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The Rambouillet Negotiations: A Precursor for Failure?

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Crisis Diplomacy Leads to an Initial
Agreement to Deescalate the Conflict
Even while the war in Bosnia took center
stage in the politics of disintegration of the
former Yugoslavia during the first half of the
1990s, commentators and insiders occasion-
ally warned of the potential for another wave
of genocidal violence and ethnic cleansing in
Kosovo. (1) Until 1990, Kosovo had enjoyed
constitutional status as an autonomous prov-
ince of Serbia within the Yugoslav Republic.
Kosovo was populated by at least three main
ethnic identity groups: Albanians, Serbs, and
Roma, with Albanians consisting of perhaps
90% of the population.
In 1995 Kosovars elected Ibrahim Rugova as
the President of their self-proclaimed inde-
pendent “Republic of Kosova” but Serbian
manipulation, rejection, and repression of
Kosovo’s fledgling non-violent movement for
independence led to the creation of an armed
insurgency, the Kosovo Liberation Army
(KLA), and deepened political divisions
among ethnic Albanian Kosovars. The Kos-
ovars continued to suffer violent attacks from
Serb forces and paramilitaries from 1997
onward. An international coalition known as
the Balkan Contact Group, (2) originally
formed to coordinate global diplomacy to end
the war in Bosnia, was reactivated to prevent
the spread of war to Kosovo throughout 1998.
Later in the year, the UN Security Council
invoked the binding Chapter VII provisions
of the UN Charter in its Resolution 1199 of
September 23, 1998 (passed 14 to 0, with
China abstaining) calling for the cessation of
all hostilities, for humanitarian action, and
the renewal of political dialogue while warn-
ing of “additional measures to maintain or
restore peace and stability in the region.”(3)
The additional measures were not spelled out.
Nevertheless the Serbs did not comply with
the Security Council’s warning. Far from with-
drawing their forces, “three particularly shock-
ing massacres of civilians in and near the
neighboring villages of Gornje Obrinje/Obri
e Eperme and Donje Obrinje/Obri e Ulet
(Srbica/Skenderaj)” came to light. (4) In the
months preceding the Resolution 1199, the
Security Council estimated 230,000 Kosovars
had fled their homes due to Serbian attacks.
The Rambouillet Negotiations:
A Precursor for Failure?
By Anthony Wanis-St.John
The United Nations Security Council proved
a difficult forum in which to support global
diplomacy with a credible threat of force
against Serbia. Russia and China were dis-
posed to use their Security Council vetoes to
prevent any UN-sanctioned attack on Serbia.
The other members of the Contact Group
were not eager to support outright secession
for Kosovo, given that it had not enjoyed (at
least on paper) the status of a constituent
republic of the former Yugoslavia, and due to
the irredentist possibility that it would end up
comprising a “Greater Albania.” (5)
Policymakers with an interest in changing the
status quo in the Balkans turned to the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in
order to provide diplomacy with a credible
threat of force. The U.S. Ambassador to
Macedonia Chris Hill, in conjunction with
Austrian Ambassador to Belgrade Wolfgang
Petritsch, engaged in shuttle diplomatic
missions between the Kosovar and Serbian
governments to get their comments on a draft
agreement for renewed autonomy status for
Kosovo. Neither side gave unequivocal accep-
tance to these drafts through the end of 1998,
as the Kosovars consistently signaled that
nothing short of secession would satisfy their
aspirations, while the Serbs would only con-
sider autonomy for Kosovo within the frame-
work of Serbian sovereignty. (6)
In parallel to this EU/U.S. shuttle diplomacy
between the Serbs and Kosovars, U.S. Ambas-
sador Richard Holbrooke and NATO
Secretary General Javier Solana, in the first
two weeks of October 1998, negotiated a with-
drawal of Serb forces from Kosovo with FRY
President Slobodan Milosevic. Holbrooke and
Solana’s discussions with Milosevic took place
in the shadow of an October 13, 1998 North
Atlantic Council “activation order” authoriz-
ing air strikes against the Serbs in case of
continued aggression and noncompliance.
Milosevic backed down, at least initially, and
Serb forces withdrew from Kosovo. The FRY
signed separate agreements with NATO for an
aerial surveillance mission and with the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (the OSCE) for the deployment of an
unarmed observer group to verify Serbian
withdrawals and to oversee local Kosovo elec-
tions, on October 15 and October 16, 1998,
respectively. (7) At that time, the FRY and the
Serbian government also issued an eleven
point Statement of Principles for a Political
Settlement. Most importantly, international
mediation was reinvigorated as a result of this
episode of negotiation, but the crisis was only
temporarily de-escalated.
Broken Promises, Crisis Negotiations, War
Ambassador Hill renewed his shuttle diplo-
macy process of circulating draft agreements
between Kosovars and the FRY government
until formal rejections by both sides came in
December 1998. A Christmas Eve offensive
by Serb forces in Kosovo was justified as
police enforcement against ‘terrorists’ but
continued the pattern of Serb military and
paramilitary killings, torture, and expulsion of
Kosovar Albanian civilians. (8)
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While the bombing campaign
had succeeded in forcing the
Serb withdrawal, it did not
resolve the political and legal
status of Kosovo.
