Friday, August 10, 2007

Diplomats to visit Kosovo, seeking new talks

By Nicholas Wood

A month after talks on the future of Kosovo foundered at the UN Security Council, envoys from the United States, the European Union and Russia met Thursday before making a three-day visit to the Balkans to try to start a new round of negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership. But politicians and diplomats in the region said they were skeptical that an agreement could be reached.

Officially, diplomats argued that new talks — for which they were allotting 120 days — could lead to a compromise, thereby bridging what has become a substantial rift between Russia, Serbia's main ally, which opposes independence for Kosovo, and Western governments.

So far Russia has rejected a United Nations plan, devised after 14 months of negotiations between the Serbs and the ethnic Albanian majority of Kosovo ended in deadlock. The plan would give Kosovo independence from Serbia, though under the supervision of a European-led mission. Russia has threatened to veto the plan in the Security Council and has insisted that any settlement needs the agreement of both Serbia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders.

The Troika, as the Russian, European and American envoys are being called, is expected to work out a process for the talks this weekend, diplomats in the region said. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, has set a deadline of Dec. 10 for the conclusion of talks.

Both sides are sticking to hardened positions: Ethnic Albanians, who make up more than 90 percent of the population, want independence, while Serbia, which has nominal sovereignty over Kosovo, says it would agree to substantial autonomy but not full independence.

"Any proposal other than independence is unacceptable," the Kosovo prime minister, Agim Ceku, said to reporters in Pristina, the capital, Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic of Serbia appeared to adopt a more conciliatory tone, saying his government was ready to compromise by offering Kosovo rights associated with sovereignty, such as membership in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The United Nations has administered Kosovo since 1999, when Serbian armed forces, accused of committing atrocities against ethnic Albanians, were forced to leave the province after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign.

Wolfgang Ischinger, the German ambassador to London, who is traveling to the region as the European Union's envoy, put the burden squarely on Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians.

"We are offering Belgrade and Pristina another opportunity — maybe the last opportunity — to work out a negotiated solution," he told the BBC in London, where the Troika's representatives met before their visit. "If there is success of this effort, it will be their success; if there is failure of this process, it will be their failure."

But some diplomats who have been involved in the negotiations since they began early last year say that ultimately a settlement will have to be imposed.

"There is nothing to negotiate," said a Western diplomat in Pristina. "There is no compromise to be found."

A European diplomat involved in the previous negotiations in Vienna compared the situation to "Groundhog Day," the 1993 movie in which the main character relives the same day again and again.

The stumbling block to an imposed settlement is that a number of European governments are unwilling to support a settlement that does not have backing from the United Nations.

While further talks are unlikely to produce a settlement, these two diplomats said, they could allow the European states to find a common position, and perhaps to recognize Kosovo unilaterally. That is a position that Washington proposes if the negotiations fail.

Last month, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany of Hungary said the EU would have no alternative.

"We must have an answer in case talks fail," he told reporters in Budapest. "And this answer cannot be anything other than a united action by the EU and NATO."

"The emancipation of Kosovo is an unstoppable process. If Kosovar Albanians lose hope of independence in the near future, then we will be faced with a crazy security challenge within a week."

But his view is not shared throughout the EU. Other governments, notably Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia, have said they are opposed to the Union's recognition of Kosovo in the event of a stalemated negotiation.

(Source : IHT)

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Priština to seek independence guarantees

PRIŠTINA -- Agim Ceku says Priština will present its negotiations platform as it meets the Contact Group Troika Saturday.

“The core principles of this platform are well known: independence is not negotiable, and neither is Kosovo’s territorial integrity, while the Ahtisaari package has been closed, and cannot be further debated,” Kosovo’s prime minister said.

According to him, Kosovo is ready to continue talks even though its top officials deemed them unnecessary.

Ceku added the Priština negotiating team will let the Troika know unequivocally that, as far as it was concerned, the coming round of talks will be “the last delay” in settling Kosovo’s status.

“We will seek guarantees that a decision on Kosovo’s independence will be made after 120 days [of talks],” Ceku was reported as saying.

The three Contact Group diplomats representing the EU, U.S. and Russia are in Belgrade today, and will travel to Priština tomorrow.

(Source :

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Ahtisaari plan would make Kosovo NATO-state

BELGRADE -- An adviser to the prime minister says that an implementation of Ahtisaari’s plan would make Kosovo a NATO-state.

