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20 March, 1999
The foreign ministers of five SE European countries yesterday reaffirmed their "commitment to the immediate peaceful settlement of the Kosovo crisis on the basis of substantial autonomy for Kosovo in full respect for the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."
A statement issued after a meeting of the foreign ministers of Romania, Andrei Plesu; Greece, George Papandreou; Bulgaria, Nadezhda Mihailova; the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Aleksandar Dimitrov and Turkey, Ismail Cem, said that the ministers also "appealed to the parties concerned to ensure the fullest possible protection of the rights of all inhabitants, citizens, national minorities and ethnic communities, in accordance with the relevant international norms and principles."
"Emphasizing that the Paris talks may represent a last opportunity for a political settlement of the crisis, they welcomed the signing of the Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo, in its entirety, by the delegation of the Kosovar Albanians. They urged the FRY to sign, as well, the agreement at the earliest stage. In this respect, the ministers expressed support for an international force that will assist the implementation of the agreement," the statement read.
"At this critical moment the ministers underlined the utmost importance of restraint on both sides and called for immediate cessation of hostilities. The latest build-up of troops in Kosovo by Yugoslavia has added to the gravity of the situation. Existing agreements in this regard should be fully respected," the statement added.
"Ministers reiterated their full support to the efforts of the international community for the political settlement of the Kosovo crisis. They reconfirmed their commitment to contribute alongside the efforts of the Contact Group, NATO, EU and OSCE to a viable, peaceful solution as a prerequisite for peace and stability in Kosovo, as well as in the whole region in compliance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions," it further stressed.
"Ministers expressed their belief that the agreement shall enable the different communities in Kosovo to promote inter-ethnic relations and co-existence to stand the test of time. The signing of the Rambouillet Agreement will pave the way for incorporating the FRY in European and international institutions," it stated.
"They considered that this solution will free the neighboring countries from the serious negative repercussions of the current instability in the region.
"Ministers asked the Chairman-in-Office to work on setting-up a Task Force on Kosovo which will coordinate the efforts of SEEC countries particularly with regard to the humanitarian issues, and activate existing mechanisms within the SEEC to that end," the statement concluded.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his counterparts afterwards, Mr. Papandreou said the meeting was absolutely successful and stressed that its target was "to unite all our voices into one voice for peace and cooperation in our region."
Mr. Papandreou and his Romanian counterpart Andrei Plesu will communicate the joint proclamation's text both to Albania and Yugoslavia, which had refused to participate in the meeting as well as to the Contact Group countries.
Replying to a question on the threat of NATO taking military measures, Mr. Papandreou said that despite reservations it has as a neighboring country, Greece did not prevent the alliance in taking a decision.
"However, we want everything possible to be done for a peaceful solution to be achieved," he said.
Speaking to Greek reporters, Mr. Papandreou said yesterday's meeting of inter-Balkan countries comes to underline another dimension existing in the Balkan area, that of regional cooperation instead of conflicts.
Brief Papandreou-Cem encounter:
Shortly before the start to the conference, Mr. Papandreou held brief contacts with his Balkan counterparts, including Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.
Asked to comment on the content of these discussions, Mr. Papandreou said he did not discuss bilateral issues with Mr. Cem, but issues concerning the wider region and the crisis in Kosovo in particular.
Source: Athens News Agency