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Balkan Report: March 3, 1999


3 March 1999, Volume 3, Number 9

Rambouillet Balance Sheet Deadlines came and went at Rambouillet. In the end, Western diplomats refused to admit failure and said that there would merely be "a pause in the process" until talks could restart on March 15.

The main concrete achievement appeared to be in the alcohol consumption of some of the participants, who polished off 400 bottles of wine and eight of cognac during the first week alone. As to politics, many critics charged that the international community had sacrificed credibility in the name of preserving consensus among key members with highly disparate interests. Russia was able to show that, at least in the Balkans, it could still act as a great power. France succeeded in denying the U.S. a second unilateral diplomatic success a la Dayton, but failed to conclude the talks with the formal Rambouillet Agreement it had so wanted. The U.S. showed necessary leadership, but was unable to bring the participants to sign an agreement and unwilling to back up its tough rhetoric with equally tough action.

That left Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic the big winner. He did not have to give up anything in Kosova nor face air strikes. He did not even have to attend the talks in person, but instead sent Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and a team of lesser lights. And when U.S. envoy Chris Hill sought to sound Milosevic out in Belgrade, Milosevic felt free to snub his visitor, who is not a man known for pro-Albanian sympathies.

And so "the process" continues. Most of the Kosovars are slowly but surely getting on board. Veton Surroi summed up what seems to be the majority view when he recently said that the draft agreement gives the Kosovars much of what they want and does not close the door on any of the rest. The bottom line, he stressed, is that "Serbian control here is finished."

The UCK seems to agree. Its Hashim Thaci, whom the guerrillas have named to head a provisional government, will soon lead a delegation to Washington as guests of the State Department. Political spokesman Adem Demaci, for whom half a loaf is not a solution, has quit his job in protest at what he sees as a sell-out of fundamental interests by the rest of the UCK leadership.

Meanwhile, the Serbian security forces have launched fresh offensives aimed at clearing out "terrorists," which in practice means shelling the homes of thousands of Kosovar civilians and sending whole families fleeing. It remains to be seen whether the Serbian forces will again have nothing more to fear than tough words from American officials.

Westendorp Rejects Owen Proposal for 'Balkan Peace.' The international community's Carlos Westendorp has criticized a recent suggestion by former peace negotiator Lord David Owen, who said that frontiers could be redrawn in Bosnia at the same time as a settlement is hammered out in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 February 1999). Specifically, Owen argued that Belgrade could receive Bosnian Serb territory in proportion to the amount of land that it gives up to the Kosovars.

Westendorp, however, argues that Owen's thesis is "shot through with erroneous, even dangerous, assumptions," Reuters reported on March 1. Most Bosnian Serbs would not want to be annexed by Serbia, the Spanish diplomat said. Such a partition, moreover, would only be the first step toward a wholesale dismemberment of Bosnia-Herzegovina, because the Herzegovinian Croats would then demand the right to join Croatia. "It would be hard, perhaps impossible, for the international community to deny this aspiration if it sanctioned the secession of the Bosnian Serbs," Westendorp added.

Spain's former foreign minister warned that the prospect of partitioning Bosnia between a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia could leave the Muslims feeling isolated. "They might even go back to war," he said. Westendorp stressed that the most unwise thing for the international community to do would be to "tinker with maps and then prematurely withdraw from the Balkans. That would lead to chronic warfare, waves of refugees, and a wider regional war that could pose a serious threat to European security," he concluded.

Quotations of the Week. The Kosovar "Albanians have realized that there is no success, results, or anything without confrontation. They are a part of the incessant process of the liberation war and they do not want to avoid the enemy as was the case several years ago. They feel it necessary to confront [the enemy]. Several years ago, we Kosovar Albanians used the power of argument, whereas today, we also have got the argument of force, because we realized that the power of argument weakens in front of Serbian artillery." -- UCK press spokesman Albin Kurti

"We started to fight to show the world that we are not terrorists, to show the world that we will die for our ancient lands. On this day, the UCK was born. And we will continue to fight the Serbs until we get independence." -- UCK commander Gani Koci, speaking on the first anniversary of the emergence of the UCK as a uniformed fighting force.

OSCE monitor on the UCK's release of two Serbian civilians on March 1: "The two were handed over. One is a body, the other is alive."

Ethnic Albanian refugee in Jankovic, on Kosova's border with Macedonia, to AP on March 1: "Our people have been in our village for 100 years, and we have no idea when we can go back. There is no one to protect us, not even the UCK."

"The international community will not accept the start of a new, infernal cycle of violence, of massacres, of barbarism." -- French President Jacques Chirac in Macedonia on February 28.

"Newsweek" on Albright and Rambouillet: Adem Demaci, the political spokesman of the UCK, refused Albright's request not to block a plan to give limited autonomy, rather than independence, to the province. Demaci, who had boycotted the Rambouillet talks, curtly told Albright a phone call could not solve such a "bloody and serious" problem as Kosova and hung up on her, "Newsweek" reported. Albright told friends the Rambouillet negotiations were the worst experience she had ever been through, according to the magazine. "She is so stung by what happened. She's angry at everyone -- the Serbs, the Albanians and NATO," a close associate was quoted as saying.

Veton Surroi told AFP on February 26 that "Mr. Demaci is [only] one of two million citizens of Kosova."

Demaci on March 2, upon resigning his post as UCK political representative: The UCK leadership "thinks they know more about politics than I do" and "they don't need me anymore."

Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov to Reuters on March 1: "Our big problem is an external one: Yugoslavia is our problem, the crisis in Kosovo, the war in Kosovo, this is our problem. ... We are not convinced that Yugoslav society is well informed about the challenge which Yugoslavia faced in Rambouillet. Neither are we convinced that all people in Kosovo are sticking to extreme positions and want by all means to fight to the end. This is just not true. I cannot believe this ... The main thing is to bypass this autocratic figure who speaks on behalf of Yugoslavia because at the moment everybody is waiting for what this one person in Yugoslavia will say."

Yugoslav Ambassador to Russia Borislav Milosevic -- brother of Slobodan -- to Russian NTV on February 23, on the identity of the "Egyptian minority" in Kosova, which the Belgrade government insists be represented in all talks: "The Egyptians are the same [as] Gypsies, only some Albanians (sic) now call themselves Egyptians."

"After 12 months and five sessions on the subject, the Constitutional Court decided to overturn six of the 11 articles we challenged, admitting that they violate constitutional rights. This is a great victory our Lord has won for us!" -- Dr. Ivan Grozdanov, president of the Macedonian Baptist Union. He successfully challenged a 1997 law which many evangelical Protestants say favors traditional religions. (Reported by Greek Helsinki Monitor & Minority Rights Group.)

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