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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 36, April 1999

The War over Kosovo: Diplomatic Developments

Editor's note: the Acronym Institute is running a special website feature on the war over Kosovo (http://www.gn.apc.org/acronym/kosovo.htm). In addition to updating diplomatic developments, the special feature includes background information on the key events leading to the conflict; international, non-governmental and public reaction to the fighting; and responses from the region itself, with particular emphasis on non-governmental groups which have long opposed nationalism and militarism in the area and have worked for peaceful democratic solutions. Comments on, and possible contributions to, the special feature are warmly welcomed.

NATO Meeting with 'Front Line' States, 25 April

'Chairman's Summary: Meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the Heads of State and Government with Countries in the Region of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,' NATO Press Release NAC+7-S(99)70, 25 April 1999

"1. NATO Heads of State and Government today met with their counterparts from Albania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia, and the Foreign Ministers of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. They discussed the current situation in Kosovo, its impact on the countries in the region, and longer term strategies for security, prosperity and stability in Southeastern Europe.

2. There was general agreement that the Kosovo crisis represents a fundamental challenge to the entire Euro-Atlantic community and to the region in particular. NATO Heads of State and Government and leaders of the countries in the region condemned the ongoing violence and repression in Kosovo. They emphasized that the oppression, ethnic cleansing and violence must end and that all refugees and displaced persons must be allowed to return to their homes in safety and security, to allow for a credible, verifiable and durable political solution for Kosovo. They underscored the necessity for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to accept the international community's demands.

3. The meeting expressed support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all States in the region.

4. NATO Heads of State and Government acknowledged that the neighbouring States are particularly affected by the humanitarian, political and economic implications of the crisis. Participants agreed to intensify their efforts to support refugee and humanitarian relief operations.

5. NATO Heads of State and Government expressed their gratitude for the efforts and solidarity shown by the neighbouring States in support of the Alliance's and the international community's objectives. In this context, they reaffirmed that the security of the neighbouring States was of direct and material concern to Alliance member States and that NATO would respond to any challenges by Belgrade to the neighbouring States resulting from the presence of NATO forces and their activities on their territory during this crisis.

6. The meeting also underscored the need for developing a longer term comprehensive strategy with the help of different institutions for securing stability and prosperity based on democratic principles and enhanced economic and political development. Participants emphasized their common aim of forging a better future for the region, including the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, based upon democracy, justice, economic integration and security cooperation. The full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement was considered an essential element of this process.

7. NATO and the countries in the region agreed to continue consultations both on the current crisis in Kosovo and on the development of a broader strategy for the region."

Chernomyrdin/Milosevic Initiative on International Force, 22 April


On 22 April, it was reported that President Milosevic had informed Russia's special envoy on the Kosovo crisis, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, that Yugoslavia was prepared to accept an international force in Kosovo, led by the United Nations. According to the Itar-Tass news agency: "An international presence in Kosovo under United Nations' auspices and with Russian participation is provided for in a joint document adopted on the results of the meeting between Viktor Chernomyrdin and Slobodan Milosevic. ... [Chernomyrdin stated]: 'What kind of international forces they will be, or from which countries - this is yet to be discussed. But the main thing is that Russia [will] take part.'"

Further details, however, were hard to obtain and reports were contradictory. It was clear that NATO bombing would have to stop before the plan could be activated. It seems likely that the proposed force would have to exclude NATO nations which have taken part in the bombing campaign. There was confusion, however, over whether an armed force or unarmed observer mission was being offered. According to Chernomyrdin, speaking in Moscow on 23 April, the former was clearly intended: "Yugoslavia has agreed to the presence in Kosovo of forces from other States. ... Of course [I mean] military ones. What civil forces? They will be troops. There is a war going on. ... Russia will certainly have a role in any future forces in Kosovo..."

On 30 April, following further discussions between Chernomyrdin and Milosevic in Belgrade, Yugoslavia presented what appeared to be a slightly amended version of the 22 April initiative. According to reports, the amended plan referred to the deployment of unarmed UN observers in Kosovo, following the cessation of hostilities by NATO. The 30 April offer was given short shrift by US Secretary of State Albright, who told reporters in Washington: "I think we are not anywhere near a serious proposal."

