Bonn, 6 May 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russia and the Group of Seven wealthiest nations have agreed on a common approach to seeking peace in Kosovo. The plan was drawn up at talks near Bonn today and calls for the return of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees to Kosovo under protection from an international civil and security presence. The outline drafted today also calls for Serb forces to withdraw from Kosovo and for negotiations on self-government for the province. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Russia's agreement is significant because the G-7 can now ask for a UN Security Council resolution without the Russians blocking it.
However, the composition of an international force for Kosovo was not resolved. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it must be a strong military force with U.S. and NATO troops at its core. But the text of an agreed statement does not mention NATO troops and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Russia, which opposed a NATO presence, and the West had still not agreed on that point.
Itar-Tass quoted Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as saying NATO could not participate in an international security presence in Kosovo without Yugoslavia's agreement. Ivanov also said the search for a "real solution" to the Kosovo crisis cannot start while bombing raids continue.
While the foreign ministers met in Bonn today, NATO continued air strikes on Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug said NATO jets hit a district in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia's second largest city, with three missiles. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said in Brussels that the air campaign is isolating Serb forces in Kosovo, making it impossible for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to control them.
Meanwhile, a NATO spokesman says the alliance is close to forcing an end to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
General Walter Jertz said in Brussels today that NATO strikes have destroyed half the Yugoslav army's stocks of ammunition and 20 per cent of its tanks and artillery. That amounts to about 300 pieces of equipment.
He said alliance aircraft have also destroyed all but two of Serbia's bridges across the Danube River and all of Yugoslavia's oil refining capacity.
Jertz acknowledeged that Serb forces are still forcing ethnic Albanians from their homes. But he told reporters the air strikes have had a powerful impact and that NATO is close to stopping the Serb campaign.
He said NATO has pinned down and cut off Serb ground forces, and is about to begin to destroy them.