Key talks on Kosovo peace plan resume
June 8, 1999
KOENIGSWINTER, Germany (CNN) -- Foreign ministers of the top seven industrialized nations and Russia resumed negotiations Tuesday on a U.N. Security Council resolution that endorses a Kosovo peace plan.
With the peace initiatives still in the works, NATO ratcheted up its air campaign overnight, pounding targets near Belgrade for the first time since Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic accepted the peace plan last Thursday.
Lower-level talks between NATO and Yugoslav army forces on Tuesday over a pull-out of troops from Kosovo have resumed near the border with Serbia, at Tabanovce in Macedonia. The discussions involve technical details on withdrawal routes, logistical details and laying groundwork if the larger political details ever get resolved.
Also, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari was in Beijing on Tuesday for a visit to bring China into the Kosovo peace process.
The foreign ministers failed in eight hours of intense talks to reach agreement Monday on the plan and adjourned to let Russian diplomats consult Moscow on key sticking points.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said progress had been made but the ministers needed more time to settle three key points. He would not disclose what those three points were but predicted that they would be settled.
Separately, Western sources told CNN the main stumbling blocks are:
Ahtisaari, who presented the peace plan to Milosevic last week along with Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, urged the foreign ministers to act quickly.
He also said he spoke by phone with Milosevic and that the Yugoslav president indicated he was serious about the peace plan.
In Washington, White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said, "While those words may be reassuring, ultimately we need more than words."
Lockhart and other Western officials pledged NATO's strikes would press on until a verifiable withdrawal of Serb troops from Kosovo begins.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was to consult with his government before reporting back to the Group of Eight ministers in Germany.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin assured President Clinton by phone that he would encourage Ivanov to resolve differences with NATO over the language of the resolution, U.S. officials told CNN.
Ivanov, in answer to a reporter's question, said the suspension of military talks between Yugoslavia and NATO early Monday had complicated the situation.
Officials had expected the talks between the Yugoslavs and NATO to end with an agreement on a withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and a simultaneous pause in NATO bombing.
"The schedule has now been disturbed and the wording of the resolution has become difficult," Ivanov said.
Hammering out a plan
The foreign ministers had attempted to hammer out a paragraph-by-paragraph proposed U.N. Security Council resolution on a peace plan for Kosovo.
At the United Nations, the current Security Council president, Ambassador Ismaila Baboucarr-Blaise Jagne of The Gambia, said the council wanted to discuss the proposal. "We want to act quickly," he said.
Anne Gazeau-Secret, a spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, said France had proposed a plan linking the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo to Security Council consideration of the peace plan and a pause in NATO bombing.
Gazeau-Secret said the British and German ministers had been supportive of the French initiative.
State Department spokesman James Rubin said the United States would be willing to call for a halt in the NATO campaign if the Yugoslavs agree to the terms of a withdrawal and begin to withdraw "in a verifiable way."
The Russians, who have a veto in the Security Council, were said to be most concerned over how Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter -- the chapter dealing with the use of force in peacekeeping operations -- will be applied to Yugoslavia.
The Russians are said by sources to be reluctant to place their troops under NATO command as part of an international peacekeeping force.
Rubin said one of the most difficult issues is how the peacekeeping force would be created.
The five-page plan being discussed by the foreign ministers does not directly refer to NATO. Diplomatic sources said it will likely make reference to the peace plan negotiated by Ahtisaari and Chernomyrdin last week with the Yugoslav government. That document does refer to NATO, which has a force of 15,000 troops ready to enter Kosovo to implement a peace agreement.
China: Stop the bombing first
China said on Tuesday NATO must stop bombing Yugoslavia before the U.N. Security Council discusses a peace plan.
"Our position on this question is clear; NATO must immediately halt the bombing of Yugoslavia as a necessary precondition for solving the Kosovo crisis," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue told a news conference. "The bombing should stop before the Security Council discusses this issue."
"China will act in accord with its consistent position," Zhang said when asked how China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, would vote when the Kosovo peace plan is put to it.
She said China was still waiting to see the final version of the peace plan, which Ahtisaari, the European Union's Kosovo envoy, was explaining to President Jiang Zemin and other Chinese officials on Tuesday.
Fireballs light up the sky
By late Monday and early Tuesday, NATO carried through with those pledges as powerful explosions jolted Belgrade and other areas.
An oil refinery in Pancevo, a repeated NATO target on the outskirts of Belgrade, was struck by at least two NATO cruise missiles -- and bright orange fireballs lit up the nighttime sky.
Belgrade officials said the latest raids also hit military barracks in Fruska Gora, about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of the capital, and at Avala, a mountain on the southern outskirts of Belgrade. A military airport in Batajnica, outside the capital, was targeted, officials said.
NATO on Tuesday morning said that Operation Allied Force attacks against Serb forces in Kosovo kept up the pressure on Milosevic over the last 24 hours. NATO said it flew 658 sorties, including 222 strike and 65 suppression of air defense missions. All NATO aircraft returned safely.
Targets struck included 20 artillery pieces, 10 armoured personnel carriers, nine mortar positions, six tanks, eight multiple rocket launchers, revetted positions and other military vehicles.
Facilities in Serbia that support the Serb forces in Kosovo responsible for ethnic cleansing were attacked. They included airfields at Batajnica and Sjenica, an air defense early warning site at Kapaonik, ammunition storage sites at Kursumlija and Kraljevo, military storage depots at Podgorae, Cuprija and Svetozarevo, a training area at Cuprija and a petroleum storage site at Novi Sad.
Talks between NATO, Yugoslavia fall apart
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