Aleksandar Simić told weekly NIN that the calls from NATO and the U.S. for implementing UN Kosovo Eenvoy Martti Ahtisaari’s plan before the talks begin "makes one wonder why Kosovo's independence is more important than respecting international law, the sovereignty of an internationally recognized state and regional stability."

“It pays to ask whether the real reason for the Kosovo independence project is the fact that Ahtisaari foresaw the authority of the international civil observers to be limited so that it would place Kosovo under the authority of NATO,” Simić said.

Simić said that NATO would stay for the long-term in the province with special authority, would have unlimited power, free movement, while the NATO commanders in Kosovo would have supreme authority in all aspects of proposed solutions which are based on the use of force.

“When all of these regulations are taken into consideration, it can be concluded that the implementation of Ahtisaari’s plan would call for Bondsteel to practically be the capital city of an independent Kosovo,” Simić said.

(Source :

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Kosovo warns of mounting tension as new talks open

By Matt Robinson

PRISTINA, Serbia (Reuters) - Kosovo warned on Wednesday of rising Albanian tension and eventual street protests, on the eve of fresh talks led by the West and Russia on the fate of the breakaway Serbian province.

Senior ethnic Albanian political leader Veton Surroi said the patience of Kosovo's 90 percent Albanian majority was not "limitless", and protests "could not be excluded" if independence is delayed much longer.

A "troika" of envoys from the United States, European Union and Russia was due to meet in London on Thursday before going to Serbia and Kosovo, opening fresh diplomacy on top of 13 months of direct talks that ended in stalemate in March.

The United States, and EU members Germany, France and Italy lead 16,000 troops from 35 NATO and non-NATO countries in Kosovo. Their peacekeepers would be in the front line if frustration and unrest should turn to violence.

Serbian ally Russia has blocked a Western-backed U.N. plan for EU-supervised independence, eight years since NATO wrested control of the territory and the United Nations took over.

"We have to be aware that fear is building among the people," Surroi told the Kosovo daily Express. "The people of Kosovo have a right to put pressure on their institutions."

"There is a feeling they have sacrificed everything for the sake of Kosovo's status. Not just the war, the burning and destruction, but everything they have sacrificed over the past eight years ... simply to have a status solution," he said.


Surroi is a member of Kosovo's 'unity team', a pact of government and opposition leaders created to maintain stability as pressure for independence mounts.

The new round of diplomacy and dialogue has been forced on the West by Russia, which threatened to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution based on the plan by envoy Martti Ahtisaari.

Western diplomats hold out little hope of a deal. Kosovo has threatened to declare independence, possibly before 2008, and seek recognition from Washington and its European allies, a move that could split the 27-member European Union.

Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku said on Wednesday the new talks were "simply to give more time to countries that have not yet decided whether to recognize Kosovo's independence".

Serbia rejects independence for its southern province. But the 2 million Albanians living there will accept nothing less, after almost half the population was temporarily expelled during Serbia's 1998-99 war against separatist rebels. NATO bombed to drive out Serb forces and halt the slaughter of civilians.

Washington says the talks should run till December 10 -- the date for a progress report to the United Nations -- but no further.

Russia insists the dialogue should be open ended, and that any solution must have the agreement of both parties.

Serbia on Wednesday cautioned the United States against trying to revive the Ahtisaari blueprint, and called on Washington to show "full restraint and impartiality".

(Additional reporting by Fatos Bytyci and Gordana Filipovic)

(Source : Reuters)

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Talks will not be based on Ahtisaari plan

MOSCOW, WASHINGTON, BELGRADE -- Alexandar Botsan-Harchenko told B92 that Martti Ahtisaari’s Kosovo status plan will not be a basis for renewed talks.

Russia’s envoy in the Contact Group Troika, established to mediate in the upcoming talks on the province’s future, said his country will decisively oppose any deadlines once negotiations start.

Harchenko also said that all participants must work to reach a negotiated settlement.

“Ahtisaari’s plan did not win the support of the Security Council since it is not based on a negotiated outcome and compromise between Belgrade and Priština.”

“I see no point in discussing that plan, it cannot be a basis for the upcoming talks,” the Russian diplomat explained.

Harchenko added he will once again tell other Troika members that Russia opposes any deadlines in the negotiations.

“We decisively oppose deadlines. Our goal is to reach a negotiated settlement, taking into account both sides’ positions, and we consider UN Resolution 1244 valid. This resolution must be taken very seriously,” Harchenko said.

