On a swing through Europe, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned Sunday that the conflict in Serbia’s Kosovo province could spread elsewhere in the Balkans. She exchanged ideas with German and French leaders on how to stop the fighting before it does.
Among proposals she discussed on the eve of an international conference in London on the embattled province were extension of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Macedonia, bordering Serbia, and expansion of a West European force based in next-door Albania.
In Bonn, after a meeting with Albright, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel expressed alarm about the conflict and asserted that the world “cannot afford another awful conflagration in Europe.”
Albright flew to Paris after a brief stay in Bonn and met in the French capital with Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine. He said “urgent measures” are necessary to bring calm to Kosovo, but offered no specifics and said his meeting with Albright produced no conclusions.
The secretary of state’s day began in Rome and ended in London after the intermediate stops. Others expected at Monday’s meeting in the British capital were Kinkel, Vedrine and diplomatic leaders from Britain, Italy and Russia.
On Thursday, the Clinton administration blamed Serbia for the unrest and withdrew several modest concessions offered to Belgrade just last month as a reward for positive steps it had taken in support of the Bosnian peace process.
In a similar vein, an administration official traveling with Albright said European participants in the London meeting would discuss cutting back assistance programs to Serbia and other measures.
On a separate track, the London meeting also was intended to seek ways to encourage a dialogue among the interested parties to the conflict, especially the Serbs and the Kosovo Albanians.
Albright’s European travels, starting with Friday’s visit to Italy, were designed originally to consult on the Iraq situation. The Kosovo crisis overshadowed the Middle East, however, as the death toll mounted in the province along with fears of a wider war.
Appearing with Kinkel, Albright said “dialogue and reconciliation” are needed between the Serb government in Belgrade and the rebellious Albanian majority in Kosovo. In recent days, the administration has hinted at the possibility of military action to end the fighting.
The skies over Europe were alternately cloudy and clear as Albright proceeded with her hopscotch tour of four countries. The mixed weather patterns mirrored the lack of consensus among participants in today’s talks.
Russia is seen as the most reluctant of the six to recommend decisive action, having described the situation in Kosovo as an internal matter. France and Italy also are seen as cautious.
Kinkel’s alarm over the situation was based partly on his government’s worry that another wave of refugees could be flushed out of the Balkans and descend onto German soil. Early in the decade, hundreds of thousands of Bosnians fled warfare in that country, many winding up in Germany.
Albright believes lack of an international response to the Bosnian conflict helped fuel the bloody strife there. She worries that a similar turn of events could occur in Kosovo if Belgrade is not pressured to back down.