World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150, route de Ferney PO Box 2100 1211 Geneva 2 Switzerland E-mail: media

14 October 1998


The World Council of Churches (WCC) welcomes news reported on 13 October that President Slobodan Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) has acceded to a significant portion of the demands of the United Nations Security Council with respect to withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo and security guarantees for the return of humanitarian organizations to the area.

The WCC welcomes in particular the agreement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to deploy a sizeable, unarmed verification force in Kosovo, and the acceptance of this deployment by the FRY. This role of the OSCE on behalf of the international community is consistent with the decisions of the UN Security Council taken under Chapter VII of the UN Charter (res. 1160, 31 March 1998). The use of such a contingent corresponds to the WCCs repeated affirmation that all means short of the use of armed force must be used to obtain compliance by offending states with decisions of the Security Council.

The Council reiterates its position that any action by states to achieve international peace and security, either individually or collectively, must be undertaken strictly under the terms of the Charter and with the explicit approval of the Security Council. In this connection, the WCC welcomes the announcement by the UN Secretary-General that he will send a mission to the region.

The WCC recognizes that the provisional agreements announced yesterday fall far short of full compliance with Security Council resolution 1199 (23 September 1998). The Council appeals to all parties, especially the FRY, the Kosovar Albanian Leadership and all Albanian groups, to accept all the terms of that resolution, to renounce immediately the use of arms, to initiate without delay good-faith negotiations for a just and lasting solution to the Kosovo conflict, and to cooperate with the Prosecutor of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the investigation of possible violations in Kosovo which are within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

As churches and religious leaders in Kosovo, Serbia and elsewhere in the region, and beyond, have said from the beginning of this conflict, violence cannot bring peace. A future based on democracy and respect for the human rights of Albanians and Serbs alike in Kosovo can only be reached through free and inclusive dialogue involving all communities.

The Council is particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation created by the armed conflict which has resulted in the displacement of some 290,000 persons, an estimated 50,000 of whom are without adequate shelter. The WCC urges all parties, and especially the FRY, to hold to their commitments to allow free and immediate access by international humanitarian organizations to Kosovo and other regions of the FRY, and to ensure their safety, in order that urgent steps may be taken to facilitate the return of refugees to their homes and to provide shelter and care for those whose homes have been destroyed.

The WCC reiterates its concern for, solidarity with, and assurance of prayers for all the people of Kosovo, and urges governments to support the emergency and rehabilitation work of international humanitarian agencies at this crucial point. It calls particularly upon the churches to respond generously to the appeals issued by ACT (Action by Churches Together) to support the church and church-related agencies working in Kosovo on behalf of a worldwide network of churches and related agencies.

For further information contact, Rev. Dwain Epps, WCC International Affairs Co-ordinator, Tel: +41.22.791.6220

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer, (+41.22) 791.61.52 (Office); 369.37.26 (Home)

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 332, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.