Tension and conflict had increased dramatically in Kosovo between the Serb army and police against the ethnic Albanians, who comprise 90 percent of the population of 2 million in the province, which Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic stripped of autonomy in 1989. Milosevic positioned the Serb Army within Kosovo in order to quell the efforts of the Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA, an ethnic Albanian organization fighting for the independence of Kosovo. Countless deaths had occurred and hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians had been driven from their homes when NATO stepped in with the threat of airstrikes.
The situation was complicated by the fact that the Kosovo province in Serbia is Milosevic's territory, making it more difficult, politically, for NATO to actually carry out threatened airstrikes. Since Yugoslavia did not ask for international intervention, some European NATO members were opposed to violating a sovereign state. Also, the KLA is a guerrila group which has committed numerous atrocities itself, and has no official standing to negotiate its independence.
US Envoy Richard Holbrooke was sent to the region in early October to press Milosevic with a delayed autonomy plan for Kosovo. At the same time, NATO prepared for possible airstrikes in the case of demands not being met. The demands included that Milosevic withdraw his forces, open the region to humanitarian agencies, negotiate peace with the ethnic Albanians, and allow a mostly-civilian international monitoring force to insure compliance with the cease-fire and relevant UN resolutions. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) would organize and deploy the unarmed monitors on the ground, while NATO would conduct air surveillance.
-- September 30, 1998 - Britain calls an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to look into alleged massacres of civilians in Kosovo by Serbian security forces.
-- October 1 - The Security Council condemns massacres and demands that Milosevic punish the killers. U.S. and British governments warn their citizens to leave Yugoslavia.
-- October 2 - U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen says air attacks could take place within two weeks. Russia hardens opposition to air strikes.
-- October 3 - Fighting appears to cease across much of Kosovo in the face of NATO threats. In propaganda offensive, Serbs take Western journalists to see police unearth at least four bodies said to be Serbs killed by Albanian guerrillas.
-- October 4 - Russia warns NATO attack could return East-West relations to state of crisis.
-- October 5 - United States says there are signs Serbian forces are pulling back. U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke warns Milosevic he will incur NATO's wrath if he defies Western ultimatum.
-- October 6 - Holbrooke goes to Kosovo where he gets "grim briefing" from Western observers on battlefield conditions. Russia says it would veto any move at United Nations to authorize air strikes. President Clinton says "NATO is prepared to act" unless Milosevic calls off offensive.
-- October 7 - Holbrooke ends third round of talks with Milosevic. Britain, France, Denmark and Norway advise nationals to leave Yugoslavia.
-- October 8 - Some key NATO members are still reluctant to agree to air strikes; Albright says she will send Holbrooke back to Belgrade for another try.
-- October 9 - Holbrooke has last-ditch talks with Milosevic. President Boris Yeltsin says Russia remains committed to finding a peaceful solution. Belgium and Spain say they have approved the use of their planes in possible NATO air strikes.
-- October 10 - Albania offers its air bases and ports to NATO. Cohen orders six B-52 bombers to be sent to Britain.
-- October 11 - The Serbian government says a possible political settlement has emerged from Holbrooke talks.
-- October 13 - Holbrooke outlines a deal to avert NATO air strikes over Kosovo, announcing that the coordinated operations of 2,000 OSCE ground monitors along with NATO air surveillance would "verify compliance by all parties in Kosovo" with relevant UN Security Council resolutions; NATO gives Milosevic four days to end his offensive against the ethnic Albanians.
-- October 16 - OSCE Chairman-in-Office Bronislaw Geremek travels to Belgrade, where he signs an agreement with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic on the creation of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission; NATO gives Milosevic another 10 days to comply with Western demands to end the conflict before facing air strikes.
-- October 22 - NATO allies formally approve a mission to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over Kosovo.
-- October 24 - UN Security Council authorizes ground and air monitors to ensure an end to the fighting.
-- October 27 - Serbian security forces withdraw en masse; NATO says there will be no immediate air strikes against Yugoslav targets but maintains the threat of military action.
*Holbrooke and Milosevic's talks of interest have ended - they were not so successful, as evidenced by later events in Kosovo:*
-- December 6 - About 40 French troops arrive in Macedonia, first contingent of NATO force designed to rescue unarmed OSCE monitors from neighbouring Kosovo if they come under threat.
-- December 18 - Local deputy mayor Zvonko Bojanic is killed by ethnic Albanian guerrillas at the end of a week in which 46 people died.
-- December 24 - Fighting erupts around village of Lapastica and punctures shaky ceasefire; sporadic violence continues for several days.
-- January 9 - Violence escalates as the Yugoslav army pounds ethnic Albanian strongholds after the KLA captured eight Yugoslav army soldiers.
-- January 11 - Enver Maloku, head of of the ethnic Albanian information centre in Kosovo is shot dead by unknown gunmen near his home in Pristina.
-- January 13 - KLA guerrillas free the eight Yugoslav army soldiers in an OSCE-mediated deal.
-- January 15 - At least 15 ethnic Albanian guerrillas are reported killed and a British peace monitor is wounded.
-- January 16 - The bodies of at least 45 ethnic Albanians are discovered at the village of Racak in southern Kosovo.
-- January 18 - Yugoslav government orders William Walker, American head of the OSCE Kosovo Verrification Mission, to leave the country within 48 hours; U.N. war crimes prosecutor Louise Arbour and her team are refused entry into Kosovo to investigate alleged massacres; U.N. Security Council members strongly condemn the massacre of 45 ethnic Albanians and demand an immediate investigation.
-- January 19 - NATO Commander Wesley Clark says his forces were poised for action and Milosevic should be under no illusions about the alliance's commitment on Kosovo; U.S. ambassador to NATO Alexander Vershbow indicates that Western warplanes could start bombing Yugoslav forces almost immediately unless Milosevic ends his latest crackdown in Kosovo.
-- March 19 - OSCE Chairman-in-Office Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek decides to withdraw the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission from Kosovo because overwhelming difficulties impeding its work, and the volatility of the area due to the impending NATO air campaign.
Information partly taken from the OSCE Newsletter of October, 1998,
Vol. 5 no. 10, accessible on the OSCE Homepage