09 December 2006

Kosovo: Timing and content of status decision remain a mystery



Kosovo, 13 Nov. (AKI) - The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said Monday he supported top United Nations Kosovo envoy Martti Ahtisaari's recent decision to postpone his final recommendations on the future status of the breakaway Serbian province until after early Serbian parliamentary elections on 21 January. Over the weekend, the senior United States envoy to ongoing UN-led negotiations on Kosovo, Frank Wiesner, said his country backed independence for the Muslim-majority province, that a "very important phase of negotiations had been reached and that the status decision "will be made very soon" without further elaborating.


"It is better to give the elections in Serbia a chance - this will be to everyone's benefit," Solana stated at the start of a meeting of the EU's 25 defence and foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.


But Frank Wiesner, special US envoy in the negotiations on the Kosovo status, on Saturday told Pristina Television 21 that a "very important phase of negotiations has been reached" and that the "decision will be made very soon."


Wiesner said he had no doubt that the demands by ethnic Albanians, who outnumber the remaining Serbs in Kosovo by 17 to one, will be satisfied. "These are legitimate aspirations which the United States supports," he said.


Ahtisaari said last Friday he will unveil his proposals for Kosovo's future status immediately after the 21 January parliamentary elections in Serbia. The decision - reportedly taken at the insistence of the EU - seems intended to block the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party from winning the general election and getting into power.


Wiesner said that he was "deeply convinced that the process of solving Kosovo's future status, led by Ahtisaari and the six-nation Contact Group, will lead to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Kosovo in line with the political will of the people in Kosovo. We are on the threshold of that goal and all of us must support Ahtisaari," he added.


The Contact Group, made up of UN Security Council permanent members the United States, Great Britain, Russia and France, as well as Germany and Italy, is supposed to accept Ahtisaari's proposal and pass it on to the UN Security Council, which will take the final decision.


But according to the reports from western capitals, the Security Council might leave to each individual country to recognise Kosovo's independence unilaterally in order to avoid a possible Russian veto in the Council. Russia supports Serbia in opposing independence for the province and changes to the existing borders of Balkan states.


Most of Kosovo's overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian majority - which outnumbers the tiny remaining Serb minority in the province - wants independence for the province and has so far rejected the broad autonomy Serbia has signalled it is prepared to concede it.


Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo outnumber Serbs by 17 to one.


Kosovo has been under UN control since 1999. Violence flared in the province when the Kosovo Liberation Army, supported by ethnic Albanians, came out in open rebellion against Serbian rule in the mid-1990s, sparking a brutal Yugoslav military crackdown.


Serbian forces began an 'ethnic cleansing' campaign against up to half of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians in 1999 triggering a NATO bombing campaign that drove Serb forces from the province. Some 800,000 people fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro and approximately 10,000 died in the conflict.