The Contact Group’s Masquerade Party
On February 6, just as the Kosova “peace” conference got underway in Rambouillet, France, a bomb exploded in a grocery store in Prishtina, killing three Albanian civilians. In the wake of the massacres of forty-six civilians in Recak, twenty-four in Rogove, five in Rakovines, and random killings of individual Albanians throughout Kosova, this act of terrorism clearly demonstrates that Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic has no intention of letting the negotiations in France prevent him from continuing his genocidal war against the Albanian people.
Consistent with their response to the ongoing destruction of the Albanian people since Serbia launched its attack on Drenice in February 1998, the Western powers, led by the United States, have responded to Serbia’s heinous massacres of Albanian civilians since the end of January 1999 with empty threats and a reiteration of the failed short-sighted, policies of the past year. Meanwhile, the Serbian dictatorship has defied and undermined all UN resolutions related to the conflict in Kosova, has broken all promises and agreements made with Contact Group representatives, and has even managed to use the Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement of October 12, 1998 to shield its criminal activities in Kosova.
The only credible power that can stop the genocide—NATO—has also been badly manipulated and undermined by Slobodan Milosevic. Unable or unwilling to do anything significant to implement resolutions and signed agreements, NATO has turned to the Contact Group to find a new way to salvage its badly damaged reputation. But what can the Contact Group do to solve the Serbian-Albanian conflict?
The United States and Great Britain are indecisive and are trying to broker a quick fix solution. Germany and Italy, facing the threat of another large influx of refugees, appear ready to accept any kind of solution. France is treading carefully, so as not to hurt Serbian interests, while Russia is the Contact Group’s unabashed representative of the Serbian dictatorship. Russia’s goal is clear: to make sure that no proposal emerges from the Contact Group that is unacceptable to Serbia as a means of protecting Russian influence and hegemony in the Balkans.
The draft agreement that forms the basis for the Serbian-Albanian talks in Rambouillet represents a disastrous commingling of Russian influence and Western ignorance of the
nature of the Serbian-Albanian conflict. Its provisions, which will not lead to any lasting solution to the crisis in Kosova, are unacceptable to the Albanian people, for the following reasons:
1) The effort to ascribe equal blame to the Serbian aggressors and the KosovarAlbanian
victims of the conflict is not only unfair, it is reprehensible. Serbia has sent
trained terrorists and military to occupy and brutalize Kosova, while the Kosova Liberation
Army is a self-defense force trying to protect the homes, families, and communities of the
Albanian people of Kosova. Serbia is the largest military region in the former East Bloc
outside of Russia, while the KLA is a grassroots army.
2.) Limiting the outcome of the talks in Rambouillet to autonomy for Kosova, at a level
less than Kosova enjoyed in the 1970s and the 1980s for a three-year transition
period, without addressing what will happen after that or what Kosova’s final status
might be, is unacceptable to the Albanian people of Kosova. Equally unacceptable is
the requirement that the final status of Kosova must be approved by Serbia.
3.) Kosova has experienced autonomy, and it has never worked. Autonomy as a solution
to the Serbian-Albanian conflict in 1999 is too little too late. No one should expect
Kosovar Albanians to live with their killers. In the face of Serbian genocide, Kosovar
Albanians did not resort to taking up arms to fight for autonomy, but for total
independence from the former Yugoslavia.
4.) Allowing 2,500 Serbian police to stay in Kosova and 1,500 soldiers from the
Yugoslav Army to patrol the borders with Macedonia and Albania, while at the same
time asking the KLA to disarm within three months, is a death sentence for the
Albanian people of Kosova. In this context, it will be easy for Serbian terrorists to
instigate a conflict, to blame Albanians for it, and to drive either the unarmed KVM
monitors or NATO troops out of Kosova.