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
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The OSCE fielded its Kosovo Verification
Mission (KVM) to observe and verify compli-
ance with the ceasefire, and Serb withdrawals
from Kosovo. But a series of new massacres,
expulsions of Kosovo civilians by Serb forces,
and the onset of further refugee movements
within and outside of Kosovo created pressure
for additional action to convince the Serbs
to withdraw their forces and to persuade
the Kosovars to pursue a negotiated solution
in their quest for self-determination. When
the KVM began reporting on a new massacre
of Kosovars in the village of Racak in South-
ern Kosovo that had taken place January 15,
1999, the FRY declared the head of the KVM,
Ambassador William Walker persona non grata
and attempted to expel him. The Serbs
also publicly refused access to Kosovo for
the Prosecutor from the International Crimi-
nal Tribunal who sought to investigate the
massacre and had been given the authority to
do so by the UN Security Council. (9)
After January’s events, the armed conflict
returned to crisis mode. The threat of NATO
use of force was no longer a remote theoreti-
cal possibility, but rather an operational
matter. Negotiators again scrambled to deesca-
late the crisis and get the parties to sign on to
an interim peace agreement and political
settlement. Several inter-related negotiations
in early 1999 failed to achieve a replay of the
1995 Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian
war, in spite of intense international commit-
ment from the Contact Group, the presence
of competent diplomats, and the credible
threat of force against FRY by NATO.
Aftermath of the Kosovo Crisis
NATO began an aerial bombardment cam-
paign against FRY that lasted seventy eight
days, and it was this military action that finally
persuaded the Milosevic government to accept
the terms of the international negotiators. (10)
The air campaign was suspended only after
the FRY had agreed to withdraw on an eleven-
day schedule. On June 20, 1999, the Supreme
Allied Commander in Europe, General
Wesley Clark formally declared the Serb with-
drawal complete and the aerial bombardment
campaign officially closed. While the bombing
campaign had succeeded in forcing the Serb
withdrawal, it did not resolve the political and
legal status of Kosovo.
What began as an effort to protect the Kos-
ovar population from ethnic cleansing with-
out creating a new independent state in the
region resulted in the very ethnic cleansing
campaign the diplomats had sought to pre-
vent. After the bombing campaign, Kosovo
gained an ambiguous autonomy arrangement
under international protection. Tensions be-
tween the Albanian and Serbian communities
in the wake of the Serbian withdrawal
remained high and resulted in a wave of repri-
sal killings against Serbian and Roma Kos-
ovars. The status of the territory remained
highly uncertain. The legitimacy of the NATO
campaign in international law aroused contro-
versy in diplomatic and academic circles since
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
What began as an effort to protect
the Kosovar population from ethnic
cleansing without creating a new in-
dependent state in the region resulted
in the very ethnic cleansing cam-
paign (they) had sought to prevent.
it demonstrated the resolve of collective
humanitarian action but suffered from the
absence of a unified mandate from the UN
Security Council (due in part to Chinese and
Russian reticence for Security Council-
authorized military action against the FRY).
The intensive negotiation efforts that led up
to the NATO bombardment campaign are:
!" the seventeen days of talks between
the Serbs and Kosovars at Chateau
Rambouillet in France that took place
from February 6 - 23, 1999,
!" the follow-on Paris peace talks conducted
from March 15 - 18, 1999, and
!" a final mission to Slobodan Milosevic
by Richard Holbrooke from March 21
- 23, 1999.
NATO air strikes against Serbia began the
day after Holbrooke’s mission to Milosevic,
on March 24, 1999. Could these negotiations
have been more successful in achieving both
their humanitarian and political aims? Could
the armed conflict have been avoided? An
examination of the structural elements of
these negotiations helps to shed light on the
reasons for their failure.
The Talks at Chateau Rambouillet
The deteriorating humanitarian and political
situation at the beginning of 1999 also made
the international players look ineffective
and impotent in their ability to foster
international peace. On January 26, 1999,
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
and her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minis-
ter Ivanov, met and declared their support for
a renewed diplomatic initiative undertaken
by the Contact Group. On January 29, the
Contact Group ministers summoned the
Serbs and Kosovars to a seven day peace con-
ference in France at the Chateau Rambouillet
to commence by February. The next day, the
North Atlantic Council issued a statement
informing the international community that,
in case the parties failed to resolve their politi-
cal differences at Rambouillet and the FRY
failed to fulfill its earlier commitments to
NATO to withdraw forces from Kosovo, then
the NATO Secretary General “may authorize
air strikes against targets on FRY territory...
[and] will take all appropriate measures in
case of a failure by the Kosovar Albanian side
to comply with the demands of the interna-
tional community.” (11)
The Serbs and Kosovars accepted this
‘invitation’ to Rambouillet and the Contact
Group sent each side a one-page document of
its “non-negotiable basic elements,” most of
which were distilled from the draft agree-
ments Ambassador Hill had been circulating
among the parties. (12) Despite the threat of
force from NATO, the Serbs continued to
build up forces in and around Kosovo, a
move that signaled to NATO that an offensive
was being contemplated against both the KLA
forces and the Kosovar Albanian civilians,
despite the presence of the Serbs at the nego-
tiations in France. (13)
The Serbian/FRY delegation and the Kosovar
delegation each had symptoms of fragmenta-
tion and disunity. The Serb/FRY delegation
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While Kosovars were firmly in favor
of a NATO presence to implement an
agreement, the annexes contemplated
the KLA’s demilitarization.
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
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included FRY nationals who purported to rep-
resent Serbs and others living in Kosovo, as
well as Serbian and Yugoslav political figures.
The Kosovar delegation also had fracture lines
of its own; some negotiators represented the
government of President Rugova and his
party, the LDK, while others were close to the
main opposition party, the LBD (United
Democratic Movement) and the KLA forces.