In a 1 May interview with the Washington Times, President Milosevic suggested he would be prepared to countenance a "lightly armed [UN] force" in Kosovo following the simultaneous withdrawal of NATO forces from Albania and Macedonia and Serbian police and army forces from Kosovo. Milosevic further mentioned the States he would like to see contribute to such a UN force: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Ireland.

Sources: Yugoslavia-Russia-Presence Moscow, Reuters, 22 April; Milosevic agrees to foreign troops, Reuters, 23 April; US rejects Yugoslav proposal, raids go on, Reuters, 1 May; Milosevic frees US soldiers, The Oberserver, 2 May.

Rejection of Chernomyrdin/Milosevic Initiative by NATO, 23 April

Remarks by Spokesperson Jamie Shea, Washington, 23 April:

"From what we've seen of the offer made to Mr. Chernomyrdin yesterday by President Milosevic, it seems to fall well short of what we are looking for. ... The next time he gets in touch, it has to be something much more substantial... We can't accept a situation where Milosevic picks and chooses who is in and who is out, stacking it only with his friends."

Source: NATO says Milosevic offer falls well short, Reuters, 23 April.

NATO Statement on Kosovo, rejecting Chernomyrdin/Milosevic Initiative and calling for a UN Security Council resolution, 23 April

'Statement on Kosovo, issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Washington DC, 23-24 April,' NATO Press Release S-1(99)62, 23 April 1999

"1. The crisis in Kosovo represents a fundamental challenge to the values for which NATO has stood since its foundation: democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It is the culmination of a deliberate policy of oppression, ethnic cleansing and violence pursued by the Belgrade regime under the direction of President Milosevic. We will not allow this campaign of terror to succeed. NATO is determined to prevail.

2. NATO's military action against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) supports the political aims of the international community, which were reaffirmed in recent statements by the UN Secretary-General and the European Union: a peaceful, multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo where all its people can live in security and enjoy universal human rights and freedoms on an equal basis.

3. Our military actions are directed not at the Serb people but at the policies of the regime in Belgrade, which has repeatedly rejected all efforts to solve the crisis peacefully. President Milosevic must:

  • Ensure a verifiable stop to all military action and the immediate ending of violence and repression in Kosovo;
  • Withdraw from Kosovo his military, police and para-military forces;
  • Agree to the stationing in Kosovo of an international military presence;
  • Agree to the unconditional and safe return of all refugees and displaced persons, and unhindered access to them by humanitarian aid organisations; and
  • Provide credible assurance of his willingness to work for the establishment of a political framework agreement based on the Rambouillet accords.
4. There can be no compromise on these conditions. As long as Belgrade fails to meet the legitimate demands of the international community and continues to inflict immense human suffering, Alliance air operations against the Yugoslav war machine will continue. We hold President Milosevic and the Belgrade leadership responsible for the safety of all Kosovar citizens. We will fulfill our promise to the Kosovar people that they can return to their homes and live in peace and security.

5. We are intensifying NATO's military actions to increase the pressure on Belgrade. Allied governments are putting in place additional measures to tighten the constraints on the Belgrade regime. These include intensified implementation of economic sanctions, and an embargo on petroleum products on which we welcome the EU lead. We have directed our Defence Ministers to determine ways that NATO can contribute to halting the delivery of war material including by launching maritime operations, taking into account the possible consequences on Montenegro.

6. NATO is prepared to suspend its air strikes once Belgrade has unequivocally accepted the above mentioned conditions and demonstrably begun to withdraw its forces from Kosovo according to a precise and rapid timetable. This could follow the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution, which we will seek, requiring the withdrawal of Serb forces and the demilitarisation of Kosovo and encompassing the deployment of an international military force to safeguard the swift return of all refugees and displaced persons as well as the establishment of an international provisional administration of Kosovo under which its people can enjoy substantial autonomy within the FRY. NATO remains ready to form the core of such an international military force. It would be multinational in character with contributions from non-NATO countries.

7. Russia has a particular responsibility in the United Nations and an important role to play in the search for a solution to the conflict in Kosovo. Such a solution must be based on the conditions of the international community as laid out above. President Milosevic's offers to date do not meet this test. We want to work constructively with Russia, in the spirit of the Founding Act.

