Chernomyrdin calls for greater U.N. role in Kosovo diplomacy
May 4, 1999
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin urged the United Nations to play a more active role in Kosovo diplomacy after he met Tuesday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Chernomyrdin said the meeting was the result of "new developments" in his talks with U.S. leaders in Washington, but did not elaborate.
Annan is "determined to participate in the settlement of the crisis," Chernomyrdin told a news conference.
"There is no other organization which has the experience ... so it's very important to engage the United Nations," he said.
The Russian envoy's arrival in New York was delayed by a second round of talks with U.S. President Al Gore on Tuesday. Chernomyrdin met with President Clinton, Gore and other U.S. leaders Monday.
Clinton said Monday that current initiatives from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic fall far short of what it will take to end NATO's airstrikes on the country.
However, Clinton did indicate that the U.S. would welcome troops from non-NATO countries -- most notably Russia and the Ukraine -- to take part in an international peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
Yugoslavia has publicly balked at the idea of an international peacekeeping force to protect returning Kosovo refugees.
On Tuesday, Chernomyrdin sidestepped questions about what kind of force might be sent to Kosovo.
"Whether they will be a paramilitary or civil force, of course, is subject to negotiations," he said.
Chernomyrdin planned to return to Moscow, but said he may visit Belgrade again later.
Chernomyrdin said he "will keep on this shuttle diplomacy until this conflict is resolved," adding that it would take "political will both in Belgrade and NATO."
Russia strongly opposes NATO's bombing campaign, and Chernomyrdin's efforts are part of an intensified Russian effort to find a peaceful end to the conflict.
His diplomatic efforts have been welcomed by the United States.
Chernomyrdin demonstrated a "deeper understanding" of American demands for the withdrawal of all Serb troops and paramilitary units from Kosovo, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said Tuesday.
Shortly after the Clinton-Chernomyrdin meeting, the Rev. Jesse Jackson -- fresh from his Belgrade mission to free three U.S. soldiers captured by Yugoslav forces -- went to the White House and hand-delivered a letter from Milosevic.
The civil rights leader urged Clinton to phone the Yugoslav president -- an effort administration sources said the president has rejected.
Jackson also said the United States should free the two Yugoslav prisoners of war who were taken captive in April by Kosovo Liberation Army rebels and handed over to the United States. U.S. administration officials said that request is under review.
"A gesture of diplomacy deserves some reciprocity," Jackson said, adding that Milosevic released the U.S. soldiers despite internal pressure to keep them as "trophies."
"We have the power to fight; we must show the strength to negotiate and to break this cycle of violence and this gulf of distrust," Jackson said.
The three freed U.S. soldiers -- Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez, 24, of Los Angeles; Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone, 25, of Smiths Creek, Michigan; and Spc. Steven Gonzales, 22, of Huntsville, Texas -- are recuperating at a U.S. Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where they were reunited with family members.
Europe pushes for resolution
Meanwhile, European Union president-designate Romano Prodi, citing fears that a prolonged conflict could hurt Europe's economy, called for an international conference on the Balkans.
"Growth in the European economy is slowing down," said the former Italian prime minister. "Europe is involved in a war, the grave consequences of which will be felt at its borders for many years to come."
In France, officials called for an urgent meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers to bring Russia closer to the heart of the search for peace. But French president Jacques Chirac urged caution.
"One cannot trust the government in Belgrade," he said.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has emerged as the most hawkish of the NATO leaders, said Tuesday that Serbia could only rejoin the international community when it was rid of "corrupt dictatorship" -- an obvious reference to Milosevic.
"Milosevic and his hideous racial genocide will be defeated. NATO will prevail," Blair said in a speech to the Romanian parliament in Bucharest.
NATO pounds Yugoslav targets after flurry of diplomacy
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