Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 85

A spate of diplomatic initiatives led to renewed pressure over the weekend for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Kosovo. But Washington and NATO headquarters rejected a set of peace proposals offered by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Belgrade’s proposals were communicated directly in an interview with a Western news agency (UPI, April 30), and, indirectly, during negotiations on April 30 between Milosevic and former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. The Reverend Jesse Jackson made a parallel push, winning the release of three U.S. POWs held by Yugoslav authorities. In addition, a group of Russian and U.S. lawmakers, meeting in Vienna, produced their own plan for ending the hostilities.

Chernomyrdin’s high-profile mission to Belgrade, which came at the end of a week in which the Russian special envoy also held consultations in Italy and Germany, produced no obvious breakthrough. A Yugoslav Foreign Ministry spokesman said on May 1 that Moscow and Belgrade had agreed to a seven-point peace plan. But the plan in no way narrowed differences between Belgrade and the West on what is still the biggest stumbling block to a diplomatic solution for Kosovo: the composition of an international peacekeeping force for the war-torn province. In his talks with Chernomyrdin and in his press agency interview, Milosevic continued to insist on a force which would be–at most–lightly armed. It would be deployed under UN auspices and would include no troops from NATO countries currently participating in the military strikes against Yugoslavia. NATO has insisted that the peacekeeping force be militarily robust and that it either be NATO-led, or at least have a strong NATO contingent at its core.

Despite Chernomyrdin’s apparent lack of success, the Clinton administration agreed yesterday to receive the former prime minister in Washington today. That decision followed a telephone call, also yesterday, between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton. It was their second phone conversation on the subject of Kosovo in a week’s time. Earlier yesterday Yeltsin met with Chernomyrdin and other top Russian leaders–including Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev–to discuss the latest developments in Kosovo.

Chernomyrdin will reportedly carry a letter from Yeltsin to Clinton which describes Chernomyrdin’s talks with Milosevic. Chernomyrdin is expected to meet today with both Clinton and with Vice President Al Gore. Chernomyrdin and Gore had developed a close working relationship during Chernomyrdin’s long stint as Russian prime minister. Despite their rejection of the results of Chernomyrdin’s peace talks thus far in Belgrade, Clinton administration officials yesterday were reported to have said that they believe the Russian envoy is working earnestly for a solution to the Kosovo crisis. While in the United States Chernomyrdin will reportedly also meet with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. According to some reports, Chernomyrdin will proceed to France and England later this week for more talks (International agencies, April 2-3; International Herald Tribune, Washington Post, May 3).