Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 113

The first stage of a finely choreographed Kosovo peace settlement plan, hammered out in recent days during arduous talks between Western and Russian officials, began to unfold smoothly yesterday. As had been hoped in the wake of the June 9 withdrawal agreement between NATO and Belgrade, Yugoslav troops began to pull out of the war-torn province earlier today. That move prompted NATO to declare a suspension of its air campaign against Yugoslavia. And that cleared the way for the UN Security Council to approve a resolution formally recognizing the terms of the Western-drafted peace plan. The Security Council vote was 14-0, with China abstaining.

Yesterday’s events mark the beginning of an historic effort by the United Nations and the NATO military alliance to ensure the safe return to Kosovo of more than 800,000 ethnic Albanian refugees. Some 50,000 peacekeepers, the majority of them drawn from the NATO countries, are to be deployed in Kosovo. In accordance with yesterday’s UN resolution, the peacekeeping contingent is authorized to use “all necessary means to fulfill its responsibilities.” That means that the peacekeepers are authorized to use military means to enforce the peace in Kosovo and to protect the returning refugees. The international community, meanwhile, and the European Union in particular, will now begin a parallel effort to rebuild Kosovo and to promote the economic development of the Balkans more generally (International agencies, June 10).

Yesterday’s events were the culmination of a complex and intensive series of negotiations which saw Russia abandon its long defense of Belgrade on several key points and move–albeit haltingly, grudgingly and amid considerable criticism in Moscow–to back the West’s formula for resolving the Balkans conflict. Russia’s concessions, ultimately, left Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic diplomatically isolated, and were a factor in his decision to capitulate to NATO’s long and increasingly destructive bombing campaign. As a result, Belgrade has agreed to withdraw all its police and military forces from Kosovo, and to accept the presence there of NATO peacekeeping troops. These two conditions are the ones to which the Yugoslav leadership had said it would never agree and on which Moscow had earlier backed Belgrade.

According to at least one source, yesterday’s events were made possible in part by a single move from Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov pledged during the June 9 talks with G-7 leaders in Cologne that Moscow would vote in favor of the UN Security Council resolution on the Kosovo peace settlement. Ivanov’s pledge apparently freed NATO negotiators to make an unspecified change in the text of the withdrawal agreement being negotiated by NATO and Yugoslav military officials in Macedonia. The change broke the deadlock there, and opened the way for yesterday’s ceasefire and UN resolution (New York Times, June 10).