Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germany Pitches Plan to Halt Kosovo Conflict

BONN, Germany -- Germany launched a new peace plan for Kosovo Wednesday that offers Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a 24-hour suspension of NATO airstrikes if he starts withdrawing his forces from the province.

The plan was a new step in Western efforts to build a diplomatic front against Milosevic by bridging the gap with Russia, which hotly opposes NATO's assault, and tying in the United Nations.

Under the German plan, NATO would make its cease-fire permanent once the pullout was completed.

It then calls for a heavily armed, UN-authorized military force to move in, the return of refugees under the force's protection and for Kosovo to be put under UN administration until a permanent peace settlement.

In a gesture to Russia, the plan by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer does not insist on a NATO-led peace force, though it does call for a "robust" contingent of international troops under a single commander.

Fischer said Russia had "almost fully agreed" to his plan but conceded it still had concerns about the makeup of the peacekeeping force.

"The most difficult problem is the composition," he said.

The United States, which has provided the main firepower for NATO's three-week bombardment and wants NATO to lead a peacekeeping operation, gave a guarded welcome to the plan.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said the plan was "in the spirit" of the conditions the alliance had set out for ending the conflict. But he insisted the bombing would go on until Belgrade accepted NATO's demands to pull out of Kosovo and let refugees return under international protection.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea described the German blueprint as "useful" but said it had no official status yet.

"It's a very useful effort and a necessary effort to begin reflection ... as to how we are going to handle the diplomacy of the endgame," he told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. "But it's simply, at the moment, what you might call a 'food-for-thought' paper."

The initiative marked a new step in Germany's return to a bigger role in global diplomacy after half a century of being kept on the sidelines by strict limits on its military strength.

Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der has put German forces into combat for the first time since World War II, giving Bonn a stronger voice in defining diplomatic moves, analysts said. At the same time, he and Fischer are eager to show strongly pacifist elements among supporters of their own Social Democratic and Green coalition parties that they do want peace.

The German plan foresaw a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven major industrial powers - the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan - and Russia to draft a UN resolution formalizing the arrangements.

But Fischer said such a meeting might not be needed and the resolution could be finalized at an emergency session of the UN Security Council, where Russia has a right of veto.

Schr?der, current president of the 15-nation European Union, convened a special EU summit Wednesday evening in Brussels to discuss the peace plan and to meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Eleven of the EU's 15 members are also members of NATO.

Bonn is hoping Annan will play a key role in bringing Moscow on board. But German officials said it was too early to ask him formally to assume a mediating role.

Schr?der, addressing the European Parliament, said the EU would reward Russia for its efforts to help bring peace.

"I'm firmly convinced that Russia will act as a stabilizing factor in Europe," he said.

The Bonn plan would also require ethnic Albanian separatist fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army to disarm.

The pullout of Yugoslav forces would, Germany said, clear the way for a major Balkan conference, which would seek to involve both the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in creating a regional stability pact.

Some NATO sources expressed doubt whether Milosevic could be trusted to honor Germany's proposed plan.

"Any plan that relies on the goodwill or trustworthiness of President Milosevic has to be seriously looked at," a NATO diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The NATO sources said the obvious and immediate advantage to Milosevic would be the chance to resupply his forces and to move his troops around.

"This time we're going to be especially vigilant," another alliance source said.