The delegation itself was led by Hashim
Thaci, the then 29 year old head of the KLA’s
political wing who appeared to be taking his
negotiation instructions from Adem Demaci,
a top KLA leader and longtime political pris-
oner who would not attend Rambouillet. (14)
The Rambouillet talks commenced on Febru-
ary 6, 1999. The respective Serb and Kosovar
delegations never met to hold any substantive
talks. Rather, they were ensconced in separate
conference rooms on different floors of the
building, with a large number of interested
third parties present as well, including delega-
tions from the U.S., Russia, France, Italy,
Germany, the UK (the Contact Group itself),
the EU, the OSCE and others. The mediators
shuttled between floors to conduct substan-
tive discussions. The negotiations were
overseen by U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia
Chris Hill, Austrian Ambassador to Belgrade
Wolfgang Petrisch, and Russian Deputy For-
eign Minister Boris Mayorski. They in turn,
delegated much of the discussions to Contact
Group legal experts led by a representative
of the U.S. State Department. The FRY/
Serb delegation, which had initially claimed
it would not even attend Rambouillet if
KLA members were present, arrived insisting
on direct instead of proximity negotiations.
It is reported that no direct talks ever
occurred at Rambouillet. (15)
The parties worked on a series of drafts
created by the Contact Group. Upon arrival,
the delegations were handed a one-page
set of non-negotiable principles meant
to guide the negotiations and set out the
parameters of discussion. This was immedi-
ately followed up by a comprehensive draft
framework agreement that covered the politi-
cal aspects of a settlement.
The mediators’ ground-rules for Rambouillet
contemplated discussions based on their text
of an interim agreement only. The parties
were invited to submit comments on the text,
with modifications possible only if both par-
ties agreed or if the mediators themselves
believed a proposed change would facilitate
agreement. If the parties could not agree on a
proposed change, it was not supposed to be
integrated into the draft. Proposed changes
were also supposed to be consistent with the
non-negotiable principles. A media black-out
was declared, but in practice proved quite
porous. Delegates were to be completely
confined to the Chateau for the duration of
the talks. However, to accommodate outside
experts, each delegation was permitted five
rotating passes permitting egress and entry. (16)
By the end of the first week at Rambouillet,
the Kosovar delegation had submitted
detailed comments on the draft. The Serbs
declined to make written submissions even
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
For the Kosovars, Paris was framed
as little more than a signing cere-
mony. For the Serbs, Paris was
thought of as an opportunity for
further bargaining sessions.
after Rambouillet had been extended, only
offering to sign the non-negotiable principles.
In the absence of any substantive comments
from the Serb delegation, Ambassador Hill
traveled to see President Milosevic in Belgrade
with a senior member of the Serb delegation.
This had the effect of goading the Serbs to
finally make a written submission on the draft
almost two weeks after the conference had
begun, much of which, according to some
sources, was incompatible with the ‘non-
negotiable’ principles. (17)
On the Kosovar side, Hashim Thaci was
finally permitted to leave Rambouillet in
order to consult with his superior, Demaci,
who by several accounts instructed his protégé
to not sign the Rambouillet Accords. (18)
On February 17, the Contact Group legal
experts informed the Kosovar delegation that
the Serbs had a reduced set of changes
they now required, and that negotiations
would now proceed on the basis of conces-
sions to the Serbs.
On February 18, with only two days left until
the scheduled end of the conference, the Con-
tact Group submitted to the two delegations a
new draft political settlement that seemed to
reflect Milosevic’s preferences on the parame-
ters of settlement. In contrast, “very few of the
suggestions proposed by the Kosovo delega-
tion had been adopted.” (19) The Kosovo dele-
gation formally protested and refused to even
receive the new draft, thus hoping to commu-
nicate to the mediators “a serious warning
that the fundamental change of the draft
in favor of the side which had obstructed pro-
gress in the talks until the last minute jeopard-
ized further constructive participation from
the Kosovo delegation.” (20) In any case, the
Serbs also declined to sign onto the newest
version of the agreement.
But the draft agreement itself only covered the
political autonomy arrangements for Kosovo.
The critical annexes covering the civilian and
military aspects of implementation had only
just been distributed to the parties. The mili-
tary aspect of implementation referred to the
selection and mandate of the military forces
that would be responsible for peacekeeping.
The Contact Group, with the exception of
Russia, had a strong preference for NATO to
be the predominant military guarantor of an
eventual peace. This preference was shared by
the Kosovars, and strongly opposed by the
Serbs, who, by some accounts, could have
been amenable to a multinational force under
the jurisdiction of the UN or the OSCE. (21)
When noon of February 20, 1999 passed
without agreement, the parties were asked to
indicate their agreement with the Contact
Group text as it stood. When both delega-
tions refused, the mediation was extended
until 3 p.m. February 23. Negotiations pro-
ceeded now with greater intensity; the Con-
tact Group legal experts shuttled back and
forth with each side, mediating their respec-
tive demands so as to decrease the likelihood
of rejection. A new text was then created,
incorporating both the political settlement
and the annexes into a unified overall docu-
ment. The February 23 deadline arrived, and
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The parties’ attitudes could be
paraphrased as ‘Yes, but we’ll sign
later’ (Kosovars) and ‘No, but let’s
keep talking’ (Serbs).
