Friday, October 07, 2005

Kosovo talks loom

BELGRADE -- Friday – Negotiations on the final status of Kosovo should not begin until progress has been made on decentralisation local government authority, Boris Tadic said yesterday after meeting Soeren Jessen-Petersen. However Belgrade appears to be fighting a losing battle in staving the talks off.

During his Belgrade meeting with the UN governor of Serbia’s southern province, Tadic insisted that the issues of refugee repatriation and the protection of Serbia cultural monuments must be dealt with quickly.

Jessen-Petersen briefed Tadic on the likely forms the status negotiations will take and his view of the situation on the ground.

The two agreed that it would be useful to pay attention to continuing direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina on decentralisation in the interest of establishing a tangible ambience for the coming status discussions, particularly in view of the present difficult situation of Kosovo Serbs.

Poised for talks

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday that he would probably propose very soon to the Security Council that negotiations on Kosovo’s future status should begin.

Meanwhile, the team set up to represent Pristina at the talks said after their first meeting that independence for Kosovo is not a negotiable issue.

Annan’s special envoy for assessing the implementation of the standards imposed by the international community on Kosovo has submitted his report to the secretary-general and the Security Council is expected to review this within twenty days.

According to unconfirmed reports, Kai Eide has recommended that, despite the failure to meet the standards, status talks should begin immediately.

Kostunica government “without credibility”

The Serbian prime minister’s Kosovo advisor, Dusan Batakovic, told B92 that independence for Kosovo is an unacceptable resolution for Serbia.

However one Kosovo Serb political leader said that the Kostunica Government has no credibility where the future of Kosovo is concerned and must fall before the status talks begin.

Oliver Ivanovic, who leads the Serbian List for Kosovo, said that if the government didn’t fall for other reason, then it must fall over the Kosovo problem.

“I expect the Government to take the initiative and call extraordinary elections, so that the new government will be strong, not a minority government, and will manage to secure a consensus to resolve the Kosovo issue,” Ivanovic told the BBC.

Belgrade against Ahtisaari

The talks are expected to be led by Marti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish prime minister who mediated a peace settlement between Slobodan Milosevic and NATO after 88 days of brutal air attacks on Yugoslavia by the Western alliance in 1999.

However the head of Belgrade’s Kosovo Coordination Centre, Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, said that Ahtisaari would be unacceptable to Serbia and that everything possible would be done to prevent him having a leading role in the negotiations, because of his membership of the International Crisis Group and its advocacy of independence for Kosovo.

“He is a member of a group which is backing some other resolution. So if someone is going to be a supervisor, he must be completely neutral, but I’m afraid he is not.

Raskovic-Ivic says that, after speaking to Kosovo Serb leaders, she is convinced that they will all back the official line when the time comes for negotiations, despite the fact that some will be in the official delegation and some will not.

“It’s important that there are two equal delegations, a Serbian delegation and an Albanian delegation, and that shuttle diplomacy is avoided,” she said, adding that a negotiation system based on lobby groups would not be responsible.

If Serbs go to the table with one negotiation team from Belgrade and one of Kosovo Serbs it would give the international community the impression that Kosovo and Serbia were already separated, said Raskovic-Ivic. B92

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