Fried calls for limited period of negotiations on Kosovo

168.jpgKosovo will inevitably gain independence, and it would be better if the transition to its new status is orderly, a senior US diplomat said on Tuesday (July 10th) after a meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

“It will happen one way or another … It’s our view it should happen in the most orderly way,” US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said, describing the prospect of a sovereign Kosovo as “objective reality”. Such an outcome, he said, is the result of the 1998-1999 conflict, and there is no going back now.

Fried also said Kosovo Albanian and Serbian negotiators would be given another 120 days to try and hash out an agreement on the future of the province. After that, he said, there would be no further delays.

Earlier, the US diplomat was in Pristina for talks with the leadership there. He confirmed that “a limited period of negotiations” would take place, but that the final result would be independence.

Asked about the recent meeting between US President George W. Bush and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Fried said they did not discuss the Kosovo issue in detail.

However, he added, Washington will continue to engage Moscow in a dialogue, in the hope of convincing Russia to support a new UN resolution. He also confirmed that Kosovo’s negotiating team will travel to Washington later this month for a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu said that while independence is non-negotiable, his side is willing to participate in further talks.

“As we said before, we will not negotiate for the independence of Kosovo. But for us it is important to play a constructive part in negotiations, in order to fulfil this process very soon.”

In Belgrade, Serbian offiicals told Fried that they too are willing to enter into new talks, as long as independence is not the stated goal.

Meanwhile, diplomats in New York continued efforts to draft a new resolution that would be presented to the UN Security Council before the end of the week. According to unofficial reports, the United States and its European allies will try to overcome Russian objections by dropping a clause that would make Kosovo independent automatically if the new round of talks fails to yield an agreement.

The Western allies want to see serious negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, without preset goals, Italy’s UN Ambassador, Marcello Spatafora, told reporters.

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon met with EU security chief Javier Solana in Brussels to discuss the deadlock over Kosovo. At a press conference afterwards, Ban called on all sides to abstain from “premature and unilateral” acts, which he said would only introduce further complications.

Ban acknowledged that the UN is presently facing an “impasse” over Kosovo, and warned that delaying the status process could lead to new outbreaks of violence and have a negative impact on the entire region.

For his part, Solana said the EU is ready to send a mission to Kosovo, but first needs a Security Council resolution.

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