8. The long-planned, unrestrained and continuing assault by Yugoslav military, police and paramilitary forces on Kosovars and the repression directed against other minorities of the FRY are aggravating the already massive humanitarian catastrophe. This threatens to destabilise the surrounding region.

9. NATO, its members and its Partners have responded to the humanitarian emergency and are intensifying their refugee and humanitarian relief operations in close cooperation with the UNHCR, the lead agency in this field, and with other relevant organisations. We will continue our assistance as long as necessary. NATO forces are making a major contribution to this task.

10. We pay tribute to the servicemen and women of NATO whose courage and dedication are ensuring the success of our military and humanitarian operations.

11. Atrocities against the people of Kosovo by FRY military, police and paramilitary forces represent a flagrant violation of international law. Our governments will co-operate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to support investigation of all those, including at the highest levels, responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. NATO will support the ICTY in its efforts to secure relevant information. There can be no lasting peace without justice.

12. We acknowledge and welcome the courageous support that states in the region are providing to our efforts in Kosovo. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania have played a particularly important role, not least in accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees from Kosovo. The states in the region are bearing substantial economic and social burdens stemming from the current conflict.

13. We will not tolerate threats by the Belgrade regime to the security of its neighbours. We will respond to such challenges by Belgrade to its neighbours resulting from the presence of NATO forces or their activities on their territory during this crisis.

14. We reaffirm our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in the region.

15. We reaffirm our strong support for the democratically elected government of Montenegro. Any move by Belgrade to undermine the government of President Djukanovic will have grave consequences. FRY forces should leave the demilitarised zone of Prevlaka immediately.

16. The objective of a free, prosperous, open and economically integrated Southeast Europe cannot be fully assured until the FRY embarks upon the transition to democracy. Accordingly, we express our support for the objective of a democratic FRY which protects the rights of all minorities, including those in Vojvodina and Sandjak, and promise to work for such change through and beyond the current conflict.

17. It is our aim to make stability in Southeast Europe a priority of our transatlantic agenda. Our governments will co-operate urgently through NATO as well as through the OSCE, and for those of us which are members, the European Union, to support the nations of Southeast Europe in forging a better future for their region - one based upon democracy, justice, economic integration, and security co-operation."

German Six-Point Peace Plan, 14 April


  1. G-8 Foreign Ministers agree a draft UN Security Council resolution setting a deadline for the withdrawal of all "military, police, and paramilitary forces" from Kosovo while the KLA observes a ceasefire. Kosovo comes under an "interim administration under UN auspices until a final political settlement is reached".
  2. UN Security Council convenes and adopts the resolution as quickly as possible.
  3. A 24-hour NATO bombing pause introduced if Yugoslav forces are being withdrawn from Kosovo. The bombing respite can be extended for the period set for the full withdrawal.
  4. Kosovo airspace and regional security ensured by NATO air power and NATO ground forces in Albania and Macedonia.
  5. Relief agencies start working in Kosovo as soon as possible after the plan is agreed.
  6. As Yugoslav forces withdraw, refugees return and reconstruction work gets under way.
Source: 'German plan has UN in peace role', Ian Traynor, The Guardian, 15 April

Albright-Ivanov Press Conference, Oslo, 13 April

Remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov: "The meeting was held in accordance with the agreements reached by our two Presidents, Presidents of our two countries, and the purpose was to set up the general contours of a political settlement in the Balkans to stop the bloodshed and violence. On these issues, Mrs. Albright and I find ourselves in constant contact, and this is understandable since today we are talking not only about the Balkans, but about the future of US-Russian relations.

Our discussion, naturally, was not simple. The positions of Russia, vis-à-vis military actions against Yugoslavia remains unchanged. The most important thing, however, is that in Oslo we proceeded from the common task of finding a way out of this cul-de-sac, and therefore the talk was not so much about what divides Russia and the United States today, as those approaches which would lead us to a settlement.

Now, the common elements in our approaches are quite a few.

Russia and the United States really use as a starting point the fact that in the final analysis the Kosovo settlement can be only political. In achieving this goal, the most active role can and should be played by the international community. Naturally, the United States and we maintain also certain differences of opinion. The constant dialogue between our two Presidents and between our Prime Minister and Vice President Gore, and between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs is precisely aimed at reducing these kinds of differences of opinion. ...

