Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Yugoslavia's Diplomats Stay At Home

The clerks at the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry have nothing to do - their bosses are barred from travelling and almost no-one wants to visit them - which somewhat handicaps their work.
By Srdjan Staletovic

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia no longer has a foreign policy. It no longer needs one, or the officials to represent it at the world's fora, which no longer send invitations to Belgrade.

Even if there was somewhere to go, many members of the Yugoslav diplomatic corps couldn't leave the country anyway; they either stand accused by the Hague Tribunal or are on a list of 'persona non grata' in the European Union.

As far as anyone outside the court knows, Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic is not among the indicted at The Hague. But he is on a list of over 300 officials of Yugoslavia forbidden a visa to the member countries of the EU.

He has had almost nothing to do since March either, for apart for some low-level exchanges with Russia, the world's diplomats are not coming to Yugoslavia, even if Yugoslavia's diplomats cannot come to them.

So the state media have been happy to trumpet the news that Jovanovic will be visiting the U.S. from September 19-29, to take part in a session of the UN General Assembly. The official line is that the trip will be a grand opportunity to "present our view of the problem in Kosovo in front of the whole world".

To be specific however, Jovanovic is not visiting the United States, but going to the United Nations in New York, which is something different in diplomatic terms entirely. Washington has set firm rules on his visit, which will effectively contain him to the UN building and the Yugoslav embassy.

Jovanovic's trip to New York poses a few problems for the diplomats. He will be representing a state whose president Slobodan Milosevic and four of its highest officials have been accused of war crimes in Kosovo.

He will also be escorted by the country's commissar for refugees, Bratislava 'Buba' Morina, who doubles as a top official of the Yugoslav United Left (JUL) party, led by Milosevic's influential wife Mira Markovic. Both commissar Morina, who is also on the EU's persona non grata list, and minister Jovanovic will have their movements equally restricted.

Another name on the EU's not wanted list, Ivica Dacic, spokesman for Milosevic's ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), has outlined Jovanovic's objectives at the UN. "Those who think that we have given up on Kosovo are wrong," he said, adding that Yugoslavia sought "absolute respect" for UN Resolution 1244 and its prescription for the Kosovo crisis.

The resolution's provisions include a clause permitting "an agreed number of Yugoslav and Serb military and police personnel" to return to certain areas of Kosovo after NATO was established in the province. Belgrade wants this enforced to allow it to protect the Serb minority in Kosovo, but it is not yet confirmed whether Jovanovic will demand this in New York, or simply remind the UN that the clause exists.

The unexpected development in all this is the way that even Serbia's supposed 'historic ally' has given the Belgrade diplomatic corps a wide berth.

Aleksandar Avdejev, an assistant to the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, spent several days in Yugoslavia, but devoted his time to meetings with the opposition and the independent media. His meeting with Jovanovic was merely one of many on a busy schedule.

The meetings coincided with a visit by Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic to Moscow. He was kept busy over two days distributing Yugoslav medals to top Russian officials, but Marjanovic, as all Serbia, could not fail to notice that this generosity had failed to warm Russian hearts.

It seems Moscow no longer shares Milosevic's view that his survival in power is in Serbia's best interest. Belgrade officials maintain that Marjanovic's trip resulted in a promise of a "certain amount" of natural gas for a "certain period" next winter, but for Yugoslav diplomacy the only sure thing is that nothing, not even Russia, is 'certain' any more.

Srdjan Staletovic is a regular IWPR contributor from Belgrade.

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