Riven by differences among its six members, the international Contact Group — made up of the United States, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and Italy — took only minor action yesterday to maintain pressure on Serbian authorities in Belgrade. A meeting of the six countries’ foreign ministers, held in Bonn under the chairmanship of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, agreed to maintain a package of mild sanctions that had been imposed on Belgrade by the group during a March 9 meeting in London. A statement issued by the group yesterday said that it would continue to seek the adoption — by March 31 — of "the arms embargo resolution currently under consideration in the United Nations Security Council." The group also called on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to launch a dialogue with Kosovar Albanians aimed at determining the status of Kosovo. The statement warned of additional sanctions in the event that Belgrade fails to move forward on the negotiations. It promised reconsideration of the sanctions if Belgrade meets the conditions set by the March 9 meeting in London. (Reuter, AP, Russian agencies, March 25)
The weakness of yesterday’s action reflected differences among the Contact Group members. The United States, backed most closely by Britain, stood at one end of the opinion spectrum. Washington has blamed the Belgrade authorities for the bloodshed in Kosovo earlier this month. U.S. officials have called for the world community to take a strong stand against Belgrade — including the imposition of sanctions — to ensure that the conflagration in Kosovo does not spread throughout the region. Russia, a longtime ally of Serbia and a backer of Milosevic, stood at the other end of the spectrum. Moscow has described Kosovo as an internal problem to be solved by authorities in Belgrade without international mediation. While calling for a dialogue that would give greater autonomy to Kosovo, it has blamed separatists in Kosovo for the recent troubles there. Moscow dissented at the March 9 meeting and backed only two of the four measures taken at that time against Belgrade. At the UN, it announced its opposition to any arms embargo on Yugoslavia.
Developments in the Balkans are likely to figure prominently in a long-awaited meeting today in Moscow among Russian President Boris Yeltsin, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Jacques Chirac. This first three-way "summit," or "troika," is seen in Moscow as symbolic of its diplomatic efforts to build stronger ties with European countries and to reinforce Russia’s role as a European power.
Russia Is Belgrade’s Strongest Backer.