Following a week of intense negotiations, frustration appeared to reign in Moscow over the weekend that, according to several Russian officials, no significant progress in the effort to broker a Kosovo peaceful settlement had been made. The chairman of the Russian Duma’s International Affairs Committee, Vladimir Lukin, told reporters on May 21 that talks held last week in Moscow, Belgrade and several European capitals had failed to narrow differences between the West and Russia. Lukin blamed the diplomatic impasse at least in part on what he suggested was Washington’s intransigence. “The United States continues to take a very stubborn, negative stance on the basic questions,” Lukin said. “No agreement has been found. It is very sad but it is a fact.” Lukin, a former ambassador to the United States and a member of the Yabloko Party, is viewed by some as a moderate on Kosovo and other Russian foreign policy issues.
Russia’s special envoy for the Balkans, Viktor Chernomyrdin, held long and intensive negotiations early last week with both Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari–acting as the European Union’s envoy–and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. The former Russian prime minister also traveled to Belgrade for talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Following his return from Belgrade on May 20, Chernomyrdin met once again with Ahtisaari and Talbott. Those last talks, which went late into the evening, apparently failed once again to produce a diplomatic breakthrough of any sort. On May 22, in what may have been an indication of his growing frustration, Chernomyrdin abruptly canceled meetings with visiting Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and UN envoy Carl Bildt. Chernomyrdin’s office provided no explanation for the cancellations (Reuters, AP, Russian agencies, May 21-22).
Despite the evidence of increased tensions between Russia and the West, however, Chernomyrdin was scheduled to return today to Belgrade for additional talks with Milosevic. Talbott, who claimed that his talks last week with Chernomyrdin and Ahtisaari had been sufficiently constructive, is set to visit Moscow again tomorrow to resume negotiations. Russian officials, including President Boris Yeltsin, have warned on several occasions that Moscow will drop out of the Kosovo negotiations if the West fails to heed Russia’s policy recommendations, but the Russian government, however, has made no concrete move to carry out that threat.
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