Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and his German counterpart, Volker Ruehe, completed two days of talks at a resort city in the Russian Caucasus yesterday. Bonn had reportedly requested that the meeting be both informal and confidential. Reporters were admitted only for the concluding press conference, where Sergeev described the talks as successful and said that the two countries had moved closer on a variety of issues. According to Sergeev, he and Ruehe had reached agreements “on a number of important problems involving military and military-technical cooperation.” They had also, Sergeev said, “paid great attention to European security, peace-making and the situation on the Balkan peninsula and the Kosovo region.” There were few additional details available. The two men apparently agreed on a cooperation program for 1999 that includes a joint paratrooper drill and contacts between the German navy and Russia’s Baltic Fleet. (Itar-Tass, NTV, July 21)
Reports prior to the July 20-21 talks had indicated that Kosovo would be an important item on Sergeev’s and Ruehe’s agenda. Those reports said that the two men would also discuss military cooperation and military-to-military contacts, joint exercises, the prospects for manufacturing a European transport plane based on the Russian-Ukrainian An-70, and relations between Russia and NATO. (Itar-Tass, July 17, July 20)
In his remarks to reporters yesterday on the crisis in Kosovo, Sergeev emphasized Moscow’s view that the employment of military force to end the crisis would be counterproductive. Sergeev also said that the situation in Kosovo was growing worse, and suggested that the fault for the latest bloodshed lies with the Kosovo Liberation Army. (NTV, July 21) Moscow’s standard position has been that authorities in Belgrade have lived up to pledges made by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic during talks last month in Moscow with Russian President Yeltsin. Russian commentators have blamed Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian separatists for the ongoing violence there, and officials have urged the West to rein in the separatists while bringing Kosovo Albanian moderates to the negotiating table. Moscow has also opposed Western threats to intervene military in order to end the violence in Kosovo.
MOSCOW PROTESTS SEIZURE OF JOURNALIST IN KOSOVO.