Diplomatic efforts continue despite cease-fire rejection
April 6, 1999
Senior officials of the Balkans Contact Group nations -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the United States and Russia -- will meet in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said.
The Contact Group was the force behind the Rambouillet peace talks in France, aimed at settling the conflict between ethnic Albanians and Yugoslav authorities in Kosovo. The failure of those talks triggered the current NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.
Wednesday's meeting will bring Russia into closer consultation with the group's Western members, who have been pursuing the bombing campaign in the Balkans. Fischer said the Contact Group members could make a unified condemnation of the "bloody nationalism" of the Yugoslav leadership.
Russia has historic ties to Yugoslavia's Serb majority and has objected strongly to the NATO bombing campaign. Russian President Boris Yeltsin on Tuesday called NATO's attacks "barbaric."
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday that the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will visit Moscow to discuss the crisis in Kosovo.
OSCE chief Knut Vollebaek, Norway's foreign minister, will go to Moscow after visits to Yugoslavia's Balkan neighbors Albania and Macedonia, now reeling from a flood of refugees from the fighting in Kosovo.
Vollebaek will discuss Kosovo and the refugee crisis with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, the ministry said.
Fischer said plans were being drawn up for a meeting of the Group of 8 countries, which includes the world's major industrialized countries and Russia. Germany now holds the chairmanship of the G-8, which includes the six Contact Group countries plus Canada and Japan.
Tuesday's Yugoslav cease-fire proposal was quickly dismissed in Washington and London, key NATO allies. The sticking point both at Rambouillet and in Tuesday's offer remained NATO's demand that its troops serve as a peacekeeping force in the province.
Yugoslavia has refused to allow NATO to place troops inside its borders. NATO officials have said the bombing will continue until Yugoslavia meets the conditions laid out at Rambouillet.
"I think everyone would prefer, including NATO diplomats, that we could solve these problems through diplomacy," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said. "But I think on the other hand, they understand the situation and the need to put a stop to a humanitarian catastrophe in the heart of Europe."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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