Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 129

An intense weekend of diplomatic arm-twisting by Russia and the United States failed to resolve the Kosovo conflict on two counts. Yugoslav and Kosovo Albanian leaders did not sit together at the negotiating table. Neither were Moscow and Washington able to fully resolve their policies regarding Kosovo. The policy differences remained despite moves by Richard Holbrooke and Nikolai Afanasevsky–the U.S. and Russian envoys to the troubled region–to coordinate their efforts. Both men met on more than one occasion over the past four days with Yugoslav and various Kosovo Albanian leaders, and on July 5 the two traveled together to Kosovo for additional talks with the latter group. A day earlier, on July 4, Afanasevsky and Holbrooke had both met separately with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and spent some time in consultations with each other.

The United States has reportedly backed off from its earlier insistence that Serbian police and special forces be withdrawn from Kosovo immediately. That change of position–occasioned by the rapidly growing strength of ethnic Albanian separatist forces in Kosovo–has narrowed the gap between Russia and the United States on one aspect of policy toward Kosovo. But two other key differences remain. One involves Washington’s belief, driven by the new-found strength of the Kosovo separatists, that it is now time to bring representatives of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to the negotiating table along with moderate Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova. (Western and Russian agencies, July 2-5)

A second decisive difference between Moscow and Washington–or between Moscow and the West more generally–is Russia’s continuing opposition to any use of military force by NATO to enforce a peaceful settlement. Special U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard said in London over the weekend that NATO military planners were drafting contingency plans for possible action in Kosovo on “an accelerated basis.” He emphasized that the West remained serious about a possible military option. (Reuter, July 4)

Following yet another meeting with Milosevic in Belgrade yesterday, however, Afanasevsky again assailed the idea of NATO military actions and said that NATO strikes against Serbian forces in Kosovo would serve no purpose. Afanasevsky also continued Moscow’s policy of portraying the Kosovo Albanians–and particularly the KLA–as the main obstacle to peace in the region. That position dovetails both with Moscow’s charge that Kosovo Albanian forces–and not Serbian–are responsible for atrocities committed in Kosovo, and with its argument that the world needs to pressure the Kosovo Albanians to give up violence and come to the negotiating table. Indeed, though Moscow has acknowledged that the moderate Rugova is losing ground in Kosovo to the more militant KLA, Afanasevsky condemned, on July 5, recent contact between Holbrooke and KLA leaders as a “blunder” that will help only to legitimize the KLA. (Itar-Tass, July 5)

Such topics are likely to be on the agenda tomorrow when members of the six-nation Contact Group meet in Bonn for talks on Kosovo.