EU Sends Peacemaker as Milosevic Wavers

Daily Mail (London), June 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

EU Sends Peacemaker as Milosevic Wavers


Byline: JOHN DEANS

MOVES to secure a Kosovo peace deal moved into higher gear last night when EU foreign ministers agreed to send a special envoy to talk terms with Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade.

After the recent flurry of diplomatic activity spearheaded by former Russian premier Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Yugoslav dictator signalled a possible softening of his hardline stance.

Just days after being indicted for war crimes, Milosevic acknowledged for the first time the concept of Nato peacekeeping forces being stationed inside the war-torn enclave.

He followed that up last night with a statement on the state-run news agency announcing the regime was also prepared to accept the peace principles laid down by the Group of Eight powers last month, paving the way for the return of thousands of refugees to their homeland.

European foreign ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels to despatch Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari to Belgrade this week to try to capitalise on the signs of hope. He is likely to be accompanied by Mr Chernomyrdin who is due in Bonn today for further talks with European mediators and the American diplomatic envoy Strobe Talbott.

Last night the Russians claimed that the shift of ground in Belgrade signalled a real chance of securing an end to the nine-week conflict, although leaders in western capitals remained far more cautious and highly suspicious of Milosevic's motives.

A spokesman for Tony Blair said there was 'little new' in the Serb formula and warned that it fell far short of Nato's basic demands.

Insisting that the allied air bombardment would continue until Milosevic was prepared to concede unequivocally to allied demands, he said: 'What we have heard from Belgrade is still not good enough. There will have to be far more substance. Milosevic is a past master at saying one thing and doing another.' In Brussels, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook welcomed the fresh surge of diplomatic activity, but warned that statements from Belgrade remained carefully phrased, and still fell well short of allied terms.

The EU ministers, fearing another attempt by Milosevic to divide the Nato hawks and doves, issued a statement calling on Belgrade to translate its reported statements into 'a firm, unambiguous and verifiable commitment to accept the G8 principles' backed by a UN security council resolution.

It was also made clear both at Nato HQ in Brussels and by the Defence Ministry in London that, under the terms of the G8 peace package, the bulk of Serb forces would have to withdraw from Kosovo, international forces - with Nato troops at the core - would move in

to police a settlement and provide security for the returning refugees, while an interim administration would be established. …

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