Milosovic meets ethnic Albanian leader Rugova
Yeltsin wants emergency G-7 meeting on Kosovo
April 1, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Serbian TV on Thursday reported that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and moderate Kosovo Albanian political leader Ibrahim Rugova had met and were committed to seeking a peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said he believed Rugova may have been acting under duress.
"I don't see that Rugova is freely doing what he is doing," Solana told a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels Thursday.
Solana said he would have felt "much more relaxed" if he had been able to speak to Rugova personally.
"They (Milosovic and Rugova) came to a joint stand on a mutual commitment to a political process, and that problems can be resolved successfully and long-term only through political means," state-controlled television and radio reports said.
Rugova had earlier been reported missing in a Serbian military campaign against Kosovo Albanian separatist rebels and populated regions where they operate. But state television filmed him on Wednesday at home where he said he was under police protection.
On television on Wednesday night, Rugova appealed for an end to NATO bombings against Yugoslavia.
Rugova participated in two recent international rounds of Kosovo peace talks in France. But the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, however, later declared the peace process with Belgrade dead.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday called for an emergency meeting with the G-7 group of major industrialized nations to discuss the Kosovo crisis.
Speaking on Russian television, Yeltsin said he had authorized Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to contact the foreign ministers of the G-7 group "to work out ways to swiftly end the crisis" in Yugoslavia.
The G-7 groups the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Britain and Japan. In recent years, Russia has joined those meetings for what became known as G-8 meetings, which included talks on a wide range of issues, such as economic and political cooperation as well as anti-crime and anti-drug trafficking measures.
Russia is a traditional ally of Balkan Serbs and has strongly condemned the NATO airstrikes against Serb military targets in Yugoslavia.
Moscow was involved in two rounds of international peace talks on Kosovo and earlier this week sent Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov to Belgrade in an attempt to mediate. But that mission failed.
"Despite Russia's resolute actions, NATO military action against Yugoslavia continues to escalate," Yeltsin said in his brief statement.
"Such an escalation threatens to lead to a grave disaster, and not only for Europeans. That mustn't be allowed," he added.
Six of the G-7 countries belong to NATO, while Japan is a close U.S. ally and has expressed support for the alliance's military operations in Yugoslavia.
Russia has stressed it will not become involved in the conflict militarily.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it was preparing for the deployment of seven warships to the Mediterranean for what Moscow said would be "exercises" in the region.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Thursday he hoped that Russia would not do anything to escalate tension over the conflict in Yugoslavia, and welcomed cooperation between NATO and Russia on ending the Kosovo crisis.
That position was also stated Thursday by Solana.
"Russia has its heart divided between its Slav soul and its disgust for (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic's behavior," Solana told Spanish radio.
"Where we have differences right now is over the problem of tactically how to resolve the situation... I believe we will come to the same common strategy again in relation to the Balkans," Solana said.
The Vatican was also involved in mediation efforts Thursday, after Pope John Paul II urged the warring sides in Kosovo on Monday to stop the fighting and return to the negotiation table.
Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran met leading government members in Belgrade Thursday but made no statement about the content of the talks.Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.
Time Daily - April 1, 1999: Refugees in Montenegro: Bad, and Getting Worse
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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