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23 March, 1999
Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday stressed the need for all avenues leading to a peaceful outcome in Kosovo be exhausted before NATO proceeded with any military action.
Mr. Papandreou was speaking to reporters after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, who told him that the alliance was ready to move against Belgrade.
The Greek minister said he told Mr. Solana that pressure should be brought to bear on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic so that "even at the last minute he can take the necessary initiatives to avert a military clash in Kosovo."
Mr. Papandreou reiterated that Greek troops would participate in a mission in Kosovo only at the request of both Belgrade and the Kosovo Albanians.
"Greece believes that there can and should not be a military solution to the Kosovo problem," he said.
Also discussed during the meeting were Greek-Turkish relations, the foreign minister said.
EU foreign ministers' meeting:
In later comments after the conclusion of the "15" European Union (EU) foreign ministers council, Mr. Papandreou added that a military intervention in Kosovo, although not desirable by anyone, could begin soon.
He reiterated the Greek position about exhausting all possibilities for finding a peaceful solution, while pointing to the negative stance of other Balkan states (Rumania, Bulgaria, FYROM and Turkey) toward a possible intervention, fearing "transfusion of the problem" to nearby regions.
He added that as a last bid to find a solution, the British and French foreign ministers may visit Belgrade after coordination with US envoy Richard Holbrooke, who is already there.
The EU foreign ministers council in a statement condemned the further deployment of the Serbian forces in Kosovo as well as acts of violence against the Albanian-speaking population, as well as acts of violence by the latter. Finally, he called on the Yugoslav side to accept the final agreement, which followed the Rambouillet talks.
The council also deliberated on the contents of a statement to prevent polarization in the Middle East leading up to May 4, anticipated to be the date when the Palestinian state is proclaimed independent.
Tsohatzopoulos talks with US ambassador:
In a related development in Athens, National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday discussed developments in Kosovo with US ambassador Nicholas Burns.
According to sources, the Greek minister again told the US envoy that Athens would only participate in a peace mission to the troubled Yugoslav province on the condition there was an agreement between the two sides, something often repeated by Greek officials over the past few months.
The defense minister later left on an official visit to London at the invitation of his British counterpart George Robertson.
Source: Athens News Agency