Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office



  1.  The current Kosovo crisis erupted in Spring 1998. But the roots of the problem go much deeper. This Memorandum seeks to:

    —  explain the historical origins of the problem of Kosovo;

    —  recall international attempts in the period before 1998 to play a role in resolving the problem;

    —  describe in detail the diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, throughout 1998, and before and during NATO's military intervention in Spring 1999;

    —  assess why Milosevic conceded to the international community's demands in early June 1999; and

    —  describe the UK contribution to the international effort.

  2.  A second Memorandum will cover foreign policy lessons to be learned from the crisis and set out how the FCO might best promote peace and stability in the region.


  3.  The end of the Cold War lifted the lid on the tensions and rivalries which had been for decades contained or suppressed in Communist states. This was nowhere more true than in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The successive convulsions of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s have posed immense challenges to the international community. Kosovo is only the latest example.

  4.  The Kosovo problem needs to be understood in terms of its history as a contested terrritory, claimed with equal fervour by Serbs and Albanians. The more recent past is notable for the failure of the Yugoslav authorities to address the problem effectively following the Second World War.

  5.  Historically, ethnic identities across the Balkans were much less clear-cut than they are today. But the rise of nationalism across Europe in the 19th century led to the politicisation of ethnic consciousness in the Balkans as elsewhere. The Serbs, pushing for freedom from the Turks, saw Kosovo as the cradle of Serb civilisation; their defeat in Kosovo in 1389 (Kosovo Polje) by the Ottoman Turks became a central event in Serbian history. The Albanians believed that they were the true indigenous population, with the rightful historical claim.

  6.  When the modern Albanian state first came into existence in 1912 over half the ethnic Albanian population was left outside its borders, most of it in Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. In 1913, after the Balkan Wars, Kosovo—with an Albanian majority population—was ceded to Serbia and thus became part of Yugoslavia. Kosovo Albanians were never reconciled to this and hoped the Second World War might produce change. It did not: Kosovo remained within Yugoslavia, now under Tito's Communists.

  7.  From 1945 until the mid-1960s Kosovo suffered oppression from the (mainly Serb) Belgrade authorities. Unrest in Kosovo in the mid-1960s and subsequent popular discontent in Serbia and Croatia prompted Tito in 1974 to implement a new Yugoslav constitution; this included making Kosovo an "autonomous province" within Serbia, with many of the formal attributes of responsibility enjoyed by the six Republics of the Yugoslav Federation (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro). The (then Communist) Kosovo Albanian leadership worked within this structure but popular opinion insisted it was not enough: as the third largest ethnic community in Yugoslavia, the Kosovo Albanians thought they deserved Republic status. Belgrade saw such aspirations as part of a push towards full independence and a "Greater Albania".

  8.  Demands for a Kosovo Republic were reasserted in 1981 as part of a student protest in Pristina. When protests spread across Kosovo martial law was proclaimed and a period of intense repression began; some 1,600 Albanians were imprisoned in a series of show-trials.

  9.  During the 1980s Serb concern about Kosovo increased. Serb opinion was enraged by the steady exodus of ethnic Serbs from the province. Between 1968 and 1987 an estimated 45,000 Serbs and Montenegrins departed; most left because economic prospects were better elsewhere, but there were numerous incidents of violent Albanian "pressure" exerted apparently in pursuit of the political demand for an "ethnically pure" Albanian Kosovo.

  10.  Serb frustration at the allegedly inferior position of Serbs within Yugoslavia, epitomised in their eyes by Kosovo, was exploited by Milosevic, who swept to power in Serbia in 1987 on the back of a promise to win back Kosovo for the Serbs. He soon began to put his words into action. The Serbian Assembly imposed greater control over Kosovo in 1989, then in 1990 the Kosovo Provincial Assembly and Government were dissolved. The status of Kosovo as an autonomous province effectively ended. Albanians were sacked from key positions. Demonstrations were surpressed. A state of emergency was imposed and the army was called in. These events led the leaderships of other Republics, initially Slovenia and Croatia, to demand a reorganisation of the Federation. Milosevic rejected this and the disintegration of Yugoslavia began.

  11.  For much of the 1990s, the mass of the Kosovo Albanian population adopted a policy of passive resistance to Belgrade. In September 1991 they organised a referendum on independence, which produced a large majority in favour. In 1992 Ibrahim Rugova of the LDK (Democratic League of Kosovo) was elected President in elections which were not regarded as valid by the Belgrade authorities. The Kosovo Albanians set up parallel systems in health, education and other areas. But frustration grew as Rugova's policies failed to yield results. In the mid-1990s the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA or—its Albanian acronym—UCK) began a low-level campaign of shootings and murder, mainly against Serb security forces, but also against Albanians working for the Serb regime. Serb attempts to eliminate the KLA were part of the repression which led to the outbreak of the crisis in 1998.

  12.  Certain aspects of this background are worth emphasising:

    —  The Albanians were the major non-Slav population in the former Yugoslavia, belonging to a completely different linguistic/cultural tradition. Even though many Kosovo Albanians were Muslims (as a result of Turkish Empire) the politicisation of Islam was not a major factor in Kosovo; Albanian national consciousness was and remains the predominant political factor. This was boosted by the collapse of the Hoxha regime in Albania. The Kosovo Albanians and Bosnian Muslims have little in common.

    —  In Communist Yugoslavia, the Kosovo problem, while difficult, was managed as part of the wider set of relationships between the various Republics and Provinces. In the rump Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY—Serbia and Montenegro), the head-on clash between incompatible Serb and Albanian visions of the future became very stark.

    —  In particular, by the 1990s underlying demographic changes had set a clock ticking under the Kosovo status question. Yugoslav attempts to increase Kosovo's economic development in the 1960s/70s led to a population boom. The Kosovo Albanian population more than doubled between the early 1960s and early 1990s. On some estimates (contested by the Serbs), the Albanian share of Kosovo's population increased from two thirds to around 90 per cent. Belgrade was confronted by a young and rapidly growing Albanian population in Serbia, where the Serb population was stable. Many Serbs believed that they were doomed over time to become a minority in their own Republic.

    —  In these circumstances, it can be argued that the passive resistance policies pursued by the Kosovo Albanians for most of the 1990s made sense: with demographic trends working in their direction and with no serious prospect of achieving their goals militarily, the Kosovo Albanians had no real incentive to try to engage Belgrade in dialogue, particularly while Milosevic was pursuing repression.


  13.  The intense fighting and ethnic cleansing in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina which unfolded as Yugoslavia disintegrated were the focus of international efforts in 1992-95, culminating in the peace talks at Dayton, which focussed on ending the war in Bosnia. But the situation in Kosovo was also followed with concern. The Belgrade regime was warned about the likely consequences of excessive use of force there. In December 1992 the Bush administration had privately warned Milosevic that the US would respond in the event of Belgrade-incited violence in Kosovo. The warning was privately repeated by the Clinton administration in 1993 and thereafter.

  14.  Belgrade consistently tried to reduce international involvement in Kosovo to nothing. In June 1993 Belgrade refused to renew the mandate of the OSCE long-term missions to Kosovo, Sandzak and Vojvodina which had been operating since September 1992. International concern about Kosovo intensified following Dayton, with the knowledge that a crisis there could undermine the Bosnia settlement and spread instability more widely.

  15.  Belgrade refused a proposal in September 1996 for an European Community Monitoring Mission (ECMM) presence in Kosovo. The international community was ready to respond to FRY support for progress on Dayton implementation. In February 1998, for example, the US announced some limited bilateral sanctions relief. Further relief would have been available from the US and EU had Milosevic responded to our demands, including for an OSCE mission to Kosovo. But he again refused to countenance an external role. From late February the outbreak of violence had raised the stakes. In April 1998, at Milosevic's demand, Serbia held a referendum on international involvement in Kosovo. With Kosovo Albanians boycotting, the answer—unsurprisingly—was negative.

  16.  A clear pattern emerges of obstinate refusal by Belgrade to enter into dialogue with the international community over Kosovo. Dayton offered Milosevic a chance to begin to normalise relations with the international community. Yet throughout 1996 and 1997 he did nothing to live up to his Dayton obligations. This approach meant that the Milosevic regime was reducing its own room for manoeuvre on Kosovo. The attitude of the Kosovo Albanians was also a complicating factor. The Rugova leadership—and the emerging and more radical KLA—saw any dialogue with Belgrade as undermining the basic demand for independence.

