Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 56

A top Russian diplomat was quoted on March 18 as saying that Serb negotiators at peace talks in France had acted in an unconstructive fashion when they refused last week to sign even the political portion of a Western brokered peace agreement. The comments by Boris Mayorsky, one of several international mediators overseeing the Kosovo peace talks, marked one of the few times that Russian officials have criticized Belgrade for its stonewalling of the peace agreement talks. Mayorsky also criticized the Serbs for attempting in the latest round of negotiations to introduce a series of amendments to the peace settlement document. And he complained that Belgrade had failed to heed Moscow’s entreaties to treat the political portion of the settlement document more seriously (Itar-Tass, March 19).

The Serbs’ intransigence meant that last week’s peace talks in Paris came to an unsuccessful conclusion. That failure also triggered new NATO preparations for possible air strikes on Serbian targets. In what officials were describing as a final effort to avert a military confrontation, U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke was scheduled to arrive in Belgrade for talks today with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Mayorsky’s criticism of Belgrade on March 18, however, was but a minor note in what has continued to be a steady chorus of Russian support for Yugoslav and Serbian authorities. Earlier last week, Mayorsky had refused to join his Western counterparts in laying primary blame for the failure of the Kosovo peace talks on the Serbian delegation. He had also pointedly declined to join the other mediators when they officially endorsed the decision by the Kosovo ethnic Albanian leadership to sign onto the Western-sponsored peace plan (see the Monitor, March 19).

Indeed, in his March 18 comments, Mayorsky went so far as to blame the Kosovo Albanians for having “complicated” the peace settlement negotiations by their decision to sign the settlement document. He complained that the signed document was now being used as a political instrument to apply pressure on the Serbian side. In that same vein, he made it particularly clear that Moscow opposes the West’s latest threats to take military action against the Serbs because of their failure to sign onto the agreement. As Moscow has done from the beginning of the talks over Kosovo, Mayorsky continued to insist that a purely political solution to the crisis could be found (Itar-Tass, March 19).