THE WHITE HOUSE AT WORK
Tuesday, March 23, 1999
A COMMITMENT TO ENDING THE CONFLICT IN KOSOVO
What is our interest in whether some innocent family in Kosovo can stay in their home or speak their language or elect its leaders?...We have an interest in seeing bitter ethnic problems in Europe resolved by the force of argument, not the force of arms. We have an interest in preventing a wider war in Europe. And we know that every big European war in this century started as a small war that the world did not care enough to stop.
President Bill Clinton
March 23, 1999
Today, President Clinton addresses the biennial convention of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in Washington. The President discusses America's stake in Kosovo, and our determination--along with our NATO allies--to use military force if necessary to achieve a durable peace that protects the Kosovar Albanians from further Serb oppression and restores to them the self-government they deserve.
Working To Find A Peaceful Solution To The Conflict In Kosovo. President Clinton has led the international efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict in Kosovo, which lies in the heart of the Balkans and is a region of strategic importance to the United States and Europe. The source of the problem is the Serbian President Milosevic, who is repressing the people of Kosovo, which is 90 percent Albanian, and deny them their constitutional right to self-government--a right that they have historically enjoyed. The United States and our NATO allies have proposed a peace agreement that would end the fighting. The Kosovars signed the agreement last week, but President Milosevic has refused to even discuss key elements of the agreement.
Securing Peace In Kosovo Is In The U.S. National Interest. The President is committed to achieving peace in Kosovo because continued violence threatens the stability of Europe and U.S. national interest in two ways:
- The threat of spreading conflict. The United States has a strong interest in preventing the conflict from spreading to neighboring Albania and pushing massive numbers of refugees into Macedonia, which would undermine that fragile new democracy. Also, Greece and Turkey--both NATO allies--could be drawn into the conflict resulting in a wider war that we would be forced to confront.
- An ongoing humanitarian crisis. Over 200,000 Kosovar Albanians have been driven from their homes in recent weeks, highlighting the potential for a humanitarian crisis that could spill over into neighboring countries. The United States has a strong interest in seeing that Milosevic is prevented from burning towns, massacring Albanians and terrorizing civilians with impunity.
President Clinton Is Ready To Act. The United States has sought to end the violence and promote a peaceful solution through diplomatic means. In the face of continued Serb intransigence and aggression, the United States and our NATO allies are prepared to act militarily if necessary.