30 March 2006

First Kosovo status talks end without agreement



ISN SECURITY WATCH (Wednesday, 22 February: 12.28 CET) - UN-mediated talks in Vienna between Serbian and ethnic-Albanian negotiators on the status of Kosovo have ended without any agreements.


Delegations from the two sides presented their positions on issues of how much power should be devolved locally in the areas of health care, education, and police to municipalities.


The first round of talks, which ended late on Tuesday, focused on the 100,000-strong Kosovo Serb minority, most of whom live in UN-protected enclaves in the Serbian province.


The Serbian negotiating team told reporters at a press conference following the first round of status talks that no formal agreement had been reached, but that there had been progress on certain issues.


UN deputy envoy at the talks Albert Rohan told the press conference that talks were held in a "cooperative spirit".


"An agreement was not to be expected and it was not the purpose to achieve concrete agreements in a specific field," Rohan told reporters.


Rohan said a final agreement was expected to be reached at the end of the year.


Kosovo has been administered by the UN since the end of the war in 1999, when NATO forces intervened. Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians are demanding total independence, while Serbia is offering wide autonomy.


The leader of the Kosovo delegation, local Administration Minister Lutfi Haziri, told a press conference that his delegation would not sign any agreements on local administration with Belgrade until after the province received independence.


At a separate press conference, the Serbian delegation, reiterated Belgrade's offer of autonomy.


The next round of talks is planned for 17 March in Vienna.