The effort to secure peace in Yugoslavia cannot succeed unlessit is based on justice and fairness to those who wish to remain part of Yugoslavia as well as to those who may wish to secede from Yugoslavia to create independent states.
Serbia does not plead for the creation of a so-called ''Greater Serbia.'' Such an entity is a historical anachronism and such desires are unrealistic. But the interest of the Serbian people in preserving the legal continuity and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia is understandable when one considers that Serbs live not only in Serbia, but in other Yugoslav republics as well.
Serbia is not opposed to the secession of Slovenia and Croatia, providing that Croatia does not force the 700,000 Serbs now living in Croatia to give up, against their will, their Yugoslav citizenship and the rights it confers. They are living on territory on which they have dwelt for centuries; it is their historic homeland.
The process of secession should be based on legality and peaceful discussion with equal treatment for those who wish to secede from Yugoslavia and those who wish to continue to be citizens of Yugoslavia rather than of the independent states of Croatia and Slovenia.
Serbia makes no territorial claims and is not in a state of war with anyone. That Yugoslavs continue to be killed in an absurd war is a tragedy resulting directly from the violent secession by Slovenia and Croatia which denied and continues to deny equal rights to Serbs living in Croatia. The Croatians illegally imported arms, formed paramilitary units and armed the political party of the Croatian president. The conflict began with Croatian military attacks on Serbian villages and territories in Croatia.
The repressive measures of the government of Croatia in the months leading up to secession revived Serbian memories of how a Croatian fascist state allied with Nazi Germany slaughtered 700,000 Serbs, Jews and Gypsies living in Croatia during World War II. It is only natural that given this bloody history, Serbs in Croatia began to organize their own defense in order to prevent a feared repetition of this horror. It should be noted that more than 100,000 refugees have fled from Croatia to Serbia but none of the thousands of Croatians living in Serbia have seen fit to flee Serbia where they continue to enjoy equal rights with Serbs.
The actions of the Yugoslav military forces in response to unilateral declarations of secession have been viewed by some as aggression against Slovenia and Croatia. But is the view of the Yugoslav army that the army cannot be an aggressor in its own territory which, under the Yugoslav constitution, it must defend and protect.
Serbia is not interested in acquiring even an inch of Croatian land. Its only wish is to protect the Serbian people in Croatia from genocide or other atrocities and to secure their right to self-determination with the right of continuing to live in their historic homelands as citizens of Yugoslavia rather than of a secessionist Croatia.
Serbia is reluctant to accept the European Community proposal of a loose confederacy for many reasons, but most basic is that it is unacceptable to annul Yugoslavia, a founding member of the U.N., whose charter guarantees Yugoslavia's territory and sovereignty. In such a loose confederacy, the Serbian people would be divided among four independent states. Such a loose confederacy would also undermine the prospects for long-term stability, peace and economic development.
Yugoslavia arose as a result of bloody struggles in two world wars in which Serbia, along with America, was fighting against darkness and enslavement. Americans surely must understand Serbia's desire to ensure the security and the right to self-determination of Serbs living in Croatia as well as the integrity of the Yugoslav state.
Serbia strongly supports establishment of a permanent cease-fire agreement. Previously such agreements have been signed only to be violated by repeated Croatian provocations and attacks. To put an end to the senseless killing and to secure conditions for peaceful negotiations, Serbia urges establishment of a demarcation line by the United Nations between the combatants in Croatia similar to the ''green line'' in Cyprus which separates ethnic Turks and Greeks.
After the fighting has stopped, all parties can begin serious negotiations to resolve their differences. Further, Serbia urges the establishment of a United Nations peace-keeping force to assist in ensuring the enforcement of the provisions of a cease-fire agreement and to identify those parties whose continued hostile action might threaten the peace. The U.N. peace-keeping force should protect the rights of all citizens. Thus there would be no further need for involvement by the Yugoslav federal armed forces for immediate protection of the Serbs in Croatia.
A just solution of the crisis will allow the Yugoslav peoples to determine if they wish to continue living in their common state and the form of this future state without intervention from other parties. Claims of the secessionists as well as of those who wish to remain in Yugoslavia should be treated equally.
Serbs in Croatia should be at last be granted freedom and security with international guarantees that they will be protected and that they will be able to realize their legitimate rights under the United Nations Charter.
Slobodan Milosevic is president of the Republic of Serbia.