Belgrade, 13 October 1998 (RFE/RL) - U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke
announced an agreement today with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
that Holbrooke says could prevent NATO air strikes against Serbian military
targets in Kosovo province. Following several days of intense negotiations, Holbrooke told reporters in Belgrade this morning that Milosevic has agreed to allow 2,000
staff from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
to work on the ground in Kosovo to verify compliance with a U.N. Security
Council resolution demanding a cease-fire. He also agreed to
allow non-combat NATO aircraft to fly surveillance missions over Kosovo.
Milosevic said in a statement following the announcement the
agreement would guarantee that Kosovo remains a part of Serbia. He said the
agreement averts the risk of NATO military strikes against his country.
The agreement followed an earlier NATO announcement approving the
use of air strikes against Serbian military targets and giving Milosevic
four days to agree to U.N. demands. Milosevic remains under deadline to
comply with the demands.
In addition to the cease-fire, the Security Council has called for
dialogue between Belgrade and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders on autonomy
for the province. It also is demanding cooperation with relief
organizations to shelter tens of thousands of displaced persons.
Holbrooke said it is now up to Milosevic's government to prove its
commitment to the agreement, which has yet to be signed. He said NATO
Secretary General Javier Solana and NATO's supreme allied commander in
Europe Wesley Clark will visit Belgrade soon for follow-up talks.
International leaders welcomed news of the breakthrough. British
Prime Minister Tony Blair said the agreement was positive but he warned
that NATO was still ready to use force if necessary to make Milosevic
adhere to the deal.
In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin hailed the
announcement and said he was confident that Russia will take part in the
mission of OSCE observers in Kosovo.
At a meeting today in southern Turkey, Balkan leaders, including
Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, also welcomed news of an
agreement. Summit participants, including officials from Greece, Albania,
Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Croatia called for dialogue
between the two sides in Kosovo.