Kosovo to Serbs: Accept separate, cordial future

The leaders of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority urged Serbia on Thursday to stop trying to block independence for the breakaway province and instead look to a future of friendly relations between two sovereign states.

Kosovo to Serbs: Accept separate, cordial future
The leaders of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority urged Serbia on Thursday to stop trying to block independence for the breakaway province and instead look to a future of friendly relations between two sovereign states.

The Albanians were first to meet the three-man mediating team from Russia, the United States and European Union heading fresh talks on Kosovo's future.

There is not a glimmer of a breakthrough in sight. Kosovo Albanians demand independence after eight years under United Nations rule but Serbs insist they can never have it.

"We have the opportunity to give real clarity to Kosovo's independence," Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku told the diplomatic "troika," according to a statement.

"The core of this is our relationship with Serbia. We have the opportunity to lay the foundations for a mature, stable functioning relationship between independent neighbors."

The Serbs met separately with the envoys.

Serbs and Albanians talked past each other for 13 months until March when U.N. mediator Martti Ahtisaari called a halt. He said agreement was impossible and proposed independence under the supervision of the EU.

But Russia, an ally of Serbia, blocked adoption of his plan at the U.N. Security Council.

The West reluctantly agreed to new talks, hoping to wrap them up by December 10 when the envoys report back to the U.N.. Russia rejects that deadline.

In a statement to reporters after the meeting, the Kosovo team said they insisted the Ahtisaari package "cannot be renegotiated" and hoped the talks will "make sure that the Western Balkans finally enter an era of peaceful existence."

BRUTAL CRACKDOWN

The Serbia of late hardliner Slobodan Milosevic made Kosovo's large Albanian majority a fearful underclass in the 1990s. They took up arms, then a brutal crackdown on them, and drew NATO in on their side in 1999.

Kosovo has been occupied by NATO ever since, now with 16,000 soldiers from 35 nations, and the Albanians say they will never again be part of a country that tried to wipe them out.

Direct talks are expected before December. EU envoy Wolfgang Ischinger made clear on Thursday the process was not open-ended and the mediators had a mandate only until Dec 10.

Diplomats and some Kosovo politicians forecast unrest if the deadlock continues. Kosovo says it will declare independence with or without a U.N. resolution after talks end.

Serbia says Kosovo independence would violate international law. Foreign diplomats fear that, faced with the inevitable, Belgrade could use hardball tactics to suffocate the new state economically, such as blocking access roads.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told his ministers on Thursday that with the help of Russia, Serbia had "managed to eliminate the danger that the Security Council passes a resolution taking part of our territory away."

"The danger that Albanian separatists unilaterally proclaim independence has not been removed," he said.

"We have to warn, and call on the international community to face up to this issue, and to send the message that unilaterally proclaimed independence would be worthless."

Reuters
Last Mod: 31 Ağustos 2007, 00:21
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