Draft resolution offers more time for Belgrade-Pristina talks

1238.jpgThe members of the UN Security Council are likely to get a new draft resolution on Kosovo’s future Wednesday (June 20th), paving the way for fresh status talks between Belgrade and Pristina.The document, drawn up by the United States and EU nations, would reportedly give the two sides four months to reach an agreement. If the negotiations fail to produce a deal, UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s plan for Kosovo would be automatically put into effect, Reuters reported.

The former Finnish president has recommended that Kosovo be granted EU-supervised independence with trappings of statehood, including a constitution, flag, anthem and rights to membership in international organisations. Ahtisaari’s blueprint also calls for protecting the rights of all minority groups living in the province, particularly the Kosovo Serbs.

Under the plan, an International Civilian Representative would be appointed to supervise the implementation of the settlement. Operating under a UN and EU mandate, that person would have the power to veto laws and dismiss local officials. KFOR would continue to provide security in the province, while the EU would deploy a police mission to assist in the development of “effective, fair and representative rule of law institutions”.

Kosovo Albanians, who make up 90% of the province’s population of 2 million people, have accepted the plan, Serbia has flatly rejected it, insisting that it retain some sovereignty over Kosovo. Backing Belgrade’s demand for more talks on the province’s future, Russia has threatened to exercise its veto power to block any UN Security Council resolution that is unacceptable to Serbia.

Hoping to avoid that possibility, Western nations have suggested incorporating, in the final draft of the plan, Moscow’s suggestion that an envoy be appointed to deal with internally displaced ethnic Serbs.

Belgrade effectively lost control over Kosovo in June 1999, when the province was put under UN administration following a NATO air campaign. Prior to that, Serb forces had engaged in a crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

Speaking during a visit to Athens on Tuesday, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic reiterated Belgrade’s call for more talks with Pristina, while also stressing its staunch opposition to granting Kosovo full independence.

“We’ve got to talk, we want to talk and we’re ready to make a deal. We are prepared to look at all options, because we believe that any compromise, any compromise whatsoever, is infinitely better than any imposed solution,” the minister said. “Our position is that we cannot give up the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country.”

There is broad skepticism, however, that new negotiations between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders will prove more fruitful than those held last year under Ahtisaari’s mediation. Nearly 14 months ended earlier this year with no significant change in the two sides’ stances.

Pushing for a quick resolution to the province’s status issue, Kosovo’s leadership has voiced opposition to any renewal of talks with Belgrade.

“Reopening the Ahtisaari package would be completely unacceptable,” the Belgrade-based Beta news agency on Tuesday quoted Skender Hyseni, the spokesman for Kosovo’s negotiating team, as saying. “Kosovo might need to finalise its status by alternative ways. In that case, the countries that blocked the process in the Security Council would be held responsible.”

Ahtisaari, meanwhile, said Tuesday that he expects Russia to block a Council resolution based on his plan. However, he said, Kosovo would still likely gain independence before the end of this year. Speaking on Finnish television, he said in the case of a veto by Moscow. a solution to Kosovo’s status could be found outside the UN – with backing from the EU and the United States.

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