17 January 2007

Bildt: Kosovo has been de facto independent since 1999

Serbian Press Agency SRNA, Bijeljina, 16-11-2006 19:24:06

BELGRADE, November 16 - Swedish foreign affairs minister Karl Bildt said that since 1999 Kosovo has de facto been independent but that we should wait and see how the status of the province will be ultimately defined.

"It is obvious that Kosovo is already de facto separated from Serbia. In 1999 Milosevic turned Kosovo over to the UN. Since then, with the exception of the part north of the Ibar, other parts of the province really have no significant ties with Serbia," Bildt told B92.

Bildt, a former international facilitator in the Yugoslav crisis, expressed the hope that Serbia would look toward the future and European integrations before it is pulled back and blocked by Kosovo's problems.

"Let's be realistic; regardless of the solution to Kosovo's status, there will be very difficult questions there for years, regardless of who is in charge - the EU, the UN or the government of independent Kosovo," said the Swedish foreign affairs minister.

He said that the eventual independence of Kosovo will not influence the status of Republika Srpska and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"RS was at one time a controversial issue and it remains so today but it is in the Dayton Agreement and it will remain so. That agreement is guaranteed by both Serbia and Croatia but it is my hope that over time all this will be replaced by an agreement on EU membership so that these borders were become far less important than they are today," said Bildt.