Prague, 1 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A broad sampling of Western press commentary discusses, mostly with approval, NATO threats of early military action unless combatants in Kosovo join in negotiations.
FINANCIAL TIMES: The price of stability may be long-term NATO garrisons in the Balkans
The Financial Times says in an editorial that the international community has taken a "high-risk gamble" by summoning the warring parties to start peace talks in Rambouillet, France by Saturday.
The editorial says: "In Kosovo, the Serbs have the big guns and believe that without foreigners restraining them they could roll up the KLA as an organized force. The Kosovar Albanians feel that destiny and demography are with them in their push for independence."
The Financial Times concludes: "But the international community will have to act not only as mediator of a deal, but also as monitor of its provisions and maybe military enforcer. Such involvement is paying off slowly in Bosnia, and Kosovo may need the same treatment. So the price of stability may be long-term NATO garrisons in the Balkans."
WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Why is the West attempting to negotiate with Milosevic ?
In its editorial today, the Wall Street Journal Europe criticizes the Western leaders' lack of evenhandedness in the threat of force. It says: "Far from backing the Kosovar Albanians, the threat was directed at them as well."
The Journal says the West now is threatening Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, what it calls, "the obvious victims in the conflict. The real question is the same as it has been since the war began: Why is the West attempting to negotiate with (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic, a man whose record of duplicity would stretch from Belgrade to Pristina?"
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: NATO's call for negotiations between Milosevic and the Kosovars is worrisome
The International Herald Tribune carries today a Washington Post editorial declaring that Serbia has cast away any rights it may have had to Kosovo. The editorial says: "Whatever historical claim Serbia had to Kosovo has been forfeited by Milosevic's decade of apartheid-like repression of the ethnic Albanian population and, even more, his year of ethnic cleansing. That is why NATO's call for negotiations between Milosevic and the Kosovars is worrisome. What is there to negotiate?"
LIBERATION: This might usher in a confirmation of a peaceful solution
The French daily Liberation editorializes that the threat of war this time actually raises hope of peace. It says: "The power to conclude a peace depends on guns. Thanks at last to a credible threat, NATO now has the opportunity to pry open the blockade in Kosovo. With the involvement of Western military forces it may be assumed that this might usher in a confirmation of a peaceful solution."
LIBERATION: The failure of the Western plans is not certain
Also in Liberation, correspondent Victorial Stegic comments that declarations of the demise of the peace initiative are premature. She says: "The failure of the Western plans is not certain. Deployment of NATO troops actually would be convenient for the Belgrade authorities as well as for the moderate Kosovars. The first could hail the troops' presence as proving the determination of the international community not to permit secession of Kosovo. The latter could say that they won the solution proposed by Ibrahim Rugova for nine years: an international protectorate as a transitory step towards independence."
LA REPUBBLICA: New strategy streamlines diplomatic action
Rome's La Repubblica headlines an editorial, "Finger on the Trigger." It says: "(NATO) Secretary General Solana himself is now in a position to make a decision to attack without having to make any requests for approval. There is no longer a need for repeated top official meetings. An attack can be launched immediately. This is another step in the strategy agreed upon by the Contact Group in London last Friday. It streamlines diplomatic action with military pressure to force speedy negotiations among the conflicting parties in Rambouillet."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Kosovo is not Bosnia
Commentator Bernard Kuppers writes in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that this will be a week of tensions and threats. Kuppers writes: "As a demonstration of caution, the hundred OSCE observers could be withdrawn from Kosovo. Belgrade understands this kind of ritual as a result of events last October."
But Kuppers says it's important to note at this point that the scenario for Kosovo is much different than the previous experience of international intervention in Bosnia. He says: "Kosovo is not Bosnia. In Bosnia's expulsion war, the intent was to parcel or to push over a part of the fallen apart Yugoslavia, which was a mix of Muslims, Serbs and Croatians. In Kosovo, the majority of the Albanian population living in a historically Serbian territory expects a solution from Belgrade. The European community sticks to the opinion that the internal borders of the former Yugoslavian republic should remain unchanged. For this reason, it keeps together the Bosnian state and refuses independence to the Kosovar Albanians."
The commentator writes: "The American negotiator Christopher Hill is said to have proposed an internal autonomy and, implicitly, an international protectorate. This would demand the presence of a peace force. But how and when? Deadlines are a vague notion in the Balkans. For that reason, NATO is careful not to underpin (its) deadline with a fixed military ultimatum."
TIMES: Robin Cook's efforts seemed destined for disaster
Correspondent Anthony Loyd of The Times, London, writes in an analysis that the combat action threat seems doomed to fall short of its goal. He says: "The twin-barreled efforts of Robin Cook, the (British) foreign secretary, to set the stage for ending the Kosovo crisis seemed destined for disaster yesterday after the protagonists gave his initiative a cool response, and their forces continued fighting."
Loyd writes: "President Milosevic insisted that there could be no intermediate ceasefire, no prospect of eventual independence, and remarked that, as Kosovo was an integral part of Serbia its problems should be solved internally."
"KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) representatives, who want nothing short of full independence, merely pledged to respond to the ultimatum in a few days."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Support for a military deployment has grown
The International Herald Tribune publishes an analysis from Washington by Washington Post writer Dana Priest, who says that the United States seems close for the first time to placing U.S. troops under a non-U.S. NATO commander. Priest writes: "The issue of putting U.S. troops under foreign command always has been red hot for conservative Republicans and others. It was the topic of vehement debate over deployments in United Nations-led missions in Bosnia, Somalia and even Macedonia, where 350 U.S. troops are stationed as peacekeepers."
But Priest writes: "Support for a military deployment has grown quickly among some of the very members of Congress who opposed or were lukewarm about U.S. involvement in nearby Bosnia."