Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 105

Few details of Viktor Chernomyrdin’s May 28 talks in Belgrade were made public. But, amid an intensification of the NATO bombing campaign, there were suggestions that Milosevic had made new concessions to the West. The official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported after Chernomyrdin’s departure that the Belgrade government had agreed to accept “the general principles” contained in a peace plan developed by Russia and the Group of Seven (G-7) leading industrial democracies.

The Russian-G-7 plan is a somewhat milder–and more vaguely worded–version of a series of demands made by NATO as the price for an end to its bombing campaign. It calls for an immediate end to violence and the repression of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian population, the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, the deployment there of an international security presence, the establishment of an interim administration and the safe return of refugees. The news out of Belgrade on May 28 led London’s “Financial Times” to report yesterday that Milosevic had significantly shifted his position by agreeing for the first time to the principle of allowing some NATO troops into Kosovo (Reuters, March 31).

The suggestion of movement in Belgrade also led the foreign ministers from the European Union countries, who met yesterday in Brussels, to decide to send Ahtisaari to Belgrade this week. Ahtisaari is scheduled to meet in Bonn today with Chernomyrdin and Talbott. He is to accompany Chernomyrdin tomorrow on a mission aimed at ascertaining whether Yugoslavia is in fact now willing to accept the terms set out by the West for an end to the NATO bombing campaign and a political settlement of the conflict. Upon his return from Belgrade, Ahtisaari will travel back to Bonn where, on June 3, he will discuss the results of his trip with European leaders (International Herald Tribune, May 31).

While German and French leaders have been among those suggesting that developments in Belgrade require an immediate diplomatic response, British and U.S. officials have voiced greater skepticism over Milosevic’s intentions. They said that the Yugoslav leader has continued to resist key NATO demands that all Serb forces be pulled out of Kosovo and that any international security presence deployed in Kosovo contain a substantial contingent of NATO troops operating under the alliance’s command. “We have still not heard, from Milosevic or the Russians, that the Yugoslav authorities are willing to allow NATO soldiers under NATO command on their territory as part of an international presence,” one senior NATO diplomat was quoted as saying. “Until we do, there will not be a deal” with Belgrade (Washington Post, May 31).