  17.  Kosovo, even more than Bosnia and Croatia, was a complex issue for the international community. It proved difficult to secure a shared analysis of the problem, let alone consensus on how to tackle it. The US deeply distrusted Milosevic and was clear that the FRY should be blocked from international reintegration until Belgrade produced a far greater degree of co-operation (particularly on Dayton implementation). The Russian Government strongly supported Belgrade's insistence that Kosovo was the FRY's "internal affair", in part given its own concern—shared by China—not to allow a precedent for international intervention within sovereign states.

  18.  The UK and other European Union governments shared a strong preference for mobilising all available diplomatic efforts. The issue was particularly important for Italy and Greece as the European Union members closest to Kosovo and for various countries—above all Germany—receiving large numbers of Kosovo Albanian asylum seekers. The views of those aspirant European Union members from the region (Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania) had to be taken into account. So did the Organisation of Islamic Countries which inevitably saw Kosovo as another emerging example of a Muslim community being persecuted in Europe.

  19.  So the international context was complicated. But consistent international efforts were made to facilitate dialogue and peaceful transition in Kosovo. It was above all Milosevic's failure to respond to any of these numerous initiatives over several years that led ultimately to the conflict in 1999.


  20.  This account is divided into four parts:

  September 1997-January 1998—mounting tension in Kosovo and growing international concern;

  February-October 1998—the start of large-scale violence on the ground and international responses, culminating in the Holbrooke/Milosevic agreement;

  October 1998-March 1999—culminating in the breakdown of the peace talks in France;

  March-June 1999—the air campaign, the diplomatic end-game and Milosevic's capitulation.

  A detailed chronology of the events of 1998-99 is at Annex A.

September 1997-January 1998

  21.  Although the crisis itself erupted in Spring 1998, Kosovo had been a cause of growing concern in the previous year. The UK took the lead in September 1997 at a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Contact Group (UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, EU Presidency and European Commission) in New York in proposing a statement voicing concern over Kosovo, and calling for a peaceful dialogue. FCO Minister of State Tony Lloyd visited Belgrade on 31 October 1997, and told Milosevic that the UK wanted the FRY to join the European family of nations, but this would require progress on democratisation, on co-operation with the UN-established International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and on Kosovo. Milosevic gave no sign of movement. The UK then chaired a meeting of Contact Group experts in London on 21 November 1997, which agreed on the sequencing and substance of a programme of international action. The French and German Foreign Ministers wrote to the Serbian government and Kosovo Albanian leadership proposing dialogue on Kosovo's future.

  22.  In Kosovo, clashes between the Serb security forces and armed Albanians continued. On 27 November there was a qualitative change in the level of violence when, for the first time, the Kosovar Albanians took on an armoured Serb patrol. This led to what became a familiar pattern of Serb over-reaction, involving random shooting and destruction. On 5 December the KLA, acknowledging responsibility for the 27 November incident, made a public commitment to continue their armed struggle, which had already claimed the lives of a number of police and so-called informers. This marked their emergence as a significant factor in the Kosovo equation and as a rival to Rugova's authority.

  23.  Meanwhile, diplomatic activity focused on further efforts to convince the FRY and Kosovo Albanians of the need to establish a political dialogue without preconditions. The signs of future problems were already becoming visible with the FRY insisting that any solution would have to leave Kosovo within Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians insisting on a clear path to independence. Serb insistence that the KLA were a terrorist organisation and Rugova's inability to control their activities were additional complicating factors. In an attempt to build confidence between the two sides the EU encouraged efforts to conclude an education agreement that would have reopened Pristina University to Albanians. Some limited progress was made.

February—October 1998

  24.  When the Contact Group's Political Directors met in Moscow on 25 February, they expressed—for the first time—the Group's willingness to facilitate a dialogue between Belgrade and the Kosovo Albanians.

  25.  On the ground, the deterioration continued. Towards the end of February, there were signs of possible Serbian intent to mount a major operation against the KLA in the Drenica area. There were also signs that the KLA had acquired rocket launchers and were attracting growing popular support. Despite warnings to both sides to avoid the use of force, fighting began on 28 February leading to the deaths of 16 Albanians and 4 police. This was quickly followed on 2 March by the suppression by the Serb authorities of a student demonstration in Pristina with the use of water cannon, batons and tear gas. In a major incident on 5 March, 51 Albanians were killed, including women and children and members of one of the prominent families in the KLA. Sympathy for, and recruitment by, the KLA grew strongly thereafter.

