US envoy Wisner: independence must be end goal of any new Kosovo talks

1212.jpgUS special envoy Frank Wisner was in Pristina on Friday (June 15th) to urge patience as the status process winds towards resolution. He reiterated Washington’s support for Kosovo’s independence, and said sovereignty for the province must be the end goal of any new round of talks between Belgrade and Pristina.“The process to achieve independence is taking longer than any of you or we would have liked,” Wisner acknowledged. “But it is important that independence be achieved as a result of a UN Security Council resolution that will set the stage for recognition, and will open the door to your acceptance into NATO and the EU.”

Starting in February 2006, the UN sponsored several rounds of direct talks between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian negotiating teams, but both sides proved unwilling to budge on key issues concerning the province’s future. Kosovo Albanians say they will accept nothing short of becoming a sovereign state, while Belgrade is offering what it calls “broad autonomy”.

Russia, which has the power to veto any draft resolution brought before the Security Council, has threatened to do so if the text is not acceptable to Serbia. Belgrade and Moscow have been pressing for additional talks, insisting that the potential for negotiation has not been exhausted.

On Friday, Wisner confirmed that another round of negotiations may be in store. However, he said, the purpose would not be to arrive at an outcome other than independence, or to slow down that outcome.

Rather, new talks would “make it clear to the world that every avenue was pursued”, Wisner said.

Local media reports, citing diplomatic sources, say a new UN resolution has been drafted and could be circulated officially this week. It reportedly calls for another 120 days of talks. After that, if no agreement is reached, UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s status plan — which envisions “supervised independence” for Kosovo — would automatically go into effect.

The United States will continue to push hard for a prompt outcome, Wisner told the leadership in Pristina. “I can’t give you an exact date. International, multilateral negotiations are, by definition, complex and time consuming,” he said.

However, he added, “while we are working for your future, there is much you can do in Kosovo: work on constitutional issues; draft an election law; plan the mechanics of decentralisation; delineate protective zones for cultural heritage sites; continue with the transition framework; and finish the process of state symbols.”

It is very important to maintain calm and discipline, Wisner said, saying these attributes have defined Kosovo and its leaders over the past months.

“We look to them to maintain their unity of effort and work in partnership with the international community, as Kosovo moves towards independence,” he said. For his part, Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu said the process of reaching that goal is already under way.

“We are just waiting for independence day,” Sejdiu said.

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