NATO keeps up diplomatic pressure despite overtures from Belgrade
Cook: Milosevic 'will have to try harder'
April 7, 1999
(CNN) -- NATO officials maintained a hard-line against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on Wednesday despite Belgrade's call for a cease-fire, followed by hints that it might release three captured U.S. soldiers.
Spyros Kyprianou, the acting president of Cyprus, told CNN on Wednesday that he has been negotiating with Milosevic for the release of the soldiers, and that he has "indications" that Milosevic will turn them over to Cyprus.
White House officials reacted with skepticism to the offer, and Yugoslav officials did not confirm or deny that an agreement to release the captives was in the works.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen was meeting with other NATO representatives in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, as the alliance vowed to intensify pressure on Milosevic.
NATO responded Wednesday to Belgrade's talk of a cease-fire the day before with one of its most intense attacks on Yugoslavia since airstrikes began on March 24 -- 15 days ago.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook described Milosevic's attempt to call a cease-fire "a sham," because it did not allow for NATO troops to supervise the return of refugees to Kosovo.
"The bottom line for us is Milosevic must reverse ethnic cleansing by allowing his people to return under international protection," Cook said. "If Milosevic wants a way out, he's going to have to try a lot harder."
The cease-fire offer was the first sign that Milosevic is faltering, Cook added. "It must have dawned on him that NATO can keep going longer than him."
Meanwhile, representatives of the six national Contact Group on the Balkans were also meeting in Brussels Wednesday, for the first time since the Rambouillet peace talks collapsed and NATO airstrikes began.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and his Russian counterpart, First Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdeyev, met together privately before the Contact Group session.
"NATO and Russia have an extremely profound disagreement on the subject of the use of force (by NATO in Yugoslavia)," Talbott said.
He added, "The Russians still have a role to play and we want them to play it."
Talbott said the definition of success in the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia is that the refugees from Kosovo return home in safety.
"That means they don't have to worry about getting their throats slit or getting a bullet in the back of the head," Talbott said, adding that only the presence of NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo could provide that security.
The European Commission proposed Wednesday that the 15-nation European Union make available up to $232 million in humanitarian and economic aid to help ease the Kosovo refugee crisis.
EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek told a news conference that the money would include humanitarian aid for the region, as well as economic aid for Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.
The commission said it would send technical experts to the region this week to assess the countries' detailed needs.
Van den Broek said the aid was necessary "in view of the very dramatic developments in the past few days ... and the humanitarian tragedy of refugees."
Refugee officials estimate that 1.1 million Kosovar Albanians out of a population of 1.8 million have been displaced by Yugoslav forces and Serbian police.
An estimated 200,000 Kosovo refugees have entered Albania during the last two weeks, and an estimated 120,000 are now in Macedonia, with tens of thousands more backed up at border checkpoints.
Macedonians move more refugees to NATO-run camps
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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