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30 June, 1998
The recent meetings between US special envoys Robert Gelbard and Richard Holbrooke with members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) have put the EU's "15" in a predicament, giving rise to a clarification yesterday their privileged interlocutor was the leader of the Kosovo Albanians, Ibrahim Rugova.
The contacts between the US officials and UCK members were described as a mistake by European diplomats on the sidelines of the last General Affairs Council under the British Presidency in Brussels yesterday.
Additionally, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou was more specific in detailing the EU member-states' position, saying that "we should not give UCK the impression that we are backing their claim for Kosovo's independence".
He added that borders could not change by force, as the entire Balkans region was made up of minorities.
In a statement regarding Kosovo, the union's "15" reiterated that they were strongly opposed to the independence of the Serbian province, which holds a majority of Albanian-speakers.
They said they will continue to promote the establishment of greater autonomy under a special regime but within the boundaries of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, whose country held the Union's rotating presidency in the first half of the year before handing it over to Austria, said that as far as he was concerned, "Rugova was the Kosovo Albanians' legally elected leader, while the election had been boycotted by the UCK".
Discussion at General Affairs Council:
Mr. Papandreou also said that the General Affairs Council confirmed a position demanding an immediate cease-fire, a truce between the sides involved in the Kosovo conflict and an immediate start to a dialogue for a solution to be found in the framework of Yugoslavia.
The Foreign Ministers of the "15" member-states will meet again in Brussels on July 13 for the first Council of the Austrian EU presidency.
Yesterday's meeting focused primarily on developments in the Kosovo crisis, relations with third countries (the LOME agreement) as well as the priorities of the Austrian presidency. The Austrian FM said that he will visit Greece on July 9 in the framework of a "round of capitals."
Mr. Papandreou noted that whatever contacts taking place with the UCK should not weaken Mr. Rugova and cannot legitimize whatever secessionist logic.
"This would have tragic consequences both symbolically and politically for the neighboring countries, because all the Balkan countries each have one or more minorities within their boundaries, or a minority in neighboring countries with which they are linked," he said.
Mr. Papandreou also said that Greece is opposed to boycotting sports events, first of all in principle, backing the position of the International Olympic Committee that sports must be kept away from politics and help in cooperation and communication between peoples.
Secondly, Greece has already taken an initiative to utilize the concept of the Olympic truce which is linked directly to the Olympic Games and sports events in general.
He also said that Greece is promoting an event on the idea of the Olympic truce, in cooperation with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and the Olympic Games Committee with the hope that athletes from various Balkan countries will participate who will give this message of peace.
"The first is a cease-fire, the second dialogue, the third is an agreement in the framework of Yugoslavia and fourthly it is that force exercised by the state of Yugoslavia, as well as on the part of rebels in Kosovo is condemned," he said.
"Greece has repeatedly stressed the need to examine all diplomatic means and has claimed that first of all there is a need for (military) forces to be sent to the borders of Albania and Yugoslavia, something Mr. (Fatos) Nano has asked for...but also in FYROM," Mr. Papandreou told the private MEGA television station in separate statements.
"We think that these measures are necessary, so the conflict may be contained and from that point on the diplomatic actions necessary may continue for a cease-fire..." he said.
Pangalos: Holbrooke 'jumping the gun':
In a related development, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, commenting on recent statements by newly appointed US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke, who warned of a full-scale war in Kosovo involving Balkan countries, said yesterday that the US diplomat was "jumping the gun".
"Maybe he thinks that he's exerting pressure in order to find a solution," Mr. Pangalos said.
Mr. Pangalos said that there could be a problem for Greece if 200,000 ethnic Albanians move from Kosovo towards Albania and 50,000 of them end up in Greece.
Mr. Pangalos expressed the hope that if military intervention does take place in Kosovo it is conducted carefully.
He said that Greece maintains excellent ties with Serbia, adding however, that Belgrade sometimes "does not listen in time."
Source: Athens News Agency