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
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the Rambouillet Accords were again pre-
sented for signature to both sides. (22)
The Kosovars still refused to sign the agree-
ment on February 23, but declared that the
delegation had voted in favor of the text and
would return to Kosovo for internal consulta-
tions. The Serbs pushed for further negotia-
tions, having accepted in principle that the
Kosovars could exercise a measure of self-
government under Serbian sovereignty. The
Serbs also appeared to have finally agreed to
some kind of international presence in Kos-
ovo, although they were still against NATO.
Milutinovic, Serbia’s president, acknowledged
that “the scope and character of an interna-
tional presence” were on the table. This was
interpreted by some observers as Serbian ac-
ceptance of a multinational force if it in-
cluded significant numbers of Russian troops
not under NATO command. (23)
While the Kosovars were firmly in favor of
a NATO presence to implement an agree-
ment, the annexes contemplated the KLA’s
demilitarization. This provision created new
uncertainties for the KLA. Given their
predominance in the Kosovar delegation at
Rambouillet, disarmament would have made
it far more difficult to sign the Interim Agree-
ment draft in the absence of a clear final
status for Kosovo. The future political status
of Kosovo under an eventual final agreement
appears to have received little attention by the
Contact Group until the final night of nego-
tiations. (24) The Contact Group, the UN,
and NATO had all affirmed their support
for the territorial integrity of the FRY. The
Rambouillet negotiations could not reconcile
this tension between Kosovar final status
sovereignty and Yugoslav territorial integrity.
The parties and the mediators had met for 17
days without reaching agreement and two
deadlines for NATO bombing had passed.
The parties’ attitudes could be paraphrased as
‘Yes, but we’ll sign later’ (Kosovars) and ‘No,
but let’s keep talking’ (Serbs). Under such
circumstances, the mediators opted to declare
a partial victory and spare the regime of
Slobodan Milosevic from a NATO bombing
campaign. Instead of bombing, a new round
of diplomacy was scheduled by the Contact
Group: the Paris Talks of March 15, 1999.
For the Kosovars, Paris was framed as little
more than a signing ceremony. For the Serbs,
Paris was thought of as an opportunity for
further bargaining sessions.
Paris Talks
The story of the Paris Talks is neither long
nor complicated, but can be seen as separate
from the Rambouillet talks. Some critical
events affecting the Paris Talks took place in
the interim period between Rambouillet and
Paris: Slovenia’s Prime Minister, working
in cooperation with U.S. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright, conducted secret talks
with the KLA leadership. Thaci was flown to
Slovenia, where he secretly met with Slove-
nia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Janez Drnovcek and
Ambassador Ernest Petric, who persuaded
Thaci to assume the top leadership of the
KLA, while they simultaneously persuaded
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
On the Kosovar side, Thaci was
finally permitted to leave Rambouillet
in order to consult with his superior,
Demaci, who instructed his protégé
to not sign the Rambouillet Accords.
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Demaci to resign, all in the hopes of facilitat-
ing the Kosovars to sign onto the Rambouillet
draft. (25) On March 2, Demaci announced his
resignation from the KLA, ostensibly in pro-
test at the Rambouillet negotiations, which
had resulted in neither a Serbian withdrawal
or ceasefire, nor Kosovar independence. (26)
On March 15, the parties gathered at the
International Conference Center in Paris.
The Kosovar delegation immediately pre-
sented a formal letter of acceptance of the
agreement and declared that they would be
“honored to sign the Agreement in your pres-
ence at a time and place of your choosing.”
However, the Contact Group would not open
the document for signing and instead urged
the Kosovars to wait while the Serbs were en-
gaged in further talks. The following day, the
Contact Group mediators firmly declared that
only technical adjustments could be proposed
to the text, and even those would have to be
acceptable to both principal parties.
For several days, the Kosovars and the Con-
tact Group mediators discussed economic
reconstruction, civilian implementation
issues, election monitoring and other issues.
The Serbs tried a different approach: they pre-
sented their own entirely new version of the
agreement to the mediators. However, their
draft essentially sought to resolve the Kosovo
issue on terms the Kosovars could never
accept; abolition of the Kosovar presidency,
constitution, and autonomy. No implementa-
tion mechanisms in terms of armed peace-
keepers or an international civil administra-
tion were contemplated in the Serbs’ draft. (27)
Therefore, the Contact Group opened
the February 23 version of the Rambouillet
Accords for signature on March 18, 1999.
The Kosovars duly signed it, although Ambas-
sador Mayorski of the Russian Federation
declined to witness the Kosovars’ signature.
The Kosovars issued a statement after the
signing providing their interpretation of the
Agreement: they regarded NATO peacekeep-
ing as the sine qua non of their acceptance,
they would hold a referendum on the political
status of Kosovo at the end of the three year
interim period and they would undertake to
transform the KLA into a political actor. (28)
Even after the Kosovars’ signature, on March
19, a final attempt was made to persuade the
Serbs to sign on, but to no avail. The Contact
Group issued a statement accusing the Serbs
of trying to “unravel the Rambouillet
Accords” and warned them not to undertake
any military moves or to interfere with
the OSCE’s Kosovo Verification Mission. The
Serb forces in Kosovo attacked civilians,
driving up the number of displaced persons
and refugees to over 200,000. (29)
The Holbrooke Mission
The Contact Group mediators, accompanied
by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, traveled
to Belgrade on March 22 in order to persuade
Milosevic and the Serbs to end their offensive
and accept the Rambouillet Accords as
drafted. The seeds for this mission had been
sown during Rambouillet, as some observers
and participants believed that the Serb delega-
tion was not authorized to make any commit-
ments at Rambouillet and that Milosevic
was keeping such authority to himself. (30)
The March 22-23 mission was fruitless, de-
spite the credibility and status of its members,
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
-45-
the finality of the mission and the impending
use of force as a sanction. On March 23,
the Yugoslav parliament voted to reject the
accords, prompting Holbrooke to depart Bel-
grade and proceed to Brussels to brief NATO.
