June 10, 2000 International Tribunal for U.S./NATO warcrimes in Yugoslavia
THE ROLE OF THE AUSTRIAN GOVERNMENT IN THE RAMBOUILLET ACCORDS
by Gregor Neussel
Gregor Kneussel, from the Austria-Yugoslav Solidarity Committee, is one of the organizers of the Austrian war crimes tribunal. The Rambouillet accords had conditions that amounted to the occupation of Yugoslavia by NATO armies. Kneussel spoke about the role of constitutionally neutral Austria in delivering this NATO ultimatum.
Im not going to say anything about the crimes committed by Austrian soldiers and politicians on the Balkans sixty years ago, we all know about that. But I do want to say a few words about the role of Austrian politicians in Yugoslavia during the past ten years.
Austria declared a state of neutrality after the Second World War, which forbids it from joining any military alliance and siding with any other country in a war.
Nevertheless the Austrian government has been playing a crucial r˘le in the disintegration of Yugoslavia. In 1991 the U.S. government was still thinking that the secession of Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia was not in the U.S.'s interest. This was clearly expressed by James Baker in a meeting in Belgrade in June 1991. The German and Austrian governments on the other hand were already trying to get their share of the Balkans at that time. Just three days after Slovenia and Croatia declared to secede from Yugoslavia, several Austrian politicians of the ruling Social Democrats (SPÍ) and Christian Conservatives (ÍVP) went to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, to express support for this secession. Slovenian politicians were received as representatives of an independent country long before any other country recognized Slovenia as a separate state. Representatives of the Christian Conservative Peoples Party in parliament argued that Slovenia could become a part of Austria. Later on, in 1992, Alois Mock, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, actively tried to convince the government of the United States and other countries to launch a military intervention in the conflict in Bosnia. All these actions were of course clear violations of the Austrian Constitution and the Neutrality Law.
In August 1999 the Austrian government once more took part in the actions against Yugoslavia. Wolfgang Petritsch was the Austrian ambassador in Belgrade at that time, and he was sent to Kosovo to represent the European Union in the Contact Group that was supposed to solve the conflict in Kosovo. Together with Christopher Hill, the US representative in that Contact Group, Petritsch was preparing the Rambouillet negotiations and delivering an ultimatum to the Yugoslav government. In fact NATO had already threatened to bomb Yugoslavia in October 1998, five months before the Rambouillet negotiations started. The so-called Rambouillet agreement was signed by the Albanian side and also by Wolfgang Petritsch, but the Yugoslav and the Russian representatives did not sign it.
At that time in March 1999, the content of the so-called Rambouillet agreement and the Annex B as NATO and EU proposed it was not known at all to the public. Wolfgang Petritsch made it quite clear in an interview with the German Spiegel that it was meant as an ultimatum against Yugoslavia. He said:
"80 per cent of our demands will just be rushed through. Two things are definitely forbidden [for the Yugoslav delegation]: press contacts and leaving before a conclusion. They all remain interned in a conclave. In the end it is going to be tough and the final result will probably be dictated by us. But I guarantee one thing: By the end of April either the Kosovo conflict will be formally solved, or NATO will bomb [Yugoslavia]."
On March 18 the Yugoslav side explained to the press why they refused to sign that military annex, but the Western media just refused to report on that. Six days later, March 24, NATO forces started to bomb Yugoslavia.
In April 1999, during the NATO bombings, I joined a delegation to Yugoslavia to see the effects of the NATO air raids; we witnessed the destruction of civilian targets bridges, factories, schools and apartment houses in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Ni and Aleksinac. The most shocking experience for us was Aleksinac. Aleksinac is a very small town with no industry whatsoever. NATO had bombed several apartment blocks and small houses there, as well as the local polyclinic. In Belgrade we also met Vladimir tambuk who had been a member of the Yugoslav delegation to Rambouillet. He gave us a copy of the Rambouillet ultimatum as Petritsch and the other western envoys had delivered it. Only then did we learn about the Annex B the Yugoslav representatives had refused to sign.
During the 78 days of NATO attacks, we were on the streets of Vienna every single day. We had smaller demonstrations during working days and big meetings and demonstrations every weekend. When the NATO bombings were over we still thought that it was very important to continue our activities. It became clear that there is an embargo against Yugoslavia, and we had seen what an embargo meant to Iraq and to other countries: in Iraq more than a million people died due to the embargo. Therefore we founded the Austrian-Yugoslav Solidarity Movement (JÍSB), and we go on organising meetings and we go on informing people in Austria about whats going on in Yugoslavia.
On December 4th, 1999 we held the Vienna Tribunal against the Austrian governments aiding and abetting the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia. The Tribunal in Vienna found that the Austrian Federal Government, as well as Alois Mock, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, the European Union special envoy to Kosovo, all bear responsibility for the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia. The indictment of the Vienna Tribunal was translated into English and has been made available to the jury.
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