Deadlock in Kosovo talks

Internationally sponsored talks over the future status of the Serbian province of Kosovo were deadlocked on Tuesday, after Kosovo Albanian leaders rejected Serbia’s proposal for self-governance.

Serbian President Boris Tadic listed a series of concessions the government in Belgrade was ready to make, including autonomy in legal, economic and daily affairs, during a meeting between the parties in Baden, outside Vienna.

“Kosovo would be officially self-governing, with the full consent of Belgrade,” while Serbia maintained rights over the “province’s foreign policy, defence, border control and the protection of Serbian heritage”, Tadic told the delegates.

But Skender Hyseni, a spokesperson for the Kosovo Albanian delegation, dismissed the proposal, saying Serbia “continued to offer vision and models which basically are a recipe for frozen conflicts ... for half-solutions, which do not take neither Kosovo nor Serbia anywhere”.

“I’m afraid that nothing spectacular will happen,” he said, adding that no agreement would probably be reached during the closed-door gathering, seen as a last-ditch attempt to solve the Kosovo issue.

Belgrade and Pristina have failed to reach any agreement on the future status of Kosovo in four months of talks with the so-called troika of mediators from the European Union, the United States and Russia.

Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanian population wants to break all ties with Serbia, but Belgrade, backed by its powerful ally Russia, has staunchly rejected that solution, offering instead a wide autonomy for Kosovo but within Serbia’s territory.

“The positions of Pristina and Belgrade are diametrically against each other,” said Hashim Thaci, an ethnic Albanian who is likely to become the province’s next prime minister after his party won elections on November 17.

“It is clear to everyone that a compromise is very difficult to be reached,” he said, adding that “we can discuss for a hundred years more, but not on the status. Kosovo will be a state.”

Report

The troika of mediators must submit its report on Kosovo to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on December 10, effectively putting an end to negotiations with Serbia.

The Kosovo Albanian leaders have threatened to make a unilateral declaration of independence after that date.
But Belgrade wants to continue negotiations past the December deadline if no agreement is reached before then.

“I think it is worth it to continue for peace, stability and prosperity, to seek for peace. This is the first and foremost responsibility for all of us,” said Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic.

He warned of “dangerous consequences” if Kosovo declared its independence, arguing: “Any unilateral solution can only open a Pandora’s box, not only in the western Balkans”.

The talks were scheduled to wrap up on Wednesday after further meetings between the Serbs, the Kosovo delegation and the troika.

Although formally still a part of Serbian territory, Kosovo has been administered by the UN and Nato since 1999, when the alliance launched an air campaign to halt a crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists by Serbian security troops.

The closed-door talks in Baden this week follow more than a year of negotiations, led by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari who proposed “supervised independence” for the province, with an EU mission observing the administration and security there.

Belgrade, backed by its traditional ally Moscow, rejected the plan, and the international troika was set up to try to find a solution that would satisfy both sides.

The US and some EU countries have already said they would recognise Kosovo’s independence, but Russia opposes any solution on the province that is not acceptable to both sides and, like Belgrade, has called for more talks on the disputed issue.—Sapa-AFP

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