Thursday, May 26, 2005

Diplomatic sources optimistic about Contact Group meeting on Kosovo

Excerpt from report by Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 25 May

Brussels, 24 May: European diplomats, but also those from the United States, said that they are pleased with the atmosphere that prevailed in the recent meeting of the Contact Group, which was held in London on Monday [23 May]. Most of those whom Koha Ditore managed to contact even said that this meeting was more positive than expected. Apparently their satisfaction comes from the fact that at this meeting Russia did not oppose the agenda of events that was presented by other members of the Contact Group. This means that, despite earlier announcements, now Moscow will not insist on postponing the comprehensive review of standards.

According to European diplomatic sources, who spoke to Koha Ditore after the Contact Group meeting, the appointment of Norwegian Ambassador to NATO Kai Eide as special envoy to review the standards is expected soon, perhaps this week. He will work for two months on this review in order to present the final report at the beginning of September, and then the Contact Group will convene at the ministerial level.

Evaluation should be compact

European diplomats told Koha Ditore that they are pleased with the fact that Russia admitted that it is unreasonable to postpone the standards review, because without that review it cannot be known to what extent the standards have been fulfilled. The decision whether or not the debate about the final status of Kosova [Kosovo] should start will be made only after that review. But, as the diplomats asserted, the important thing is that a unanimous position that the process should continue, regardless of whether or not the standards have been fulfilled to the extent that many states would want, dominates now. The same sources said that the standards review, which most probably will be done by Norwegian Ambassador to NATO Kai Eide, who will be appointed to this post by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, will be compact, detailed, concrete, and based on facts.

"It will be much more substantial than UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] Chief Soren Jessen-Petersen's assessments are," a diplomat said.

According to Western sources, it is already known that in his report to the UN Security Council, Jessen-Petersen will say that sufficient progress has been made by the institutions of Kosova to have a comprehensive review of standards. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will also agree to a great extent with such an assessment, although he will mention that they are not completely satisfied with Kosovar leaders. Following a harmonization of positions at the Contact Group's meeting in London, Russia is not expected to request the postponement of the process, because it also received some kind of guarantees that the review will not be done "just for show," but it will be correct and unbiased.

Britain has most favourable position

Although from the media reports in Kosova the impression is created that the United States will postpone the process, while the EU is more sceptical, the recent meeting of the Contact Group, as well as US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns' visit to Brussels, eliminated all the dilemmas about any possible disagreement between the EU and the United States over Kosova.

Although for the time being no country wants to publicly prejudge the result of the process of finding the final status, many diplomats say that Great Britain has the most advanced position and is the most open to accepting independence as an option. In fact, Great Britain is the only state that has stated publicly that it does not rule out independence as an option, a thing that the United States still refuses to say publicly, despite the conviction that prevails in Kosova that the United States has a more favourable position.

The diplomats said that Great Britain has a more advanced position than the United States on this issue, but the positions of these two states are coming closer recently. The diplomats, who wished to remain anonymous, also said that Germany has started moving its position closer to Great Britain's position as far as the future status of Kosova is concerned.

The fact that France and Italy, which are also members of the Contact Group, are not very loud in the debates about the final status does not present a problem to these diplomats, because, according to them, the roles within the Contact Group are also being gradually divided while awaiting the beginning of the process of finding the final status.

In the meantime, Russia is not interested in blocking the process for the time being, but nobody rules out the possibility that it might present various conditions during the process. This, the diplomats admitted, will greatly depend also on the role that will be given to Belgrade in this process, because, in case of Belgrade's consent, there could be no problems with Russia.

In order to be correct towards Russia, European diplomats asserted that Moscow's more realistic approach towards Kosova has been noted recently, an approach that Russia communicated also to Belgrade. European diplomats stated that they are very pleased with the announced US' commitment to Kosova and the Balkans. But some of them did not hide their fear that this commitment aims at accelerating the solutions in order for the United States to be able to withdraw from the Balkans as soon as possible.

"Now the United States mentions the Balkans as a burden and perhaps it wants to free from this burden. We need a joint action with the United States in the Balkans, especially in Kosova, for a longer period. Therefore, it would bother us if the United States would want to accelerate the solution only to withdraw," a European diplomat said. [passage omitted]

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 25 May 05 pp 1-2

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