Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 90

There was little information available to explain why Viktor Chernomyrdin chose to postpone his visit to Belgrade yesterday and return instead to Moscow. The Russian envoy did tell reporters that some “very serious circumstances” for a possible settlement of the Kosovo conflict had arisen. He also said that he had discussed those circumstances in a telephone conversation with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. “I can say that there are encouraging results from this conversation with Milosevic, but I do not want to disclose anything just yet,” Chernomyrdin said. He also told reporters that he needed “to be back in Moscow, where efforts to find a political solution to the Kosovo problem will be continued with the utmost intensity” (International Herald Tribune, May 10).

According to Chernomyrdin, he intended to confer in Moscow with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and with other top Russian officials. He was also scheduled to meet today with a U.S. delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. A telephone conversation between Yeltsin and his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin, however, changed both these plans, resulting in Chernomyrdin’s flying to Beijing today instead (AP, May 10).

The Talbott meeting was set up during a telephone conversation on May 7 between U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Talbott’s talks with Russian officials were reportedly to have focused on the composition of the international security force for Kosovo–one of the key issues on which Moscow and Washington still have some differences. But, in the wake of Chernomyrdin’s remarks yesterday, it seems likely that other issues will be on the agenda as well. Only after speaking with Russian leaders and with Talbott, and, Chernomyrdin said, ” when I have concrete proposals in hand, can I leave for a personal meeting in Belgrade with Slobodan Milosevic “(Reuters, Russian agencies, May 9).

German officials appeared yesterday to confirm that Chernomyrdin would seek first to firm up the package of proposals he is carrying to Milosevic before proceeding to Belgrade. According to one German official, both German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and UN envoy Carl Bildt–a former Swedish prime minister–had urged Chernomyrdin to postpone his Belgrade trip because the proposed peace plan was still “relatively abstract” (AP, May 9).