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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Envoys Meet to Iron Out Kosovo Plan




Three top envoys trying to end the Kosovo conflict - a Russian, an American and a Finn - gathered in Moscow on Thursday night to iron out a peace proposal after it had been reviewed by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.


Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is heading Russia's mediation efforts for Yugoslavia, was to brief U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari on his talks with Milosevic in Belgrade on Wednesday.


The talks followed days of negotiations on ending NATO's airstrikes on Yugoslavia. It was unclear whether Chernomyrdin had reached a breakthrough; although he said there had been a "step forward," in the past he has claimed progress when no new movement had been achieved.


Milosevic told Chernomyrdin that Yugoslavia opposes pulling all of its troops out of Kosovo and allowing an international force to control the province, according to Russian news reports.


Chernomyrdin and Milosevic discussed a plan by the Group of Eight industrialized nations to end the Kosovo conflict, which has killed hundreds of people and displaced nearly 800,000 ethnic Albanians. Russia strongly opposes NATO attacks on Yugoslavia and has been working for a diplomatic solution.


Ahtisaari and Talbott arrived in Moscow on Thursday, after meeting with Chernomyrdin in Finland twice this week. The three were to meet in the evening.


Ahtisaari said he had no new initiatives to discuss.


"One thing we don't need now is more proposals," he told reporters before leaving Finland. "What we are doing now is measuring how ready the Yugoslav political leadership is for a peaceful solution and on what conditions."


Milosevic's office said that "the solution could be found only politically and within the United Nations, and with the active and direct participation of Yugoslavia, starting from the principles of the G-8."


The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned NATO's latest bombings, which hit a hospital Thursday and killed at least three people.


Acting Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met in Moscow with the United Nations' special envoy on Yugoslavia, Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan.


"Russia's position [is] that the role of the United Nations must be the leading one," Ivanov told reporters after the talks. Russia is unhappy with NATO's prominence and wants the United Nations - a body where Moscow has considerable influence - to call the shots in the Yugoslav settlement.


Kukan acknowledged the large responsibility of the United Nations and stressed that "everybody is eager to keep Russia playing an active part" in Yugoslav negotiations.


Milosevic's demand for more talks under UN auspices with Belgrade as a full party appears to fall short of NATO demands to halt the eight-week bombing campaign.


Terms of the G-8 plan include withdrawal of Milosevic's "military, police and paramilitary forces" from Kosovo. NATO wants a total withdrawal of all Serb forces, including regular troops.


Before returning to Moscow, Chernomyrdin told Russian reporters that it was "most important to return Yugoslavia to the negotiating table."


Foreign Ministry officials from the Group of Eight also were meeting in Germany to hammer out the details of their own plan for Kosovo.


The West and Russia have narrowed their differences, but diplomats are unlikely to clinch a deal when they meet again in Bonn on Friday, Reuters reported, citing a German government source.


Speaking after the talks on a possible UN resolution wound up in the early hours of Thursday, the source said there had been significant progress toward sketching out a "road map" of how to end Yugoslavia's conflict with NATO.


But major sticking points remained, mainly between Moscow and the Western powers.


The head of the Russian delegation said the talks had at times been less than cordial and repeated Moscow's demands for an immediate NATO cease-fire - something the West rejects.