03 June 2007

Kosovo: Political leaders agree to battle UN envoy's plan



Belgrade, 5 Feb. (AKI) - Leaders of all Serbian parliamentary parties, elected in 21 January elections, agreed on Monday that the new parliament should take a stand on top UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan for Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province. Serbs have slammed the recently unveiled blueprint, which gives Kosovo access to international bodies normally reserved for sovereign states, and allows it to raise its own flag, with its own national anthem, apparently paving the way for independence. Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians greeted the plan with elation.


At a three-hour meeting with president Boris Tadic, the Serbian leaders agreed "almost unanimously" that there can be no further discussion of Ahtisaari's plan until the new parliament is installed. Ahtisaari, who presented his plan to Belgrade and Pristina last Friday, has called a meeting of Serbian and ethnic Albanian leaders in Vienna on 13 February to state their positions on his plan. But Serbian leaders decided that only the new parliament was competent to discuss the plan and that the new negotiating team should be appointed.


Eight rounds of UN sponsored talks in Vienna last year did little to bring the opposing sides closer, and parliamentary leaders said a new negotiating team should be appointed. If the new parliament isn't installed by 13 February, it was suggested that president Tadic himself should travel to Vienna and inform Ahtisaari that the talks should be suspended pending Serbia's new parliament, government and negotiating team.


"The only legitimate branch of government in the country is at this time the president of the Republic, and if we have no other, it is his duty and he must carry it out," said Vladeta Jankovic, vice-president of premier Vojislav Kostunica's centre-right Democratic Party of Serbia. "We would not be opposed to him going to Vienna and temporarily representing Serbia's position there," said Jankovic.


But in a clear sign of dissent, Tadic's office said that he proposed a renewal of the current negotiating team's mandate to attend talks in Vienna. Ahtisaari's proposal was received in Belgrade as a shock and political analysts said that Kostunica and Tadic were trying to throw the "hot potato" into each other's lap. Kostunica has accused Ahtisaari of anti-Serb bias and refused to see him last Friday, claiming that as a caretaker prime minister this was beyond his mandate.


Tadic proposed said the new parliament should debate the plan at its first session, but it was unlikely that the new parliament would be constituted before 13 February. No single party obtained a ruling majoirty in the general election, and many analysts are predicting political deadlock leading to a re-run of the election