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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Hints at New Plan For Peace




Fresh from reaffirming its determination to prevail over Kosovo, NATO embarked on new efforts Monday to secure Russian cooperation in seeking a diplomatic settlement with Yugoslavia on the West's terms.


Special Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin said Monday that Russia had some fresh ideas to offer on the Kosovo crisis at talks this week with NATO leaders .


Chernomyrdin could unveil the new ideas Tuesday when he meets U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who arrived Monday.


French President Jacques Chirac also urged Russia to keep up efforts to end the crisis. He telephoned President Boris Yeltsin to tell him Moscow has a major role to play.


Russia is the only world player with good access to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.


On Sunday, as NATO wrapped up its three-day 50th anniversary summit in Washington, U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke with Yeltsin, who briefed him on Chernomyrdin's peace mission to Belgrade last week.


During their one-hour conversation, Clinton "articulated NATO's unified position that Russia should remain engaged and can play a constructive role in bringing this conflict to an end," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said.


"The president told Yeltsin personally that it's constructive that he's involved and that he would stay personally engaged with him," Lockhart said.


Chernomyrdin, a former prime minister, said Milosevic indicated a willingness to accept an international peacekeeping force in Kosovo, but did not address NATO's other demands.


Chernomyrdin is expected to visit a number of Western capitals in the coming days to discuss the situation.


Russia has denounced NATO's airstrikes against Yugoslavia and, in protest, refused to attend the Washington celebrations.


The Kremlin said in a statement that Clinton and Yeltsin agreed the priority must be to restore a stable peace in the Balkans. It called the atmosphere in which their conversation took place stable and constructive.


Chernomyrdin said Monday that Russia has "a range of proposals."


"We worked out a position that can serve as a starting point in talks with alliance countries," he was quoted by Interfax as saying after meeting with other senior Russian officials to discuss Kosovo. He declined to elaborate.U.S. diplomats, who asked not to be named, said that Talbott's visit would be low-key, and he was not expected to meet with the press before leaving on Tuesday afternoon or evening.


Another likely topic for conversation will be whether Russia will observe a NATO attempt to impose an oil blockade on Yugoslavia.


The stream of visitors and trips this week highlights Moscow's pivotal position.


Chernomyrdin is to visit Strasbourg on Wednesday to brief the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly on his talks last week in Belgrade, his spokesman said by telephone.


Interfax said Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov may visit Britain on May 8 to 10. Britain is a strong supporter of NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia, which Russia has denounced as a threat to the global security system created after World War II.


Two foreign ministers from NATO states - Greece and Canada - are expected in Moscow later in the week as well as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is expected to name his own special Balkans envoy in the next day or two.


Chirac underlined Russia's growing role in a telephone conversation that lasted about an hour.


Chirac's spokeswoman said in Paris that Chirac had told Yeltsin "pressure must be stepped up on Belgrade authorities who still reject the legitimate demands of the international community" a month after NATO started bombing Yugoslavia.


Chernomyrdin visited Belgrade last week and signaled Milosevic was ready to compromise. But it remained unclear whether Milosevic was ready to allow a foreign military presence in Yugoslavia's southern province of Kosovo.


At the summit in Washington over the weekend, NATO leaders praised Russian diplomatic efforts but indicated they wanted Milosevic to agree unequivocally to a foreign military presence, in which the alliance's forces would form a core.


NATO's plans to impose an oil embargo on Yugoslavia could reignite tensions. A Fuel and Energy Ministry spokesman said Russia would continue to deliver oil sold under contract.


The 19 NATO nations emerged from their summit with reaffirmed agreement on the conduct of their air war in Yugoslavia and tough words for Milosevic.


But the head of NATO's military arm, German General Klaus Naumann, acknowledged Monday that there may be a flaw in NATO's conviction that its air campaign can bring down the Yugoslav leader.


"Our flaw may be that we think he has at least a little bit of responsibility for his country,'' Naumann said. He said NATO has assumed that Milosevic would not be willing to allow his country to be pounded into rubble.


The summit killed off speculation, at least for the moment, that NATO was secretly laying the groundwork for a ground war in Kosovo. NATO leaders and officials issued denial after denial that they were preparing to invade.


"This summit was an impressive demonstration of unity despite the fact that some skeptics feared it would not be wise to hold a summit in times of war,'' German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Sunday.