Western governments gave guarded welcome yesterday to the announcement that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had agreed to a Kosovo peace settlement. Milosevic’s approval came during a meeting in Belgrade with the two special envoys who had been dispatched to present the West’s demands–former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. In what was reported to have been a rowdy debate earlier in the day, the Serbian parliament also voted to approve the peace plan. According to Yugoslavia’s official Tanjug news agency, Ahtisaari, Chernomyrdin and Milosevic had “unanimously agreed that commitment to peace was of vital importance, not only for Yugoslavia, but for the whole region and all of Europe” (Reuters, AP, June 3).
With an eye to Milosevic’s disregard for previous international agreements, however, NATO leaders kept up the pressure on Belgrade yesterday by continuing the air strikes against Yugoslavia. Although French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine hailed Milosevic’s acceptance of the peace plan as the “outcome we wanted,” others were more circumspect in their reactions. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that the alliance would keep up the air campaign until there was a “verifiable withdrawal” of Yugoslav security forces from Kosovo. His boss, Prime Minister Tony Blair, insisted that Milosevic must still meet all of NATO’s demands. In Brussels, a NATO diplomatic source cautioned that the struggle for a Kosovo settlement is “not yet over” (Reuters, June 3).
While much remains to be learned of the precise terms contained in the agreement assented to in Belgrade, the NATO alliance appears initially–and at least on paper–to have gotten much of what it wanted yesterday. There was no immediate halt to the bombing, as Belgrade and Moscow have repeatedly demanded. The agreement presented to Belgrade calls for an immediate end to the fighting in Kosovo, a quick and verifiable withdrawal of Yugoslav army and Serb police troops, the deployment of an international security force in Kosovo “with essential NATO participation,” the safe and free return of the more than 800,000 refugees driven out of Kosovo in recent months, and autonomy for the war-torn province. Indeed, if implemented, the agreement would seemingly put the Yugoslav leadership in a weaker position than it would have been in had it agreed to the list of Western demands presented originally during the peace talks in Rambouillet in March (AP, June 3).
HINTS OF A RUSSIAN RETREAT IN BONN.