NATO bombs Yugoslavia as troop withdrawal talks break off
June 7, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO responded Monday to stalled troop withdrawal talks between it and Yugoslav military officials with an intensification of its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
NATO blamed Belgrade for the early morning breakdown of the talks in Macedonia, saying that Serb generals had tried to re-negotiate key points which NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said were "non-negotiable."
"(NATO) Gen. (Michael) Jackson has the maps on the table," said Shea. "He is ready to resume where the Yugoslav generals left off yesterday. We want this agreement, but it has to be an agreement which is totally consistent" with the one Belgrade agreed to last week.
Shea said the two sides had agreed to keep in contact, probably via telephone, but no new face-to-face meetings were scheduled. Earlier, Shea said a low-level meeting would take place Monday, but said later that he'd been given erroneous information.
Senior Pentagon officials said the Serb military delegation to the talks along Kosovo's border refused to agree to NATO's terms for a speedy withdrawal of Serb forces from the province.
The officials said the Serbs want a U.N. Security Council resolution on Kosovo to be passed before they would have to withdraw and peacekeeping troops could move in.
Pentagon officials said the Serbs also indicated they "needed more time" than the seven days allotted by NATO to get their estimated 40,000 troops and police out of Kosovo.
But Pentagon officials said the Yugoslavs have yet to provide convincing reasons for a delay.
The NATO air campaign had been scaled down in recent days, in expectation of a Serb withdrawal from Kosovo. But officials said it will now be increased.
Jackson, the senior NATO commander at the talks, said NATO "has no alternative but to continue and indeed intensify the air campaign until such time as the Yugoslav side is prepared to agree to implement the agreement fully and without ambiguity."
Jackson said NATO would be willing to resume discussions with the Yugoslavs at any point, once they are ready to accept NATO's proposal.
A spokesman for the Yugoslav side, Nebojsa Vujovic, said his side was willing to continue the discussions with NATO.
"We will continue with our constructive effort, and we are ready to talk further," he said.
"Speculation that we have no mandate for those talks are not correct," he said. "We have a clear mandate in accordance with the political document established in Belgrade."
The breakdown came after talks between the two sides had continued all day Sunday and stretched until nearly 3 a.m. Monday. On Saturday, a five-hour session had been held at a different location.
NATO leaders were insisting that the Yugoslavs sign the six- page document, which outlined the procedures for withdrawing forces from Kosovo. NATO was adamant that there would be no negotiations with the Yugoslavs and that the withdrawal must take place on NATO's terms.
Sources reported that the Yugoslav military leaders had agreed to only six of the 20 provisions in the document.
The Yugoslav generals also called for NATO to guarantee protection for them from Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas, waging a fierce campaign for Kosovo's independence -- and likely to take advantage of any Yugoslav withdrawal.
NATO said its instructions were to disarm the ethnic Albanian forces. But, said British military spokesman, Serb forces were still battling the KLA even though the Serb parliament has accepted a peace agreement.
"There are reports that they're shelling towns in Albania," Guthrie said. "On the ground, Serbs have not responded to the agreements reached in Belgrade."
Guthrie said allied aircraft took out 21 pieces of artillery in the past 24 hours, and struck an ammunition storage facility in Serbia and a command post in Pristina.
CNN's Jim Clancy said windows in Belgrade rattled, with several sonic booms, but no airstrikes were reported in the heavily populated capital.
U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin, en route to a G-8 meeting in Bonn with Secretary Madeleine Albright, said more bombing can be expected in Yugoslavia until Yugoslav troops are removed from Kosovo.
"The air campaign will continue, and we will continue to make diplomatic efforts with our G-8 colleagues toward a peaceful resolution of this conflict," he said.
Some European leaders had expressed optimism that the talks would be resumed, playing down the earlier, apparent breakdown in discussions.
"The talks have not been broken off, they are merely interrupted," Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's top international policy adviser Michael Steiner said.
President Clinton cut short a weekend trip to the presidential retreat of Camp David in the Maryland mountains and made plans to return to Washington earlier than scheduled, the White House said.
White House officials said they did not know whether the change of plans was related to the stall in the talks in Macedonia.
Correspondents David Ensor, Patricia Kelly, Chris Burns, and Tom Mintier contributed to this report.
Talks between NATO, Yugoslavia fall apart
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.