  26.  In response to the deteriorating situation, the Foreign Secretary, acting as the EU Presidency, travelled to Belgrade on 5 March to press Milosevic to offer a political process to the Kosovo Albanians, rather than repressive policing. But Milosevic gave no ground.

  27.  On 5 March the North Atlantic Council (NAC) expressed concern about the situation in Kosovo, condemning both the violent repression of non-violent demonstrations and the use of terrorist acts to achieve political goals. It called on all sides to take immediate steps to reduce the tensions; for the authorities in Belgrade and the leaders of the Kosovo Albanian community to enter without preconditions into a serious political dialogue; and made it clear that NATO and the international community had a legitimate interest in developments in Kosovo, not least because of their impact on the stability of the whole region.

  28.  Contact Group Ministers met in London on 9 March 1998. They expressed dismay that since their call in September of the previous year for a peaceful dialogue, the Belgrade authorities had applied repressive measures in Kosovo, and condemned the large-scale police actions of the previous 10 days which had further inflamed a volatile situation. The Ministers also condemned acts of terrorism by the KLA or any other group or individual. The Contact Group agreed a 10-point action plan for international engagement, and endorsed a sanctions package (although as immeduate measures the Russians would only commit themselves to prusue UN Security Council consideration of a comprehensive arms embargo against the FRY, and refusal to supply equipment to the FRY which could be used for internal repression, or for terrorism). This led to the adoption of UNSCR 1160 on 31 March, imposing an arms embargo on the FRY. The resolution, which included a ban on arming and training for terrorist activities in the FRY, applied equally to Kosovo Albanian armed factions, and underlined the even-handed approach taken by the international community, as did the many declaratons calling for restraint by both sides. But although there was Contact Group agreement that Belgrade had a primary responsibility for the situation in Kosovo, Russian opposition to further sanctions against Belgrade meant that such measures were imposed by the EU and other countries (including EU Associates, US, Canada and Japan) acting individually.

  29.  In parallel with Contact Group and UN activity, the EU and US tried repeatedly in Belgrade and Pristina to start a dialogue, or at least "talks about talks". The Serbs proposed face to face talks with Rugova and representatives of the other ethnic minorities in Kosovo, but on terms they knew would be unacceptable—within the framework of the Serbian Constitution. Rugova insisted, with international support, that any talks should be without preconditions and under international mediation. In response to international pressure, he agreed to appoint an advisory council, designed to bring in other Albanian opinion, though not the KLA. But this did not function effectively.

  30.  The goal of the Contact Group and of the international community as a whole was to overcome these difficulties, and secure an end to violence and a start to meaningful negotiations. With Milosevic increasingly distancing himself from contacts with the diplomatic community in Belgrade, at the beginning of April the Foreign Secretary sent former Ambassador to Belgrade Ivor Roberts to Belgrade as his personal emissary, to try to gauge what Milosevic's real motives were and to ensure that the FRY President clearly understood our and international concern over the violence in Kosovo. Mr Roberts pressed the case for international mediation, given that the level of distrust between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians meant it was wholly unrealistic to expect progress without outside help. In a meeting which lasted three hours, at which Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and Foreign Minister Jovanovic were also present, Milosevic denounced what he described as an Anglo-American plot to dismember Serbia and claimed that the referendum in Serbia would endorse his rejection of outside interference in Kosovo. Milosevic insisted on Belgrade's right to deal with a "terrorist threat", and argued that the international community had exaggerated the scope of the crisis. Mr Roberts made a second visit to Belgrade in early July, when he again reminded Milosevic of NATO's warnings about the Serb violence and intimidation which risked creating a humanitarian catastrophe. Milosevic again painted a one-sided picture of the situation in Kosovo. He claimed his security forces could clear Kosovo of "terrorists" in days, if given a free hand.

  31.  During April, there were a growing number of cross-border incidents in which the FRY security forces, including for the first time the Yugoslav Army (VJ), intercepted KLA arms shipments and movements of personnel coming or returning from training in northern Albania. In response, the NAC on 6 May decided to step up Partnership for Peace (PFP) activity with Albania and Macedonia and commissioned military advice on options for a NATO contribution to UN/OSCE efforts to monitor the FRY's borders with Macedonia and Albania and on possible NATO preventive deployments in those countries.

