EU to agree Kosovo talks over

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU leaders are expected to agree this week that efforts to reach a negotiated solution to the Kosovo problem are exhausted, and offer to take responsibility for security and justice in the breakaway Serbian province.

EU negotiator Wolfgang Ischinger will brief European Union foreign ministers on Monday on the results of four months of mediation efforts and urge them to help stabilize the Balkan territory by sending in police and justice officials soon.

Leaders of the 27-nation bloc are expected to declare in a statement at a summit on Friday that negotiations are over and that the future of both Serbia and Kosovo lies in the European Union, diplomats said.

They are also likely to confirm they are willing to dispatch police and justice missions and appoint a high representative to oversee Kosovo if asked by the Kosovo Albanian government and the United Nations Secretary-General.

“It is clear that the future of Serbia and Kosovo lies in the European Union. That’s something that both sides agree on,” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in an interview with Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

A troika of EU, U.S. and Russian mediators told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a report on Friday that their mission failed because neither side was willing to give way on the fundamental question of sovereignty over Kosovo.

The troika had been given a December 10 deadline for completing its report.

“We were given 120 days but if we had been given 1,200 days the outcome would have been the same,” an aide quoted Ischinger as telling Solana.


The next step is for the U.N. Security Council to debate the mediators’ report on December 19 and try to agree on a resolution.

Agreement looks impossible since Russia continues to back Belgrade’s rejection of independence for Kosovo, which Western powers see as the only viable and durable solution. Moscow and Belgrade have called for more talks.

Four or five of the 27 EU states, notably Cyprus and Greece, have misgivings about recognizing a unilateral declaration of independence by the Kosovo Albanians, partly out of fear of a precedent for ethnic or national groups at home.

EU leaders are likely to duck the independence question for now and focus on what they can agree on, while stressing the importance of staying united after they sign a major treaty to reform their institutions on Thursday in Lisbon.

The four European powers involved in supervising Balkans diplomacy — Britain, Germany, France and Italy — wrote to their EU partners on Friday, saying negotiations were exhausted and the Europeans would have to meet their responsibilities.

“(They) also suggested we should help Serbia by supporting its efforts to move more rapidly towards giving it candidate status (for EU membership),” a Western official familiar with the letter said.

Solana played down the risk of violence after the failure of mediation efforts, telling Welt am Sonntag: “I don’t expect unrest after December 10. I expect the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians will be prudent and won’t risk stability in the Balkans.”

“I’m confident that Belgrade and Pristina will keep their word not to resort to violence and will do nothing that could threaten security in Kosovo or elsewhere,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was due to visit Cyprus on Sunday to confer with a fellow opponent of unilateral independence for Kosovo on the eve of the EU meeting.

Cyprus Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Markoullis told Reuters her government wanted a negotiated and agreed settlement backed by the U.N. Security Council.

“Otherwise we risk undermining the whole U.N. system and its institutions, and this could create a very dangerous precedent,” she said in a reference to the fear that the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus could also gain recognition.

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