Javier Solana, the NATO Secretary-General,
immediately ordered General Wesley Clark,
the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe,
to commence an air war against the FRY.
Analysis
On the face of it, the Contact Group had
acted correctly: they created a fading opportu-
nity for a political settlement that provided
the Kosovars with great autonomy, without
permitting them to secede from FRY/Serbia;
these were the twin goals of the negotiations
from the beginning. They had controlled the
negotiation process and successive drafting
of the Rambouillet Accords. The parties’ dele-
gations appeared to have been shaped by the
Contact Group with a view toward broad
representation. They had attempted to side-
line or co-opt hardline Kosovar and Serbian
leaders while providing a credible threat
of war against the Serbs if their com-
mitments to the Contact Group and NATO
were broken. By at least some criteria of
negotiation analysis, these negotiations may
have been predicted to succeed. Yet, these
negotiation attempts failed to accomplish
their stated purposes. (31)
By examining the structural aspects of these
negotiations, we begin to appreciate at least
some of the reasons for this failure. The classi-
cal definition of negotiation structure, which
comprehends power asymmetry, is certainly
relevant here. But so are other structural
aspects, particularly:
!" the complexity of the delegations;
!" the major issues at stake;
!" the interests of the parties concerning
these issues;
!" the linkages between the interim
arrangements and final status; and
!" the zone of possible agreement.
In terms of power asymmetry, the most rele-
vant way to apply this concept is to look at the
three-way disparities of power among the
Serbs (including FRY), the Kosovars, and the
Contact Group mediators (including NATO),
as this was really not a simple bilateral nego-
tiation between two monolithic parties.
The Serb forces clearly had superiority on the
ground against the KLA, even though the lat-
ter was quickly finding ways to smuggle arms
and increase its ability to inflict costs on the
Serbs. And yet, Serbian military power was no
match for the combined capacity of NATO
air forces, which had already demonstrated
their ability (mixed with reluctance) to take on
Serbian forces in the past.
But NATO was not yet engaging the
Serbs and was not pre-positioned to attack
during the negotiations. Its power was there-
fore limited to the threat of the use of force,
and this had been carefully evaded by
the Serbs both before and during the
Rambouillet negotiations.
The weaker party, the Kosovars, boosted their
relative power by becoming the beneficiary of
NATO’s threat of force against the Serbs, and
of any real action against the Serbs, even in
the absence of a true alliance. The NATO dec-
larations against the KLA were muted by com-
parison to their declarations against the Serbs.
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
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Thus the most powerful and the weakest par-
ties were to some degree joined in an unde-
fined coalition against the Serbs. This should
have helped the negotiations succeed because
it would tend to reduce the asymmetry. Yet, it
did not. The reason this use of power and
asymmetry reduction did not work out well
may have more to do with the main issues
that were being negotiated: Kosovo’s political
status and NATO’s role in implementation.
It is not necessary to delve into the specifics of
drafting the Rambouillet Accords. The broad
contours of the drafts concerned the degree
of interim autonomy the Kosovars could
enjoy and the modality of keeping peace
(implementing the agreement). Despite their
later willingness to entertain some Kosovar
autonomy and a non-NATO presence to pro-
tect the Kosovars, the Serbs were very inclined
to see autonomy as a negative; undesirable,
and from their perspective little more than a
step on the way to the full secession of
Kosovo from both Serbia and the FRY.
In this regard, and attempting to look at the
issue from the Serbian perspective, the threat
of force and reduction of power asymmetry
most likely had the effect of presenting the
Serbs with two unpalatable choices: lose
Kosovo at the negotiation table (in effect, giv-
ing it away for nothing in return except a
promise that NATO would not attack and
sanctions might be lifted) or lose Kosovo in a
‘heroic’ battle against NATO, which could
(and did) bring loss of life, but could also be
framed by Milosevic as an act of aggression
against Serbia. It is very likely that the Serbs
chose the second path precisely because it was
less undesirable than the first. In other words,
it was the lesser of two evils from Milosevic’
perspective. The use of the word ‘chose’ is
deliberate because the negotiations, despite
procedural and structural flaws, did present
the Serbs with choices.
But this structural examination also helps to
explain why the Kosovars also did not wish to
sign the Rambouillet Accords on February 23.
Signing on that date would have given them a
clear moral victory over the Serbs, and earned
them the credibility and respect of the Con-
tact Group, whose members’ reputations were
at stake. Signing would have strengthened the
KLA-Contact Group coalition of convenience.
And yet, they did not sign. Certainly the Kos-
ovar approval without signature was portrayed
by the Contact Groups as an ‘acceptance’ of
Rambouillet, thus possibly gaining the
Kosovars the benefit of signing without fully
committing them to its terms. But here too,
the issues and the power asymmetry inter-
relate. To illustrate: for most Kosovars, there
was no point in seeking a permanent auton-
omy under Serbian sovereignty. With the past
as a guide, Serbia had no tolerance for
Kosovar autonomy however limited, and there
was always the issue of the Serbian population
in Kosovo. The military offensives prior to
Rambouillet had obliterated any possibility
that the Kosovars would seek anything
less than independence. They too felt that
they must hold out for a link to a future with-
out any Serbian sovereignty over them. Ram-
bouillet did not give this to them unequivo-
cally, although it did provide for the referen-
dum which could be used for that purpose.
