08 December 2006

New delays may hamper Kosovo 'status' process

Agence France Presse, Web posted at: 11/11/2006 3:42:27


Brussels . The process of defining Kosovo's future status could fall apart if a decision on how much autonomy the Serbian province should have is delayed further, a leading think-tank warned yesterday.


"The Kosovo final status process risks breaking down the further the decision is pushed back into 2007," the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in its latest report.


The warning came as the UN envoy on Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, said that he would wait to reveal his plans for the future of the majority ethnic-Albanian region until after the Serbian elections set for January 21. He had been scheduled to make his recommendations by the end of the year.


Kosovo has been run by a UN mission since 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign ended a crackdown by Belgrade on separatist minded Albanian rebels in the province. The Serbian parliament on Wednesday passed a new constitution - backed by voters in a referendum - that defines the province as an "integral" part of Serbia, but the final UN proposal is expected to grant Kosovo sovereignty.


The report said that instead of finally closing the question of western Balkan borders with an orderly settlement, the delay would "open a new destabilising chapter".


"The longer the Kosovo Albanians are forced to wait, the greater the chance they will discredit themselves with unilateral independence moves or riots," it went on.


The group said that such moves would see international support swing away from them and potentially ruin hopes that Kosovo's Serbian minority would remain in the province.


"Offered certainty on their destination, Kosovo's Albanians could cope with a slower implementation timetable than the end-of-2006 deadline they until recently took as gospel," the Crisis Group said.