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Western Press Review: Commentary Applauds 'First Step' On Kosovo

  • Don Hill

Prague, 7 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western commentary generally is optimistic today about a proposed Kosovo solution developed yesterday near Bonn, but there remain naysayers still.

AFTENPOSTEN: Including Russia in the negotiations means substantial progress

From Oslo, commentator Anders Madsen writes in Aftenposten that including Russia in the negotiations was an essential element. Madsen says: "The first phase of Kosovo's endgame began yesterday with the decisions of the G-8 Group of nations, the most important of which was that Russia should play a considerable role [in bringing peace to Kosovo]. This is substantial progress in isolating [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic but it still is far from reaching a solution."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Ibrahim Rugova must wish he had attracted public attention earlier

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung's Peter Muench in Munich says Kosovar Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova may be re-emerging as an important figure. Muench writes: "Ibrahim Rugova must wish he had attracted this kind of public attention earlier, and in different circumstances. Now he is courted by the Italian government and has invitations to visit London and Paris." The writer says: "Now, it seems, the West will try to build up the moderate Rugova in order to suppress the [Kosovo Liberation Army] hotheads. His first press conference in Rome, giving his backing to NATO demands, seems to be a first indication that this is the case."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: NATO has put itself on a short rein

Another Sueddeutsche Zeitung writer, editorial director Joseph Joffe, lauds the NATO air war for its restraint. He writes: "After more than six weeks of bombing, many people suspect that the West is out to devastate Serbia, that it is waging war on Belgrade as it once did on Nazi Germany. In fact, the opposite is the case. The war is taking so long because the alliance is using its overwhelming firepower in a very measured way. Slobodan Milosevic has been able to hold out for so long only because NATO has put itself on such a short rein."

NEW YORK TIMES: The framework for a reasonable political settlement in Kosovo may be falling into place

In an editorial, The New York Times contends: "Much diplomatic work remains, but the framework for a reasonable political settlement in Kosovo may be falling into place, thanks in part to Russia's constructive role as a peacemaker." The Times says: "There is not yet sufficient reason to suspend the bombing, and there will not be until Milosevic calls off his murderous assault on Kosovo, starts withdrawing his troops and commits himself to the Bonn principles."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The international community shares a strong resolve

Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi opines in a commentary published by the International Herald Tribune that the Council of Europe, which observed its 50th anniversary yesterday, will take a major part in managing post-Kosovo conflict recovery. Martonyi says in part: "The sad events in Kosovo are the result of an inhumane policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Kosovar Albanians. The international community shares a strong resolve to combat human rights violations against any minority and to act when the dignity of a group of people is attacked because of their ethnic, linguistic or religious heritage. This is one of the cornerstones of the Council of Europe."

The Hungarian statesman says: "Once a negotiated settlement is achieved, the council will begin work to make the solution a lasting one. We must help refugees to return, restore civil administration and create self-government. The council has the expertise and experience and is ready to rebuild in line with European values."

INDEPENDENT: The G8 foreign ministers have taken a vital first step

Rupert Cornwell, writing in The Independent, London, is one of several commentators who label the Bonn agreement a "first step." He writes: "The foreign ministers of the Group of Eight major powers have not solved the Kosovo crisis. But they have taken a vital first step by at last bringing the United Nations into play as an instrument of pressure upon [Yugoslav] President Slobodan Milosevic. In doing so, they not only mended fences with Russia; they also mended fences among themselves."

POLITKEN: Milosevic misjudged the situation

In an editorial, the Danish Politiken says that Milosevic has compiled a list of misjudgments even longer than that of the West. Politiken says: "He thought NATO would not start a military campaign [against him]. He thought the air attacks would be short-timed. He thought Russia would come to help him. He thought one or several NATO states would refrain [from participating]. He thought Yugoslavia's neighbor countries would remain neutral. He thought the Americans would think twice once their soldiers had been taken POWs, beaten and humiliated. He thought his air defense systems would be effective against NATO's jets." Politken says: "Milosevic's biggest misjudgment was that he did not think NATO's operation in Kosovo would gather public support [in the West]."

WASHINGTON POST: The democratic legacy in Kosovo should not be squandered

Washington Post staff writer Adrian Karatnycky writes that the Kosovar Albanians, central element of the Kosovo conflict, are being overlooked in the maneuvering to end it. He writes: "Until a few weeks ago, the Kosovars were not an atomized mass of refugees. They had developed cohesive and coherent communities with established local leaders. Twice, first in 1992 and again in 1999, Kosovars participated in the process of selecting their leadership, headed by Ibrahim Rugova, who [this week] was released from house arrest by Slobodan Milosevic and is now in Italy. Hundreds of thousands of Kosovars braved Serbian repression and intimidation to vote in orderly elections, conducted clandestinely. This democratic legacy should not be squandered."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: NATO is by no means off the hook

The Daily Telegraph mixes its metaphors editorially, warning that NATO remains "on the hook" and must be wary of "a trap" in the impending solution. The London newspaper says: "The cardinal points of yesterday's agreement are that [Russia] has accepted the need for an international military presence in Kosovo, and that diplomatic activity on the future of the province is being brought back into the ambit of the UN." The editorial says: "There are signs that Milosevic is tiring of the mounting assault. Maintenance of that pressure is essential if he ever is to agree to an international force with NATO at its core, the only instrument capable of convincing the refugees that it is safe to return."

The editorial concludes: "The devil will be in the detail and, even if that is satisfactory, Milosevic is notorious for breaking his work. NATO is by no means off the hook."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Bill Clinton's generosity with American authority apparently knows no bounds

And the Wall Street Journal Europe, in a long editorial essay, seizes the occasion to renew its criticism of what it views as U. S. President Bill Clinton's leadership failures. The editorial opens: "Americans have borne the heaviest costs and risks of waging war on Serbia for its massive atrocity against 2 million Kosovars. Now, it appears, the Germans and Russians will dictate the terms of a peace. Bill Clinton's generosity with American authority apparently knows no bounds."