Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Breaking News - Western states may forestall Kosovo status talks

According to the British government, the West is changing its policy on the unresolved status of the UN-administrated province of Kosovo. Two years ago, the UN created a set of benchmarks to be fulfilled by local authorities, the so-called “standards” dealing with security, minority rights, democracy, and law and order, as a precondition for beginning talks on the province’s final status, which will take the shape either of independence or of broad autonomy within Serbia and Montenegro. Denis MacShane, Britain’s minister for Europe, said on Monday that the standards policy was changing and that the time for tackling Kosovo’s status was drawing nearer. “A year ago, we talked about standards before status. Today, we are talking about standards and status […] In London and in other European capitals we want the solution to come from here and not to be imposed from outside. Time is running out,” he said. However, British officials now say that Kosovo’s status can no longer be delayed. In a message to authorities in Belgrade, MacShane pressed for dialog between Belgrade and Pristina after meeting with Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, just two days after parliamentary elections in Kosovo. Last December, the international community attempted to initiate technical talks between the two parties in order to prepare them for final status talks, but so far, those efforts have failed. “With each rejection of direct dialog between Pristina and Belgrade, between Serbs and Albanians, the question of final status becomes more urgent in the international agenda,” MacShane said at a press conference before leaving for Kosovo. The UN has said it will evaluate achievements on the standards of democracy and multi-ethnicity in Kosovo by mid-2005. According to MacShane, the international community would step up efforts to find a solution to the Kosovo question, regardless of the Serb boycott of Saturday's parliamentary elections. Britain is an influential EU member that has much sway in the international community in terms of policy on the Balkans, and particularly on Kosovo. EU diplomats told ISN Security Watch that the largest EU member states and the US had already agreed to positively assess the achieving of the standards next year and to clear the way for status talks. They said that changing the timetable was a direct result of Western fears of a repeat of the March violence in Kosovo, as Albanian majority frustrations over the status quo and the poor economic situation increase. But diplomats cautioned that the EU-US consensus must have the agreement of Russia and China, two important UN Security Council members. The Russian government has argued against independence for Kosovo. (By Ekrem Krasniqi in Brussels)

No comments: