Friday, December 10, 2004

Words fail Balkan leaders when it comes to Kosovo.

Balkan heads of state on Friday said dialogue was the only way to heal the war-ravaged region but could not agree on words for the Kosovo question and had to leave it out their summit statement.

The presidents of Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro met in Tirana for two days to discuss inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue in the Balkans.

"We are all committed to making use of dialogue as the only way to achieve full stability and overall progress in south-east Europe, leading to the successful completion of the European integration process in the entire region," a statement said.

But there was no mention of Kosovo - the most critical and explosive issue facing the Balkans as ethnic Albanians press for independence in 2005 against Serb determination to recover the province from U.N. rule.

A proposed clause on Kosovo had to be left out because Serbia and Montenegro and Albania could not smooth over their differences even on neutral wording of the problem.

"The clause on Kosovo was struck out because Serbia wanted to say the issue should be dealt with through 'European solutions' while Albania wanted to say it will happen in the context of a 'European future'," a diplomatic source said.

Albania's formulation implied negotiations should include the United Nations and the United States, which took the lead in the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 over its treatment of ethnic Albanians. Belgrade disagrees.

Kosovo is still legally part of Serbia but Belgrade pulled its troops out after the bombing, since when the mainly ethnic Albanian province has been run by the United Nations.

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