April 9, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- A Cypriot envoy said Friday he failed in talks with Yugoslav President Milosevic to win the release of three captured U.S. soldiers, and blamed continued NATO air strikes for the outcome.
"Under the circumstances created and the fact that the message received by the Yugoslav leadership and people is that the relentless bombardments will continue, (they) can't proceed with a new peace gesture," said Spyros Kyprianou, a Greek Cypriot who is the parliament speaker on the Mediterranean island.
Kyprianou said he would cease his efforts to free the captive soldiers "for the time being" since "it is impossible to achieve any results in the present climate."
"But I cannot exclude anything in the future, depending on developments," he added.
His meeting with Milosevic began around 5 p.m. (11 a.m. EDT/1500 GMT) and lasted about an hour and a half.
Earlier, Yugoslav officials took Kyprianou to the coal-mining town of Aleksinac, where a NATO airstrike gone awry killed civilians earlier this week.
Even before he traveled to Yugoslavia, Kyprianou had suggested that NATO should curb its bombing campaign if the three American servicemen were freed. He also urged NATO to observe a cease-fire over the Orthodox Christian Easter holiday, which is now under way. NATO refused.
Some Yugoslav officials had said a release was unlikely. U.N. envoy Vladislav Jovanovic said Friday it would be "unnatural" to expect the Yugoslav government to free the servicemen while NATO continues to bomb his country.
Vice Premier Vojislav Seselj, leader of the influential Serbian Radical Party allied with Milosevic, told reporters Thursday that releasing the Americans was "out of the question."
The 19-nation NATO alliance demands that Milosevic accept terms of a U.S.-brokered peace accord, withdraw his military police and paramilitary forces and allow hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians to return to their homes in Kosovo, accompanied by a NATO-led security force.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez, 24, of Los Angeles; Spc. Steven Gonzales, 21, of Huntsville, Texas; and Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone, 25, of Smiths Creek, Michigan; were captured March 31 near the border of Macedonia and Kosovo.
Macedonia is an independent country that was once part of Yugoslavia. Kosovo is a province in the Yugoslav republic of Serbia.
NATO says the Army soldiers were noncombat troops under its command and were on a routine border patrol. Belgrade says they were captured on Yugoslav territory.
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