  32.  Also in April, as noted above, Milosevic proposed a referendum on whether there should be international involvement in the Kosovo issue. The outcome (95 per cent against on a 75 per cent turnout) was predictable, but served unhelpfully to entrench Serb positions and caused long-running difficulties in the negotiating process. Other obstacles to successful negotiations were starting to emerge, notably the lack of leverage on the KLA which, at this stage, had no clear political direction, and divisions within the Kosovo Albanian leadership leading to passivity and inaction. The justified pressure on Milosevic to stop his repression also had the effect of encouraging the KLA and reducing the incentive of the Kosovo Albanians to negotiate.

  33.  A potentially hopeful sign came with news that Milosevic and Rugova were to meet on 15 May. The Foreign Secretary (in his EU Presidency capacity) wrote to them both emphasising the need for a political dialogue, and pointing out to Milosevic that the EU wished to see the FRY assume its natural place in the community of European nations and that now he had decided to open discussions with Rugova there was an important opportunity to make progress on this wider issue. The Meeting had been in part the result of US pressure, including an intervention by Richard Holbrooke. It led to two rounds of face-to-face negotiations in Pristina and to the involvement of the US Ambassador to Macedonia, Christopher Hill, as a "facilitator" in the process.

  34.  Hopes that the Milosevic/Rugova meeting would mark a significant turning point led the EU to put on temporary hold the introduction of a number of economic measures against the FRY. But once it was clear that the talks process was not going forward, and following further Serb repression in late May, the EU decided (on 8 June) to implement the measures, including an investment ban and freeze on funds held abroad by the regime.

  35.  On 9 June, the Prime Minister sent a personal letter to Milosevic about the situation in Kosovo. The Prime Minister wrote that History showed there was no alternative to a process of negotiation if lasting solutions were to be found. Milosevic and the leaders of the Kosovo Albanian community had to show vision and courage in tackling the issues that divided them. The actions of Belgrade's security forces had been excessive and were undermining the fragile process of dialogue, as well as fuelling violence by the KLA. Milosevic should not doubt the UK's determination to take the necessary steps to preserve regional stability and security.

  36.  Milosevic's disappointingly wooden reply was handed to the British Ambassador in Belgrade on11 June: Kosovo Albanian leaders generally were accused of "the philosophy of division"; Belgrade "accepted" European standards of human rights; there was no threat to the FRY's neighbours; police in Kosovo were taking only those measures and actions deemed necessary to protect the physical security of people and their property.

  37.  On 11-12 June NATO Defence Ministers directed NATO planners to examine a full range of options with the aim of halting or disrupting repression and explusion in Kosovo and supporting a peaceful settlement. Over the summer NATO activity took three main forms; air activity (deployment of additional aircraft to the region and the air exercise determined falcon in Albanian and Macedonian air space on15 June); measures to enhance stability in both Albania and Macedonia, including a PfP exercise in both countries; and planning including on options for ground deployment to Kosovo. By early August, most of NATO's initial round of planning, including on air options, was in place.

  38.  NATO's policy was to support diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, including through the credible threat of force. These diplomatic efforts focussed increasingly on seeking to shape a solution for the status of Kosovo. The efforts of Chris Hill with the Serbs at this stage focused on initial ideas for a political solution. With the Kosovo Albanians he concentrated on the need for them to establish an effective negotiating team. The UK took the lead during July in Contact Group efforts to develop a paper with elements for an eventual solution. This work was given to the FRY and Kosovo Albanian leaderships. Contact Group experts focused subsequently on developing more specific proposals for an interim settlement in support of Hill's negotiating efforts. This formed the basis of the proposals put to both parties in intensive shuttling between Belgrade and Pristina later in the year.

  39.  In Cardiff on 15 June, the European Council's Declaration on Kosovo called for immediate action by Milosevic to stop all operations by his security forces affecting the civilian population and withdraw security units used for civilian repression; to enable effective and continuous international monitoring in Kosovo; to facilitate the full return home of refugees and displaced persons and unimpeded access for humanitarian organisations; and to make rapid progress in the political dialogue with the Kosovo Albanian leadership. Unless these four steps were taken without delay, a much stronger response of a qualitatively different order would be required from the international community. The European Council welcomed the acceleration of work in international security organisations on a full range of options. Given the gravity of the situation, the Council agreed to supplement measures already being implemented against the FRY and Serbian governments by taking steps to impose a ban on flights by Yugoslav carriers between the FRY and EU Members States. The Council also stressed the importance of Milosevic taking advantage of his meeting with Yeltsin on 16 June to commit Belgrade to implementation of the four steps.

