are Macedonians?

[A] I would like to say that our view has been the same from the very beginning. As regards Greece's stand, we have constantly stressed that we absolutely understand Greece's sensitivity about this problem that has arisen. We have also been saying that the Greeks have not invented the problem. This is a real problem, a problem that exists, a problem that should be recognised.

[Q] Who should be blamed for this?

[A] I think that the partners in Macedonia and in Skopje, with whom this should have been discussed, did not understand this problem, this danger in time, that is to say, they did not try to overcome this problem with Greece at the right time. However, it is certain that in the interests of good relations in the region the problem should be resolved peacefully, so that the interests of all sides are protected to the maximum and not spoiled at the expense of one side.

[Q] But Mr President, you did not tell me whether you believe that the people of Skopje are Macedonians?

[A] In a historical sense I heard a statement by their President - I think he made it in Rome - that they certainly do not regard themselves to be the descendants of Alexander the Great. Therefore, this political problem was created, it was created under heightened circumstances in the region, and I think that a proper solution should be found for it between the authorities in Skopje and the authorities in Athens.

[Q] Do you think that they should talk directly, that Athens, that is to say, Mr Mitsotakis should talk to Mr Gligorov?

[A] Why not? I think that everything that contributes to the settlement of the problems that exist in this region should be done. In other words, one should not avoid any talks that could lead to a solution.

[Q] Mr President, 'Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung' recently wrote that during your meeting with Mr Mitsotakis you discussed, that is to say, proposed the idea of a simultaneous military action by Serbia and Greece on the territory of Skopje and the opening of two corridors with the military means of Serbia and Greece. Is this true?

[A] Of course not. You can also ask President Mitsotakis about this. He would not be able to give you any different answer than the one I gave you. Why would someone be doing something by force at all if this can be achieved quite peacefully? On the contrary, our government, the government in Belgrade, has made a protocol with the government in Skopje in which the Serbian side insisted on its great interest in free communications with Greece, not only because of our historical and long friendship, but also because of our present and long-term interests.

Therefore, this communication between Greece and Serbia has been fully assured in both directions and accepted without any restrictions.

[Q] Mr President, let us now talk a bit about Kosovo-Metohija. There have been some incidents in Pristina recently and at present. The Albanian side has unofficially said that you have refused to give Albanians self-rule and the right to self-determination. Will you do that?

[A] There is a big misunderstanding about Kosovo. The only problem that exists, which we will not, of course, solve in the way desired by some Albanian parties, is the problem of separatism. All members of the Albanian minority living in Serbia are equal citizens of Serbia. They are protected by the Constitution of Serbia in the same way as all other citizens of Serbia are. We cannot offer them anything but equality. In other words, we cannot offer them anything more than equality. Albanians in Kosovo are being dragged into difficulties by some of their politicians who have clearly declared one and only one aim, namely the separation of Kosovo from Serbia and its joining neighbouring Albania. This is, of course, out of the question.

As regards autonomy, Kosovo-Metohija is an autonomous province in Serbia. Kosovo-Metohija has never been an autonomous region of Albania. This is an autonomous region in Serbia, because of the specific structure of the population and for many cultural and other reasons. Kosovo-Metohija has never belonged to Albania, except one part of it belonging to the so-called Great Albania during Mussolini's time. It has never belonged, nor will it ever belong to Albania, in history.

[Q] Mr President, if the Albanians in Kosovo-Metohija after all do not want to live with Serbs, what should be done?

[A] Everyone has the right to live with whom he wants. I am talking about the fact that the territorial integrity of Serbia cannot be endangered in any way. Kosovo is not just any simple territory of Yugoslavia or Serbia. Kosovo is the very heart of Serbia. Our entire history is tied to Kosovo. Only the people who do not know anything about Serbia or the Serbian people, nor about their culture and history, can assume that we could give Kosovo to somebody. This is out of the question.

Human and civil rights are another matter. All rights that are envisaged by the CSCE documents, particularly the Final Act, are absolutely guaranteed to all citizens in Serbia and to all members of national minorities, and thus to all Albanians.

You know very well that according to any international agreement or document, the rights of a national minority do not include the right to form one's own state on the territory of the state where this minority lives.

[Q] If they nevertheless insist on it, and if they resort to an armed struggle, what will you do?

