A day after Moscow hosted talks between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Russia and the West appeared yesterday to be headed in different directions on the question of Kosovo policy. Western leaders welcomed the Russian mediation effort, even allowing that it had yielded some positive results. Government officials from the United States, Britain, Italy and France, however, all indicated yesterday their dissatisfaction over Milosevic’s failure to meet two key conditions set out by the six-nation Contact Group prior to the Moscow talks: an immediate end to the violence in Kosovo and a withdrawal of Serb forces from the province. The West’s continuing concern over Belgrade’s intentions was reflected in statements by NATO officials that planning for possible military action near Kosovo would continue. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen added in Washington that the United States intended to keep warships and jets ready for that eventuality. Western concerns appeared to have been justified yesterday by reports of stepped-up action by the Serb forces in Kosovo. (Reuter, AP, June 17)
In Moscow, however, government officials continued to both treat the June 16 talks as a breakthrough and place the blame for the continuing violence on ethnic Albanian extremists. Boris Yeltsin, for example, used a telephone conversation with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi yesterday to call on the world community to pressure Kosovar Albanians into stopping violence and terror. (Itar-Tass, June 17) Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov spoke similarly, repeating in a Russian television interview his comment of a day earlier that the “ball is now in the Albanians’ court.” And Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevsky said that the main task for the world community now is to convince the Kosovar Albanians to resume talks with Belgrade. Both Afanasevsky and Primakov appeared to dismiss claims by the West–and by Kosovar Albanian leaders–that talks with Belgrade are pointless until Serb forces cease their violence and withdraw from Kosovo. Primakov said that it would be wrong at this time to demand a withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo. (Itar-Tass, NTV, June 17)
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