  40.  At their meeting in Moscow Milosevic promised Yeltsin that he would not carry out repressive action against the peaceful population of Kosovo and that there would be no restricitions on diplomatic staff accredited to the FRY seeking information on the situation in Kosovo. The EU responded by increasing the number of accredited diplomats active in Kosovo: they operated closely with the small number of ECMM (European Community Monitoring Mission) personnel already in the region.

  41.  Over the summer, KLA operations continued and extended effective KLA control over large areas of Kosovo. This led in August to an extensive Serb counter-offensive aimed at restoring freedom of movement along the major roads and re-establishing control in areas where the KLA had proclaimed authority. There were civilian casualties and the number of displaced people increased from 77,000 at the beginning of July to around 250,000 by the beginning of September. Of these about 50,000 were camping out in the open and about 80,000 sought refuge in neighbouring states and other parts of the FRY.

  42.  NATO responded with a statement by the Secretary-General which deplored the violence, pinning the responsibility on Milosevic, and said that the Alliance fully supported the international community's efforts to achieve a negotiated solution; to which end the NAC had on 12 August "reviewed military planning for a full range of options to bring an end to violence and to create the conditions for negotiations", including the use of ground and air power and in particular a full range of options for the use of air power alone. NATO's military authorities were authorised to approach nations informally about the forces which they would be ready to commit to possible air operations. The statement made clear that the ground options included forces to monitor and enforce a cease-fire and peace settlement in Kosovo.

  43.  On 23 September, the UN Security Council adopted Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1199, highlighting the impending humanitarian catastrophe, demanding a ceasefire and the start of a real dialogue. Throughout the crisis the UK had supported, indeed led, efforts to give the Security Council a leading role in the management of the crisis. As early as June 1998, the UK had prepared a draft Security Council resolution expressing concern at the situation in Kosovo and authorising the use of "all necessary measures". This had received wide support in informal consultations in New York, but Russia made clear it would veto such a resolution if it were put to a vote. The position of Russia and China throughout 1998 was to refuse any proposal—apart from the arms embargo—for a resolution with provision for enforcement action under Chapter VII of the Charter.

  44.  In the week of the adoption of UNSCR 1199, Serb repression continued, including the alleged execution of 15 Kosovo Albanians in a security operation in eastern Drenica. Despite Belgrade's claim to have ended "anti-terrorist" operations on 28 September, more villages were attacked. This included the savage killing in late September of some 35 people, including women and young children, in the Drenica region.

  45.  NATO's Defence Ministers, meeting on 24 September with the gravity of the humanitarian situation already clear, made clear the Alliance's determination to act if required in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo that winter. Their resolve was demonstrated by agreement to an Activation Warning to Allied forces, thus beginning the formal process of force generation for air operations, and sending a powerful signal to Milosevic.

  46.  On 24 September, the Prime Minister sent a second personal message to Milosevic, which the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Mr Paddy Ashdown, handed to Milosevic at a meeting on 29 September. The Prime Minister spelt out that the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Milosevic's forces was having an intolerable impact on innocent civilians who were being forced to leave their homes and whose livelihoods were being destroyed. The prospect of tens of thousands of people facing the winter without proper shelter was one which the international community could not ignore. UNSCR 1199 had underlined international concern at the impending humanitarian catastrophe and the lack of progress towards a political solution. What was required was an immediate end to the current violence and rapid action to address the humanitarian situation. Above all, there had to be speedy progress to tackle the core problem of the status of Kosovo. The UK and its Contact Group and EU partners stood ready to work with Milosevic in the search for a peaceful solution. Milosevic did not reply to this letter.

  47.  The UK was meanwhile working to ensure Kosovo remained high on the Security Council's agenda. On 1 October, the first day of our Council Presidency, we convened emergency consultations, which produced a strong public statement condemning those responsible for continuing atrocities and emphasising the Council's determination to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

  48.  In response to escalating violence on the ground and the consequent growing humanitarian crisis, Contact Group Foreign Ministers met US envoy Richard Holbrooke at Heathrow airport on 8 October, and agreed that he should return to Belgrade with the full backing of the Contact Group in search of a settlement based on full compliance with SCR 1199. In support of this diplomatic effort, on 8 October the NAC approved the operational plan for air strikes, and agreed in the early hours of 13 October the issuing of two Activation Orders (ACTORDs) for air operations. The ACTORDs, on a 96 hour fuse, authorised General Clark (NATO's Supreme Allied Commander—SACEUR) to carry out both limited cruise missile strikes and a full phased air operation. The passage of the ACTORDs signalled clearly that NATO was willing to back up its words with military action, in order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. The NAC noted that although there was no authorisation under a Security Council resolution, there were legitimate grounds to take military action in the circumstances, given the looming humanitarian crisis. Further NATO aircraft including four RAF Harrier GR7s and US B52s, were deployed to the region and/or assigned to the operation in early October, thus demonstrating Allied resolve.

