Comment: Here's a deal that Milosevic just might be forced to take

UN trusteeship excludes partition of Kosovo but does not prejudge the question of independence

THE CONTINUED credibility of Nato is a fundamental Western interest. Therefore, this war against Serbia cannot be allowed to weaken Nato. That means Nato's wholly legitimate war aims have to be secured before the bombing ceases. These essentially are, stripped of references to Nato and Rambouillet, that all Serbian armed forces, paramilitaries and armed policemen must be withdrawn from Kosovo and all refugees, whether of Albanian or Serbian origin, must be free to return to their homes in Kosovo, protected by an effective armed international force.

In the midst of war, criticism has to be muted. No supporter of Nato wants to undermine its armed forces or bring comfort to those who oppose it. Nevertheless, it is necessary for Nato to admit to itself that it was a mistake not to build up large conventional forces around Serbia, demonstrating to President Milosevic that Nato was ready, if necessary, to invade Kosovo.

Had such a build-up been started before and during the Rambouillet negotiations, then President Milosevic would have negotiated more seriously and very likely neither Nato bombs nor missiles would have been used. It was for political reasons that ground forces were not deployed, but public opinion has hardened in the US as well as in Europe over the need to reinforce air attacks with conventional forces.

Nato should respond immediately to the Serbs having put troops into the small UN area on Prevlaka between the Bay of Kotor and Croatia, by deploying marines on ships in the Adriatic. Nato should also be openly putting airborne forces on alert, and moving tanks and heavy equipment, such as bridge materials, close to Serbia.

Unfortunately, given what has happened politically in Macedonia as a result of the massive influx of refugees from Kosovo, Nato has little alternative other than to keep to its pledge to use its forces deployed on Macedonian territory for the implementation of a settlement. In effect, this means building up troop levels and equipment in Hungary, a new Nato member state, and in Albania, a member of Nato's Partnership for Peace.

There were good political and historic arguments for not involving these two countries at the outset, but, for Nato's war aims to succeed, their territory is vital.

This has the virtue of demonstrating that Nato is not a debating society but a military alliance, membership of which carries obligations and responsibilities. During this conventional build-up, while air attacks must continue, their targeting should openly demonstrate to the Serbs that Nato is preparing for a ground invasion, not just into Kosovo but also, if necessary, into Montenegro from the sea and from Hungary into the Vojvodina.

Meanwhile, diplomacy should be undertaken by a combination of the UN Secretary General and the Russian Federation. President Yeltsin, though his envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, has an opportunity to play an influential role in the G8. Individual Nato countries should not take peace initiatives; instead that should be left to the five Nato members in the Contact Group to negotiate directly with Russia and to liaise with the UN.

President Milosevic should be offered a largely non-negotiable alternative to Nato invasion. But he, Russia and the UN should be under no illusion that once any Nato ground attack commences, all peace offers are off the table.

The basis for a UN-Russian-led peace settlement should be that under the UN Charter trusteeship provisions Kosovo would be declared a Strategic Trust Territory where all UN administration would come under the Security Council.

The sizeable international military implementation force necessary to ensure the basic war aims would be authorised by the Security Council to act with full authority under chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Whether the military force should be under UN command or military authority be vested by the Security Council in the OSCE (Organisation for European Security and Co-operation) will depend on the negotiating process. It is unlikely that Russia would accept the type of military deployment in Bosnia since Nato is in all essentials in control, but if they did, so much the better.

Whether the force were under the UN or the OSCE, a sizeable element would have to come from Nato, and from Russia and non-Nato European countries.

The virtue of trusteeship is that it excludes partition of Kosovo but it does not prejudge the question of independence. It is a simple mechanism for transferring authority to the UN and allowing for a military protectorate. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) has to take the decision to transfer sovereignty over Kosovo to the UN. Yet, the UN is the only international organisation that the Serbs still respect. They must know that no change in the UN trusteeship could occur without the agreement of the Security Council.

In that way, the Serbs could feel that the future of Kosovo was left open, and that they had not succumbed to Nato control or lost out to the KLA.

If the OSCE is to be involved, then the FRY should be readmitted. The people of Kosovo under UN trusteeship would, of course, be granted the maximum possible degree of self-government with full protection for minorities and respect for human rights, and religious sites would be protected, with open access to all from within and outside Kosovo.

A Balkan Conference would follow UN trusteeship, the return of refugees to Kosovo and the establishment of a stable administration. At that conference, to which the FRY would be invited, a global solution to all outstanding problems would be on the table. The EU could play a significant economic and political role, mapping out a future in which all Balkan states who wished to do so could eventually become full members of the EU.

President Milosevic would be told that if he rejects a UN-Russian brokered diplomatic offer, agreed with Nato, then, after a military invasion in which many brave Nato soldiers will have lost their lives, not only will he lose all influence on Kosovo's future, but Nato will support Montenegro's President Milo Djukanovic; and that new oil and other sanctions will be applied to Serbia. These sanctions, he should be told, will not be lifted until those leaders under arrest order from the War Crimes Tribunal are delivered to The Hague.

Lord Owen was the EU representative for Yugoslavia, 1991-1995

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones