Russia joined with other UN Security Council members yesterday in passing a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and negotiations to end the conflict in Kosovo. The vote, 14-0 with China abstaining, is aimed at pressuring Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic into halting military actions by Yugoslav and Serb forces in the independence-minded province. Belgrade’s crackdown against Kosovo’s predominantly ethnic-Albanian population has left hundreds dead and forced some 250,000 people from their homes. Western leaders pushed for approval of the French- and British-drafted resolution amid fears that, with winter approaching, a humanitarian crisis may be looming in the region.
Yesterday’s resolution was hailed by U.S. and European officials, who said it presented a credible threat to Milosevic of possible NATO military action in the event that the violence in Kosovo continues. The resolution is the toughest action that the Security Council has yet taken on the Kosovo crisis. It was adopted under the provisions of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for possible punitive measures in the event of noncompliance. Yesterday’s action came amid new warnings from NATO that is it is stepping up its planning for possible military actions in the region. NATO defense ministers are scheduled to meet today in Portugal to discuss the Kosovo crisis.
Yesterday’s UN resolution does not, however, directly authorize the use of force to stop the violence in Kosovo. There is still little reason to believe that the Security Council will take that final step. Both China and Russia–each a permanent Security Council member–continue to oppose military intervention in the Kosovo crisis. Although Moscow backed yesterday’s resolution, Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov made clear that it did so only because the resolution did not specifically authorize military action. “No use of force has been authorized by the council at the present stage,” he said. “No sanctions against Belgrade have been imposed.” According to Lavrov, Russia continues to call for a settlement in Kosovo achieved “exclusively through peaceful political methods on the basis of granting broad autonomy to Kosovo.” An earlier version of yesterday’s resolution apparently contained a worldwide ban on flights by the Yugoslav airline, JAT. That provision was dropped on Moscow’s insistence (AP, Reuters, UPI, September 23).
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