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Yugoslavia: Kosovo: OSCE Says International Negotiations Essential

Munich, 24 July 1998 (RFE/RL) - The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) says continued high-level international involvement in Kosovo offers the only hope for achieving a settlement of the civil war.

This was the conclusion reached by an OSCE delegation which visited Yugoslavia and Kosovo last week. Its leader, Hansjorg Eiff, a former German ambassador to Belgrade, presented the report to OSCE's permanent council in Vienna yesterday.

The report says international involvement in the negotiating process is essential because of the "total lack of trust between the two communities in Kosovo and the distance between the political positions as to how the conflict could be resolved."

The delegation said it was concerned about the humanitarian situation and said the most pressing need was for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

The delegation included high-level diplomats representing the OSCE troika (Poland, Denmark and Norway) and representatives of the international contact group.

In its report it said that the situation in Yugoslavia regarding the judiciary, legal, and electoral systems "did not appear to have improved significantly" since OSCE's special negotiator, former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales visited in 1996.

Regarding the media, the report said the situation of the print media had improved, and a network of independent radio and TV stations had been set up outside Belgrade..

But the report also expressed, "serious concern still remained in respect of the State media, the overall legislative framework governing the information sector and the Government's implementation of that legislation."

The report also cited a continuing lack of confidence in non-official circles in the legal system, including the legislation relating to the election process.

The report also said the Law on the University "gave great cause for concern as it provided for Government control over the administration and teaching staff and limited the possibility of political expression by students."

One of the goals of last week's mission was to try to persuade the Belgrade authorities to allow the return of a permanent OSCE team to Kosovo. The OSCE team there was forced to withdraw in 1993.

However the Yugoslav government said the team could return only if Yugoslavia was re-admitted to the OSCE at the same time. Yugoslavia was suspended from the OSCE in July 1992 because of its responsibility for the war.

OSCE officials say some countries are ready to consider Yugoslavia's demand but only after a settlement in Kosovo and the return of the permanent OSCE team.