Text of interview with Pristina-based British Office head Mark Dickinson by Fortuna Haxhikadria entitled " Britain does not oppose option of independence, postponement of talks not mentioned" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 11 May - subheadings as published
Prishtina [Pristina], 10 May - British representatives did not hesitate to say recently in Belgrade that the independence of Kosova [Kosovo] was an option for the final status. They said the same thing at a recent meeting of the Contact Group in Prishtina. British Office Head Mark Dickinson also asserted this in an interview with Koha Ditore .
"We believe the independence of Kosova is an option, while there are people who say that this option should not be taken into consideration. We have also said that we will not support a solution to which Belgrade and Prishtina will not agree; therefore, all these remain to be viewed," he stated.
He said the British do not oppose the option of independence for the status of Kosova. He considers it wrong to predict how the beginning of these talks should look and the role of various players.
"It would be a mistake to predict a process that has not been designed yet by the international community. Nonetheless, as the British government, we believe Belgrade should have a seat and the right to participate in the negotiations that are going to be held," Dickinson said of official Belgrade's role.
Regarding the talks on the status, he said they could be analysed in detail in the coming months. He relates this to a review of standards implementation announced months earlier.
"The Contact Group has stated there will be a review of standards implementation and then there can be talks about the status if sufficient progress has been achieved," he said.
No public pressure for Rugova-Tadic meeting
Dickinson did not say the talks on the status would be postponed in case there is no satisfactory fulfilment of standards, although he put a question mark on this issue.
"I believe that the answer to this should start with 'if' the standards review shows that sufficient progress has not been achieved, then postponements could be expected. But I do not know that someone wants this. This remains to be seen. The review will be truly realistic and it will really show what kind of progress has been made."
The work with standards is an issue that Dickinson mentions as a pre-phase to entering the talks. But, together with them, he thinks it would be good if Prishtina and Belgrade establish contacts beforehand and create some kind of relation between them. He said the following about the meeting of the two presidents, [Ibrahim] Rugova and [Boris] Tadic.
"We would all welcome a meeting between them. It would be important to achieve some kind of progress with the contacts or relations between the two countries before moving on with the talks on the final status."
Dickinson said he would support a meeting between the two presidents in circumstances where they would both feel comfortable. He did not say what those circumstances might be. He added, "Look, I do not want to exert any kind of pressure for a meeting that would be inappropriate for them." He does not prefer to have public pressure for this meeting, whereas, referring to his personal engagement in support of this meeting, he said, "Some things can be done through private contacts, too."
In fact, the meetings could happen far from the public eye, but the engagement of the British Office in Prishtina is great, especially in supporting the local institutions.
There are no favourites among government officials
Dickinson does not admit that the engagement of the office he heads has been much greater after the last election, namely after the formation of [former Prime Minister Ramush] Haradinaj's government. He insists that he is not here to create favourites among Kosovars.
"I do not believe we should have favourites. What is happening is quite simple. We are closer to some developments that are crucial for Kosova, such as the review of standards and the talks on the status. I believe that no government can avoid these circumstances, namely, help find the best way to implement these standards and have the talks on the status," he said.
"But this does not mean that we were not close to the previous government of Bajram Rexhepi. The government he led was also supported, and we will do the same with future prime ministers."
He is convinced that the British foreign policy will support the process in Kosova - also for the known fact that the election in Britain did not bring any changes regarding the governing cabinet and foreign secretary.
"The British foreign policy remains the same to a great extent regardless of who leads the government. The British government and the opposition try to find a consensus on foreign policy."
The first statements that come from Quint countries [United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy] as a reaction to various events in the country are those of the British Office head. He claims to be very attached to developments in Kosova. However, he does not believe that the engagement of his office is seen as a competition with representation offices of other countries here in Kosova.
"It is not right for the countries to compete for the main role here. What we are requesting is to be involved in whatever way we can to help the process."
He assessed as a coincidence the fact that the Kosova government and the Presidency had hired private persons, who happened to be British, as advisers to institutions. He admitted that a group of British officials had the key role in preparing a review (recently requested by the UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] chief [Soeren Jessen-Petersen) of security sectors in Kosova.
"It is true that British officials are preparing this review of security sectors in the country, but the idea to do this job was born earlier, before the change of the government. We would like to have a number of options and alternatives, which they would suggest, about this issue for the time when the talks on the status could begin."
The sincerest answer for the files that the PDK [Democratic Party of Kosovo] presented to the UNMIK chief is: "I do not know what to think about them." This is what Dickinson initially said about the accusations collected in two documents that were handed over to UNMIK, and which, among other things, accuse some members of the Kosova government of being involved in crime.
Dickinson said that he has not seen these documents, with the exception of some parts that were published in the media. Therefore he said, "I have to react the same as I would have reacted to any other kind of accusation until the police decide what actions should be undertaken. I cannot take any positions for the time being."
He does not consider this as an issue needing to be discussed in detail. However, he said that the institutions should preserve impartiality and allow the judicial bodies to do their job, if necessary. Nevertheless, he said, until a court has decided otherwise, everyone is considered innocent.
He does not believe that the accusations addressed against some government officials should affect the legitimacy of the institutions of Kosova.
The head of the British Office understands the opposition's argument that the proposed decentralization could open ways to the separation of Kosova, especially before its final status has been defined, but he does not consider this as sufficient reason to not continue with this process.
Dickinson justified this by the fact that for the time being the government would start only with pilot projects, which are an experiment that might or might not work. He further said that the comprehensive reform would last for years and there would be time to discuss it.
"If I were in the opposition's place or anybody else's who fears this issue, which I do not think I would have justified, I would make sure that it has been justly understood that pilot projects are an experiment and not necessarily a final version. And then I would make clear the basic principles that should be pursued for a reform for which it could be decided. And for this reason I believe there will be a consensus between political parties and between Serbs and Albanians."
Dickinson said the final position of the Contact Group that there will be no ethnic separation inside Kosova makes this fact even stronger.
The head of the British Office in Prishtina said that once there was talk that privatization in Kosova was impossible without resolving the final status, "but look what happened," he concluded.
Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 11 May 05 p 2