Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 116

As might have been anticipated, talks in Moscow yesterday between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ended inconclusively. Yeltsin and other Russian officials applauded what they said were considerable concessions made by Milosevic and suggested that the talks represented a breakthrough in efforts to halt escalating violence in the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Western leaders were reported to be skeptical of those claims. In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told lawmakers that Milosevic had failed to meet all of the demands set out by the United States and other Western powers. Specifically, she complained that Milosevic had not pledged either to halt his “torching [of] the various populations” in Kosovo or to withdraw the Serbian troops who have been accused of conducting a brutal crackdown in the province. Albright added that military action against Belgrade remains an option. Albright’s reservations about yesterday’s talks were reportedly shared by political leaders in London and Paris. French President Jacques Chirac was quoted as saying that a promise to negotiate was not enough. (AP, Reuter, June 16)

Western demands on Belgrade had been set out by the six-nation Contact Group in London last week, at a meeting that included Russia. Those demands included a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo, unimpeded access for international monitors and humanitarian organizations, the right of ethnic Albanian refugees to return to Kosovo, and a resumption of talks between Belgrade authorities and Kosovo Albanians. The talks in Moscow yesterday produced a joint declaration in which Milosevic agreed to meet the majority of those conditions. (Western and Russian agencies, June 16)

But his failure to agree to the immediate withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo–Milosevic linked the withdrawal instead to a halting of “terrorist” activities in the province–is likely to prove the biggest obstacle to acceptance by the West of yesterday’s proceedings. Moreover, as was evident by Chirac’s statement, Western leaders are likely to be skeptical of Milosevic’s pledge to launch immediate talks with the Kosovo Albanians, in large part because the Yugoslav leader has made that pledge before and failed to honor it.