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Saturday, January 30, 1999 Published at 17:49 GMT

World: Europe

A schedule for peace in Kosovo

The six nations presented a united front against the fighting ...

Kosovo Section
In a declaration hammered out on Friday, the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia, gave Yugoslav and ethnic Albanian leaders a maximum of 21 days to finalise a settlement which would give the troubled province of Kosovo "substantial autonomy".

The ultimatum which UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook took to Yugoslavia summoned the two sides to begin talks at Rambouillet, near Paris, by 6 February.

The warring parties would have one week from that date to reach an accord, although it could be extended for up to seven more days if the talks made real progress.

Nato threat

The group threatened to "hold both sides accountable if they fail to take the opportunity now offered to them".

With Nato planes on a 48-hour standby, correspondents take this to mean that the Atlantic alliance would be ready to launch air strikes if the parties ignored demands to come to the table.

[ image: ... but bomb attacks and violence continued ...]
... but bomb attacks and violence continued ...
The negotiations, to be chaired by Mr Cook and his French counterpart Hubert Védrine, should reach an accord on the basis of the Contact Group's plans for "substantial autonomy" for the province.

This would give Kosovo an elected assembly, a local, non-Serb-dominated security force, and an international armed presence to police the peace settlement.

And in no uncertain terms, the six nations called on both sides to halt hostilities.

"The escalation in violence for which both Belgrade's security forces and the KLA are responsible must be stopped. Repression of civilians by the security forces must end and those forces must be withdrawn," they said.

International demands

It was apparent that the international community had lost all patience with the warring parties. "Ministers of the Contact Group deplore the failure of the parties to make progress towards a political settlement, and cannot accept that this should permit the crisis to continue."

Only with international involvement would the Serbs and Albanians reach a settlement and start to "rebuild the shattered province," said the ministers.

But in the meantime, the Contact Group placed its own demands on the warring sides.

[ image: ... and ethnic Albanians fled clashes north of Pristina]
... and ethnic Albanians fled clashes north of Pristina
It ordered Belgrade to "stop all offensive actions/repression in Kosovo". The Yugoslavs were also told to comply fully with agreements reached last October with Nato and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE), and to ensure the return of all refugees and co-operation with humanitarian aid agencies.

The six major powers also ordered Yugoslavia to "conduct a full investigation" of the killing of 45 ethnic Albanians at Racak - a massacre which the group "unreservedly condemned".

Belgrade would have to co-operate with the international war crimes tribunal in investigating the killings, and allow the tribunal's chief prosecutor to enter Kosovo to participate in the investigation.

At the same time, however, the Contact Group used strong words also to condemn "all provocations" by the KLA "which could only fuel the cycle of violence" and insisted on the release of all hostages.

It called on Kosovo Albanian leaders to "rally behind negotiations to reach a settlement and end provocative actions which would impede the political process."

'It's in your hands'

The six major powers underlined the importance of the two warring sides coming to the table.

The declaration warned: "The future of the people of Kosovo is in the hands of the leaders in Belgrade and Kosovo.

"They must commit themselves now to complete the negotiations on a political settlement to bring peace to Kosovo."

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