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
For most Kosovars, there was no
point in seeking a permanent auton-
omy under Serbian Sovereignty.
-47-
Nevertheless, what incentive did the Kosovars
have to save the Serbs from themselves? Sign-
ing on February 23 could have meant extra
leverage for the mediators and a possible Ser-
bian signature or acquiescence, thus permit-
ting the Serbs to once again escape the wrath
of the international community. It may have
been preferable to the Kosovars to lose some
of their KLA military gains in exchange for a
full NATO attack on Serbia. From the Kos-
ovars’ perspective, NATO use of force to evict
Serb forces from Kosovo probably seemed
preferable to their negotiated withdrawal.
The delegations of both the Serbs and
Kosovars could not be said to be monolithic
in any way—that is, their respective ability to
commit themselves to an agreement was lim-
ited by their fractured nature. Disagreements
within delegations are, in theory and practice,
just as problematic as disagreements across
delegations. Pluralistic parties exacerbate this
problem. The Serb delegation included sev-
eral people purporting to represent non-
Albanian Kosovars, and only later brought in
professional negotiators. The Kosovar delega-
tion included representatives of the KLA and
two major political parties, but key figures like
President Rugova were missing as were other
decisionmakers from both sides. Factional
lines were apparent in the delegations. The
additional breadth of the delegations might
have been used to build a broader coalition
in favor of a peaceful settlement. That very
breadth seemed to work against success.
Demaci’s attempts to derail the Rambouillet
process from his exile in Slovenia, and
Milosevic’s attempts to prevent his negotiators
from committing to Rambouillet help explain
this dynamic. The successful replacement of
Demaci with Thaci, engineered by the Slove-
nians, was one part of the puzzle, and helped
to cement Kosovar approval of the Accords.
Milosevic was a different kind of a spoiler
than Demaci, who had been the longest-
serving political prisoner in the world at the
time. The Serb delegation was composed of
two sovereign entities’ representatives; those
from Serbia and those from the FRY. The
direct diplomatic approaches by Holbrooke
and Solana to Milosevic stemmed from the
latter’s overarching authority over Serbian
political decision making on Kosovo and
everything else. His valuation of the different
negotiation outcomes was seriously misinter-
preted by the Contact Group, who probably
thought that the threat of force alone would
make him change his mind, as it had occa-
sionally done in the past.
Similarly, the interested third parties at
Rambouillet and beyond comprised a large
number of parties: at least six countries
(the Contact Group), the North Atlantic
Council and NATO, as well as the individual
members of NATO, the United Nations Secu-
rity Council, the OSCE, and the European
Union. Problems of coordination in peace-
making when the interveners are themselves
pluralistic are well-known.
One of the main problems is the different
preferences among the third parties. They may
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
Why sign an agreement to stop
fighting if you believe you might
inflict losses on your enemy and
you’re not sure if you’ll achieve
your political aims in the future?
-48-
differ on their approach to the negotiations,
their preferences with regards to sanctions,
their willingness to use force, their skill in me-
diation, their ability to exercise leverage over
others and many other aspect of peacemaking.
In short, they too are engaged in a constant
series of internal negotiations that make
it more difficult to project a unified stance.
Press accounts of the negotiations occasionally
gave the impression that one or another coun-
try from the third parties was not in agree-
ment with the others on the process of media-
tion, the use of air strikes, and other issues.
Finally, there appears to be a built-in weakness
in negotiations for interim accords that rely
on an indeterminate future permanent settle-
ment. Interim accords are meant to deescalate
crises, achieve confidence building measures
and gain traction on operational issues that
bring benefits to the conflict parties. They do
not usually seek to resolve or transform the
underlying conflict dynamics, but rather seek
to build up enough of a relationship among
the parties so that they can eventually achieve
a permanent settlement. If the interim meas-
ures fail to bring their promised benefits
to parties, this could have the opposite of
the intended effect: an erosion of confidence
in a permanent settlement. And if the interim
accords do not articulate the future perma-
nent status in a way that all parties can feel
comfortable with, it may make little sense to
sign an interim agreement in the first place.
Why sign an agreement to stop fighting if
you believe you might inflict losses on your
enemy and you’re not sure if you’ll achieve
your political aims in the future? This linkage
is a structural element not well-studied in
negotiation literature, and that merits further
empirical research.
A number of structural elements help us de-
termine the existence and scope of a zone of
possible agreement (ZOPA), but it is also the
preferences of the parties and their attitude
toward compromise and negotiation that
shape the ZOPA. Ambassador Petritsch has
shed light on the preferences of the parties in
this regard, and his statements give the im-
pression that neither side was truly interested
in creating or widening the ZOPA: “Both the
Albanian and the Yugoslav sides did not
believe in compromise… During the negotia-
tions, we were confronted with one of the
crucial political problems of the region: the
lack of a culture of political compromise.
Compromise is perceived negatively in the
region—it is seen to mean giving in to the op-
pressor. I have noticed that politicians in the
former Yugoslavia are still aiming for ‘win-or-
lose’ scenarios. They would rather be defeated
than compromise. The concept of a ‘win–win
situation’ simply does not exist.” (32)
The existence of this attitude toward negotia-
tion, in combination with the structural
elements above, asks whether or not the
Rambouillet negotiations and their follow-up
were properly analyzed in the first place.
