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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

9-Hour Belgrade Talks Get Nowhere




BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Russia's Balkan envoy met Friday with Slobodan Milosevic, declaring that as Yugoslavia's elected president, Milosevic remained the key person to negotiate with in Belgrade regardless of his indictment as a suspected war criminal.


On arrival in Belgrade for his fourth meeting with the Yugoslav leader since the start of the NATO air campaign March 24, envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin said his aim was to end the Kosovo violence and the linked NATO bombing.


"The most important thing is to have the bombing halted so that political negotiations can continue," the state-run Tanjug news agency quoted him as saying. Asked about his upcoming talks, he said: "The results should be an end to the war and bombing."


But senior Russian officials indicated Chernomyrdin was carrying no new initiatives from two days of talks with Strobe Talbott, the deputy U.S. secretary of state, and Martti Ahtisaari, the European Union envoy on the Balkans, and Chernomyrdin himself was ambivalent.


Talks ended at around 8 p.m., some nine hours after they began, Russian diplomats at their Belgrade embassy said, and Chernomyrdin headed to the airport. There was no immediate statement from either side.


As he left Moscow for Belgrade early in the day, Chernomyrdin said he was not satisfied with the outcome of meetings in Moscow with U.S. and European representatives, but then said the peace negotiations may be close to a decision and must continue.


"If the situation continues in the same vein, the continuation of the talks would be senseless," he said.


Other Russian officials who took part in the talks were more blunt. "We did not see constructiveness in the American position, and the Finnish position is not much different from the U.S. position," said General Leonid Ivashov, Interfax reported.


Talbott, the deputy U.S. secretary of state, stressed that Chernomyrdin was not negotiating on behalf of the alliance, nor was he acting as a mediator.


"I do not see Mr. Chernomyrdin as taking our message to Belgrade," said Talbott, in Brussels to brief the North Atlantic Council, NATO's top policy-making body, on his talks in Moscow.


Talbott said Friday he was "appalled" by Chernomyrdin's comments that Russia should walk out of the Kosovo peace efforts if NATO did not stop bombing Yugoslavia, Reuters reported.


The comments, in a signed Washington Post article, appeared to indicate that Russia was preparing for the failure of its bid to negotiate an end to the conflict and dissociate itself from further action by the Western powers.


Chernomyrdin said the Kosovo crisis, which has produced 900,000 refugees, was a "domestic conflict."


"I have been dealing with Mr. Chernomyrdin this week in his diplomatic capacity rather than his journalistic capacity," Talbott said. "I much prefer him in his diplomatic capacity."


The envoy said he was appalled by the tenor of the article.


Chernomyrdin threatened to veto a crucial UN Security Council resolution on Kosovo and said Russia would have the support of China and India.


He said NATO policy was dragging the world into instability and the threat of nuclear war, and he likened its air campaign to the 1968 "Prague Spring," in which Soviet tanks crushed the democratic reforms of the Czechoslovakian government.


Talbott told reporters in Brussels: "I disagree with everything in his article, including the punctuation points. There were extraordinary and insupportable statements there.


"I can't offer you any searching insights into what the motive was. ? The historical basis for the comparisons that he drew is nonexistent and absurd," Talbott added.