U.S. says Russia could control part of Kosovo
June 13, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Russian troops could be given control of territory within one of the NATO-controlled zones in Kosovo as part of the overall peacekeeping plan for the Yugoslav province, U.S. officials said Sunday.
But as talks on the Russian role in the KFOR peacekeeping force continued, U.S. officials said any Russian force must be under unified command -- in other words, under a NATO general.
U.S. envoy Strobe Talbott and Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested Sunday the Russians could have some area of responsibility within one of the NATO-run sectors.
"Very clearly, a zone of responsibility within a sector would be one way of doing it," Shelton said.
Talbott, on his way back to Washington from Moscow, told reporters, "How exactly that's defined, in terms of command structure and that kind of thing, is something that we are working on."
But Talbott said there were no plans for any partition of the Yugoslav province, the focus of a 79-day air war against Yugoslavia that ended Thursday.
U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin discussed the situation by phone for about an hour Sunday morning, having what aides called a "constructive conversation."
The two leaders agreed that that Russian and NATO generals should meet to resolve the issue of how Russia can be incorporated into KFOR, White House spokesman Mike Hammer said.
The leaders plan to speak again Monday.
KFOR will divide the province into five zones, each controlled by troops from a different NATO country. While the French hold the north, the British zone covers the east-central part of Kosovo, including the provincial capital Pristina.
The United States will take southeastern Kosovo; the Germans, the southernmost portion of the province; and the Italians, the west.
The Russians have objected to their troops serving under NATO command and want a separate sector of Kosovo to be placed under their control.
U.S. troops began moving into Kosovo in large numbers for the first time Sunday, led by the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and a Marine expeditionary force from the USS Kearsarge. Eventually, about 7,000 U.S. troops will take part in the 50,000-strong peacekeeping mission.
The Russian objections were underscored by Russia's refusal to allow British-led peacekeepers into the airport at Pristina. The Russians arrived in Kosovo on Saturday despite assurances from Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov that they would wait for KFOR's Western members to move in.
The Russian move took NATO governments by surprise, but the alliance's top general, Wesley Clark, said Sunday that the KFOR deployment was on schedule.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea told CNN talks were being held on three levels to resolve the situation -- in Moscow; Skopje, Macedonia; and in Pristina. But he said it was not a Cold War-type standoff.
"The Russian incident, while colorful, is really a minor one," Shea said.
"The Russians have actually come to join us. That's, I think, the remarkable thing," he said. "They sent troops from Bosnia and they've painted KFOR, which is the name of the NATO force, on their vehicles."
But British Defense Secretary George Robertson suggested any display of Russian intransigence could have financial consequences.
"A continued disunity ... on display in Moscow would hardly encourage the financial community next week when they are looking to financially help Russia," Robertson told the British Broadcasting Corp. Sunday.
Continued aid to Russia is one of the topics representatives of the Group of Eight nations will take up when they meet later this week.
"I think there's a confusion in Moscow, which is not really good news for them, especially on the eve of the G8 summit," Robertson said.
NATO peacekeeping commander arrives in Pristina
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