Diplomacy and Kosovo

Jesse Jackson is to be commended for his extraordinary mission to Belgrade. He succeeded, against all predictions, in winning the release of the three US soldiers held there. Americans generally, and particularly the soldiers' families, are grateful.

What does the Rev. Mr. Jackson's personal diplomatic coup portend for the Kosovo conflict?

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic doubtless had a range of reasons for granting the GIs' release. For one thing, he knew the move would appeal to average Americans - perhaps deepening the ambivalence toward the war so obvious in last week's votes in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Milosevic may also be signaling he's ready to bargain. The broader diplomatic front has become quite active. The Russians are revving up their efforts, with Boris Yeltsin's special envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin, shuttling to Washington to meet with President Clinton and share the latest proposals from Russian-Yugoslav talks.

The diplomatic initiatives - Jackson's as well as the Russians' - are welcome. But the core elements of an agreement remain firm: Return of the refugees, an international force capable of protecting the returnees, and credible autonomy for Kosovo. Milosevic has hinted that his resistance to these terms has some give. NATO should probe diligently on this front even as it keeps up military pressure.

That pressure should ease just as soon as Milosevic takes the crucial step of agreeing to withdraw from Kosovo the police and other units engaged in expelling Albanian Kosovars.

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