  49.  Diplomatic efforts, backed up by NATO's preparations, brought an agreement. The package Holbrooke negotiated with Milosevic comprised a FRY/OSCE agreement, signed on 16 October, for an unarmed civilian ground verification mission in Kosovo, and a FRY/NATO agreement for aerial verification, which led to the multinational Aerial Verification Mission overseen by the Verification and Co-ordination Centre in Skopje. The Serbs also issued a unilateral statement of principles governing their approach to negotiations with the Kosovo Albanians.

  50.  The UN Security Council welcomed the Holbrooke package in SCR 1203 of 24 October, which re-emphasised the need to prevent the impending humanitarian catastrophe. Like SCR 1199, this resolution was drafted by the UK. The Russians and Chinese abstained, and their views again made it impossible to achieve explicit language relating to potential use of force. The package therefore lacked any authority for the international community to enforce its provisions. Nevertheless, the UK and its partners sought to give the deal a chance, and the UK spear-headed efforts to get verifiers on the ground as speedily as possible.

  51.  In practice, neither Belgrade nor the KLA (which had not been a party to the agreement) proved committed to making the agreement work, but the package provided a breathing space for renewed diplomatic activity. Also, General Clark and General Naumann (Chairman of NATO's Military Committee) secured an undertaking from Milosevic to reduce the number of forces in Kosovo to defined pre-March 1998 levels, and to limit VJ deployments within Kosovo. Although Milosevic never implemented these undertakings fully, they became a useful yard-stick by which his actions rather than words could be measured.

October 1998-March 1999

  52.  The deployment of verifiers to implement the Holbrooke package initially reduced tensions and temporarily helped keep Serb repression in check. By 27 October, NATO's ACTORDs had been put on a "soft" trigger, with NAC consensus required to re-activate them. There was some evidence of withdrawals by Belgrade's security forces, although not to the levels to which they had agreed: VJ withdrawals were offset by the illicit redeployment of Serbian security forces. NATO went on to establish a Kosovo Extraction Force in Macedonia with the task of extracting verifiers if they got into difficulty in Kosovo. The initial UK contribution to this force, some 380 soldiers, arrived in theatre in December 1998. The Extraction Force, under French command, provided NATO with its first combat presence on the ground in the theatre.

  53.  The initial UK contribution of some 150 verifiers, the majority of whom were military personnel, began to arrive in Kosovo on 5 November. They originally operated autonomously as the UK Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (UK KDOM), working closely with the EU and other national KDOMs, until the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) was fully operational. British military and civilian personnel deployed on a weekly basis throughout November: by 30 November there were 56 UK KDOM personnel on the ground. On 10 December 1998 UK KDOM personnel were the first to be formally folded into the now established KVM operational structure.

  54.  On the diplomatic track, Hill's negotiations were faltering. He continued to shuttle between Belgrade and Pristina with successive iterations of his draft proposals. But neither side was ready seriously to engage in dialogue on the same document at any one time. Meeting in Paris on 10 December, Contact Group Political Directors tasked Hill to produce a final version of a draft agreement by mid-January, to provide the basis of substantial negotiations. It was this draft agreement, the evolution of which had involved both Belgrade and the Kosovo Albanians, which formed the basis of the Rambouillet process.

  55.  Despite verifiers on the ground, violence continued on both sides. By mid-November 19 members of the security forces and 15 members of the KLA had been killed. Belgrade was out of compliance with the October agreement, but the KLA were also committing murders. The killing of six Serb teenagers in Pec in early December provoked particular Serb rage. Over the Christmas period Belgrade launched an offensive north of Pristina against a KLA build-up in the area, causing new flows of IDPs. 5,500 Kosovo Albanians fled from their homes in the Podujevo area alone.

