Friday, October 21, 2005

Diplomatic conflict between Serbia and Slovenia

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia-- Friday – Slovenian President Janez Drnovsek has sent his advisor Ivo Vajgl to Belgrade today to sort out yesterday’s diplomatic conflict between Slovenia and Serbia-Montenegro.

The recent statements Drnovsek made regarding Kosovo, and Serbia-Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic’s decision to postpone Drnovsek’s visit to Belgrade because of them, have led to a high level of diplomatic tension between the two nations.

Vajgl told B92 that these issues should not damage the good relations between Ljubljana and Belgrade. “I am coming with the intention of giving our contacts a new meaning and different tone, and to simply not allow these relations to worsen because of a misunderstanding. I believe that there are enough good reasons to go ahead with this.” Vajgl said.

According to B92’s Ljubljana correspondent, Jelica Greganovic, Vajgl said that there is no misunderstanding between Serbia-Montenegro and Slovenia, and no grudges resulting from Drnovsek’s proposed Kosovo project. Vajgl made an appearance on Slovenian television to try and explain the misunderstanding and why Drnovsek’s trip to Belgrade was cancelled. Asked whether he thinks that his visit to Belgrade is perhaps an effort to fight for an already lost cause, Vajgl said that it absolutely is not, and President Drnovsek was fully aware of the situation, knowing that this proposal was made for a very complicated situation, deeply rooted in history and emotions, so that he really was not expecting a positive reaction from Belgrade.

“I still think that it is a constructive proposal, something Slovenia could recommend for solving this problem, which touches close to home.” Vajgl said. Asked why, considering that he and Drnovsek are very familiar with the situation in the Balkans, they mentioned the word “independence,” when they knew the kind of reaction it would get from Belgrade, Vajgl said, “That little word probably stings every Serbian politician, regardless of what context it is mentioned in, and it will probably be mentioned many more times during the discussions, regardless of who will lead them, but of course, in the real, sensitive context, in a manner in which it may be acceptable. There will be no agreement if it is not acceptable.”

Vajgl said that the main purpose of his visit to Belgrade is to explain the reasons and motives behind Slovenia’s desire to actively participate in the Kosovo status discussions and clear up the misunderstanding which has ensued. He added that the misunderstanding does not have anything to do with a criticism of the existing programs which were described in the initial Kosovo proposal and program.

The Slovenian diplomat is convinced that the cancellation of Drnovsek’s visit as a sign of protest will not cause any damage to the political and economic cooperation between Slovenia and Serbia-Montenegro, because there is no reason for it to do so. Both countries have a huge amount of interest in continued cooperation, Vajgl said. All comments made on the television program last night by Vajgl represent the official stances of Drnovsek’s cabinet, according to the president’s media coordinator Kristina Bole.

How it all started

Two days ago, Slovenian President Janez Drnovsek said that Kosovo independence is a realistic possibility if all needed conditions can be met. In response to this, Serbia-Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic addressed a letter to Drnovsek, postponing the invitation for his visit to Belgrade. Drnovsek’ statement was, according to Slovenian officials, part of his proposal for solving the Kosovo status question.

In fact, this statement given by Drnovsek, which has led to this conflict between Slovenia and Serbia-Montenegro, is the main theme of the letter which Drnovsek has sent to Contact Group officials, the European Commission, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, presenting his personal views of what the best solution for Kosovo’s status crisis would be. The contents of the letter state that conditions for a peaceful future and the respecting of minority rights in Kosovo would be possible only if Kosovo was to gain independence. There is no mention of the possibility that discussions could lead to a conclusion that does not include independence, the word “if” is not even used.

All that is given in the letter is a timeframe by which Kosovo should be able to obtain independence. Even though Drnovsek suggests that the status discussion could be held in Slovenia, as a neutral territory, because of this letter this is no longer a viable option and Slovenia is now, in the eyes of Serbia, hardly neutral. Such a disregard for Serbia-Montenegro as one of the potential sides in the status discussions has never even been displayed by the Slovenian Foreign Affairs Ministry. The fact itself that the ministry declined to comment on Marovic’s cancellation of the Drnovsek visit proves that the ministry does not wish to take responsibility for this problem created by the Slovenian president. This also confirms the reports of many Slovenian journalists and political analysts, that definite differences exist between Drnovsek and Slovenian Foreign Affairs Minister Dimitrij Rupel.

Advisor to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, Vladeta Jankovic, told B92 that the decision to postpone Drnovsek’s visit was both very strict, but also much-needed. “That type of statement which the Slovenian President allowed himself to make should not be tolerated by any nation, because what President Drnovsek said, unfortunately, no one has officially said yet, no international officials from any country have gone as far to say that independence is the only realistic option for Kosovo.” Jankovic said.

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