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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

kozyyrev seeks easing of serb sanctions

BELGRADE -- Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev planned to hold talks in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo on Monday, a day after meeting Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the Russian Embassy in Belgrade said.


Kozyrev left Belgrade early Monday after holding discussions late Sunday with Milosevic, who has cut all ties to Bosnian Serb leaders over their rejection of the latest peace plan.


The talks were "friendly" and the two men called for the establishment of "a durable and lasting peace," the Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug quoted a statement by Milosevic as saying.


The talks in Belgrade were shrouded in secrecy and foreign journalists were barred from the event.


Diplomats had said Kozyrev was expected to offer Milosevic an easing of sanctions in exchange for international monitoring of Serbian-led Yugoslavia's blockade against Bosnian Serbs.


The international community has threatened tighter UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia and stricter enforcement of heavy-weapons exclusion zones in Bosnia if the Bosnian Serbs fail to accept the peace plan.


The statement said the threat of fresh military and economic measures "seriously undermines" peace efforts.


It said Milosevic and Kozyrev agreed the peace plan offered an excellent opportunity for ending the Bosnian war.


Before leaving Moscow, Kozyrev had said he wanted to reward Serbia for its stance on Bosnia by easing sanctions.


"We are no longer talking about toughening or imposing extra sanctions on Belgrade," he told reporters.


"The task is the opposite -- to lift certain sanctions to show clearly to the Serbs that every step in the right direction by Belgrade will be met with a corresponding, positive reaction from the side of the world community."


Major powers are counting on Serbia's influential role in exerting pressure on Bosnia's Serbs, who Saturday and Sunday voted in a referendum in which preliminary results show that they rejected the peace deal.


In Moscow, Kozyrev had denied his main purpose would be to persuade Milosevic to accept international monitors on Serbia's border, a move Milosevic has so far refused.


Belgrade authorities, however, said last week they would accept observers from international relief organizations to monitor humanitarian aid convoys at the Serbian-Bosnian border.


Diplomats say that if Milosevic agrees to observers he can expect sporting and cultural links to resume and air traffic to restart in a relaxation of sanctions. Kozyrev denounced the Bosnian Serb referendum as a sham.


"We know what sort of referendum it is and I would use the word 'referendum' only in inverted commas," he said.