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
...what incentive did the Kosovars
have to save the Serbs from them-
selves? Signing on February 12
could have meant extra leverage
for the mediators and a possible
Serbian signature or acquiescence,
permitting the Serbs to once again
escape the wrath of the interna-
tional community.
-49-
The structural problems with these negotia-
tions was quite strong, constraining the proc-
ess choices for the mediators. Their attempts
to impose their own draft agreement on the
parties might have worked in the absence of
the other structural problems. But it also did
little to engender buy-in from the parties. The
Serbs in particular seemed singularly unwill-
ing to have the Contact Group impose their
draft at Rambouillet, and at Paris, the Serbs
demonstrated their contempt for the negotia-
tion management of the Contact Group by
introducing their own eleventh hour draft.
Although there is no reason to believe that
the Rambouillet negotiations and their follow
on negotiations were pre-destined to fail, it
is apparent that their structural aspects weak-
ened the chances of success and worked
together to make failure more likely. The abil-
ity of the interested parties to successfully
complete their current negotiations on the
future status of Kosovo can benefit from an
analytical—rather than a strictly partisan—
analysis of the past negotiation failures, on the
assumption that parties want in good faith to
reach an agreement in 2006-2007.
The Diplomatic Courier Issue Two, Volume One
Dr. Anthony Wanis-St.John is an Assistant
Professor of International Peace and Conflict
Resolution at American University’s School
of International Service.
ENDNOTES
1. David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995), 78, 304-305
2. The final composition of the Balkan Contact Group was the United States, the Russian Federation, France,
United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. Christoph Schwegmann, “The Contact Group and its Impact on the European Institutional Structure,”
Occasional Papers 16, Institute for Security Studies, Western European Union, June 2000.
3. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1199 (1998), S/RES/1199 (1998), September 23, 1998
4. KOSOVO/KOSOVA: As Seen, As Told: An analysis of the human rights findings of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission, October 1998 to June 1999
(OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. 1999)
5. As an “Autonomous Province,” Kosovo enjoyed many of the same rights and responsibilities as the Republics within the Yugoslav framework:
territorial integrity, borders, use of national languages, legislation, law enforcement. “The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a federal
state having the form of a state community of voluntarily united nations and their Socialist Republics, and of the Socialist Autonomous Provinces
of Vojvodina and Kosovo, which are constituent parts of the Socialist Republic of Serbia.”
6. Art. 1, Constitution of Yugoslavia (1974, as amended through 1987), reprinted in Hurst Hannum, ed., Documents
on Autonomy and Minority Rights (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1993).
7. Marc Weller, “The Rambouillet conference on Kosovo,” International Affairs vol. 75, no. 2 (1999), 211-251.
8. See the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1203 (1998), October 24, 1998. S/RES/1203 (1998)
9. Weller, “The Rambouillet conference,” 220.
10. Statement by the President of the UN Secretary General, January 19, 1999, S/PRST/1999/2
11. Military Technical Agreement between the International Security Force ("KFOR") and the Governments of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
and the Republic of Serbia, June 9, 1999, which established the NATO ‘international security force’ (KFOR) and gave the defeated FRY and
Serbian forces 11 days to withdraw completely from Kosovo.
12. NATO Press Release 99 (12), accessible at http://www.nato.int/docu/pr/1999/p99-012e.htm.
13. Weller, p. 225.
14. Javier Solana, “NATO’s Success in Kosovo,” Foreign Affairs vol. 78, no. 6 (November/December 1999): 114-120.
15. “Kosovo’s Elusive Peace,” The Economist, February 27, 1999; Weller, “The Rambouillet Conference on Kosovo,” p. 227.
16. Weller, 228.
17. Weller, 228.
18. Weller, 229, 230.
19. Barry Came, Guy Dinmore, “High tension in Kosovo,” Maclean's, March 8, 1999, p. 10
20. Weller, p. 230.
21. Weller, p. 231.
22. “Forgotten Coverage of Rambouillet Negotiations: Was A Peaceful Kosovo Solution Rejected by U.S.?
Press Release of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), May 14, 1999
23. The text of the February 23, 1999 draft is available on numerous web sites, including the U.S. Institute of Peace.
24. “Kosovo’s elusive peace,” Economist, February 27, 1999, p. 45-47
25. Weller, p. 232-233.
26. Dr. Ernest Petric, current Ambassador of Slovenia to IAEA, Interview with the author, February 23, 2006.
“Our purpose [in our back channel contacts with Thaci] was to avoid further violence, expulsion and escalation.”
27. “Demaci quits the KLA as Kosovars gamble on peace,” Muslimedia, March 16-31, 1999
28. Weller, p. 235-236.
29. Weller, p. 235.
30. Weller, p. 236.
31. “There is nobody there [in the Serbian delegation] who at the end of the day is going to sign up to anything,”
one Western diplomatic source told the Christian Science Monitor. Landay, “Inside the Kosovo peace talks,” p.5
32. Interview with Wolfgang Petritsch, EU Mediator at Rambouillet, by Christophe Solioz,
“The fate of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, vol. 5, no. 3 (December 2003).
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
The NATO war in Kosovo did not come out of the blue. The alliance fought only after Belgrade turned a deaf ear to diplomacy, and NATO knew the risks it was running. But doing nothing would have been worse; assenting to Slobodan Milošević's mass killings would have dangerously undermined the credibility of Western institutions.
