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(1998–99) Ethnic war in Kosovo, Yugoslavia. In 1989 the Serbian president, Slobodan Miloševic, abrogated the constitutional autonomy of Kosovo. He and the minority of Serbs in Kosovo had long bristled at the fact that Muslim Albanians were in demographic control of an area considered sacred to Serbs (Kosovo was the seat of the Serbian Orthodox church, the inspiration for Serbian epic poetry, and the site of the Turkish defeat of the Serbs in 1389 and Serbian victory over the Turks in 1912). In response, the Albanian Kosovars began a campaign of nonviolent resistance. Growing tensions led in 1998 to armed clashes between Serbs and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which had begun killing Serbian police and politicians. The Contact Group (U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Russia) demanded a cease-fire, the unconditional withdrawal of Serbian forces, the return of refugees, and unlimited access for international monitors. Although Miloševic agreed to meet most of the demands, he failed to implement them. The KLA regrouped and rearmed during the cease-fire and renewed its offensive. The Serbs responded with a ruthless counteroffensive, inducing the UN Security Council to condemn the Serbs' excessive use of force, including ethnic cleansing (killing and expulsion), and to impose an arms embargo, but the violence continued. After diplomatic negotiations at Rambouillet, France, broke down, Serbia renewed its assault, and NATO responded with an 11-week bombing campaign that extended to Belgrade and significantly damaged Serbia's infrastructure. The bombing was halted after NATO and Yugoslavia signed an accord in June 1999 outlining Serbian troop withdrawal and the return of nearly 1,000,000 ethnic Albanian refugees as well as 500,000 displaced within the province; there were sporadic reprisals against Serbs who remained in Kosovo.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Kosovo conflict, visit Britannica.com.
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