[A] I hope that the adventure-orientated politicians will not lead them into an armed struggle. Such an armed struggle would represent an attack on the constitutional order and the territorial integrity of Serbia, and the authorities would be absolutely against it. This is why I hope that there are no such adventurists in the political life there, even among the extreme separatists, who would pull the Albanian minority into bloodshed. It is difficult to believe that the Albanians - we are talking about over a million people - would follow such demands, that they would die for someone's mad political ambitions.

[Q] Mr President, let us now talk a bit about the situation in Yugoslavia and Serbia. Some people from the opposition in Belgrade are saying that if Slobodan Milosevic tenders his resignation, the whole international climate will change and the opponents of Yugoslavia and Serbia will become their supporters.

[A] I could not attach such a great importance to myself. If the attitudes towards Serbia and Yugoslavia depended on one person, then indeed there would be no explanation for everything that is happening now. Be assured that everything that is currently happening on our political scene also has its very constructive aspects and its democratic aspects.

After all, the role of the opposition has always been to criticise the government and the authorities. Let this criticism, which is heard here loudly and has been heard for a long time, be a sign of the major democratic changes on the path that social life in Serbia has embarked on.

However, there is no government that would survive in Serbia for a longer period of time if it did not respect the real and vital interest of this republic and these people.

[Q] Do you not think that the critical situation that the Serbian people live in imposes a need for the opposition to enter the government?

[A] I would say that this is the duty of the opposition, but even before these crisis conditions. After the elections that were held less than two years ago I suggested to some opposition leaders that, despite our victory, they should propose certain people for the government. This is good for the mental health of democracy in Serbia. I was then given the answer that they would always support the national interests of Serbia, but that they did not want to take part in the government. They wanted to criticise the government in every respect, that is to say, they wanted to work against the government.

I did not think this was clever then, nor do I think this is clever now. The door has always been open for this kind of co-operation. Therefore, the authorities in Serbia can hardly be blamed for such a lack of understanding about good proposals. One could talk more about a lack of understanding about the gravity of the historical situation in which these people have found themselves, a situation in which they have completely unjustifiably been subjected to enormous pressure caused by the breaking up of the country, enormous pressure from outside, and the enormous outside interests in this country being broken up. One could talk about the wish, the need and the vital aims of these people to retain and preserve their interests, their dignity and their independence, that is to say, to ensure that in the future they develop as a successful and progressive country in every respect.

[Q] Are you still offering the opposition a place in the government?

[A] This is a matter for the head of the government to decide. He has a very clear stand on this. He has an open invitation for all people, regardless of their party affiliation, to be proposed to him. Among other things, I would like to point out that the current government includes several members who are not members of the ruling party, that is to say, several people who are not members of any political party.

[Q] Do you not think that calling general elections under conditions with which the opposition would agree would be a solution, and that this would change the picture of Serbia in the world?

[A] This should be decided by the citizens. There are no obstacles whatsoever. I have even recently suggested to the representatives of the ruling party to ask the opposition when they want the elections to be held. Therefore, we should resolve contentious issues and establish a general consensus - in terms of national interests not, of course, in terms of all those various marginal parties that today exist in Serbia - for any significant political event and thus elections.

Therefore, one thing is quite clear. It is only the question of whether under the conditions of enormous foreign pressure and sanctions to which we have been exposed, whether these conditions are favourable for this kind of activity, for elections, or whether we should talk about elections only when sanctions have been lifted and when the citizens are freed from such an unprecedented outside pressure to which they are currently being subjected.

It is not surprising that because of the great interests of the powers who wanted Yugoslavia to be broken up, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been subjected to such fierce pressure. What is surprising is that here within it there are forces that instead of acting towards unity, towards the general interest, towards resisting this pressure without losing any important interests of these people and this country, instead of that, they are siding with this pressure to which this country is exposed. I hope that these are transitional stages from which we will emerge successfully.

[Q] If the opposition asked you to do that now, would this lead to a reduction in tensions and pressure against Serbia? In other words, if the opposition asked you to do that now, would you hold elections?

[A] This is up to the parliament, but anything that can improve the position of Yugoslavia, including elections, should certainly be considered. Therefore, one should not refrain from any move, any decision that, as you said, could help the settlement of the crisis in Yugoslavia and improve Serbia's position. There is nothing more important than this.

