As could have been expected, Russia yesterday joined with Yugoslav authorities in criticizing an agreement reached this week by Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leaders with UN and NATO officials. The accord, concluded only after difficult and at times acrimonious negotiations, sets out the terms under which the KLA will be disbanded and disarmed. A portion of the KLA’s manpower is to be transformed into a civil emergency and rescue force called the Kosovo Protection Corps.
Western officials had earlier been unable to reach an agreement with the KLA regarding the shape and functions of this Kosovo corps. Those differences had prolonged the negotiations and led NATO to briefly postpone the deadline date for the KLA’s demobilization. The accord was reportedly finalized this week only after a direct appeal from NATO supreme commander General Wesley Clark. He offered what was described as a key concession to the KLA–a renaming of the force to the Kosovo Protection Corps. In Albanian, the word “protection” can be translated as “defense.” Earlier negotiations had stipulated that the force be called simply the Kosovo Corps, a title which the KLA reportedly objected to because it implied no defense function.
Top NATO and UN officials continued to insist yesterday, however, that the new force will be a civil one. Western negotiators reportedly won some concessions of their own, including a reduction in the number of men to be included on the force. It will include 3,000 full-time members and 2,000 reservists rather than the 5,000 regulars originally proposed. In addition, the KLA agreed that the Kosovo Protection Corps would be authorized to use up to 200 light weapons–a lower number than the guerrilla army had initially sought. Agim Ceku, the KLA’s military chief of staff, was named to head the new force. In accordance with the agreement, the KLA was to be officially disbanded as of midnight last night (Reuters, AP, Washington Post, September 21).
Russian diplomatic and military officials had repeatedly criticized the Kosovo Corps proposals during the negotiations between the KLA and the West, and renewed those criticisms yesterday. Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Ministry officials as saying that the plan to transform the KLA fails to meet UN requirements for the complete disbandment and disarmament of the guerrilla army. “The creation of paramilitary or semi-military formations based on the KLA under any name can seriously complicate the further process of political settlement in Kosovo,” a Russian diplomat was quoted as saying.
At the United Nations in New York, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had much the same message. In addition to complaining that the transformation of the KLA failed to meet requirements to disband it, he intimated that creation of the Kosovo Protection Corps could undermine Yugoslav sovereignty over Kosovo (AP, Itar-Tass, September 21). Russian officials have repeatedly accused the West of conspiring–wittingly or unwittingly–with the KLA to promote Kosovo’s separation from Yugoslavia and its eventual establishment as an independent entity. Russian officials have also hinted that they might block approval by the UN Security Council of any agreement with the KLA which fails to meet Moscow’s approval.
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