Monday, May 16, 2005

Contact Group conditions Kosovo status talks with progress in Serbs' security

Text of report by Brikenda Rexhepi entitled "Talks on status to be postponed if there is no concrete progress in security for Serbs" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 13 May

Prishtina [Pristina], 12 May - The Contact Group's "key messages" for Kosova [Kosovo] warn about the possibility of postponing the process of talks on the status if there is no "concrete, tangible" progress in the treatment and protection of ethnic minorities, first of all Kosova Serbs.

The Contact Group has drawn up a report called "Key Messages" based on the assessments after the meetings that were held with local and international officials in Prishtina and Belgrade a month ago.

Officials of the international administration in Prishtina confirmed that the Contact Group has drawn up such a report, while its contents were reported in the Serbian media on Thursday [11 May].

In this report, the Contact Group says, among other things, that "further concrete tangible progress, notably in the treatment and protection of ethnic minorities, is required."

"If there is no real progress, the process of talks on the status will be postponed, and we will need to set a date for a further review of Standards implementation," the Serbian media quoted the Contact Group's report.

In the meantime, sources within UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] told Koha Ditore on Thursday that such a thing is possible only if the UN Security Council assesses that insufficient progress has been made in the implementation of priority Standards, which, as is known, are related to the accommodation of Serbs inside Kosova.

"In no way does this mean that there will be no talks on resolving the status of Kosova, but if the Security Council decides, they could be postponed for several months," this international source said.

The approach that the Contact Group's "key messages" have towards what has been done by the institutions of Kosova to accommodate the minorities creates the impression that no "great progress," about which UNMIK and the institutions involved in fulfilling the Standards continuously speak, has been achieved in Kosova.

UNMIK Information head Hua Xihang explained that the UN Security Council makes the final decisions on the level of Standards fulfilment.

It is known that members of this council have already received the third report on the assessment of Standards implementation. This report was drawn up by UNMIK and the institutions, which are pleased with the progress in this direction.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the final comprehensive review, Xihang said: "UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan could appoint his envoy to make an independent assessment."

The aforementioned Contact Group report says that member states "expect a comprehensive review of Standards implementation to be held in mid-2005, should the conditions permit."

"Neither the review, nor its result is a predetermined conclusion," Contact Group officials said in the report. They added: "A key element in the Standards implementation is the protection of minorities."

After the Contact Group's last visit to Belgrade and Prishtina, Contact Group official Michael Schaefer presented three main principles in Prishtina: Kosova will not return to the situation before 1999; it will not be divided, and it will not unite with its neighbouring states. But the group issued no statement on this occasion, as had become customary in previous meetings.

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 13 May 05 p 3

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