Finnish leader to join Chernomyrdin on Belgrade visit
May 14, 1999
MOSCOW (CNN) -- The president of Finland will join Russia's special envoy to the Balkans on another mission to Belgrade in search of a diplomatic settlement to the conflict in Kosovo, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday.
Finnish President Martii Ahtisaari will accompany former Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin on the trip next week.
On Tuesday, in preparation for that trip and to coordinate positions, there will be a three-way meeting with Strobe Talbott, the deputy U.S. secretary of state, a Russian official said Friday.
"Things are moving forward," the Russian official added.
Chernomyrdin has been on a shuttle diplomacy mission since the war began in March, flying to Belgrade and Washington in search of a peace agreement between the Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo seeking autonomy or independence.
The Group of Eight countries -- NATO's six largest countries, plus Japan and Russia -- agreed to a framework for an accord during talks in Bonn last week.
The G-8 plan calls for an international peacekeeping force in the Serbian province, where Serb-led Yugoslav troops reportedly have waged a campaign against ethnic Albanian civilians. Hundreds of thousands of them have fled their homes and become refugees.
U.S., Russia draft proposals on Kosovo forces
U.S. officials, while reporting progress, said there are still major disagreements between Russia and the United States on two key issues: the chain-of-command of any future Kosovo peacekeeping force and whether all Yugoslav military authorities would be required to leave Kosovo before refugees are allowed to return.
CNN has learned that Moscow and Washington are drafting two documents aimed at resolving those disputes. Sources say Russia is insisting that the force be strictly under U.N. command, an approach similar to one used in Bosnia earlier this decade.
In that case, both NATO and U.N. approval was required for military action on the ground. U.S. officials say that prevented NATO from making quick decisions when trouble flared among ethnic and religious groups, and contributed to the failure of that force.
The United States is arguing for a chain of command in Kosovo that would not give the United Nations a constant veto. NATO insists on a model similar to the current peacekeeping force in Bosnia.
French downplay Yeltsin comments
The new developments come as Russian President Boris Yeltsin warned that Russia might cut short its mediation efforts if NATO does not stop its eight-week-old air war against Yugoslavia.
Yeltsin warned Wednesday and Thursday that Russia could pull out of negotiations on a Kosovo settlement if NATO ignores Moscow's demand that the bombing be halted.
French President Jacques Chirac, who met with Yeltsin on Thursday, downplayed Yeltsin's statement. Chirac said the comment was tied to Yeltsin's "public position" and "wasn't at all in the spirit of our discussions."
But the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated Yeltsin's statement Thursday night, saying "Russia will be forced to make serious corrections in its relationship to the situation in the Balkans" if NATO does not end its airstrikes.
Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.
NATO dismisses Serb pullout, knocks out electricity
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
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