Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 68

Russia continued to seek a role in efforts to resolve the crisis in Kosovo yesterday, as President Boris Yeltsin urged leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized nations to respond positively to peace proposals recently advanced by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Yeltsin’s appeal was reportedly contained in a letter sent to G-7 countries. It urged the leaders of the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan “not to reject the new initiatives from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia out of hand.” According to Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Yeltsin’s letter also contained a call “to undertake all efforts to stop the tragedy in the Balkans and resume the process of political settlement” (Reuters, AP, Russian agencies, April 7). Yeltsin’s appeal yesterday was presumably part of a new Russian diplomatic initiative aimed at settling the Balkan crisis. Ivanov had promised that the new initiative would be undertaken by April 6 (see the Monitor, April 7).

But Russia’s immediate diplomatic efforts appeared to bear little fruit. Following both a meeting of Contact Group officials yesterday in Brussels and other talks with Western leaders, Russian diplomats admitted that they had failed to persuade NATO to stop its military campaign against Yugoslavia. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev was quoted after talks with German leaders in Bonn as saying that “our positions are far apart.” Few details were available on the Contact Group meeting, the group’s first session since peace talks failed last month in France. The German diplomat who chaired the talks did say, however, that the group had not made enough progress to allow it to schedule a Contact Group meeting at the foreign minister level (Reuters, April 7). Such a meeting has been one of Moscow’s key demands in its efforts to win a halt to the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia.

In Washington, meanwhile, a White House spokesman denied yesterday that U.S. Vice President Al Gore had asked Russia to intercede with Belgrade on behalf of the West in order to stop the bloody Serb military crackdown in Kosovo. The spokesman said that Gore had merely urged close cooperation between Washington and Moscow despite their differences over Kosovo (UPI, April 7). Gore spoke with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov by telephone for forty-five minutes on April 6, a conversation reportedly dominated by the issue of Kosovo.

The “New York Times” reported yesterday that Gore had asked that Russia serve as a go-between with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in a new attempt to resolve the Kosovo conflict diplomatically. According to this account, Washington had approached Moscow both to ease U.S. tensions with Russia and to address the fact that Milosevic has said he would not deal directly with the United States. Clinton administration officials reportedly asked the Russians to urge Milosevic to accept four conditions which would bring an end to NATO bombing: the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo, the return of refugees, the introduction of an international security force and self-government for Kosovo (New York Times, April 7).