Envoys visit Kosovo on last hunt for compromise

Envoys of Russia, the United States and European Union were due in Kosovo on Saturday at the start of a last-ditch diplomatic mission to decide on the Albanian majority's demand for independence from Serbia.

Envoys visit Kosovo on last hunt for compromise
The "troika" of diplomats was due to arrive by U.S. military helicopter from Belgrade, where Serb leaders on Friday repeated their opposition to independence for the U.N.-run province.

The envoys took on the mission last month after a Western-backed resolution for statehood -- derived from 13 months of fruitless Serb-Albanian talks -- was blocked at the United Nations by Russia, acting on behalf of its ally Serbia.

Western diplomats admit the latest round of diplomacy and talks stand little chance of success, and might only buy time before Kosovo's 2 million Albanians declare independence unilaterally and seek recognition from the major Western powers.

"We will tell the troika this is the last delay for Kosovo's status," Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku said on Friday.

"Right after these 120 days of talks the decision to recognize Kosovo's independence should be taken."

The troika is due to report back to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by December 10, which Washington says is the final deadline for a deal. The Kosovo daily Koha Ditore said the troika's task was "to make possible the impossible".

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombed for 11 weeks to drive out Serb forces fighting a two-year war with separatist Albanian guerrillas and halt the slaughter and ethnic cleansing of Albanian civilians.

Washington, and leaders of the 90 percent Albanian majority, had expected a resolution last year, but Russia shows no sign of giving in at the U.N. Security Council, where it holds a veto.

Neither is there any hint of concession from Serbs or Albanians on the bottom line -- Kosovo's independence.

The West still clings to a U.N. blueprint drafted by envoy Martti Ahtisaari, offering independence under EU supervision.

But Serbia and Russia say the plan is a dead letter.

"At the very start those leading the process are further apart than they were two years ago, and are supposedly going to close the gap between Belgrade and Pristina," Goran Svilanovic of the Stability Pact for South-East Europe told the Serb state news agency Tanjug. "I'm very skeptical," he said.

If there is no U.N. mandate -- to which Russia holds the key -- then the unity of the 27-member EU could crack with half a dozen members refusing to recognize Kosovo. NATO powers leading 16,000 troops in Kosovo fear unrest if independence is denied.


Reuters
Last Mod: 11 Ağustos 2007, 13:30
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