19 April 2007

UN draft plan for Kosovo ready

Agence France Presse, 25 janvier 2007 12:57


VIENNA, Jan 25, 2007 (AFP)


UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari is Friday to unveil a plan for Kosovo that will focus on protecting the Serb minority's rights in the contested province where ethnic Albanians seek independance.


But his presentation in a closed-door meeting in Vienna to the six-nation Contact Group of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States is only a first step in moving towards a solution.


Ahtisaari will on February 2 present the proposal to the Serbian and Kosovo sides, who will then discuss it further, Ahtisaari's spokeswoman Hua Jiang told AFP.


"The special envoy will engage both parties for further negotiations and discussions after presentation of the proposal," Hua said.


She refused to disclose details. "We do not want to pre-empt the period of further consultations" before a final plan goes to the United Nations, Hua said.


Ahtisaari had Wednesday told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that his plan would focus on "the protection of minority rights, in particular of the Kosovo Serbs" and "a strong international civilian and military presence within a broader future international engagement in Kosovo."


Ahtisaari said his plan "provides the foundations for a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo in which the rights and interests of all members of its communities are firmly guaranteed and protected by institutions based on the rule of law."


He said it would be "very important that Pristina fully and formally commits itself to implementating all elements of an eventual settlement."


The Wall Street Journal said in a editorial that Kosovo was unlikely to be granted as much autonomy as it wants, with the emphasis now being on protecting the Serb minority in the mainly ethnic Albanian province.


Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign ended a crackdown there by Serbia on separatist ethnic Albanian rebels.


The European Union wants to hold talks with Serbia to prevent any opposition from Belgrade's traditional ally Russia, which has threatened to veto any UN Security Council resolution that would impose independence.


"Russia believes it is unacceptable that a decision on the status of Kosovo be imposed from the outside," Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday, adding a solution should be acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina.


Diplomatic sources in Vienna said an additional round of bilateral talks, as suggested by the United States, is probable as Western powers want to avoid a status that will appear to have been imposed by the Security Council.


Ahtisaari had been due to present his proposals in December but put off his announcement until elections in Serbia on January 21.


The ultra-nationalists claimed victory in Sunday's elections although the divided pro-European democrats won a majority of votes.


Ahtisaari has held technical discussions between Serbia and Kosovo, which have included decentralisation, cultural, religious and economic issues, since February 2006 in Vienna but without results.


Hua said Friday's talks in Vienna would be held at a secret location and that no statements would be issued to the press.


But she said "summaries and fact sheets" would be released on February 2 "once the proposal is presented to both parties."


The Kosovo issue will also be discussed during a meeting of NATO ministers Friday in Brussels.