Conflict Explainer | Message Board
February 15, 1999
RAMBOUILLET, France (CNN) -- After meeting with ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Rambouillet on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said he believes the two warring parties will reach an accord this week on Kosovo.
"I have met with the two delegations and it is my conviction that the delegations do realize the importance of the moment," said Ivanov, whose country is a traditional ally of the Serbs. "I think that they will be working constructively and in the remaining week (and) they will come to an agreement on the remaining political questions."
Ivanov added that Russia opposed any peacekeeping force in Kosovo without Belgrade's permission.
"I would like to emphasize once again that there is only a political settlement that is possible," he said. "I am convinced that both delegations realize this. There is no military solution to this problem, only a political one. And all the members of the Contact Group will actively support this solution."
On Sunday, foreign ministers of the six-nation Contact Group agreed to extend the deadline for the talks for another week. Serbs and ethnic Albanians have until noon on February 20 to agree to a proposal that grants Kosovo limited autonomy for three years without changing Yugoslavia's borders.
Threat of NATO airstrikes
Following meetings with negotiators, mediators and Contact Group representatives Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned that the threat of NATO airstrikes was "real" if the accord isn't signed.
"Nothing less than decisive action from NATO and the Contact Group will keep both sides focused on the task at hand," she said.
Serb President Milan Milutinovic rejected Albright's implied threat. Airstrikes, he said, "will not solve any problem. It will only cause terrible destruction and it could cost human lives."
Milutinovic also rejected a Contact Group plan to put as many as 30,000 troops on the ground to enforce the peace deal once it's signed.
"As you know, we are very firmly against that," Milutinovic told Serbian state television Sunday. "The differences boil down to what happens at the end: if an agreement is reached, who should implement it? We are of the opinion that we should implement it, that we have the strength to do that if the agreement is good."
Ethnic Albanians and Serbs met face-to-face Sunday for the first time since the negotiations began in a 14th century chateau outside Paris a week ago. The two sides were brought together by the threat of NATO airstrikes.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Violence continues as allies extend Kosovo talks
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