Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 131

In Bonn yesterday, Russia and the five other members of the Contact Group–the United States, Germany, France, Britain and Italy–agreed on a set of principles formulated to bring peace to the war-torn Serbian province of Kosovo. Details of the plan were not made public, however. It is to be presented to the warring parties confidentially.

In an official statement, the Contact Group did demand an immediate cease-fire and reiterated that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic bears “primary responsibility” for the fighting in Kosovo. But, in a sharp change of direction for the group, the statement also called on governments to stop the flow of funds to Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian rebels. It warned that the rebels could face sanctions if they hinder the resumption of negotiations. The Western diplomats also suggested that measures might be taken to disrupt supply routes now being used by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the umbrella organization under which the various rebel groups are fighting. To balance the warnings addressed at the KLA, the Contact Group also offered the rebels a place at the negotiating table. They would, however, play a subordinate role to Ibrahim Rugova, a moderate and the elected leader of Kosovo’s Albanians. (AP, Reuter, July 8)

Yesterday’s Contact Group meeting was noteworthy for the emphasis it placed on controlling the activities of the KLA rather than on the culpability of Belgrade authorities for the continuing bloodshed in Kosovo. That new emphasis reflects both the growing authority of the rebel groups and the difficulties that the West has encountered in trying to bring their various leaderships–which are far from unified–to the negotiating table.

For Russia, yesterday’s meeting appears to represent at least a partial diplomatic victory. Since the latest upsurge of violence in Kosovo began in February, Moscow has sided with Belgrade and called on the West to pressure the Kosovo Albanian “terrorists” rather than the Yugoslav authorities. That policy probably encouraged Milosevic to maintain his brutal crackdown in Kosovo and thus helped to create the very conditions that Moscow ostensibly hoped to avoid: the strengthening of the KLA and the concomitant weakening of the moderate Rugova. Moscow did apparently make at least one concession during the talks yesterday in Bonn. That involved the offer of participation by the KLA in future peace talks. Moscow had previously joined Belgrade in opposing any role for the rebels in the talks.