US envoy hails Belgrade’s decision to engage in fresh Kosovo talks

photo1.jpgUS envoy Frank Wisner voiced confidence Tuesday (February 6th) that Serbia’s leaders will take part in the upcoming consultations on a UN proposal to resolve the Kosovo status issue.

“I leave with the assurance… that the Serbian government intends to engage in further negotiations,” Wisner told reporters in Belgrade following talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. “I personally welcome the fact that the government of Serbia will engage in what I feel confident is the final round of negotiations.”

UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari unveiled his blueprint for Kosovo during visits to Belgrade and Pristina on Friday. It would allow Kosovo to adopt a constitution and national symbols, such as a flag and an anthem, within the framework of internationally supervised self-rule.

The two sides have been invited to join talks on the former Finnish president’s proposal, which are scheduled to kick off in Vienna on February 13th. However, Serbia has indicated it will ask the Contact Group to postpone the discussions until the convocation of a new parliament in Serbia and the formation of a new negotiating team.

The Ahtisaari plan is a “historic document” that sets the stage for a “stable, prosperous and multiethnic Kosovo”, Wisner said on Tuesday, calling for a swift conclusion to the process.

“These negotiations need to be brought to a close with as little delay as possible so that Kosovo can move on to its own future, and that Serbia … fully enters into the community of Western Europe and its institutions,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

On Monday, Wisner was in Pristina to meet with Kosovo Albanian leaders, who said their side would attend the new round of consultations in Vienna.

He told reporters that he would travel to Moscow later this week to request Russia’s support in bringing the process to a resolution.

“I will be making the point that what was begun together should end together,” he said, voicing confidence that Russia would not “damage” the unity of the Contact Group for Kosovo.

Russia has suggested that it could use its Security Council veto power to block any proposal that is unacceptable to Serbia. At the weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow and Washington still disagree.

“So far we don’t have a common view how to resolve this problem,” Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying after his return from talks in the United States.

In a bid to persuade Belgrade to respond “constructively” to Ahitsaari’s proposal, a group of senior EU representatives was due to arrive in Belgrade on Wednesday. The delegation includes EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

They are being joined by Manuel Lobo Antunes, the foreign minister of Portugal, which will take over the EU presidency from Germany on July 1st.

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