05 June 2007

U.S. backs speedy resolution of the future status of Kosovo

Associated Press, Wednesday, February 07, 2007 2:39 PM


WASHINGTON-The United States supports a speedy resolution of the future status of Kosovo, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday.


"We need to recognize the longer this drags out, the more likely we are to have a breakdown in order in Kosovo itself," Rice told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.


She said the United States is "supporting very closely" the efforts of special U.N. envoy Martii Ahtisaari, who presented a plan for Kosovo's future last week.


Rice said the United States was working with Russia and other European nations to implement the proposal.


The international community, she said, has to support an outcome in the talks that Ahtisaari plans to hold talks starting next week with ethnic Albanian and Serbian officials before presenting a final version of the plan to the U.N. Security Council.


Ahtisaari's blueprint does not explicitly mention Kosovo's possible independence from Serbia, but it spells out conditions for internationally supervised self-rule- complete with the trappings of nationhood, including a flag, anthem, army and constitution and the right to apply for membership in international organizations.


The proposal also offers a high degree of self-rule to the Serb minority living in isolated enclaves in Kosovo.


Rice said the ethnic Albanians "have a responsibility too, to protect minority rights, to make certain that Serbs feel they can really live there."


Serbia has rejected the plan, saying it paves the way for the independence of its historic heartland. The majority ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, who have been seeking independence from Serbia for decades, have hailed the draft.


Kosovo has been ruled by the United Nations since the 1999 conflict between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbian government forces. It is the last remaining flashpoint since the breakup of Yugoslavia.