Article
The Rambouillet process sought to re-establish autonomous governance andhuman rights for Kosovo, under the protection of the international community. However, the Kosovo authorities had committed themselves to outright independence while the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consistently rejected any international interest in the affairs of Kosovo, which it considered an entirely domestic matter. To reconcile these irreconcilable views, an initial attempt was made to establish self-governance for Kosovo for an interim period, without touching upon the issue of the status of that territory.As the Rambouillet conference progressed, the Contact Group moved significantly towards the FRY/Serb demand of expressly confirming its continued sovereignty and territorial integrity over Kosovo. While this and other concessions did not help to engage the FRY in the negotiating process, itjeopardized the acceptance of the agreement by Kosovo. The negotiations werebacked by the threat of the use of force, which could only be innovatively justified by reference to the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, inasmuch as there existed no formal Security Council mandate. However, the credibility of that threat was initially undermined by splits within the Contact Group during the actual negotiations, which also extended to implementation of the agreementupon acceptance by NATO. Moreover, the negotiations were hampered by thefact that one of the three principal international negotiators openly sided withone of the parties and essentially represented it. Encouraged by these divisions, Belgrade manoeuvred itself into a position of direct confrontation with NATO, which could now genuinely argue that the grave humanitarian emergency in Kosovo could only be addressed through acceptance of the Rambouilletaccord by Yugoslavia, even if sustained military attacks were required to achieve that end.
Article
[Summary]. Among the institutions which emerged during the crisis management phase in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, the so-called Balkan Contact Group turned out to be the innovation with the greatest impact on European institutional structures. Established in spring 1994 the Contact Group served as a coordination forum of the crisis management efforts of the United States, the Russian Federation, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy (since 1996). Hence, the Contact Group became a decisive factor in uniting the international community of states. Despite many internal squabbles, the Contact Group maintained a common approach towards the belligerents and made peace negotiations possible. Having agreed on common positions, the Contact Group states, due to their prominent place in relevant international organisations, were able to act as lead nations of the international community. In this manner, the Contact Group was instrumental in negotiating the peace agreements for Bosnia and Kosovo and assuming responsibility for the peace implementation processes. Despite the Contact Group’s positive impact on the international community’s crisis management capabilities, its existence raises normative questions concerning membership, admission, control and transparency. This is especially with regard to the European Contact Group members and their obligations resulting from the Treaty of the European Union. This paper assesses the Contact Group’s role in international crisis management and it discusses the relationship between the Contact Group and international organisations, especially the European Union. It argues, however, that the Contact Group does not harm the attempts to deepen the Common European Foreign and Security Policy. Instead, it is a useful addition to the European institutional structures and a helpful instrument in healing institutional deficiencies. Contact Group-like arrangements should, therefore, always be considered as an option in European crisis management, at least as long as no alternative institutional arrangement is available.
As Seen, As Told: An analysis of the human rights findings of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission
  • Kosovo Kosova
KOSOVO/KOSOVA: As Seen, As Told: An analysis of the human rights findings of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission, October 1998 to June 1999 (OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. 1999)
The final composition of the Balkan Contact Group was the United States, the Russian Federation
  • David Owen
  • Balkan Odyssey
David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995), 78, 304-305 2. The final composition of the Balkan Contact Group was the United States, the Russian Federation, France, United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. Christoph Schwegmann, "The Contact Group and its Impact on the European Institutional Structure," Occasional Papers 16, Institute for Security Studies, Western European Union, June 2000.
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a federal state having the form of a state community of voluntarily united nations and their Socialist Republics, and of the Socialist Autonomous Provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, which are constituent parts of the Socialist Republic of Serbia
As an "Autonomous Province," Kosovo enjoyed many of the same rights and responsibilities as the Republics within the Yugoslav framework: territorial integrity, borders, use of national languages, legislation, law enforcement. "The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a federal state having the form of a state community of voluntarily united nations and their Socialist Republics, and of the Socialist Autonomous Provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, which are constituent parts of the Socialist Republic of Serbia." 6. Art. 1, Constitution of Yugoslavia (1974, as amended through 1987), reprinted in Hurst Hannum, ed., Documents on Autonomy and Minority Rights (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1993).
220. 10. Statement by the President of the UN Secretary General
  • Weller
Weller, "The Rambouillet conference," 220. 10. Statement by the President of the UN Secretary General, January 19, 1999, S/PRST/1999/2
High tension in Kosovo
  • Barry Came
  • Guy Dinmore
Barry Came, Guy Dinmore, "High tension in Kosovo," Maclean's, March 8, 1999, p. 10
Forgotten Coverage of Rambouillet Negotiations: Was A Peaceful Kosovo Solution Rejected by U.S.? Press Release of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
  • Weller
Weller, p. 231. 22. "Forgotten Coverage of Rambouillet Negotiations: Was A Peaceful Kosovo Solution Rejected by U.S.? Press Release of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), May 14, 1999 23. The text of the February 23, 1999 draft is available on numerous web sites, including the U.S. Institute of Peace. 24. "Kosovo's elusive peace," Economist, February 27, 1999, p. 45-47
Our purpose [in our back channel contacts with Thaci] was to avoid further violence, expulsion and escalation
  • Dr
Dr. Ernest Petric, current Ambassador of Slovenia to IAEA, Interview with the author, February 23, 2006. "Our purpose [in our back channel contacts with Thaci] was to avoid further violence, expulsion and escalation." 27. "Demaci quits the KLA as Kosovars gamble on peace," Muslimedia, March 16-31, 1999 28. Weller, p. 235-236.