Following another day of intense diplomatic consultations–this time in Moscow, Bonn and Rome–former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin intimated yesterday that he had made some progress in brokering a diplomatic settlement between NATO and Yugoslavia. Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema echoed the sentiment after his own talks with Chernomyrdin in Rome. “The situation is in flux, but we can say there are grounds for hope,” D’Alema was quoted as saying. He added that the positions of Russia and Italy on the Kosovo conflict had moved closer (Reuters, April 29).
Yesterday’s hint of optimism in Rome appeared to match the mood in Berlin a day earlier. There, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said that NATO was close to agreement with Russia on the issue of an international peacekeeping force for Kosovo. Following a meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Talbott also said that his April 26 talks in Moscow with Chernomyrdin and other Russian officials had been very “very constructive and solution oriented” (Washington Post, April 29). Chernomyrdin has been named Russia’s special envoy for the Kosovo crisis.
Details of the past few days’ diplomatic maneuverings were scarce, however, and it was difficult to determine exactly what constituted the basis for this new but cautious optimism. Just prior to his departure from Moscow yesterday, for example, Chernomyrdin said yet again that Moscow had formulated a package of “new” proposals aimed at furthering efforts to end the Balkans conflict. But those new proposals were not made public (International and Russian agencies, April 29).
Chernomyrdin and other Russian officials appeared still to be insisting yesterday, moreover, that any diplomatic settlement must start with a halt to NATO’s air strikes on Yugoslavia. The alliance has heretofore rejected that proposal. And Talbott’s remarks notwithstanding, there was also little to suggest that Belgrade is moving closer to accepting the deployment of any peacekeeping force in Kosovo including a strong NATO “core” element–as alliance leaders have insisted upon. Borislav Milosevic, brother to the Yugoslav president and Belgrade’s ambassador to Russia, repeated in Moscow yesterday that his country would accept only a civilian UN force with a large Russian component–and no NATO representation (Itar-Tass, April 29).
ANNAN IN MOSCOW.