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Context of 'March 15, 1999: KLA Accepts Rambouillet Accords'

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The six-nation “Contact Group,” comprised of delegations from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia, meets in London to discuss a resolution to the Kosovo conflict. At the conclusion of the conference, they issue an ultimatum to the Yugoslavian government and Kosovar Albanians, requiring them to attend peace talks in Rambouillet, France beginning on February 6 (see February 6-23, 1999). (Press Association (London) 1/29/1999; BBC 1/30/1999) However, It appears only the KLA is invited to speak on behalf of the Kosovar Albanians, not Ibrahim Rugova—the only democratically elected leader of Kosovo—or any other member of the Kosovo Democratic League. “Western diplomats have described Rugova as increasingly irrelevant, while the key players in Kosovo are now the rebels of the KLA,” the BBC reports. (BBC 1/31/1999)

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) says it will send representatives to the peace talks in Rambouillet, France on February 6 (see February 6-23, 1999). Representing the KLA, will be Supreme Commander Hashim Thaci, also known as “The Snake,” and four other Kosovars, all militants. (BBC 2/3/1999) On Febuary 4, the Yugoslav government (essentially Serbia) agrees to join the peace talks. (US Information Agency 4/13/1999)

In Rambouillet, France, the Kosovo peace talks are held between the Kosovar Albanians and the Serbs under the auspices of the “Contact Group,” which is comprised of delegations from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. (Black 2/15/1999; Whitney and Schmitt 4/1/1999; CNN 4/6/1999) Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrives in Rambouillet during the latter half of the talks and brings both sides together for the first time. The Guardian reports that she has “‘abrupt’ and largely one-sided exchanges with the Serbian president, Milan Milutinovic,” and declares “that the threat of NATO attacks ‘remains real.’” The British, on the other hand, apparently disagree with Albright, believing that the use of force is not necessary. The Russians strongly oppose any military action. (Black 2/15/1999; Black 2/24/1999) Albright also works closely with the Kosovar Albanians, who are being advised by Americans Morton Abramowitz, Marshall Harris, and Paul Williams. (Landay 2/10/1999) Albright offers the Albanians “incentives intended to show that Washington is a friend of Kosovo,” the New York Times reports. “Officers in the Kosovo Liberation Army would… be sent to the United States for training in transforming themselves from a guerrilla group into a police force or a political entity.” (Perlez 2/24/1999) Madeleine Albright shakes hands with “freedom fighter” 20-year-old Hashim Thaci, a leader of the KLA (Kurop 11/1/2001) who had previously been labeled a terrorist leader by the US. (Bogdanich 7/11/2004) Toward the end of the conference, the Contact Group provides the two parties with a final draft of the Rambouillet Accords. The Kosovars have a number of issues with the document, especially a provision that would require them to disarm. Another problem is that the proposed accords would not require a referendum on the independence of Kosovo. Notwithstanding these reservations, the Kosovars do not reject the document outright. Rather they say they will accept the agreement after holding “technical consultations” back in Kosovo. The Serbs also refuse to sign the accords because it would give NATO almost complete control of the Yugoslavia. (Black 2/24/1999) Article 8 of Appendix B, titled “Status of Multi-National Military Implementation Force,” states: “NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.” Article 6 would grant NATO troops operating in Yugoslavia immunity from prosecution, and Article 10 would allow NATO to have cost-free access to all streets, airports, and ports. (Rambouillet Accords: Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo 2/23/1999) As the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung notes, “This passage sounds like a surrender treaty following a war that was lost… The fact that Yugoslavian President Milosevic did not want to sign such a paper is understandable.” (Bogdanich 7/11/2004) With neither party agreeing to sign the accords, the talks end with plans to reconvene on March 15 (see March 15, 1999). (Black 2/24/1999)

The Kosovo Liberation Army agrees to the provisions of the Rambouillet Accords proposed during last month’s peace talks in Rambouillet (see February 6-23, 1999). (Black 3/16/1999)

The Kosovo peace talks end in failure with the Yugoslav government refusing to agree to Appendix B of the Rambouillet Accords (see February 6-23, 1999), which would require the Serbs to provide 28,000 NATO troops “unimpeded” access to the country. (Black 3/16/1999)

NATO launches a bombing campaign on Serbia in an attempt to force Serbian troops to withdraw from Kosovo. Kosovo is part of Serbia, but 90% ethnically Albanian and agitating for autonomy or independence. The air campaign begins just days after the collapse of peace talks (see March 19, 1999). (Priest 9/19/1999) US General Wesley Clark leads the bombing campaign. (BBC 12/25/2003)


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