  56.  The 15 January Racak massacre of 45 Kosovo Albanians provided incontrovertible evidence that Belgrade was ignoring the will of the international community and that an unarmed verification mission could not ensure compliance with the October agreement. The FRY refused to allow Judge Louise Arbour, the ICTY Prosecutor, to investigate Racak. (On 17 November 1998, the Security Council had adopted a further resolution condemning FRY non-compliance with the ICTY). The NAC condemned the massacre, as did the Security Council in a Presidential Statement and an EU demarche in Belgrade called for in independent investigation. Belgrade also ordered Ambassador William Walker, Head of KVM, to leave, although this latter decision was suspended on 21 January in the face of international pressure.

  57.  The Contact Group decided that an intensified effort had to be made to reach a peaceful solution. Meeting on 29 January in London, Contact Group Ministers summoned the Serbian and Kosovo Albanian parties to negotiations at Rambouillet to begin on 6 February under the chairmanship of the Foreign Secretary and his French counterpart. The negotiations would define the terms of an agreement which would provide for a ceasefire, a peace settlement and the deployment of an international peacekeeping force within Kosovo to uphold that settlement. The Security Council welcomed the Contact Group's initiative in a Presidential statement on 29 January. The Foreign Secretary flew to Belgrade and Skopje on 30 January to deliver the summons to Rambouillet to the parties.

  58.  On 30 January, NATO issued a solemn warning: both parties must respond to the Contact Group summons to Rambouillet, halt the violence, and comply with the October agreement. If these steps were not taken, NATO was ready to take whatever measures were necessary to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Authority to implement the ACTORDs was given to the NATO Secretary-General.

  59.  The talks at Rambouillet were held under Contact Group auspices, on the basis of a detailed draft agreement for an interim Kosovo settlement reflecting previous rounds of consultations with the parties. The talks were chaired by France and the UK, with three mediators (Chris Hill, Wolfgang Petritsch—appointed EU Special Envoy for Kosovo in October 1998, and Boris Mayorsky—Russian Federation), leading the negotiations. The FRY/Serbian team was led by Ratko Markovic, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister, with Milan Milutinovic, President of Serbia and a close associate of Milosevic, in regular attendance. The Chairman of the Kosovo Albanian delegation was Hashim Thaqi, who had emerged as the political leader of the KLA.

  60.  The UK was under no illusions about the difficulty of the task at Rambouillet. The hope was that intensive negotiations in a concentrated environment would allow differences to be bridged, given that the parties were by that stage very familiar with the parameters of the draft agreement. The two key Kosovo Albanian demands were accurately predicted to be their desire for a binding referendum on independence after a three-year interim period, and for a NATO ground force in the meantime. Unsurprisingly, these were also the most difficult points for the Belgrade delegation. The US sent a letter to the Kosovo Albanian delegation, noting that the US regarded the agreement as confirming the right of the people of Kosovo to hold a referendum, consistent with the provisions of the Rambouillet agreement, on Kosovo's final status. The talks lasted until 23 February, with neither side signing the Rambouillet Accords, but consensus being reached on substantial autonomy for Kosovo and both sides committing themselves to attend a follow-up conference covering all aspects of implementation. Against this background, the UK signalled its intention to play a leading role in making an agreement work by announcing on 11 February the deployment of the vehicles and heavy equipment of a UK Battle Group and an Armoured Brigade headquarters to Macedonia, for a possible NATO peace implementation force in Kosovo, The deployment of the 2,200 personnel involved was announced on 19 February.

  61.  The hope post-Rambouillet was that both parties would use the period of reflection before the talks reconvened to commit themselves to the successful completion of the negotiating process. The Foreign Secretary and his French counterpart Hubert Vedrine, as the co-chairs of the Rambouillet process, sent a joint message to Milosevic on 27 February noting that the FRY/Serbian delegation at Rambouillet had committed itself to take part in a process leading to an overall agreement, and that full implementation and the protection of the rights of national communities in Kosovo would depend on the deployment of an international civilian and military presence on the ground. It was vital that Milosevic demonstrated a readiness to discuss these issues, or the dynamic created at Rambouillet would be lost. The two Foreign Ministers looked to Milosevic to do all in his power to ensure a cessation of violence in the coming weeks: the UK and France and their NATO allies were ready to act if repression continued. By signing an interim agreement, Milosevic would pave the way for the FRY to assume its rightful place in the international community and the European family.

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