|PEACE IN OUR TIME ?|
June 7, 1999
JIM LEHRER: Between war and peace in Kosovo. Kwame Holman has our update.
KWAME HOLMAN: For most of today, Kosovo peace talks continued as low level contacts between NATO and Serb officials at a little cafe just inside the Macedonian border. In Brussels, NATO Spokesman Jamie Shea told reporters not to expect too much.
JAMIE SHEA: We've established, as I said earlier, a liaison mechanism, which, if you like, is a way of keeping in touch at a low working level, to see if the Yugoslavs have anything to tell us, to provide any clarifications that they may still need. This doesn't mean meetings as such. It just means contacts from time to time and exchanging telephone numbers. So if the Yugoslavs are having second thoughts, believe me, they know which number to ring.
KWAME HOLMAN: Senior NATO and military officers met over the weekend trying to work out the details of a plan to end the 76-day air assault on Yugoslavia and allow the return of hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his parliament approved the plan last Thursday. But late last night, following 21 hours of discussions, NATO General Michael Jackson announced the talks had been suspended.
GENERAL MICHAEL JACKSON: The Yugoslav delegation presented a proposal that would not guarantee the safe return of all the refugees.
KWAME HOLMAN: NATO's Jamie Shea provided more details today.
JAMIE SHEA: The Serb side did not accept the sequencing of activities as proposed by NATO, a sequencing which in our view represents the only way to ensure that the Serb forces leave and international security forces rapidly are thereafter deployed and the refugees are able to return home right away. They are not going to be allowed to keep forces in Kosovo above the level specified to them by General Jackson, which is a small level. We're talking about a few hundred, and not the levels of last October, which were a disproportionately high level. And anything that goes beyond what General Jackson has specified would be a Serb policeman or a Serb soldier -- too many for the refugees to have the confidence to go back home.
KWAME HOLMAN: Indeed, Kosovar refugees housed in tent camps inside Macedonia said news of the disruption of the peace talks came as no surprise.
REFUGEE: (speaking through interpreter) Milosevic lies. He has offered wars on all fronts in the past and now the whole world knows just like Albanians have known.
REFUGEE: (speaking through interpreter) After what has happened last night, we have lost all hope about going home soon. He has signed deals many times but has never kept any of them. Now we are in these hot camps with a three-month-old newborn.
KWAME HOLMAN: NATO's military planners who said they, too, expected Milosevic might stall the talks, responded with another round of air strikes against Yugoslavia.
SPOKESMAN: Let me start with repeating the words General Jackson finished his public announcement last night. He ended his statement by saying the air campaign will continue. And he's right. Yesterday NATO flew over 480 sorties against strategic and technical targets in and around Kosovo and in Serbia proper. We struck a wide variety of technical military targets, including a command post, an early warning site, a radar relay site and a munitions storage facility. And, as I told you yesterday, our main emphasis again, was to hit Serb forces on the ground. Targets included artillery pieces and armored positions and armor the personnel carriers and other armored vehicles. We also struck two battalion site staging areas. Even so, detailed battle damage is ongoing. First reports indicate that Serb ground forces in Kosovo had to suffer some heavy losses, especially on artillery pieces and armored personnel carriers.
KWAME HOLMAN: The breakdown of talks did not prevent Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the other representatives from the so-called G-8 countries from convening their meeting in Bonn. They were to work out language of a Kosovo peace arrangement to be presented for approval to the United Nations Security Council. On his arrival, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari reportedly told G-8 members he had just spoken with Milosevic and was assured that despite the suspension of talks, the Yugoslav president still supports the peace plan. Upon his arrival, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov expressed some sympathy for the Yugolsav position.
IGOR IVANOV: (speaking through interpreter) NATO has gone too far. The withdrawal from Kosovo should depend on the United Nations, but I hope that a solution will be found today.
KWAME HOLMAN: And reportedly it was the Russians who slowed progress today on the drafting of the U.N. resolution. They were said to continue to question allowing NATO to comprise the core of the peacekeeping force in Kosovo. State Department Spokesman James Rubin spoke only in general terms about the problem.
JAMES RUBIN: Secretary Albright worked closely with Foreign Minister Ivanov so that we could work our way through some very difficult issues. We've worked our way through many of them.
KWAME HOLMAN: The G-8 ministers met for eight hours, reported good progress, and said they hoped to complete their work tomorrow.
SPOKESMAN: There is no compromise in the draft we're discussing on the Chernomyrdin-Ahtasaari text. That text is fully represented in this resolution, and none of us are in any way proposing any compromise on that text.
KWAME HOLMAN: Russia reportedly has agreed to all but three of the twenty points outlined in the draft resolution. Foreign Minister Ivanov said he's awaiting further instructions from Moscow.