Munich, 6 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Germany's foreign minister Klaus Kinkel has proposed a greater role in dealing with the Kosovo crisis for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but stopped short of spelling out what he believes the OSCE can do.
Kinkel told an unofficial political forum in Berlin at the weekend that it might also be useful for the OSCE to accept Yugoslavia back into membership if it was prepared to meet "definite, crystal-clear conditions." Belgrade's membership was suspended in July 1992 because of the Balkan war.
Other German officials said afterwards that Kinkel believed that bringing Belgrade back into the OSCE could offer more opportunities for negotiations.
Kinkel said he would discuss his ideas with the so-called "Contact Group" when it meets in Bonn on Wednesday. The "contact group" includes Germany, the United States, Britain, Russia, Italy and France. Kinkel also said he would reaffirm the Bonn government's position that NATO should not launch a military operation in Kosovo without a mandate from the United Nations.
Kinkel further said "if all else fails, the international community should be prepared to consider military intervention operation."
Kinkel suggested that the Contact Group could draw up a possible framework for giving Kosovo autonomy within Serbia. He added: "if we are ready to develop a framework for autonomy, we must also be ready to offer guarantees to the people of Kosovo."
Some German commentators criticized Kinkel's comments as being too vague and unspecified. Several commentators pointed out that Kinkel failed to go further and indicate what sort of guarantees he had in mind. "The situation in Kosovo is too explosive for just words," said one critic. "If Kinkel is suggesting international guarantees to safeguard autonomy he should say clearly what he has in mind."
Similar criticism followed Kinkel's suggestion that the OSCE should become involved in the Kosovo process. Last month NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana also proposed involving the OSCE, again without offering specific ideas on the role it could play.
Officials at OSCE headquarters in Vienna said today that the organization was willing to do whatever it could in Kosovo. However they pointed out that OSCE's role is limited to diplomatic negotiations. There are provisions for OSCE to put together an international military force in certain situations but it is not allowed an enforcement role. Its main job would be to move into a territory only after all fighting has stopped and insert itself as a buffer between the opposing sides, supervising the ceasefire.
OSCE officials also said they doubted whether Kinkel's suggestion that Yugoslavia be allowed to rejoin the organization would find sufficient support among the 54 active members.
"Most members believe that Belgrade does not meet the human rights standards of the OSCE," said one official who asked not to be identified, "some doubt whether bringing it back into the organization would make any difference to its operations."
Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told the forum that Moscow would not countenance any separation of Kosovo from Serbia or the use of outside military power to force a settlement. He placed separatism on the same level as international terrorism and said the international community must struggle against both. He also ruled out the stationing of foreign troops in Kosovo.