5.) The plans for using NATO forces in Kosova are now in disarray, and a military annex
to the draft peace agreement would place the Serbian security police, responsible for
most of the atrocities against Albanian civilians, under the control of the unarmed
KVM monitors run by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe—all
in an attempt to pacify Milosevic and his Russian backers. The failure to deploy
NATO troops and to confront Milosevic with a credible threat of force will doom the
prospects for peace in the Balkans.
6.) The draft agreement relaxes pressure on Yugoslavia to bring war criminals to trial.
The agreement stipulates that parties to the accord need only “cooperate” with the UN
Tribunal. At the same time, NATO troops are not even obliged to apprehend indicted
or suspected war criminals.
7.) The role of the United States is not spelled out in the accord. In spite of all the
deficiencies in the Clinton Administration’s policies in the Balkans, Albanians will
not trust any country except America to lead an international force in Kosova.
The interim agreement for Kosova represents an effort to give new life to the failed strategy behind the Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement. As such, it amounts to pressuring Albanians to accept something that will never work. It is an easy solution designed to accommodate Serbian aggression and to postpone the ethnic cleansing of the Albanian population until after NATO’s fiftieth anniversary celebration takes place in Washington, DC, in April.
The talks at Rambouillet are a Contact Group masquerade party. Even before the talks started, the Serbs found a way to subvert them. In keeping with the masquerade, the Serbian delegation includes Serbian Albanians, Serbian Turks, Serbian Gypsies, and the newly discovered minority of Serbian Egyptians. Amid this pretense of multiculturalism, the Serbian delegation refuses to have direct talks with the Albanian freedom fighters, whom they persist in calling “terrorists.” This charade cannot conceal the chilling reality behind the Serbian “peace” delegation. The delegation is co-led by a terrorist–Deputy Federal Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic. Sainovic is one of the architects of the Racek massacre and the coconspirator, with General Sreten Lukic, of the attempted coverup.
It is time to put an end to the Holbrooke-Hill experiment. In order to solve the Serbian-Albanian conflict once and for all, the following steps must be taken:
1) NATO must issue an ultimatum to Serbia to stop the genocide and to withdraw all
of its forces. If Serbia fails to comply, then NATO should bomb Serbian military positions
in Serbia and Kosova.
2) Serbian compliance with UN resolutions and other agreements must be enforced.
Milosevic has made promises and signed agreements with Western
representatives in order to avoid Western military action and then turned around and
violated every one of them.
3) Kosova should be made an international protectorate under the jurisdiction of NATO,
led by the United States, for a period of three years.
4) A referendum on the independence of Kosova must be held by the people of Kosova
at the end of the three-year period.
5) The international community must recognize that Serbia’s claim to territorial
sovereignty has no basis under international law. With the disintegration of the
former Yugoslavia, Kosova automatically won the right to secession, as did all the other
coequal members of the Yugoslav confederation. In addition, Serbia’s
violation of the human rights, equality, and freedom of the Kosovar Albanians is so
massive as to undermine Serbia’s claim to territorial integrity. The U.S.
Congress should pass H. Con. Res. 9, the bill for the independence of Kosova, introduced
in the House by Congressman Jim Traficant on January 6, 1999, and
make it a basis for U.S. policy in the Balkans.
6) There must be an immediate release of all political prisoners and accounting of the
Albanians who are “missing.”
7) The United States and its NATO allies should pursue the arrest of war criminals still
at large and should support the Hague Tribunal’s investigation of Slobodan Milosevic
as a war criminal.
The international community must end the embargo that it recently instituted against
the Kosova Liberation Army. As long as the Serbian police and military are
on the ground in Kosova, blocking the flow of arms to the KLA will only result in the
deaths of thousands of innocent Albanian civilians.
It should be clear to all that as long as the Milosevic regime remains in power, the war in Kosova will continue. It should also be clear that just as Serbia’s fellow Slavs in
Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia have declared their right under international law not to live under Serbia, the Albanian people, who are not Slavs and who have nothing in common with the ultranationalist regime of Slobodan Milosevic, should be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination and independence from the former Yugoslavia.
Ossining, New York February 9, 1999