The Irish Times
Tuesday, June 8, 1999
Serbs are being asked to
ethnically cleanse region of themselves
Lara Marlowe writes from Belgrade
The Serbs thought they had concluded peace with honour. But now, they complain, NATO is
treating them as if the agreement accepted by Belgrade last Thursday were an unconditional
When talks on a military-technical agreement for a Serb withdrawal from Kosovo broke down
on Sunday night, Mr Nebojsa Vujovic, the Foreign Ministry spokesman who is participating
in the talks in Macedonia, stressed that Yugoslavia accepted the Ahtisaari-Chernomyrdin
accord because it guaranteed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia and because it provided for the deployment of a peacekeeping force
under UN auspices.
"Where is the UN?" a military source in Belgrade asked yesterday. "Gen
Jackson doesn't look like a UN officer to me." Lieut Gen Sir Michael Jackson's
presence at the Bloody Sunday massacre was mentioned by Serb officials, who describe him
as arrogant and accuse him of misrepresenting the Serb position in the Macedonian talks.
The Russian Foreign Minister, Mr Igor Ivanov, joined the Serbs in saying that NATO - not
Belgrade - added new conditions to the agreement reached last week.
Mr Goran Matic, a Yugoslav minister without portfolio, tried to minimise tension
yesterday, saying the talks continued "in a constructive climate", that
"progress has been achieved" and that he expected a rapid resolution....
But the reluctance of the Yugoslav army, in particular the Third Army deployed in Kosovo,
to accept what it sees as a humiliating defeat has certainly complicated the
military-technical discussions. Officers of the Third Army met President Milosevic on
Friday night to express their "deep dissatisfaction" with the
Ahtisaari-Chernomyrdin accord, a military sources said...
"The army wants a genuine UN force - blue berets, blue flags, and Russians," the
source said. The 20-point document proposed by Gen Jackson does not mention the UN once.
Military sources privately accused NATO of "trying to create facts on the
ground" by exacting the maximum number of concessions before a UN Security Council
resolution giving a mandate to the force is passed.
Belgrade tried to sell the accord on the grounds that responsibility for Kosovo was being
transferred from NATO to the UN...
Once the 30-page draft UN Security Council resolution prepared by the G8 is approved in
New York, quibbles over the details of the Serb withdrawal from Kosovo could subside.
The page-and-a-half Ahtisaari-Chernomyrdin agreement is so vague that disputes over
implementation were bound to arise. It calls for "verifiable withdrawal from Kosovo
of military, police and paramilitary forces".
Gen Jackson now accuses the Serbs of refusing to withdraw all forces; Serb military sources claim NATO is demanding the departure of all
non-Albanians between the ages of 18 and 55. "They are asking the Serbs to ethnically
cleanse Kosovo of themselves," one officer grumbled.
Statements by the Pentagon spokesman, Mr Kenneth Bacon, and Mr
Robertson have strengthened the Serbs' impression that the West wants to
"cleanse" Kosovo of some 200,000 Serbs. Mr Bacon has predicted the Serbs will
probably leave, and Mr Robertson said yesterday that "Serbs out, NATO in, refugees
home" was NATO's goal. In his letter to the UN Security Council, [Yugoslav Foreign
Minister] Mr Jovanovic appealed to the UN to protect Serb civilians in Kosovo...
Meanwhile, the war in Yugoslavia continues. Serb television reported that NATO bombarded
five villages in central Serbia yesterday afternoon. The Yugoslav army does not trust NATO
to keep its promise to disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army - for which NATO aircraft are now
providing air cover. The KLA attacked a passenger bus in Kosovo on Saturday night, and the
wounded driver is in critical condition. Fighting between the Yugoslav army and the KLA
has actually increased since the June 3rd peace agreement. The official news agency,
Tanjug, reported that 500 "terrorists" who attempted to enter Kosovo from
Albania were "liquidated" in recent days.