Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 73

Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka yesterday paid a one-day “working visit” to Belgrade for the stated purpose of discussing a “peace initiative” with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Lukashenka anticipated that Milosevic, his “good friend, would listen more carefully to the [him] than to anyone else.” It ended up being a bizarre exercise during which Lukashenka claimed to possess a mandate from Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, yet attempted to upstage them in a “peacemaker’s” role, noticeably toned down the anti-NATO polemics, and even pretended–in a crude attempt at wedge-drawing–that the European Union ambassadors in Minsk had endorsed his initiative.

Lukashenka pushed for Yugoslavia’s unqualified retention of Kosovo and for Milosevic to accept the return of Kosovo Albanians and guarantee “equal rights to all Yugoslavian citizens (regardless of their ethnicity and religion).” He seemed to pin Milosevic down as abjuring any intention to “widen the war.” Despite these exertions, Lukashenka had exceedingly little to show at the end of the day. He merely produced the blessings of Milosevic to a “plan” for introducing civilian UN observers–none from the NATO “aggressor countries”–in Kosovo (Itar-Tass, April 14). Such a nonstarter may have been designed in Minsk and Belgrade–if not Moscow–to set the stage for subsequent Serbian concessions, which may be presented as significant progress.