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Belgium: NATO Foreign Ministers To Review Kosovo Situation And Other Issues

  • Clifford Smith

Brussels, 25 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The situation in and around Kosovo seems likely to dominate discussions among NATO Foreign Ministers when they meet this week in Luxembourg - and they'll also hold separate discussions with Russia and Ukraine.

A top NATO official today briefed reporters in Brussels. He said NATO Foreign Ministers will review a number of additional measures, which might be taken, to further the objective of stability in the countries neighboring Kosovo, and, in particular, Albania and (The Former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia. These measures are now being drafted by NATO's military authorities, with a view to presenting them as options for consideration by the Foreign Ministers, when they meet Thursday.

The NATO official declined to give details, but any decisions likely to be made this week will concentrate mainly on further steps along the lines already taken to strengthen the ability of the Albanian authorities to control their border with the Kosovo region of Serbia, and similar help to Macedonia. However, the NATO official made it clear that military planners are also likely to be instructed to study further, yet unspecified, measures that could be considered at a later date, if, as the official put it, the Kosovo situation should seriously deteriorate.

Such 'further measures' are generally viewed by observers at NATO headquarters to contemplate the stationing of a small NATO force in Albania. However, RFE/RL is told no such decision has yet been made. As for Macedonia, it is believed that there is a much better chance that the United Nations force assigned there will continue its work, with a new mandate. Russia, specifically, is said to be more favorable than only recently to renewing the Macedonia mandate.

On former Yugoslavia, in general, the top NATO official said the Alliance will take further decisions in line with its decision to maintain the strength of SFOR, at least until Bosnia's September elections. Stained relations between Serbia and Montenegro are also expected to be discussed.

Many eyes will be on Russia's Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov when he sits down with NATO Ministers Thursday (May 28) afternoon for a session of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. This meeting will immediate follow a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, and, again, the western Balkans is the anticipated topic of discussion.

So far, NATO officials tell RFE/RL, Russia has given no sign - either positive or negative - about their views of the possible measures now being discussed by NATO. Moscow is reported to have simply expressed gratitude for being kept informed.

As to the NATO-Russia relationship, in general, the top NATO official said cooperation is better and better. And, what he called a 'special statement' is likely to be issued in Luxembourg to mark the success of the first year of the new system of consultations.

The NATO-Ukraine Commission is also to meet at the Foreign Minister level Friday (May 29). Cooperation within NATO's 'Partnership for Peace' program is said to be going particularly well with Ukraine. A decision might be made this week on sending a NATO liaison officer to Kyiv.

Also Friday, there will be a session of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which groups the 16 NATO members and 28 mostly Eastern states.

The three prospective new NATO countries: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, will take part in most sessions on both days this week. This is the first time that there participation will have reached such a high level.