Kosovo Asks Serbs to Accept Separate, Cordial Future

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Aug 30 13:33:46 UTC 2007

August 30, 2007
Kosovo Asks Serbs to Accept Separate, Cordial Future

VIENNA (Reuters) - The leaders of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority urged
Serbia on Thursday to stop trying to block independence for the breakaway
province and instead look to a future of friendly relations between two
sovereign states. The Albanians were first to meet the three-man mediating
team from Russia, the United States and European Union heading fresh talks
on Kosovo's future. There is not a glimmer of a breakthrough in sight.
Kosovo Albanians demand independence after eight years under United
Nations rule but Serbs insist they can never have it.

"We have the opportunity to give real clarity to Kosovo's independence,"
Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku told the diplomatic "troika," according to
a statement. "The core of this is our relationship with Serbia. We have
the opportunity to lay the foundations for a mature, stable functioning
relationship between independent neighbors." The Serbs met separately with
the envoys.

Serbs and Albanians talked past each other for 13 months until March when
U.N. mediator Martti Ahtisaari called a halt. He said agreement was
impossible and proposed independence under the supervision of the EU. But
Russia, an ally of Serbia, blocked adoption of his plan at the U.N.
Security Council. The West reluctantly agreed to new talks, hoping to wrap
them up by December 10 when the envoys report back to the U.N.. Russia
rejects that deadline. In a statement to reporters after the meeting, the
Kosovo team said they insisted the Ahtisaari package "cannot be
renegotiated" and hoped the talks will "make sure that the Western Balkans
finally enter an era of peaceful existence."


The Serbia of late hardliner Slobodan Milosevic made Kosovo's large
Albanian majority a fearful underclass in the 1990s. But they took up
arms, provoking a brutal crackdown, and drew NATO in on their side in
1999. Kosovo has been occupied by NATO ever since, now with 16,000
soldiers from 35 nations, and the Albanians say they will never again be
part of a country that tried to wipe them out. Direct talks are expected
before December. EU envoy Wolfgang Ischinger made clear on Thursday the
process was not open-ended and the mediators had a mandate only until Dec

Diplomats and some Kosovo politicians forecast unrest if the deadlock
continues. Kosovo says it will declare independence with or without a U.N.
resolution after talks end. Any unilateral move could split the 27-member
EU, which is struggling to hold a united line on Kosovo. Serbia says
Kosovo independence would violate international law. Foreign diplomats
fear that, faced with the inevitable, Belgrade could use hardball tactics
to suffocate the new state economically, such as blocking access roads.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told his ministers on Thursday
that with the help of Russia, Serbia had "managed to eliminate the danger
that the Security Council passes a resolution taking part of our territory
away." "The danger that Albanian separatists unilaterally proclaim
independence has not been removed," he said. "We have to warn, and call on
the international community to face up to this issue, and to send the
message that unilaterally proclaimed independence would be worthless."

(Additional reporting by Douglas Hamilton and Ksenija Prodanovic)



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