UN Security Council Approves Arms Embargo on Yugoslavia

Article excerpt

RESPONDING TO a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo province, the UN Security Council voted 14-0 (with China abstaining) on March 31 to impose an arms embargo on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The embargo prohibits the sale or supply of weapons and related materials, such as ammunition, military vehicles and spare parts, to Yugoslavia. Countries are to abide by the embargo regardless of whether a contract or permit was signed prior to the Security Council action.

Hostilities broke out in Kosovo, a formerly autonomous province, in early March as Serbian special police and paramilitary forces retaliated against towns suspected of supporting the Kosovo Liberation Army, an organization of ethnic Albanians seeking independence for Kosovo. An estimated 80 civilians, including women and children, were killed in the attacks. Ethnic Albanians represent 90 percent of Kosovo's total population of 2 million and have sought greater autonomy, which Belgrade has refused to grant.

As violence escalated, the Contact Group (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States), which monitors events in the Balkans, agreed on March 9 to pursue an arms embargo through the UN Security Council and to forbid immediately the supply of equipment that could be used for internal repression. With the exception of Russia, the Contact Group also decided to deny visas for senior representatives of Yugoslavia responsible for the repressive action and to halt government export credits for trade and investment in Serbia.

Bolstering the Contact Group's action, the European Union agreed on March 19 to adopt an arms embargo and identical sanctions to compel Belgrade to begin talks with the Kosovo Albanians.

Convening again on March 25, the Contact Group chose to maintain the sanctions because of Belgrade's failure to meet demands to cooperate with the Group, withdraw the special police forces (reportedly as many as 45,000) and allow humanitarian and international organizations access to Kosovo. Moreover, the Group criticized Slobodan Milosevic, president of Yugoslavia, for failing to publicly commit himself to a dialogue with the Kosovo Albanians and pledged anew to adopt a UN arms embargo by March 31. …