Talbott outlines goals for Kosovo
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott told a group of journalists at the Aspen Institute yesterday the U.S. State Department opposes independence for Kosovo.
Talbott is in Aspen for a multiday meeting of the Aspen Strategy Group, a bipartisan group of top-level foreign policy wonks. Administration of Yugoslavia after the war in the Balkans was the main subject of conversation when Talbott met media representatives for breakfast Tuesday.
The United States will not set a deadline for withdrawal of troops from Kosovo, Talbott said. “We’ve been burned before on deadlines,” he explained. But the military doesn’t have the resources to maintain a presence indefinitely in Yugoslavia, or for that matter, all the other places where peacekeeping operations are under way, he said.
How to promote neighborliness within the shattered province, however, is a greater problem, he said. Though the concept of multi-ethnicity is dear to the hearts of Americans, Talbott said, it’s not something that can be imposed on people with years of conflict behind them. Multi-ethnicity, he said, means people of different ethnic groups living on the same block.
On the other hand, Talbott said he opposes setting up ethnic enclaves, because that leads to partitioning of the country, and ultimately to conflict across partitions.
“We hope some Serbs will come back when Kosovo returns to some semblance of normalcy,” Talbott said. Much needs to be done to promote the return of refugees to Kosovo, he added.
The State Department’s preference would be for Kosovo to be an autonomous part of Yugoslavia, Talbott said, but for the near future, the province will be “a ward of the international community.
“We are opposed to an independent Kosovo,” he continued. “It would be dangerous for the region if those who want to dismember Yugoslavia prevail.” He compared breaking up the country to opening Pandora’s Box. “Once you open it, a number of nasty flying things come out,” he said.
The United States will stand firm against sending any aid to Serbia while Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power, Talbott said. Any aid that could be mistaken for a token of respect for the Milosevic regime would be counter to the goal of removing him from power.
Talbott expressed confidence that Milosevic will fall, because the Serbs are a proud European people and want to belong to the international community. He said Serbia defies comparison with Iraq – where Western powers have had no success in bringing down Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship despite several years of economic sanctions.
It’s essential for the future of the country to eliminate Milosevic, Talbott said. “His removal is a requirement to hold Yugoslavia together.”
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