Prague, 2 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Late yesterday, the United Nations Security Council condemned the massacres of several dozens of ethnic Albanian villagers in Kosovo and called on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to punish those responsible. Press commentary today focuses on the increasing possibility of Western use of force against Serbian troops in the troubled province.
DAILY TELEGRAPH: It is pointless trying to contain the Beast of the Balkans
Britain's Daily Telegraph recalls that "last Spring, as Slobodan Milosevic embarked on a new round of ethnic cleansing, this time against the Albanians of Kosovo, this newspaper...urged, 'Bomb the Serbs.' The editorial argued that it was pointless trying to contain the Beast of the Balkans by diplomatic mean; force was the only language he understood." Now, the DT says, "one small war and 300,000 refugees later, the (British) Government appears to be coming round to this point of view."
The editorial continues: "Confronted with Serb outrages, Western politicians have an ignoble record of saying they will 'not stand idly by' and then doing just that....We remain unconvinced that bombs will ever fall." Even if they do, the paper writes, the West will have missed its chance: "The start of the Kosovo conflict (at the beginning of the summer) provided an opportunity to (get rid of Milosevic), but European leaders shrank from the challenge. There are likely to be many occasions to regret the missed opportunity in times to come."
FINANCIAL TIMES: NATO intervention could offer Serbs a way out of the Kosovo mire
The Financial Times says that "for seven months Slobodan Milosevic...has kept the West at bay in the province of Kosovo....Now, however, almost daily evidence of massacres...coupled with the plight of some 300,000 (ethnic) Albanian refugees facing the onset of a Balkan winter, has galvanized the West into action at the United Nations."
The FT editorial goes on: "This would be NATO's first intervention in a sovereign country against its will, even if in the noble cause of peace-making....NATO bombing would therefore be a radical move and one that would provoke strong protest from Russia. But it is a step that is now, on balance, justified."
The paper sums up: "Let it be made as clear as possible to all reasonable Serbs that NATO intervention could offer them a way out of the Kosovo mire and a pretext to abandon their increasingly absurd claims over Kosovo. Whatever Serbia's medieval domination of Kosovo, demography and justice today plainly warrant wide autonomy for nine out of every 10 Kosovars."
NEW YORK TIMES: A lack of resolve will only further embolden Milosovic
In its editorial today, the New York Times writes: "Unless Milosevic withdraws his special police, who are responsible for the brutality in Kosovo, in a matter of days, NATO warplanes and cruise missiles should strike Serbian airfields and military installations in Kosovo and the rest of Serbia until he does."
The paper continues: "As long as Serbian forces are present, the displaced in Kosovo will remain in the hills, where they may starve or freeze to death this winter. Kosovo's humanitarian organizations must be able to move freely to provide assistance to these people and help them return to and rebuild their destroyed villages."
The NYT editorial also says that "the objective of air strikes should be limited to getting Milosevic to deliver on his repeatedly broken promise to withdraw his security forces. This should be accompanied by an investigation by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia of whether he should be indicted for the massacres."
It concludes: "Milosevic has a history of using terror, then retreating under threat of force, only to resume his attacks when the world turns to other problems.... But Washington must be wary of Milosevic's feints, and be ready to take action if the killing and intimidation continue. A lack of resolve will only further embolden him."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Kosovo has become a second Bosnia
Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung writes today about what it calls Kosovo's "Daily Horror." The paper's editorial says: "Heinous pictures and horrifying reports come from Kosovo: of executions, of cold-blooded murders of the civilian population, of massacres of women and children. There is no doubt." the paper adds,. "that the concurring descriptions of countless witnesses are true."
What's more, the SZ adds: "It is extremely likely that (what the West sees and hears of is) but a small part of the daily horrors in Kosovo, where the Serbian forces are not only waging war against the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), but against the entire ethnic Albanian population....It is clear that something must be done about Kosovo, that there must be an end to violence."
The paper adds, however: "Belgrade still has room to maneuver. With a timely withdrawal, Slobodan Milosevic could still try to make NATO mark time. After all, this has been a proven pattern both in Bosnia and Kosovo. (It was once said) that Kosovo should not be allowed to become a second Bosnia. It has become a second Bosnia."
ESSLINGER ZEITUNG: Milosevic cannot be brought to his senses with diplomacy
Two regional German newspapers also discuss Kosovo today. In its editorial, the Esslinger Zeitung writes that reports of "new massacres in Kosovo, with women and children among the dead, is further sad evidence that Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic cannot be brought to his senses with diplomacy and empty threats." The paper concludes that the recent decision by the German Government to offer 14 Tornado fighter planes for a possible NATO military intervention in Kosovo "sends an important signal to Belgrade, which might just hit its mark."
LUEBECKER NACHRICHTEN: Milosovic will treat this threat with utter contempt
The Luebecker Nachrichten disagrees, saying that President Milosevic will "treat this threat as he has all the others in the past --with utter contempt. The Serb media," the paper writes, "will unleash a barrage of anti-Western propaganda squarely placing the blame for any fighting on the shoulders of the ethnic Kosovo-Albanians, and the Serb army will grin and continue its slaughter of innocent civilians."
LIBERATION: The hardening of the West's position is the result of the shock
In today's French daily Liberation, Marc Semo titles his commentary, "One Massacre too Much for the International Community." He writes: "The hardening of the West's position, and first and foremost that of the Americans, is the result of the shock created by the discovery last Saturday of a massacre of 18 civilians, including five children, attributed to Serb forces near the village of Gornje Obrinje (in central Kosovo)."
The Commentary continues: "This is not the first such massacre, but this time there were (photographic and TV) images and eye-witnesses."
Semo also notes that "Belgrade yesterday announced that Serb security forces had returned to their barracks in six Kosovo cities, including the capital Pristina...If the (Serb) Minister of Interior is to be believed, only police units necessary to the maintenance of public order and communication security remain on the terrain. Serb authorities also say they have opened 'a major inquiry ' into the massacre at Gornje Obrinje."
Semo adds: "Belgrade's pro-governmental press has already characterized the massacre as 'a (Western) media farce' that it denounces as 'hysteria' aimed at...a new dismantlement of Yugoslavia."