Friday, October 14, 2005

Burns warns of crunch time for Belgrade

BELGRADE, -- Friday – Serbia-Montenegro must decide between a prosperous future or being a hostage of Hague Tribunal fugitives, Nicholas Burns said in Belgrade today.

The US undersecretary of state, speaking to Foreign Affairs Minister Vuk Draskovic, said that Kosovo status talks could begin next month, after the November 2 meeting of the Contact Group in Washington.

A Foreign Affairs Ministry statement quoted Burns as saying that without the extradition of the remaining Hague Tribunal fugitives, Belgrade could expect a comprehensive relationship with the US, nor membership of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.

Draskovic told Burns that the main obstacle to extradition of Hague fugitives is the existence of political parties and structures from the former regime which wanted to return to power and return Serbia to poverty, isolation, hate and new conflicts.

Burns said that the US position on Kosovo is to seek a compromise between Belgrade, Pristina and the international community, in the interests of everyone in Kosovo and stability in the whole region.

The undersecretary is continuing his visit to Belgrade today with meetings with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. He met Serbian President Boris Tadic last night, but no statements were issued after the meeting.

Talks in thirty days

Burns said in Pristina yesterday that the US Administration believes that talks on the final status of Kosovo will begin within thirty days.

“What I have said to the Kosovo leaders is that the should be prepared for discussions. We believe that we will se the beginning of discussions within thirty days,” said Burns.

The Pristina and Belgrade governments must make a difficult decision through negotiations. “My government in Washington intends to be very active in the negotiations. We shall appoint a special US envoy who will take part and support the United Nations, but we won’t propose a final outcome for the negotiations. It’s not up to the US to decide about Kosovo’s future. It’s up to us to create the conditions to begin negotiations, to warn all sides that compromise is necessary and that the final solution must be such that Albanians and Serbs can live together in peace.

The American diplomat said that Kosovo Serbs must decide as soon as possible who will negotiate on their behalf.

“The possibility also remains for their to be a special delegation at the status talks to which the US Government will name its special envoy in the desire to assist with a successful outcome to the negotiations.

Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi warned the US diplomat that it would be very dangerous for Kosovo if the negotiations on the province’s final status stretched into the unforeseeable future. President Ibrahim Rugova briefed the undersecretary on the Kosovo negotiating team and renewed his demand that Kosovo’s independence be accepted directly.

“I’m insisting on the direct acceptance of independence by the US and the EU because this would calm tensions in the this part of Europe and the world,” said Rugova.

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