The German Foreign Ministry announced today that Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian special envoy on Kosovo, and European Union representative Martti Ahtisaari have delayed a mission to Belgrade after their all-night talks in Germany apparently failed to produce agreement on details of a Kosovo peace plan. The planned departure was put off to allow for more talks, spokesman Stephan Steinlein said. No new departure time has been scheduled (AP, June 2).
Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Kosovo continued at a furious pace yesterday as top Western and Russian negotiators conferred yet again–this time in Bonn–while officials from Yugoslavia sent fresh peace signals. Despite a quickening of hope that a settlement might at last be near, however, there was little yesterday to indicate that the various parties involved in the Kosovo negotiations had managed fully to overcome their longstanding differences. These continue to divide the West not only from Belgrade, but, apparently, also from Moscow. The primary areas of disagreement are still the composition and status of a postsettlement security force to be deployed in Kosovo, the extent to which Belgrade will be compelled to withdraw its military and police forces from the province, and the duration of NATO’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
The key negotiations took place yesterday in Bonn between European Union special envoy (and Finnish President) Martti Ahtisaari, Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also participated. Simultaneously, in Belgium, military officials from more than thirty countries–the nineteen NATO member states and the twelve partner countries– worked to draft plans for the 50,000-strong postsettlement security force to be deployed.
These diplomatic developments in the West occurred as Belgrade continued to indicate its own readiness to end the seventy-day-old conflict with NATO. Yugoslav peace signals included a formal letter sent to the European Union by Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, which said that Yugoslavia “has accepted G-8 principles, including a United Nations presence, mandate and other elements to be decided by a UN Security Council resolution.” The letter also called for the immediate end of NATO’s air campaign (Reuters, AP, Russian agencies, June 1).
In Bonn, Ahtisaari reportedly received from the NATO countries a plan detailing NATO’s terms for an end to the Kosovo conflict. According to U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin, Ahtisaari was expected to present that plan today to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic during a meeting in Belgrade. Rubin said that Ahtisaari would arrive in the Yugoslav capital fully briefed on NATO’s demands so that he would be able to provide Yugoslav leaders with detailed information explaining how the conflict might be brought to a close (Reuters, June 1).
There is now some doubt, however, as to whether the Chernomyrdin-Ahtisaari mission will proceed. Reuters cites Itar-Tass as reporting today that Chernomyrdin delayed his trip to Belgrade because the United States made last-minute changes to the plan agreed to in Bonn. Tass said that Chernomyrdin could drop his plans to fly to Belgrade altogether if an agreement was not reached in further talks in the German capital (Reuters, June 2).
RUSSIA AND WEST STILL DIVIDED ON KEY KOSOVO ISSUES.