Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 89

As expected, foreign ministers from Russia and the Group of Seven countries reached agreement in Germany yesterday on a statement aimed at furthering diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Kosovo. The joint statement was applauded by Western leaders as proof that Moscow had moved closer to endorsing the demands which NATO has imposed on Belgrade for an end to the alliance’s air campaign against Yugoslavia. U.S. President Bill Clinton, in Germany for talks related to the crisis, underscored that point in remarks to reporters. He said that the significance of the NATO-Russia agreement is that it marks “the first time that the Russians have publicly said they support an international security as well as a civilian force in Kosovo.”

Clinton referred to a portion of the joint statement which calls for the deployment of an “effective international civil and security presence.” That vague formulation reflects the insistence of the West–now said to be backed by Moscow as well–for the deployment of a robust military force in Kosovo which would provide sufficient security for the province’s largely displaced ethnic Albanian population to return home. But the formulation also reflects concessions to Moscow insofar as it includes no reference to a NATO presence in that security contingent. Western officials–particularly U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright–insisted to reporters yesterday that, despite the omission in the G-7 statement, NATO troops would most certainly still constitute the “core” of any Kosovo security force.

That point, and several others, however, will clearly be the subject of future negotiations. That Russia has still not fully reconciled itself to the deployment of a full-fledged military force in Kosovo–particularly one which includes NATO troops–was clearly suggested by Moscow’s representative to yesterday’s meeting in Germany. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters that a reference in the joint statement to Yugoslavia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity meant that NATO could not participate in a Kosovo security force unless Belgrade agreed to its presence. “Without the agreement of the [Yugoslav] state, nothing is possible,” he was quoted as saying (International Herald Tribune, May 7). To date, the refusal of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to agree to the deployment of a NATO-led security force in Kosovo has been the primary obstacle to a political agreement ending the conflict.

In all, the statement produced yesterday by the G-7 countries and Russia included seven “general principles” for a political solution to the Kosovo crisis. In addition to the call for an international security force, they included a verifiable end to violence in Kosovo; the withdrawal of military, police and paramilitary forces from the province; establishment of an interim administration there; the “safe and free” return of refugees; economic aid to the region; and a political settlement granting “substantial self-government” for Kosovo (AP, May 6).