After a meeting in Bonn on May 6, the foreign ministers of the G8 group of countries (the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia) announced a set of ‘general principles’ which they had agreed as the basis for a political solution to the Kosova crisis. This was widely welcomed in the west as the beginning of the end of the west’s ‘war’ on Serbia, and an offering a ‘realistic’ and ‘just’ solution.
The statement was also welcomed in the west as a diplomatic triumph, ‘bring Russia on board’ the allied position and isolating Milosevic from his only ally. In fact, statement clearly shows itself to be the outcome of a process of negotiation between two sides: NATO members anxious to find an end to a military engagement which they thought expected to last only days, and the Russians speaking for the Serbs. An analysis of the statement confirms that it lays the ground for the betrayal of the Kosovars.
The statement begins with a bravado reiteration of what the west claims to be its minimum and conditional demands from the Serbs: immediate end of Serbian operations in Kosova, the withdrawal of all Serbian troops and police, the acceptance of an international force, and the return of all Kosovars to their homes.
This is quickly followed, however, by concessions to the Serbs evidently designed to make it clear that the west is willing to accept Serb demands. These include the reference to ‘a substantial degree of self-government for Kosovo’; this falls short even of autonomy, despite the reference to the Rambouillet accords. The reference to the ‘sovereignty’ and ‘territorial integrity’ of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’ is a plain sop to the Serbs, which makes clear that the west will help the Serbs to keep control over Kosova and will offer no encouragement to Kosovar hopes of independence.
The grammatically-incomplete sentence “Also the demilitarisation of the Kosovo Liberation Army” appears to have added at the last minute to steng then the Serb position, a clear indication of which side was calling the shots in the negotiations.
The statement then calls for a UN security council resolution to to authorise action on the basis that the statement outlines. Having gone to war unilaterally in the expectation of a quick victory, the US and NATO are now looking to the UN to legitimise their ceasing the operation without having achieved their major goals, and in particular, without having improved the situation of the Kosovars in any way.
KLA spokesman Jakub Krasniqi responded angrily to the statement’s reference to the demilitarisation of the KLA. He was quoted in the International Herald Tribune (May 8-9, 1999) as saying “After all that has happened in Kosova, we cannot discuss anymore the disarming of the KLA”. Another KLA spokesman, Bilal Sherifi, said that “any solution short of independence would worsen the instability in the region and the tragedy of Kosova.”
Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the Democratic League of Kosova and the country’s unofficial ‘president’ was isolated in welcoming the statement. He said it provided ‘a good basis for peace’. Since appearing on Serbian television with Milosevic, and later being allowed to leave Kosova, Rugova’s standing has been weakened.
However, widespread Kosovar disillusion with his pacifist approach which achieved little over the last decade, will not stop the west from promoting him as a ‘moderate’ and acceptable leader of the Kosovars (acceptability to the Serbs being more important than acceptability to the Kosovars). Rugova left Rome, where he had been staying as a guest of the Italian government, for a tour of European capitals on May 12.
The Kosovars’ position is weak. As was seen in Bosnia, once the west comes into a conflict, its own interests become paramount, rather justice or the needs of the victims of the conflict. The west’s interest is not to do the right thing, but to create the impression of doing the right thing, preferably with minimal cost to itself.
The west has been at pains since the G8 meeting to emphasise that there has been no letting up of its war on Serbia. The NATO briefing on May 12 stated that operational flights the previous night had targeted airfields, troops and tanks. However, the Serb operations against Kosovars on the ground appear to be virtually unaffected by these operations.
In fact, the reason that the Serbs are willing to make peace now is that they have achieved their war aims in Kosova. Large areas of the country have been cleared of Muslims, and the infrastructure of the rest destroyed. US intelligence and defense officials admit this off-record (International Herald Tribune, May 12, 1999). “There’s no-one left, it’s time for peace,” one US officer said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Kosovars inside Kosova continue to suffer with no western help. Their only protectors are the ill-equipped and untrained soldiers of the KLA. The Serbs are failing to defeat these groups, which is presumably why they want the the west ‘demilitarise’ them.
The end of the war is likely to come suddenly in an unexpected ‘breakthrough’ which the west will present as a triumph. But the suffering of the Kosovars will continue for years to come.
Muslimedia: May 16-31, 1999
Words of betrayal...
The G8 statement
1. The G8 foreign ministers adopted the following general principles on the political solution to the Kosovo crisis:
- Immediate, verifiable end to violence and repression in Kosovo
2. In order to implement these principles the G8 foreign ministers instructed their political directors to prepare elements of a UN security council resolution.
3. The political directors will draw up a road map on further concrete steps towards a political solution to the Kosovo crisis.
4. The G8 presidency will inform the Chinese government of the results of today’s meeting.5. Foreign ministers will reconvene in due time to review progress achieved up to that point.