We agreed with Mrs. Albright to continue active political and diplomatic efforts in the interest of a political settlement. We also discussed today very timely issues of US-Russian relations and certain other international relations issues, specifically, a Middle East settlement, issues of non-proliferation, disarmament, the issue of Iraq. The heads of our two states, as they stressed in the letters which President Yeltsin and President Clinton exchanged just a few days ago, here they stressed the high priority which we attach to US-Russian mutual relations and cooperation in order to achieve international stability."

Remarks by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: "As Foreign Minister Ivanov has said, we have had a very good and useful meeting and we came here today to look for ways to work together to resolve the crisis in Kosovo. The US-Russian relationship has as its foundation our many common interests and shared goals. Simply put, it is in the interest of both our nations to work together whenever we can, and today we have made some important progress. ...

[A]s far as Kosovo is concerned, we have reached agreement on many of the basic principles that must be respected in any resolution of the crisis in Kosovo, for example, that there needs to be an immediate and verifiable end of violence and oppression in Kosovo. There has to be withdrawal from Kosovo of military police and paramilitary forces. There has to be unconditional and safe return of all refugees and displaced persons regardless of their ethnicity or religion, and for allowing the international humanitarian organizations unhindered access to fulfill their functions throughout Yugoslavia and, in the first place, in Kosovo.

We will continue to work together to attain a common basis for a resolution of this crisis, and the work we have done today has helped to lay a foundation for a result that we all seek. I think that it is very important that we continue this work together. ..."

Question: "Mr. Minister, the Secretary ticked off four things which she said there was agreement in principle. She made no mention of an international force. So the question is, is there something in these four points that represents a change in position by the Russian government? Has either government, in fact, changed its position in any way? ..."

Ivanov: "The Secretary of State mentioned the items where we have significant commonality, and there are also a series of additional items. As far as the international presence, this is an issue - one of the most complicated ones today - and we are going to continue discussion of this item.

You know that this had been discussed at the negotiations at Rambouillet and during subsequent contacts. And in fact it is complicated, because you know that the leadership of Yugoslavia today comes out against any kind of military presence on the territory of Yugoslavia. At the same time, we talked about an acceptable form of international presence in order to provide conditions for a political settlement…

Now the form it takes, this is something that we should discuss in the future, and we should work on. I think that the dialogue is the format which allows us to find a way of bringing our positions closer and to find solutions of the most difficult and complicated issues. So that the dialogue between us continues, and we believe the faster we can get out of this cul-de-sac, the better it will be for the situation in the Balkans and in the world as a whole."

Albright: "Could I just continue with that? Let me just say, clearly as Foreign Minister Ivanov has said, this has been one of the difficult aspects of trying to get an agreement. What also has been interesting in our discussions and he pointed out here is that there is agreement that there needs to be some kind of an international presence that would in fact provide the security and the confidence for the refugees to be able to return. What we disagree on, or have not yet reached agreement on, is the character of that kind of a force. ... [O]ur sense is that it has to have a NATO core with other countries being able to provide other aspects of it, or to work in coordination.

I think that as the Foreign Minister said, this is a subject that we have not yet reached agreement on and is a very central aspect of any final agreement that we come to. But I have to say that I think that what we have managed today is, as has been a part of all our discussions today, is to really have a very frank and important discussion about the pros and cons of various ways of dealing with this issue."

Source: Transcript - Albright-Ivanov Press Briefing, Oslo, April 13, 1999, United States Information Service, 13 April

UN Secretary-General's Five Conditions for Peace, 9 April

"I am deeply distressed by the tragedy taking place in Kosovo and in the region, which must be brought to an end. The suffering of innocent civilians should not be further prolonged. In this spirit, I urgently call upon the Yugoslav authorities to undertake the following commitments:

  • first, to end immediately the campaign of intimidation and expulsion of the civilian population;
  • two, to cease all activities of military and paramilitary forces in Kosovo and to withdraw these forces;
  • three, to accept unconditionally the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes;
  • four, to accept the deployment of an international military force to ensure a secure environment for the return of the refugees and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid; and
  • finally, to permit the international community to verify compliance with these undertakings.
Upon the acceptance by the Yugoslav authorities of these conditions, I urge the leaders of the North Atlantic Alliance to suspend immediately the air bombardments upon the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Ultimately, the cessation of hostilities I propose is a prelude to a lasting political solution to the crisis, which can only be achieved through diplomacy. In this context, I would urge the resumption of talks on Kosovo among all parties concerned at the earliest possible moment."

