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13 January, 1997
Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said yesterday that there was a chance of resolving the protracted political crisis in Serbia, provided an OSCE report that upheld opposition victories in disputed elections was accepted.
Mr. Pangalos was speaking at the end of his one-day visit to the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade, where he had talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic - the Serbian leader's first meeting with a foreign official for three weeks - Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic and leaders of the opposition Zajedno (Together) movement.
Zajedno has staged mass protests in the streets of Belgrade for the past eight weeks against the government's annulment of the opposition's 14 victories in Serbia's 18 largest cities, including the capital Belgrade.
A subsequent inquiry by a delegation led by former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) declared the elections valid, ratcheting up pressure on Mr. Milosevic to admit defeat.
Mr. Pangalos said that the opposition was ready to put an end to the protests if the OSCE report was accepted.
He refused, however, to comment on whether Mr. Milosevic was prepared to accept the report.
He called the possibility of negotiations between the government and opposition "a new and strong element" and expressed the belief that only in this way would democratic procedures preventing a repeat of such a crisis be established.
"From what we have discussed up to now, it seems that the Gonzalez report has to be applied totally, including the city council of Belgrade," Mr. Pangalos told reporters.
My deep belief is that a solution is possible and those who should take the appropriate steps should take them immediately so as not to have consequences that will be extremely annoying for the economy and the strength and existence of Serbia," Mr. Pangalos said.
"This (recognition of election results) should happen immediately and after this I believe that the opposition and the government are ready to start discussions," he said. Mr. Pangalos said he stressed to his interlocutors Zoran Djindjic, Vuk Draskovic and Vesna Pesic, the three leaders of Zajedno, that Greece was in need of a strong and democratic Serbia which would not be buffeted by civil wars and which would be in a position, along with Greece, to act as a pole of peaceful cooperation in the Balk ans.
However, Mr. Draskovic said that Mr. Milosevic did not appear to be ready to accept the electoral win of the opposition in Belgrade and was oriented towards a solution which would see a temporary administration in the municipality of Belgrade.
In statements on arrival in Belgrade, Mr. Pangalos said that during his talks he would be insisting on the need "for a way to be found to encourage the establishment of smooth democratic life in Serbia". He added that this would "help the friends of Serbia and Yugoslavia to work in the direction of an integration of this country" in the European Union.
The crisis in Serbia, Mr. Pangalos said, created "great difficulties" for the friends of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
A later announcement from the Serbian president's office noted that issues related to the joint efforts to strengthen and bolster trust between the peoples and countries of the region were the main focus of talks between Mr. Pangalos and Mr. Milosevic.
The announcement stressed that both agreed that issues related to the internal development of each country should be resolved by institutional bodies of each country, to the benefit of all who desire stable inter-state and international relations based on the principles of equality and non-involvement in domestic affairs.
It stressed that the relations between Greece and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were developing in this direction and that the talks were held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere.
Source: Athens News Agency