Russian diplomats were active on more than one front yesterday as Moscow moved to parry calls for sanctions on Yugoslavia. At the UN, Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov announced Russia’s opposition to any proposed Security Council actions against Belgrade over Kosovo. According to diplomats at the UN, Lavrov made clear in private discussions that Moscow would not support the imposition of an arms embargo on Yugoslavia. Lavrov reportedly based his opposition on yesterday’s developments in Belgrade. "I don’t see any threat to international peace and security at this very moment," he said. "The situation is stabilizing. There are changes on the ground taking place at this very moment," Lavrov told reporters. A draft resolution calling for an arms embargo against Belgrade had been introduced by Britain on behalf of the Contact Group. The resolution focused on implementing decisions reached by the group’s foreign ministers at the March 9 meeting in London. (Reuter, March 19)
One Russian diplomat yesterday tried to couch the day’s events in terms of a triumph for Russian-U.S. diplomatic cooperation. He suggested that Moscow had brought Serb leaders to the negotiating table while Washington had managed to deliver the Kosovo Albanians. That was clearly window dressing. The United States continued to back stronger measures against Belgrade. Speaking at a news conference in Macedonia, the U.S. envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, dismissed the concessions made by Belgrade. He said that they had fallen "quite short of what [the United States] feels is necessary to start [a dialogue] in a serious way." In New York, the U.S. reaction was similar. The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, said that Washington would continue to seek ways to pressure Belgrade. "We believe an international arms embargo is the right way to go," he said. (Reuter, March 19)
Yesterday’s developments suggested that Moscow and the Belgrade authorities had managed, at least for the time being, to split the Western alliance. They also thus frustrate Washington’s desire for a strong response to the brutal crackdown in Kosovo. Whether that situation will endure will become clear only in the days to come. Representatives of the Contact Group countries — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia — are scheduled to meet in Brussels today. The Foreign Ministers of those same countries are then to convene in Bonn on March 25 under the chairmanship of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. By then, Belgrade’s motivations may be more clear, and Kosovo Albanians will have had a chance to react to yesterday’s developments.
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