Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth
KOSOVO: HISTORY OF THE CRISIS
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
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
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, Kosovowith an
Albanian majority populationwas 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
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 orits Albanian acronymUCK)
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
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 (FRYSerbia 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 answerunsurprisinglywas 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 leadershipand
the emerging and more radical KLAsaw 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
concernshared by Chinanot 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
countriesabove all Germanyreceiving 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 1998mounting tension
in Kosovo and growing international concern;
February-October 1998the start of large-scale
violence on the ground and international responses, culminating
in the Holbrooke/Milosevic agreement;
October 1998-March 1999culminating in
the breakdown of the peace talks in France;
March-June 1999the 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.
24. When the Contact Group's Political Directors
met in Moscow on 25 February, they expressedfor the first
timethe 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 unacceptablewithin 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
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
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 proposalapart from the arms embargofor
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
CommanderSACEUR) 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
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 Petritschappointed
EU Special Envoy for Kosovo in October 1998, and Boris MayorskyRussian
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
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
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.