WASHINGTON (May 7, 1999) -- Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference today welcomed the framework for peace negotiations agreed by the world's eight industrialized nations.
"We urge the Yugoslav authorities to halt immediately their campaign of ethnic cleansing and to seize the opportunity represented by this diplomatic initiative," Bishop Fiorenza said."
He also commended U.S. efforts to accommodate Kosovar refugees, but urged "substantial humanitarian and development aid to meet the region's longer-term needs."
The full text of Bishop Fiorenza's statement follows:
May 7, 1999
"We welcome news of the proposed framework for negotiations on Kosovo reached by the United States, the other G-7 nations and Russia. We very much hope that this agreement can offer a promising way forward by substituting diplomacy for the mounting violence of recent weeks.
"This framework provides for an immediate cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of Yugoslav forces, and the safe return of all refugees under international military protection organized under U.N. auspices. In addition, the agreement provides for the interim U.N. administration of Kosovo, restoration of a generous measure of self-government within the context of Serbia and Yugoslavia, as well as a substantial program of reconstruction and development for the entire region. These elements of the proposed agreement would go a long way toward satisfying the minimum conditions for a just peace.
"We urge the Yugoslav authorities to halt immediately their campaign of ethnic cleansing and to seize the opportunity represented by this diplomatic initiative. As Pope John Paul II has said in relation to Kosovo, "It is always time for peace! It is never too late to meet and negotiate." Only through genuine dialogue will a durable solution be found that leads to more peaceful and just relationships among the peoples of the region.
"While serious diplomatic efforts are underway, we remain deeply concerned by continuing, credible reports of ethnic cleansing, mass executions, rapes and other atrocities. Clearly, the international community cannot ignore such serious matters. We strongly support efforts to investigate war crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.
"We welcome the steps already taken by the United States to accommodate Kosovar refugees, both in the region and in this country, and to assist hard-pressed neighboring states. The United States must also stand ready to accept additional refugees and process them quickly in order to relieve the burden on Macedonia, Albania, and other nations. Moreover, the United States, with cooperation of the international community, should contribute substantial humanitarian and development aid to meet the region's longer-term needs. Without these and other steps, the stability of neighboring states and the success of humanitarian assistance efforts are gravely threatened.
"While deeply concerned by the refugee crisis, we are, however, increasingly troubled by the escalating NATO air campaign, which is causing mounting civilian casualties and is increasingly directed against essential civilian infrastructure. These attacks pose an immediate threat to the civilian population and risk the long-term impoverishment of Yugoslavia, yet appear to have limited success in halting ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. We hope that an end to ethnic cleansing and a serious and constructive Yugoslav response to the new G-8 initiative would lead to suspension of the NATO bombing campaign.
"We acknowledge the exceedingly great difficulties that political leaders face in addressing this crisis. We offer our prayers as the international community seeks to ensure that aggression is not rewarded, that international order is restored, that justice is done, and that mercy prevails."