Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 118

The Russian Foreign Ministry intends to dispatch two of its top diplomats on parallel missions this weekend–one to Yugoslavia and the other to Albania and Macedonia–in order to aid efforts aimed at settling the Kosovo conflict. According to a ministry spokesman, Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevsky will fly to Belgrade on June 21, where he is to meet with Yugoslav leaders. Afanasevsky is also reportedly trying to arrange talks with Kosovar Albanians in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. Another Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Aleksandr Avdeev, will depart the same day for talks in Tirana and Skopje, the capitals of Albania and Macedonia. (Itar-Tass, June 18)

Afanasevsky and other top Russian diplomats continued to insist yesterday that Moscow’s Contact Group partners move more energetically to pressure Kosovo Albanian leaders into beginning talks with Yugoslav authorities. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman also called on the West to rein in Kosovar separatists and to condemn publicly and unequivocally the terrorism and violence that he said has been employed by the Kosovo Liberation Army. (Russian agencies, June 18)

The remarks by the Russian diplomats reflect Moscow’s contention that the talks earlier this week between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic constituted a diplomatic breakthrough. They should serve as the basis for a new round of negotiations between authorities in Belgrade and the Kosovar Albanians. The latter group, with the support of the West, has refused to enter into talks until Serbian forces are withdrawn from Kosovo and the violence against ethnic Albanians there is halted.

Yugoslav authorities, however, remained defiant yesterday, as Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said in Brussels that Belgrade would neither withdraw its forces from Kosovo nor accept an outside mediator in its talks with Kosovar Albanian leaders. Belgrade’s continued intransigence came amid an outburst of new violence in Kosovo and statements by NATO leaders that the Alliance is accelerating its planning for possible military action near Kosovo.

Action continued on the diplomatic front as well. A senior U.S. diplomat said that the six nation Contact Group–comprised of the United States, Germany, France, Russia, Britain and Italy–will convene for urgent talks in Bonn next week. German Chancellor Kohl yesterday joined other Western leaders in expressing skepticism over the pledges made by Milosevic in Moscow. He said that Bonn would back international military intervention in Kosovo if it became necessary. (Reuter, AP, June 18)