Special envoys from Russia and the European Union headed to Belgrade yesterday for talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in what some observers described as the most hopeful diplomatic move on Kosovo to occur since the middle of March. The departure of former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari followed marathon talks in Bonn which, at least early yesterday morning, appeared to have failed to resolve long-standing differences between Moscow and the West over a proposed Kosovo plan. Ahtisaari had refused to accompany Chernomyrdin on several previous visits to Belgrade because of lingering disagreement between Russia and the West.
In the end, however, the two sides apparently found enough common ground to justify the joint mission. Both envoys arrived in Belgrade late yesterday afternoon and met with Milosevic for approximately ninety minutes last evening. The talks resumed today and once again were adjourned after ninety minutes. Reuters, citing a “source close to the talks,” reported that the plan had now been submitted to a closed session of the Serbian parliament, and that Chernomyrdin, Ahtisaari and Milosevic would meet again following the parliament’s decision on the plan. (Reuters, AP, June3) In addition to the optimism expressed by some Western leaders and government officials over yesterday’s developments, there was also satisfaction over the fact that the West and Russia seemed at last to be presenting a common front in talks with the Yugoslav leadership. And it appeared that the two sides had indeed moved closer. Comments by Chernomyrdin and other participants of yesterday’s talks in Bonn suggested that Moscow had given up its demand for an immediate pause in NATO’s air campaign against Yugoslavia and had also accepted the necessity of stationing NATO troops in Kosovo–including forces from those allied countries involved in the air campaign.
Diplomats in Washington and Europe were also reported to have indicated yesterday that Russia is now ready to back a UN Security Council resolution calling for an imposed peace in Kosovo if Milosevic refuses to accept the peace plan being presented by Chernomyrdin and Ahtisaari. A spokesman for Chernomyrdin appeared to underscore both that point and the more general sense of significant solidarity between Russia and the West. He told reporters that “It is necessary for the Yugoslav leadership to accept” the joint Russian-Western peace plan (Reuters, AP, June 2; International Herald Tribune, June 3).
SOME DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MOSCOW AND WEST STILL UNRESOLVED.