EU appoints German diplomat as Kosovo talks mediator

1203.jpgGerman career diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger was named Sunday (July 29th) as the EU’s representative in the upcoming talks between Belgrade and Pristina on Kosovo’s future status.

His appointment, announced by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana’s office, followed the six-nation Contact Group’s decision on Wednesday that a troika, comprised of EU, US and Russian envoys, will mediate the new negotiations between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian officials.

Ischinger, 61, is currently serving as Germany’s ambassador to Britain. He was deputy foreign minister at the time of the negotiations on the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the more than three-year conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). His role in those talks earned him the reputation of being an expert on the Balkans. From 2001 to 2006, Ischinger was Germany’s ambassador to the United States.

“Ambassador Ischinger will make every effort to achieve real and meaningful negotiations between the parties,” Solana’s spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach, said in a statement Sunday. “Kosovo is a key priority for the EU,” she added, stressing that Solana would continue to follow closely the developments on the ground “with the aim to achieve a lasting and sustainable solution to the [status] question”.

US envoy Frank Wisner, who took part in the 13-month talks on Kosovo led by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari last year, is expected to join Ischinger as a member of the troika. Russia has not named its representative.

The six-nation Contact Group, comprised of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States, agreed on the troika format of the new round of talks after Western nations shelved their latest draft of a UN Security Council resolution on Kosovo amid threats from Moscow that it would veto the document.

The EU and the United States have been attempting to put forward a resolution based on Ahtisaari’s proposal for supervised independence. But Moscow, which says it opposes block any plan that is unacceptable to Belgrade, has rejected every draft submitted so far.

The Kosovo Albanians, who make up 90% of the province’s population of 2 million, have made it clear that they will not settle to anything less than independence. But Serbia has repeatedly stated that it will not agree to anything more than substantial autonomy.

Citing Kosovo media reports, Belgrade-based Radio B92 said Monday that the EU-US-Russia troika was expected to visit Pristina within the next two weeks, marking the start of the new round of talks.

With no official statement issued after the Contact Group’s meeting in Vienna last week, it was initially unclear whether Russia has accepted the Western countries’ proposal that the negotiations last no longer than 120 days.

“Our intention will be to start as soon as possible, and to stick to the 120-day period,” Gallach told reporters on Friday, adding that once all three mediators have been appointed, other aspects of the negotiations would be finalised.

“The talks have to be open-ended in terms of no-prejudging the outcome, but not open-ended in terms of the timeline,” she said.

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