|HRH Crown Prince Alexander writes to President Clinton,
President Chirac and Prime Minister Blair.
London, 6 April 1999
(President Bill Clinton)
It is with deep concern and urgency that I appeal for the immediate cessation of NATO air strikes on Serbia and Montenegro. I am aware you said the aim of the air strikes was to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo, but as you know the humanitarian crisis in the region has become much worse since the air strikes began. There is a real danger of a general conflagration in the Balkans and in Europe.
NATO’s action against Yugoslavia is illegal since it has not been authorised by the UN Security Council and its outcome at present seems uncertain. What is, however, quite certain is that NATO air strikes have turned into a real nightmare the lives of ordinary Yugoslav citizens, the people who are not guilty of anything. Civilian casualties are gradually mounting and the scars will take generations to heal.
My feelings are also very strong about the appalling humanitarian catastrophe and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. I also wish to stress my concern about the people in Serbia and Montenegro who have been under sanctions for many years without any hope of things getting better. There have been a number of humanitarian disasters in the former Yugoslavia that did not evoke a response of this magnitude from the West. You will recall that when in 1995, the Serbs were ethnically cleansed from Croatia and Western Bosnia and no one came to their rescue. In addition, the west has forgotten that Serbia and Montenegro have over 600.000 refugees living on their territory in difficult circumstances. Many thousands Serbs, expelled from Croatia and Bosnia, have found refuge in countries of Western Europe and North America. I very strongly condemn any ethnic cleansing that is perpetrated by any entity.
My strong opposition to the policies of Mr Milosevic and his regime is well known and documented as you may remember from our conversation in Amman, Jordan, last February. My position has not and will not change, but raining bombs and missiles on Belgrade and other Yugoslav cities will not improve things. If anything, the Milosevic regime has become stronger. The bombing of Yugoslavia has stifled the voice of the democratic opposition and independent media. It has also tragically turned the Serbs against the West and against Western democratic values. It all looks ominous to me: the goal for democracy in my country and in the Balkans has been greatly set back. The bombing of Yugoslavia and the destruction of the economic infrastructure will only create instability in the region with disastrous consequences for peace and democracy.
This letter is being written to you on 6 April, the 58th anniversary of the Luftwaffe bombing of Belgrade in 1941 which caused thousands of deaths and reduced large areas of the city to rubble. It is a tragedy to think of NATO bombing Serbia and Montenegro on this anniversary.
It is important to remember the traditional friendship between our two people. Back in April 1941 a group of Serbian officers of the Yugoslav Royal Army staged a coup against the government and thus brought Yugoslavia into war on the side of Great Britain which then stood alone in her struggle against Nazi Germany and its allies. The United States had not yet entered the war and the Soviet Union was still allied to Germany by a pact of non-aggression. The Nazi war machine had defeated Great Britain’s European allies, but the Serbs still had the courage to defy Hitler. Winston Churchill hailed the news of the Belgrade coup, telling parliament that “Yugoslavia has found her soul”. The Serbs paid a horrendous price for their loyalty to the Allies and particularly when Yugoslavia collapsed under the brutal Axis attack and Serbia was occupied.
The United States, United Kingdom and France and the have always been Serbia’s traditional allies in the West. Under my father, King Peter II, and my grandfather, King Alexander I, the Serbs fought in two world wars on the side of Western democracies and Russia. Were air strikes the only answer the West could offer after the failure of the Rambouillet talks on Kosovo? And Rambouillet was not so much about talks as about imposing a diktat on the Serbian and Montenegrin population. My people have always been allergic to diktats as the events of 1914 and 1941 show.
It must not be overlooked that Kosovo is a Serbian Jerusalem and the cradle of the Serbian nation. Kosovo contains the holiest shrines of the Serbian heritage. Kosovo is an inalienable part of Yugoslavia and Serbia and the Serbs have every right to defend their sovereign territory. I have said before that there is enough land and bread in Kosovo for all citizens, the Serbs and the Albanians. I have always firmly insisted that the human rights of all citizens must be respected irrespective of their ethnic origin or religion. A solution could have been found and must be urgently accomplished with democracy throughout Yugoslavia for once and all.
My wife and I have much sorrow for the suffering of all the innocent refugees both Albanian and Serb and we both pray that this tragedy will end soon. My ambition is for a democratic Yugoslavia as a modern European state with strong ties to the rest of world, but bombs are not going to bring that about. A just solution must be found only by peaceful means and through all encompassing negotiations and diplomacy. Bombs are no substitute for diplomacy.
It is my hope that it is not too late to prevent the ultimate catastrophe
with the whole of the Balkans being engulfed in conflict. I appeal
again to you to order a cessation of bombing and to set in motion negotiations
with all Yugoslav entities to resolve the crisis. I am sure your share
my anxiety and worries and will do everything in your power to resolve
this tragedy and help all the people.