Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini wound up two days of talks in Moscow yesterday during which he met with his Russian counterpart, acting Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. Dini is thus the highest-ranking Western politician to meet with Kirienko. Nemtsov is co-chairman of the Russian-Italian Council on Economic, Industrial and Financial Cooperation. During the talks, both sides applauded improved relations between Russia and Italy, and called for increased bilateral trade.
Dini’s agenda included both trade and Russia’s recent domestic political developments. The accent, however, was on international issues. Those discussions focused on the situation in the Yugoslav region of Kosovo, on the Balkans in general and on Iraq and Iran and the deadlocked peace negotiations in the Middle East.
Italy, like Russia, is a member of the six-nation Contact Group overseeing developments in the former Yugoslavia. Like Russia, Italy has been resistant to calls for harsher sanctions on the Serbian authorities in Belgrade. Russia’s opposition to sanctions is based on what it describes as its traditional ties to Serbia. Moscow also sees friendly relations with Belgrade as an opportunity to gain a foothold in the Balkans. For Rome, the motivations are somewhat different. Italy lies close to Yugoslavia and is wary of instability there. Italy is also one of Belgrade’s major trading partners.
Primakov used a press conference following the talks yesterday to restate Moscow’s position on a Kosovo settlement. The points include a call for the immediate start of talks between Belgrade authorities and Kosovar Albanians, and support for greater self-rule in Kosovo. Primakov rejected Kosovo independence from the Yugoslav federation — a point on which all the contact group members agree — but also suggested that Kosovo must remain a part of Serbia. That stand is likely to be a sticking point not only between Belgrade and Kosovo Albanians, but possibly also between Moscow and Washington. The United States has suggested that self-rule for Kosovo might best be achieved by making it an equal member — along with Serbia and Montenegro — of the Yugoslav federation.
Russian and Italian delegations reportedly also discussed a possible role for Italy in the destruction of Russia’s stockpile of chemical weapons. Moscow was said to have provided Rome with details of Russian weapons destruction program for study. (Russian agencies, April 7) Moscow has admitted to having over 40,000 tons of chemical weapons stockpiled, and has said that costs are the primary obstacle to their destruction.
Clinton and Yeltsin Converse.