Source: Secretary-General offers conditions to end hostilities in Kosovo, United Nations Press Release SG/SM/6952, 9 April

White House Statement on Annan Plan

"President Clinton spoke on Saturday [10 April] to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the tragic situation in Kosovo caused by the repressive policies of Slobodan Milosevic. The President warmly welcomed Mr. Annan's statement on Friday calling upon the Yugoslavia authorities to end their campaign of intimidation and expulsion, withdraw their forces from Kosovo and accept the deployment of an international military force to ensure a secure environment for the return of refugees.

The UN Secretary General's statement is very much in line with the policy being pursued by the United States and its NATO allies and the conditions we have set for ending air strikes. Mr. Annan's statement is further evidence of the strong international consensus that Milosevic must give the people of Kosovo the security and self-government they deserve."

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 12 April

Yugoslav Rejection of Annan Plan, 16 April

Letter to Annan from Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic:

"Nothing but NATO bombs threaten peace in Kosovo. ... NATO daily mass bombings represent the only obstacle to the stabilisation of life... NATO aggression and bombing [has caused] enormous destruction of civilian buildings and mass civilian casualties...[and created] an increased number of refugees and displaced persons... There is nothing which can shake our resolve to defend ourselves, despite any additional NATO or other forces to be engaged...

[Our forces in Kosovo constitute] a defence against NATO aggression and serve as a shield against NATO troops built up in Albania and Macedonia and against aggression carried out from...Albania under the protection and with the assistance of NATO. ...

It is incomprehensible [for the UN] to request the withdrawal of the legitimate forces of a sovereign State from its own territory, instead of calling for an urgent ending of foreign military aggression, [the] killing of civilians and destruction of civilian targets...

There has not been, and there is no, campaign of 'intimidation' or ' expulsion' of [the] civilian population [in Kosovo]... Civilian presence, this is something which can be negotiated, but military presence, absolutely not. ..."

Sources: Yugoslavia rejects monitoring force, Associated Press, 16 April; Yugoslavia rejects UN Chief's peace proposal, Reuters, 17 April.

Reaction to Jovanovic's letter from UN Secretary-General's spokesperson Fred Eckhart, 16 April:

"[Annan] was not surprised by Yugoslavia's response. He feels that we are involved in a difficult, dangerous and intractable situation. As he said in Brussels this week, do not expect quick results. We are only at the beginning stage of our search for a diplomatic solution..."

Sources: Yugoslavia rejects monitoring force, Associated Press, 16 April; Yugoslavia rejects UN Chief's peace proposal, Reuters, 17 April.

NATO Reaction to FRY Unilateral Ceasefire, 7 April

Coordinated Statement by Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Italy, UK and US, 7 April:

"NATO's current military action against the FRY is in support of the political aim of the international community: a peaceful, multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo in which all its people live in security.

The ceasefire by the Yugoslav Army in its operations against the KLA called by Belgrade does not cover the activities of Serb police and paramilitaries. Belgrade's proposal provides an insufficient basis for achieving the international community's objective cited above.

Specifically, Belgrade's proposal leaves unanswered the following questions:

  • Is Milosevic prepared for verifiable cessation of all combat activities and killings?
  • Is Milosevic prepared to withdraw military, police and paramilitary forces from Kosovo?
  • Is Milosevic prepared to agree to the deployment of an international security force?
  • Is Milosevic prepared to permit the unconditional return of all refugees and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid?
  • And finally, is Milosevic prepared to join in putting in place a political framework for Kosovo on the basis of the Rambouillet accords?
Belgrade's proposal for a ceasefire will be without significance unless it is accompanied by positive answers to the above questions. We look for such answers from Belgrade immediately.

We also call for the release of Dr. Rugova and all of his family, and an ability of the international community to meet with him outside Yugoslavia under conditions free of possible intimidation."

Source: German Foreign ministry website, http://www.bundesregierung.de/english

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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