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The Rambouillet Conference on Kosovo

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The Rambouillet process sought to re-establish autonomous governance and human rights for Kosovo, under the protection of the international community. However, the Kosovo authorities had committed themselves to outright independence while the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consistently rejected any international interest in the affairs of Kosovo, which it considered an entirely domestic matter. To reconcile these irreconcilable views, an initial attempt was made to establish self-governance for Kosovo for an interim period, without touching upon the issue of the status of that territory.

As the Rambouillet conference progressed, the Contact Group moved significantly towards the FRY/Serb demand of expressly confirming its continued sovereignty and territorial integrity over Kosovo. While this and other concessions did not help to engage the FRY in the negotiating process, it jeopardized the acceptance of the agreement by Kosovo. The negotiations were backed by the threat of the use of force, which could only be innovatively justified by reference to the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, inasmuch as there existed no formal Security Council mandate. However, the credibility of that threat was initially undermined by splits within the Contact Group during the actual negotiations, which also extended to implementation of the agreement upon acceptance by NATO. Moreover, the negotiations were hampered by the fact that one of the three principal international negotiators openly sided with one of the parties and essentially represented it. Encouraged by these divisions, Belgrade manoeuvred itself into a position of direct confrontation with NATO, which could now genuinely argue that the grave humanitarian emergency in Kosovo could only be addressed through acceptance of the Rambouillet accord by Yugoslavia, even if sustained military attacks were required to achieve that end.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre of International Studies and University of Cambridge, UK

Publication date: April 1, 1999

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