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey called on Belgrade and Priština Wednesday to take active part in the new round of talks, adding that his country believed independence was the best solution for Kosovo.

“We believe that, after all, independence is the way forward for Kosovo, at first supervised, as envisaged by Martti Ahtisaari’s plan,” Casey said.

The European Union’s representative Wolfgang Ischinger, Russia’s Alexandar Botsan-Harchenko and American diplomat Frank Wisner will be in Belgrade on Friday.

It was announced earlier today that a meeting between the Contact Group envoys, Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica and President Boris Tadić will begin a 3 p.m. the same day.

Belgrade to Washington: Show restraint

The government today called on the United Stated to demonstrate “restraint and impartiality” over the Kosovo status issue.

Education Minister Zoran Lončar told Beta that the U.S. was trying to “resuscitate” UN Kosovo Envoy Martti Ahtisaari plan which suggests supervised independence as the province’s future status.

Lončar, however, said the plan was “definitely discarded”.

“If the Ahtisaari plan were alive, clearly, Ahtisaari himself would still be the mediator in the negotiating process,” he added.

Lončar told the agency Koštunica’s cabinet expected the U.S. representative in the new talks on Kosovo’s future to demonstrate “impartiality and a constructive approach, in a bid to reach a compromise in line with the UN Charter and Serbian constitution”.

(Source :

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UNMIK cancels decree suspending return of property

PRIŠTINA -- UNMIK’s controversial decision to halt the return of property in Kosovo has been abolished Wednesday.

The United Nations mission in Kosovo deputy chief Steven Schook told a news conference in Priština that he was pleased with the decision, since it, in his words, demonstrated Kosovo institutions’ dedication to the rule of law.

UNMIK chief Joachim Ruecker passed decree 2007/41 on August 2, suspending a previous one from October last year, dealing with the return of property to rightful owners.

Kosovo’s Environment and Spatial Planning Minister Ardian Gjini told reporters that Priština was “determined to respect the sixth standard”, which pertains to property rights.

“We are aware that difficulties may arise due to the situation we are in, but we are determined to respect the property law,” Gjini said.

Over 25,000 claims for return of property have been submitted so far in Kosovo.

Serbia’s authorities condemned the August 2 decision, branding it “one of the most scandalous in the history of UNMIK”, and announcing possible legal action against Ruecker.

(Source :

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"Kosovo Serbs, Balkan Palestinians”

NEW YORK -- The Wall Street Journal deemed Kosovo Serbs the Balkan version of Palestinians, and described them as "useful pawns".

An editorial published Wednesday said that, "if Western will flags, they could get their own Gaza strip.”

“Caught between a pushy Kremlin, weak-kneed Europe and otherwise-occupied Washington, the Kosovars are being denied their happy ending. Unless the U.S. forcefully steps in to usher this province of two million to independence without any messy compromises, Southeast Europe could fall off track again, with nasty repercussions for everyone,” the articles says.

“The U.S. and its allies have put billions in aid, political capital and boots on the ground to bring the former Yugoslav states to the doorstep of the West's elite clubs. Now comes the hitch."

"When NATO agreed to put its status in limbo at the end of the 1999 war and sent in a U.N. government, no one could know that a future President Vladimir Putin would turn Kosovo into a proxy for his larger fight with the West, along with missile defense and Iran,” the Wall Street Journal writes.

“This patience may not hold long. Fresh elections are due in November, coinciding with the end of the latest negotiation period. Pressure is on them to declare independence unilaterally."

"Among the consequences could be that barely dormant ethnic nationalisms flare up. Kosovo's Serbs may try to cut away the northern sliver of the province, while Albanians feel emboldened to press anew for a 'Greater Albania' uniting in a single state a nation currently scattered among four. Violence is a good bet,” the article continues.

“A different Europe might unite in response to the Kremlin's provocation. This one is splintering, as in the early 1990s also over the Balkans. Britain wants to push ahead on independence, while the Germans fear antagonizing Moscow. In between, the French claimed the diplomatic lead and pushed the three-month delay,” the newspaper states.

At stake isn't Serbian national sovereignty but liberty for the Kosovo Albanians, it continues.

"This province was part of Yugoslavia, a state that no longer exists; Serbia effectively lost its claim in the 1990s. The EU plays softly-softly with Belgrade, even recently restarting talks toward eventual membership. Instead, Belgrade should be given a stark choice: a future in league with Russia, or the EU and NATO. Kosovo is the test,” the Wall Street Journal writes.

(Source :

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