[Q] ...We in Greece firmly believe that Turkey has expansionist aspirations towards our country and the Balkans. Do you share my view? Do you believe in it? If not, tell us how you see Turkey's role in the Balkans in relation to the well-known Islamic axis.

[A] It is very difficult at the time of this crisis for someone not to harbour expansionist aspirations towards Yugoslavia. We witnessed this ourselves during all those years, particularly months, of Yugoslavia being broken up. However, I hope that the problem that has emerged here in Europe and this region will be quickly resolved, that peace will quickly be established, which is the first condition for the elimination of everyone's expansionist aspirations. I therefore hope that the presence of these aspirations will not produce some serious consequences.

However, if our own interests are endangered by anyone's aspirations, we will have to defend these interests.

[Q] You have not told us anything specific about Turkey.

[A] We have tried to foster good relations and co-operation with Turkey. Serbia and Turkey sorted out their differences in 1912. As the head of the Serbian government of that time said, after this we should only be friends. As far as we are concerned, we have been trying to behave in this way. It appears to me that certain forces in Turkey are taken in by the gross lies that are coming from the current authorities in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and that their, I would say, extremely negative stand towards everything that is happening in Serbia and Yugoslavia is the result of such lies which have in fact pulled Bosnia-Hercegovina into this tragic war. I hope and believe that the Turkish leadership will display much more wisdom than has been done by their friends in the body of the Muslim Bosnia-Hercegovina in the last few months.

[Q] Mr President, some people in Belgrade who have a very healthy imagination told me that in case a major crisis broke out in the Balkans, our two friendly peoples, Serbs and Greeks, could perhaps set up a confederation. What are your views about this idea, which is perhaps unrealistic?

[A] For me, this idea is not [word indistinct] at all. I am even convinced that such a Greek- Yugoslav confederation would be, I am sure, a factor of great stability in the region and would surely be in the interests of both the Greek and the Serbian people.

We are not only tied by historical and traditionally friendly relations, but also major currently topical interests. The existence of such a state in the Balkans, in this part of Europe, would undoubtedly also in political, economic, military and every other respect represent a factor of stability in this part of the planet.

[Q] Why do not you propose this to Mr Mitsotakis?

[A] Who says I did not propose this to him?

[Q] What was his answer?

[A] Well, you must talk to Mitsotakis about this. We discussed numerous issues. With all due respect, I rate Prime Minister Mitsotakis very highly, he is a true friend of Serbia and the Serbian nation, but I nevertheless do not wish to assume or interpret his opinion on any issue. We certainly do not differ as regards certain aims and interests. However, we probably differ in our views of the right moment or specific circumstances for certain political solutions.

[Q] In any case, Mr Mitsotakis did not rule out such a possibility. Did I understand correctly?

[A] Well, I do not believe that any politician, be it Greek or Serbian, could dismiss such an idea.

[Q] When you say a confederation, do you assume a joint military command as well?

[A] These are matters that should definitely be discussed further but, as far as I am concerned, it naturally assumes a joint military command. At the end of the day, this would not be contrary to our tradition. We always fought together shoulder to shoulder and never one against the other. [Q] Where does Skopje, which is between us, fit into all this?

[A] I am convinced that neither we nor you would resolve this problem by aggression. When a perfectly logical integration is proposed, an integration in an economic, cultural and any other aspect, I am convinced that the authorities in Skopje would not object to the maximum level of integration that would be achieved in this way.

[Q] Would [Macedonian President] Mr Gligorov want this? Do you know anything about this?

[A] Well, I am not convinced that he could be against this.

[Q] This might perhaps be a solution to the problems in our region. Do you believe that this could resolve the problems as regards Greece?

[A] New solutions always exist, but the sides involved must decide equally on them regardless of whether they are large or small. If I were in Greece's place I would never dismiss such solutions, and if I were in the place of the authorities in Skopje's I also would not dismiss such solutions because, as you can see, we here in Belgrade consider them quite a feasible development of affairs for some sort of future relations in this region...

Copyright 1992 The British Broadcasting Corporation
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts

SECTION: Part 2 Eastern Europe; C. SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT; YUGOSLAVIA; EE/1422/C1/ 1; 

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