Letter: A futile war

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Sir: Tragically, Nato's refusal to stop bombing after the Serbian parliament accepted the 3 June peace settlement has made it far more difficult to resolve the practical implementation of the agreement.

Yugoslavia is obviously justified in fearing that troops and civilians withdrawing from Kosovo may be bombed by Nato or attacked by the KLA, particularly where they say they do not have sufficient fuel to meet the seven-day timescale specified by Nato for the withdrawal. No one can forget that the United States massacred tens of thousands of retreating Iraqi soldiers and civilians on the Basra road at the end of the Gulf War.

The way for all of these issues to be resolved is for Nato to stop bombing immediately.

More fundamentally, the settlement agreed on 3 June shows that the entire war, with its thousands of deaths, its refugee catastrophe, and its destruction of the civilian infrastructure of Yugoslavia, was unnecessary. It should be recalled that Nato did not go to war to help the refugees; the refugee crisis erupted after the bombing started.

Nato went to war to impose the Rambouillet ultimatum on Yugoslavia. This demanded the occupation of Kosovo exclusively by Nato troops who were to have unimpeded access to the whole of Yugoslavia. It also provided for the possibility of secession by Kosovo at the end of three years.

The 3 June settlement is a significant retreat from Nato's demands at Rambouillet. Now, the international force deployed in Kosovo is to be under the auspices not of Nato but of the United Nations. Nato will be a major participant, but so too will the Russians - something not suggested at Rambouillet. This international force is to have access only to Kosovo. The territorial integrity of Yugoslavia is to be respected.

If Nato had been prepared to make these compromises at Rambouillet the entire war could have been avoided. The Yugoslav parliament made clear at the time that it would accept an international force under the auspices of the United Nations. The sticking points for the Yugoslavs were the Nato occupation and the possibility of secession.


(Halifax, Lab)

House of Commons

London SW1