Monday, October 31, 2005

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Former Finnish president nominated as UN envoy for Kosovo talks

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro, Oct. 31 (Xinhuanet) -- The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has nominated former Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari as special UN envoy for Kosovo future status talks, the official Tanjug news agency reported on Monday.

Annan made the nomination in a letter to the UN Security Council, said the reports, quoting Annan's spokesman Brenden Varma.

Varma said over the phone that Ahtisaari's appointment would become official after the UN Security Council decides about this over the next few days.

Ahtisaari, 68, stole the international limelight this year when he organized and hosted talks between Indonesia's government and the Free Aceh Movement, who signed a peace deal in August to end 30 years of armed struggle.

The reports said that decision on the appointment would be madein consultation with the Contact Group, which would meet in Washington on Nov. 2 to discuss the fate of Kosovo, a Serbian province under UN administration since 1999.

The Contact Group, designated to resolve the Kosovo issue, consists of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States. Enditem

Kosovo: Include women and minority communities in final status talks - Amnesty International

On the fifth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325/2000 (Resolution 1325) on Women Peace and Security, Amnesty International calls on the respective parties to the proposed talks on the final status of Kosovo to ensure that women are included in the forthcoming talks on the final status of Kosovo.

In particular, Amnesty International calls for the inclusion of women in the expert working groups which will form an integral part of the process The organization also urges the involvement of representatives of minority communities, including the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptiani, in addition to the minority Serb community.

Following the delivery of a report on 4 October to the UN Secretary General by his Special Envoy for the Comprehensive Review of Kosovo, the UN Security Council on 24 October gave the go-ahead to the talks, which will be led by the UN SG’s Special Envoy, likely to be named as former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, and will involve delegations from both Serbia and Kosovo. Reportedly talks will begin in November.

The organization reminds all parties, including Kosovo, Serbia, the UN and the European Union that Resolution 1325, “Urges Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.”

Amnesty International therefore calls on all UN member states involved in the talks to actively ensure the implementation of Resolution 1325 and guarantee the representation of women in the talks. The organization also urges the adoption of a gendered perspective, as set out in article 8 of the Resolution, which should, for example, “involve women in all of the implementation mechanisms of the peace agreements” and provide, “measures that ensure the protection of and respect for human rights of women and girls, particularly as they relate to the constitution, the electoral system, the police and the judiciary”. In particular, such measures should address the ongoing impunity for gender-based violence, including war crimes, committed against women during and after the conflict in Kososvo.

Amnesty International supports the call from the Kosova Women’s Network that that in order to reach sustainable solutions for the future of Kosovo, women should be included in the final status process. Many women’s organizations are already involved in political processes and decision making at different levels in Kosovo, and across ethnic boundaries. The organization notes that women across Kosovo, and of all ethnic groups, face massive discrimination in gaining access to rights guaranteed under international standards incorporated into domestic law in Kosovo.

Amnesty International is also calling for the inclusion of representatives of minority communities in the process, including Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian organizations which have called for safeguards to protect the right of minority communities, including the right to security and freedom of movement in Kosovo; to fair and impartial investigations into acts of racist violence and discrimination; for equal representation and access to public institutions, and for access to social and economic rights including to housing, education, health care and employment, as well as for appropriate assistance to internally displaced persons and returnees.

Resolution 1325
On October 31, 2000 the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Resolution 1325 is regarded by many as having been a historic landmark, marking the first time in its history that the UNSC seriously dealt with the role and experience of women in the context of armed conflict.

The Resolution calls for action by the UN Secretary General, Member States, and all actors involved in the development and implementation of peace agreements.

Amnesty International has reported on discrimination against women and girls in Kosovo, including in the trafficking of women and girls within Kosovo, and the conditions – including discrimination, violence against women and lack of opportunities for education and employment – which render women and girls vulnerable to trafficking.

The organization has also reported extensively on human rights violations and discrimination against members of minority communities, and called repeatedly for the protection of their civil, political, social, and economic rights.

Final Status Talks
The end of the military conflict in Kosovo was agreed between the parties in the Kumanovo Military-Technical Agreement of 9 June 1999. Under UN SC Resolution 1244/99 agreed on 10 June 1999, Kosovo continued to remain an integral part of the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro). UN SC 1244/99 provided for an interim civilian administration run by the UN (UNMIK) and the presence of NATO-led peace-keeping forces.

Although the term “final status” is used to describe the subject of the forthcoming talks, UN SC Resolution 1244 refer to the need for a “final settlement” to resolve Kosovo's “future status”; thus the forthcoming talks may been seen as part of a process towards that end.

Kosovo's Negotiating Team In Disarray

PRISTINA (AP)--Kosovo's ethnic Albanian negotiating team was in disarray Monday after one of its members accused two others of plotting against him, signalling an uneasy start for U.N.-sponsored talks to resolve the disputed province's future status.

Blerim Shala, a newspaper editor and coordinator of Kosovo's negotiating team, accused the head of Kosovo's parliament Nexhat Daci of using the media to discredit him.

Shala also accused Daci and the leader of the opposition Hashim Thaci of breaking a confidentiality agreement following a meeting last week, when the group failed to agree on how to approach the upcoming talks on Kosovo's future.

The Kosovo media reported extensively over the weekend on the discord among ethnic Albanian negotiators.

Shala's powers are at the center of the controversy along with who should lead the working groups that will prepare position papers for the talks. Shala's proposals were apparently shot down during the last weeks meeting.

The launch of negotiations on Kosovo's future was approved last week by the U.N. Security Council. They are expected to get underway in November, as soon as an envoy, believed to most likely be former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, is appointed to lead the process.

In addition to Shala, the Kosovo team led by the province's ailing president, Ibrahim Rugova, also includes the prime minister, two opposition leaders and the head of the legislative assembly.

The five leaders hold widely differing views on some issues and have clashed in the past over the direction the negotiating team should take.

Western diplomats and U.N. officials have expressed frustration that the bickering ethnic Albanian leaders have slowed preparations for the talks.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90% of Kosovo's 2 million people, want nothing short of full independence. They argue that Serbia has lost the right to govern the province following the war that left an estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians dead.

Serb leaders, however, insist on keeping at least some formal control over the troubled province - a place many Serbs consider the heart of their nation.

The U.N. has administered Kosovo since NATO's 1999 air war against Yugoslavia. The NATO bombardment forced former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to end a crackdown on rebel ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and relinquish Serbia's control over the province.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

KPC and KPS: We are ready (Lajm)

Lajm reports that the Kosovo Protection Corps and the Kosovo Police Service say they are ready to provide security for Kosovo. KPC chief General Agim Çeku and KPS chief colonel Sheremet Ahmeti say their institutions are ready to take on the responsibility to provide security for the country as they have full trust in the institutions they are leading.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

'War crimes' storm over former PM by Tim Judah - The Guardian

Tim Judah
Sunday October 30, 2005
The Observer

The United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague has created a storm of controversy by letting Kosovo's former Prime Minister - charged with torture, murder and ethnic cleansing - resume political life in Kosovo.
Ramush Haradinaj, who had already been allowed to return to the province pending trial, was told two weeks ago that he could take up politics again. Days later, that move was halted temporarily by chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte but, according to diplomatic sources, the court is now expected to rule on the issue 'within days'.

In a strongly worded submission, the prosecution told the judges, who are bitterly divided on the issue, that 'constantly seeing the accused in the media' would 'have a chilling effect on victims and witnesses' and have 'the very real likelihood' of producing a 'very intimidating effect' on them. They would 'gain the impression that power still resides in the hands of the accused'.

The indictment of Haradinaj, 37, a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, along with that of two subordinates, was made public last March. It accused them of 37 counts of abduction, murder, torture and ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Roma and fellow Albanians in 1998. His supporters say he has done nothing wrong and, with the presumption of innocence, should be free to go about his business until trial.

The row follows the decision last Monday by the UN Security Council to approve the start of talks on the future of the disputed province. Kosovo's Albanians want independence, in the face of Serbian opposition. Since the end of the fighting in 1999, Kosovo has been under the jurisdiction of the UN.

The move to lift the ban on politics for Haradinaj has been spearheaded by the UN mission in Kosovo and supported by diplomats there. They believe that, as tensions rise in the run-up to talks, Haradinaj could play a crucial role. One diplomat told The Observer that Haradinaj could 'play a useful role in terms of telling hardliners he knows to stay calm'. Most indictments for Kosovo have been aimed at Serbs, including former President Slobodan Milosevic, but prosecutors say all sides committed crimes during the war.

The temporarily frozen ruling has already harmed the tribunal's attempts to establish a reputation for impartiality. Serb leaders have said it has just confirmed their long-held belief that the court is biased against them. Dusan Batakovic, a senior adviser on Kosovo to Serbia's President Boris Tadic, said: 'We see this as appalling. This unbalanced approach to indictees of different sides is sending a very wrong message to both Serbs and Albanians.'

Del Ponte has argued that the lifting of restrictions on Haradinaj would create 'a terrible perception' of unfairness, since similar privileges have not been granted to any other indictees. The prosecution asked the court what it would say if a similar request was made on behalf of Vojislav Seselj, the Serbian politician who has been indicted for crimes against humanity and murder.

Earlier this year Rasim Delic, the former head of the Bosnian Army, was refused permission by the court to go on a tour of Bosnia promoting a book while awaiting trial.

At the time his indictment was made public last March, Haradinaj was Prime Minister of Kosovo and he was widely acclaimed as having achieved a huge amount in the 100 days he was in office.

On 6 June, Haradinaj was released pending trial. The terms of his conditional release sanctioned only limited work within his own party. Haradinaj's defence team then asked for these terms to be relaxed, and in this they were supported by the UN mission in Kosovo. On 14 October, the tribunal agreed to this request. On 19 October, Del Ponte succeeded in getting this move temporarily halted.

Agron Bajram, editor of the daily paper Koha Ditore, said that he, like most Kosovo Albanians, would be 'delighted' if Haradinaj could return to politics, because he had been a 'much needed' figure while in power and could play a major role in unifying the Albanian side during the talks on Kosovo's future.

What is clear is that since his release the UN and diplomats in Kosovo have courted Haradinaj in a way unprecedented for a man indicted for murder and ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia. On 26 September, for example, a huge party was held at Pristina's Hotel Grand to celebrate the wedding of Haradinaj's brother. Among the guests were Larry Rossin, the deputy head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), plus other senior officials and diplomats.

Ex-President Ahtisaari Expects to be Named Kosovo Envoy

Former President Martti Ahtisaari expects the United Nations Security Council to appoint him as the head of negotiations on the final status of Kosovo late next week. He attributes the delay in the appointment to the Security Council's tight schedule.

The former President was speaking on a Saturday morning interview programme on YLE TV-1. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said earlier this week that Ahtisaari would be the mediator.

Previous reports by the Austrian news agency APA suggest that the delay may have been caused by a Russian diplomat, who has said that Russia wants a precise definition of Ahtisaari's authority. According to APA's sources, Russia is not opposed to Ahtisaari?s appointment as such.

As the UN mediator, Ahtisaari is to be part of a process to define the position of the multi-ethnic province, which is still formally a part of Serbia, but has been under UN control for the past six years.

The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo has called for full independence, which is opposed by the Serb minority, and by Serbia itself.

Ahtisaari is to visit UN Headquarters in New York early next week.

Ahtisaari says NATO should retain Kosovo role

HELSINKI, Oct 29 (Reuters) - NATO should retain its security role in Kosovo regardless of the disputed province's future status, the man expected to lead talks on whether Kosovo remains part of Serbia or becomes independent said on Saturday.
Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, slated to become United Nations special envoy to lead talks on Kosovo's status, said he favoured no particular model for solving its problems.
In an interview with Finnish national broadcaster YLE, Ahtisaari, 68, declined to speculate on what the eventual solution would be, or how long it would take to achieve it.
"Time will tell whether it will be a compromise, and what kind of a compromise it could be," Ahtisaari said.
"It is a difficult situation, as there are still some armed groups that are not under control and it is important that NATO retains its security role, no matter what the solution."
Military alliance NATO, which has a 17,100-strong peacekeeping force in Kosovo, acknowledged earlier this month that an armed group in western Kosovo was stopping and searching cars at night, but dismissed them as bandits.
Local newspapers said a group calling itself "The Army for the Independence of Kosovo" had threatened U.N. officials and was demanding immediate recognition of independence for the province, whose population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian.
Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate since NATO ended the 1998-99 guerrilla war by bombing Yugoslavia to compel Serbia to withdraw its forces, which had been accused of ethnic cleansing.
Kosovo's Albanian majority increasingly wants independence, but Serbia -- which says the province, home to scores of Orthodox religious sites, is sacred land -- is opposed.
The U.N. Security Council earlier this month embraced its Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation that international talks be launched to decide whether Kosovo gains independence or remains a Serbian province.
"(Finding a solution) has to start from first listening to the different parties, even if their views are fairly well known. Then we need to discuss with them how these problems could be addressed," Ahtisaari said.
"There is still a lot of basic work to be done before any kind of specific discussions can begin," he said, adding it was important to first create a working group for the task.
Ahtisaari, 68, made his mark in international diplomacy as point-man for the European Union when he persuaded then-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to accept NATO's terms for ending the Kosovo air campaign.
Most recently he grabbed the international limelight when he organised and hosted talks this year between Indonesia's government and the Free Aceh Movement, who signed a peace deal in August to end 30 years of armed struggle.
Ahtisaari's appointment as special envoy to Kosovo had been expected this week, but he said in the interview it now looked as though it would come towards the end of next week.

Leaders in Kosovo plan strategy ahead of talks on province's final status

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders met Friday to begin work on a negotiating strategy for the start of talks next month that they hope will lead the disputed province to independence from Serbia.

The meeting ended, however, with no apparent agreement on how they would approach the talks.

The team led by Kosovo's ailing president, Ibrahim Rugova, includes the province's prime minister, two opposition leaders and the head of the legislative assembly.

The five leaders hold widely differing views on many issues and have clashed in the past over the direction the negotiating team should take.

Friday's meeting ended with no announcement of a joint position to take into the talks.

One of the participants, opposition politician Veton Surroi, said more work was needed and offered a hint that the meeting included some heated exchanges.

"I hope that in our next meeting we will have more creativity and understanding for each other's ideas and more tolerance," Surroi said.

Western diplomats and U.N. officials have expressed frustration that the bickering ethnic Albanian leaders have lagged behind in preparations for the talks.

The negotiating team met for the first time three weeks ago and said it will push for independence in the long-awaited talks to settle the province's final status.

The launch of negotiations on Kosovo's future was approved this week by the U.N. Security Council. They are expected to get underway in November, as soon as an envoy is appointed to lead the process.

The negotiations are sure to be tough. Kosovo, which has been under U.N. administration for the past six years, has formally remained part of Serbia-Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people, want nothing short of full independence. They argue that Serbia has lost the right to govern the province following the war that left an estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians dead.

Serb leaders, however, insist on keeping at least some formal control over the troubled province -- a place many Serbs consider the heart of their nation.

The United Nations has administered Kosovo since NATO's 1999 air war against Yugoslavia. The NATO bombardment forced former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to end a crackdown on rebel ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and relinquish Serbia's control over the province.

Kosovo's Nickel Plant Sold For EUR33 Million -Authorities

PRISTINA (AP)--A nickel plant in Kosovo was sold Friday for EUR33 million, authorities said.

Officials from the Kosovo Trust Agency, dealing with privatization in Kosovo, signed a contract with Alferon/IMR, part of Eurasian Natural Resources group, which is among the world's largest private mining and metals groups, a U.N. statement said.

The company has offered a business plan including at least 1,000 jobs and an additional investment of EUR20 million within the first three years, it said.

Feronikeli plant in central Kosovo and was badly damaged during NATO bombing of Serb forces in the disputed province in 1999. It is one of the major plants in the economically depressed province.

Kosovo is the poorest region in the Western Balkans with an annual gross domestic product per capita of around EUR1,000 and a jobless rate of at least 50%, according to European Union data.

The privatization of Feronikeli is the most important sell-off of socially owned enterprises, a term used for enterprises owned by the workers and managers under a system set up under communist-era Yugoslavia.

The process of privatization is complex, in part because it is unclear whether Kosovo will become independent or remain part of Serbia-Montenegro, the successor state of Yugoslavia.

Serbia's authorities have fiercely opposed the process of privatization.

Many of the companies in the province are overwhelmingly inefficient and often dilapidated after years of neglect and ethnic conflict in the province.

Kosovo's Future Discussed At NATO Talks

ROME (AP)--Officials discussed the future of ethnically divided Kosovo at a NATO-sponsored seminar Friday attended by representatives from Serbia-Montenegro and Kosovo, with both sides favoring a plan to decentralize Kosovo's government.

The Rome conference, organized by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, was focusing on the possibility of giving the province's isolated Serb enclaves local self-rule in areas such as education, health care and economy.

The issue of decentralization was also to be discussed during upcoming U.N.-backed talks on the final status of Kosovo, which has been administered by the U.N. since NATO's 1999 air war against Yugoslavia.

The province's 90% ethnic Albanian majority wants independence, while the Belgrade-backed Serbian minority wants to remain part of Serbia.

The assembly's vice president, Giovanni Lorenzo Forcieri, urged seminar participants to use "fantasy and creative generosity" to go beyond their government's official stances.

Officials from both sides agreed that decentralization was a good idea.

"In an independent Kosovo, Serbs need to feel confident living as Kosovars," said Kosovo's minister for local government, Lutfi Haziri, during a break in the talks. "Decentralization is one of the tools by which they can benefit the most."

Kosovo's government plans to create new municipalities, and once the province's status was resolved residents could "design (the borders) of their municipalities through referendums," he said.

Serbia's government representative for Kosovo, Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, said she supported local autonomy for Serbian enclaves, which would enable "the Serbian community to survive in Kosovo."

She maintained Belgrade's position, however, that Kosovo should officially remain part of Serbian territory.

An estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed before the 1999 NATO air bombings forced then President Slobodan Milosevic to end a violent crackdown on rebel ethnic Albanians.

After the war, tens of thousands of Serbs fled the province in the face of attacks and threats from ethnic Albanian extremists. An estimated 100,000 Serbs remain out of an initial Serb population of about 250,000.

NATO's commander in Kosovo, Lt. Gen. Giuseppe Valotto, said security conditions in the province are improving.

"I consider the situation very quiet for the moment," Valotto told the conference. But he cautioned that the start of final status negotiations could heighten ethnic tensions. NATO would respond "with determination" to any violence, Valotto said.

There are about 17,500 NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo.

The U.N. Security Council this week approved plans for status talks to begin later this year. [ 28-10-05 1654GMT ]

Commentary warns Kosovo partition would lead to disintegration of Macedonia

A Macedonian Albanian commentary says that if Kosovo Serbs attain autonomy in Kosovo, Albanians in Macedonia could also request autonomy, given that their share of the Macedonian population is "three times higher" than the percentage of Serbs in Kosovo. The only option that would prevent Macedonia's disintegration is thus "official recognition of the process of independence of Kosovo", the paper argues. The following is an excerpt from the commentary by Bashkim Muca entitled "Macedonia, balance for unified Kosova" published by the Macedonian Albanian-language newspaper Fakti on 26 October; subheadings as published:

According to a well-established view that has been around for some time, the first thing that would happen in case of the partition of Kosova [Kosovo] would be the disintegration of Macedonia. If we are to believe this implication, then it also follows that the international community, rather than being concerned about a unified Kosova, is trying to preserve the stability and integrity of Macedonia, which could escalate to a major problem (it could become a second Bosnia-Hercegovina) if the whole game were to begin all over again. Ranked by their importance for the developments in Kosova, Macedonia is not far behind Albania and Serbia. But the key issue that puts Macedonia in the first place is that it is the crucial balancing factor for the preservation of a unified Kosova. Even if Albanians were to agree with Serbs on the partition of Kosova, I have the impression that the international community would not allow it, because it believes that there could never be a unified Macedonia without a unified Kosova. The problem of preserving the unity of Kosova is linked to a much more important problem: that of preserving the unity of Macedonia, in which a great deal has been invested.

All "fences"

The option of Kosova's partition, apart from its immediate implications for Macedonia, would create conditions for a new reconfiguration of the Balkans. The fact that this is something that the Serbs want, has made it something that Albanians will always oppose, even though the outcome might not have been so disadvantageous to them even if they had to give up Trepca [mine in northern Kosovo], which is considered a very important resource. Based on the concept of the nation-state, which is still a prevalent concept in the Balkans (it is thought more stable than multiethnic states), Albanian political quarters have often wondered why they have to strive to be governed or share government with others in areas where they make up the majority population. [Passage omitted]

One of the key arguments that the Serbs have been using against the independence of Kosova is that they cannot agree to the formation of two Albanian states in the region. Here, the Albanians would have a ready fallback option which would lead to the disintegration of Macedonia.

Albanians should have worked openly in their decisionmaking offices on the option of partition of Kosova, which would have had Serbian support (Albanians and Serbs cannot be enemies for ever). This option would never enjoy the support of the international community, but it could serve as a form of pressure against it [the international community], given that such plans would enjoy the support of Albanians as well as Serbs. This would persuade the international community of two things: that the partition of Kosova was out of the question and that the Kosova Serbs should not enjoy any autonomy in Kosova (let us remember that this, too, is a Serbian project). I believe that the least that Serbia expects to get is a special status for the northern part of Kosova, thus creating initially a ditch and, later, an imaginary border with the hope of seceding that part in the future, when a favourable moment may arise as a result of internal problems in Kosova. However, the issue of Macedonia would again emerge on the scene.

Most functional option

Given that the Albanians in Macedonia account for a percentage of the overall population that is three times bigger than the percentage that the Serbs account for in Kosova, in accordance with the traditional Balkan mentality autonomy for the Kosova Serbs would lead to a similar demand by the Albanians in Macedonia, thus invalidating the Oher [Ohrid] Agreement. The reasoning is simple: if the Serbs refuse to live as a minority in a common state with Albanians, then Albanians, too, do not have to accept such a thing in Macedonia.

If we are to apply the rule of elimination to find a balanced solution for Kosova, then the conclusion is clear: the option of partition of Kosova is automatically ruled out if we want to preserve the integrity of Macedonia. Second, the option of autonomy for the Kosova Serbs should be counterbalanced with the demand for a different status for the Albanians in Macedonia, which should be much stronger than that of the Kosova Serbs (some kind of republic). In that case, the demands of the Montenegro Albanians for a more favourable status in that country and for a special status for the Presheve [Presevo] Valley Albanians should also be taken into consideration. So this option would have to be ruled out, too. So, it is clear that the only option is a united Kosova. In that case, there are two options: Kosova's return under Serbia, or independence for Kosova. Given that any intermediate solution is hard to imagine - not just for the Kosova citizens but also for the whole of Europe - the last option that has to be ruled out is the return of Kosova under the Serbian protectorate. This means that the only remaining option is the one that takes Europe into Kosova and Kosova into Europe. This is official recognition of the process of independence of Kosova with the support and supervision of the Euro-American factor.

Source: Fakti, Skopje, in Albanian 26 Oct 05 p 4

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Macedonian Leader Optimistic Serbia, Kosovo Will Agree on Kosovo Independence - VOA

Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski, in Washington for talks with President Bush and U.S. officials, says he believes Kosovo and Serbia will reach agreement on conditional independence for the southern Serbian province. Mr. Buckovski spoke during a news conference at VOA's Washington studio.

With the negotiations on Kosovo's future status about to begin, Mr. Buckovski expressed confidence that the leaders of Serbia and its predominantly Albanian province of Kosovo will reach agreement during the course of 2006.

"I'm expecting hard negotiations," he noted. "But from the other side I'm optimistic about the prospects of a compromise between Belgrade and Pristina. I'm expecting that in 2006 Belgrade and Pristina will find a solution on the final status of Kosovo."

Mr. Buckovski has reason to be interested in developments in Kosovo. Macedonia lies on the southern border of the province and his coalition includes an ethnic- Albanian party with close links to ethnic-Albanian leaders in Pristina, capital of Kosovo.

The Macedonian prime minister believes the basis of a compromise lies in Pristina's understanding that the rights of the minority Serbs in the province, as well as their religious shrines, must be protected.

Serbian leaders, he adds, must also understand that failure to negotiate seriously over Kosovo will jeopardize Serbia's goal to eventually join the European Union.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has proposed that Kosovo should have a status somewhere between autonomy and independence. Mr. Buckovski expressed support for that position.

"By my opinion, Kostunica's statement about Kosovo: More than autonomy, less than independence, is a step forward concerning a possible compromise between Belgrade and Pristina," he noted. "And definitely, [in] my opinion, some kind of conditional independence, probably, will be a first step in a possible compromise between Belgrade and Pristina together with the international community."

The Kosovo negotiations are due to start in early November. They will be led by a European diplomat assisted by U.S. and Russian deputies. In 1999, a NATO bombing campaign in support of ethnic Albanians forced a Serbian military withdrawal from the province. Since then, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations with a NATO-led force providing security.

DJ Serbia Counting On China Veto To Stop Kosovo Independence

BELGRADE, Oct 27, 2005 (DJCS via Comtex) --

Serbia is counting on China's veto in the U.N. Security Council to prevent Kosovo's independence, Serbia-Montenegro's foreign minister said Thursday.

Vuk Draskovic said that after talks with senior Chinese officials in Beijing earlier this week, "I got assurances that Serbia's territorial integrity" will be respected in any negotiated solution for independence-seeking Kosovo.

Monday, the U.N. Security Council decided to launch talks between Serbian and ethnic Albanian officials on Kosovo's future, clearing the way for tough negotiations on the status of the ethnically divided province.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders are demanding full independence, while its Serb minority and Belgrade officials want it to remain within Serbia-Montenegro.

Draskovic said that he told senior Chinese officials that Kosovo is Serbia's Taiwan. Although Taiwan is self-governing, Beijing insists the island that broke away amid civil war in 1949 still is part of China.

"I expressed hope that the U.N. Security Council, and China as its permanent member, won't allow that force defeats law," Draskovic said.

"The senior Chinese officials stressed their firm and principal stand that international borders cannot change and that any other solution would violate the U.N. Charter and international law," Draskovic said.

A negotiated solution on Kosovo's final status is expected to go through a vote in the U.N. Security Council. China is one of the Council's five permanent members with veto power over all resolutions considered by the body.

Meanwhile, Sandra Raskovic-Ivic, a Serbian government official charged with Kosovo, said no Serbian official would agree to "any form" of independence for Kosovo during the U.N.-mediated negotiations.

Although Kosovo formally remains part of Serbia, the U.N. has administered the tense province since NATO's 1999 air war against the former Yugoslavia that forced ex-President Slobodan Milosevic to end a violent crackdown on rebel Kosovo Albanians.

International community knows "Kosovo will become independent" - Slovene leader

Text of report in English by Slovene news agency STA

Belgrade, 27 October: My initiative on the future status of Kosovo was not meant as a negotiating platform for Serbia-Montenegro, but as the final solution of the problem, Slovene President Janez Drnovsek commented on his recent proposal on Kosovo for a Belgrade weekly [Vreme].

When Thursday's [27 October] Vreme implied that the talks are out of the question if it is said at the beginning that "Kosovo is a state", the president replied that his proposal, which he presented last week, is not a proposal for negotiations, but a final solution.

Drnovsek feels that he should be the first to back Kosovo as a state, because he believes the truth without pretending ignorance is crucial. "Everyone in the international community knows that Kosovo will become independent," he said.

The president also added that he has not met anyone who would think otherwise. "The politicians in Serbia know that as well, I just do not know whether they have told that to their people," he stressed.

"After a certain period of time ... [ellipsis as published] when the international community establishes that the Albanians and Serbs can live together peacefully in the region, Kosovo will have the conditions to become an independent state," Drnovsek also said in the interview.

The only real dilemma now is the timing, the question how much time should pass until Kosovo becomes a fully independent state, the president feels. Another question is whether this will happen in only a few steps or take several years, he also said.

Vreme published the interview with Drnovsek on six pages in which the Slovene president explained in detail his plan for a Kosovo solution. Drnovsek's views prompted Belgrade into cancelling his official visit to Serbia-Montenegro planned for 2 Nov.

Source: STA news agency, Ljubljana, in English 1105 gmt 27 Oct 05

Kosovo Puts 15 Companies Up For Privatization

PRISTINA (AP)--Kosovo's largest cigarette producer, a construction company, restaurants and a hotel were among 15 firms put up for sale Thursday in hopes of boosting the economy in the disputed province.

The Kosovo Trust Agency launched the 10th round of privatization in an effort to sell the companies, which were once owned by their workers and managers under a system set up during communist-era Yugoslavia. The privatization agency is hoping 22 new companies will be created when the sales are complete.

The agency advertised the companies put up for sale on its Web site.

Privatization is among the most sensitive issues in Kosovo, which was placed under U.N. administration in 1999 following NATO air strikes that ended a Serb crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

The process of privatization in Kosovo is complex in part because it is unclear whether Kosovo will become independent or remain part of Serbia- Montenegro, the successor state of Yugoslavia. Serbia's authorities have fiercely opposed the privatizations.

The Kosovo Trust Agency, the U.N. entity responsible for privatizing the enterprises and putting them on solid legal footing, wants private entrepreneurs to assume the risk of modernizing the industries.

The companies are considered inefficient and dilapidated after years of neglect.

Bush gets it right about independence for Kosovo - The Toronto Star


The world is still cleaning up the stains of Slobodan Milosevic's bloody ethnic cleansing. On Monday, the Security Council gave the green light to Kosovo, a United Nations protectorate since 1999, to begin negotiating an end to the legal fiction that it is still a province of Serbia and Montenegro, the successor state of the former Yugoslavia.

Separately, the United States said that it is ready to tackle the lingering problems of Bosnia as well.

It will discover along the way that Montenegro, too, wants to secede from Serbia — just as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia had earlier.

America is well suited to attend to all this unfinished business of the 1990s.

Unlike elsewhere in the world, its credibility is high in the Balkans. After being late in reacting to Serbian atrocities, it brokered the 1995 Dayton Accord on Bosnia, and then led the NATO bombing campaign that drove the Serbs out of Kosovo. Americans now constitute a tenth of the peacekeeping force of 17,000 there.

George W. Bush is keen to help the Kosovars. They were among the first Muslims to support his war on Iraq, thinking of Saddam Hussein as an Arab version of Milosevic. And Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova is among the few genuine Muslim democrats in Bush's diplomatic arsenal.

I once asked Rugova what his vision for Kosovo was. "Not Islamic nor even Muslim," he said. "Our criterion is simply secular democracy and moderate politics."

This is music to American ears.

Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state, recently met Rugova in Pristina and said the Kosovars "are not going to tolerate another five years of not knowing who they are, what country they live in and what their future is."

Translation: It's time to end the Serb veto over Kosovo.

A surprised Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told the Security Council he finds it "inconceivable" that Serbia would be forced to shrink its borders yet again.

But Serb nationalists — and their backers in the Orthodox Church as well as in Russia — have little choice. If Serbia is to atone for its murderous past and fulfill its hope of joining the European Union and normalizing its relations with the United States, Belgrade needs to act on two fronts: help capture Bosnian-Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic, who have been allowed to elude arrest in an area about the size of Greater Toronto; negotiate the independence of Kosovo, after getting guarantees for the 100,000 Serb minority living among the 2 million ethnic Albanian Kosovars.

Rugova is right to reject the option of handing over Kosovo's Serb enclaves to Serbia. Or having the Kosovars join their ethnic cousins in neighbouring Albania.

"I oppose any change in the borders," he had told me. "We've had enough conflict over territory."

This is sensible. Ethnic minorities are so interspersed across the region that no tinkering with the borders can create ethnically pure states, not that we would want them anyway.

In neighbouring Macedonia, for example, it is the ethnic Albanians who are a minority and need state protection there.

In Bosnia, moves are afoot to end the ethnic silos of Croats, Muslims and Serbs. Under pressure from the European Union, an inter-ethnic police force is being created.

And Washington is working to replace the tripartite presidency (each group has its own president) with one head of state.

Kosovo also has a chance to lead the way in protecting its smaller minority of Roma, whose mistreatment across Eastern Europe remains a scandal.

Kosovo's biggest challenge is economic, dating back to the discrimination that had made it Yugoslavia's poorest part.

For the last six years, it has been sustained by the $1.3 billion a year international aid, plus the nearly $400 million a year sent by the 200,000 Kosovar diaspora (mostly in Germany and Switzerland, and about 30,000 in the United States).

The World Bank estimates that about 37 per cent of Kosovars live on $1.75 a day. More than 40 per cent are unemployed. This has proven a boon to organized crime.

"You cannot have a stable economy with an unstable political situation," Skender Hyseni, chief political adviser to Rugova, told me over the phone from Pristina. "The only viable and sustainable solution is independence."

Anything less would neither work nor be just.

Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday.

Kosovo, Still Messy After All These Years - The New York Times

Six years and four months after it made Kosovo a ward, the United Nations Security Council has ordered that talks begin on the future status of that blood-soaked Balkan province. This is to give the impression that the outcome is not decided. It is, and it's independence. The six nations that oversee Kosovo - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia - have ruled out returning it to Serbia, linking it to Albania or partitioning it. So the task of Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president who will lead the talks, is to carve yet another independent state out of the former Yugoslavia.

We have argued that Kosovo is neither prepared for nor deserving of independence. Its Albanian majority has shown no tolerance toward the Serbian minority and little capacity for self-government. Kosovo has no army, only a fledgling police force and powerful mafias. The only Albanian leader with any semblance of authority, Ibrahim Rugova, has lung cancer. His most likely successor, Ramush Haradinaj, was indicted by the international tribunal in The Hague and surrendered.

The Serbs will not voluntarily cede this territory, and Albanian rioting in March 2004, which destroyed 30 of the many ancient Serb churches in Kosovo, does not give the Serbs great confidence in an independent Kosovo. The Albanians have no faith that the Serbs would not revert to ethnic cleansing if they had the chance. These two groups are never going to agree.

So why is the United Nations moving ahead? The current arrangement requires Kosovo to demonstrate responsible self-rule before talks even begin on its ultimate status. That has proved an artificial and unworkable goal. The U.N. viceroy in Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen, says it has created uncertainty on all sides and kept foreign investors out.

So the time has come to recognize the inevitable outcome, independence for Kosovo. But the Security Council can still insist on the attainment of democratic standards before granting it. That could force the Serbs to come to grips with having lost Kosovo in 1999. The Albanian Kosovars are more likely to demonstrate leadership if they are told that they are working toward independence, not merely toward talking about working toward independence.

The Security Council would be foolish to use the Ahtisaari mission to extract itself from a bad situation as soon as possible. Even with the best of intentions, an independent Kosovo will require international forces and strong oversight for a long time. In the Balkans, the default mode is violence.

Next Article in Opinion (6 of 7) >

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Gunmen fire on Kosovo Serb police car, no injuries

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying four Kosovo Serb police officers on Wednesday in the latest such attack in a southern pocket of the United Nations-run province, police sources said.

No one was injured in the night-time shooting near the town of Kacanik, just north of the border with Macedonia.

It was the third attack in the area targeting Serb members of the police force in the past two months, raising fears of an organised campaign of violence as the majority Albanian province enters negotiations on its future.

"The car was hit but no one was injured," a police source told Reuters. "There were three male Serb officers and one female in the car," he said.

There are several hundred Serbs within Kosovo's 7,000-strong police service, which is supervised by a U.N. police force.

Legally part of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombing drove out Serbian forces accused of killing 10,000 Albanian civilians and expelling 800,000 more in a war against separatist guerrillas.

The U.N. Security Council launched negotiations on Monday on its "final status". Kosovo's 2 million ethnic Albanians, 90 percent of the population, demand independence, something Serbia and the 100,000 Serbs in the province reject.

U.N. officials and members of the NATO-led peace force in Kosovo have warned of an upsurge in violence as the province enters talks, viewed with bitterness by many Albanians who resent the prospect of negotiating with Belgrade.

Serb police held for killing 48 members of one family in Kosovo

By Vesna Peric Zimonjic in Belgrade
Published: 27 October 2005
Nine Serbian policemen have been arrested for killing 48 ethnic Albanian civilians in 1999 in the town of Suva Reka in Kosovo.

The bodies of the victims, all members of one family, were found in a mass grave at the police compound of Batajnica near the Serbian capital, Belgrade, in 2001. The grave contained the remains of more than 1,000 bodies of ethnic Albanians.

"As far as we know, 48 people were killed in Suva Reka," a spokesman for the war crimes prosecution office, Bruno Vekaric, said. "Fourteen were below the age of 15, one was a pregnant woman aged 24 and one was a very old woman," he added.

The killings of members of the Berisha family happened on 26 March 1999, in a pizzeria in Suva Reka, two days after Nato air raids against Serbia began.

According to the testimony of a survivor, Vjollca Berisha, Serb policemen rounded up people there, allegedly searching for weapons. Then they fired into the crowd with automatic rifles.

Mrs Berisha's two children, aged seven months and two years, died in the massacre. She and her remaining son survived, pretending to be dead.

The arrests of the nine policemen yesterday are the first since the gruesome discovery of the remains more than 180 miles (300km) from Kosovo.

The executions of possibly around 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians, the transporting of bodies and clandestine burials in Serbia in 1999 was one of the best-kept secrets of the regime of the former leader Slobodan Milosevic. Freezer trucks were used in the operations, aimed at covering up the atrocities against non-Serbs in the rebellious southern province.

Milosevic loyalists have hampered judicial efforts to deal with war crimes. This was confirmed by the fact that six of those detained were on active duty until their arrest.

Bush Praises Macedonia's Implementation of Peace Agreement


The Oval Office
2:46 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's been my honor to welcome the Prime Minister of Macedonia to the Oval Office. Prime Minister, I am grateful for your friendship. I am grateful for the strong support that you have given in our efforts to win the war on terror. You've been a steadfast ally, and the American people are grateful. I also appreciate the fact that you have committed troops alongside our troops, in some of the world's newest democracies, in Afghanistan and Iraq. I want to thank you for that, as well.

I also appreciate the progress you've made in implementing the Ohrid Agreement. You've showed the world that it's possible for people of different backgrounds to live together in peace. I want to thank you for your leadership. I also compliment you on the progress you've made toward implementing the reforms necessary for consideration in NATO and the EU. I know this is a big concern to you. I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts with me about your country's desire to join NATO and your aspirations for the EU. I appreciate that very much. Thank you for your confidence.

All in all, I'm impressed by your leadership, and welcome you to the Oval Office.

PRIME MINISTER BUCKOVSKI: Thank you, Mr. President. I feel be here in the White House with President Bush and the historic 10th anniversary of the U.S.-Macedonian bilateral relations, which I must say, have never been closer. We have agreed that today Macedonia is a success story in building a stable, multiethnic democracy in the Balkans.

I thanked President Bush for the continued U.S. support of our democracy -- specifically for the U.S. role in the implementation of the Ohrid framework agreement, and to also express the gratitude of the people of Macedonian for U.S. recognition of our constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia.

And I told the President that we are proud to have our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that we intend to stay there as long as it is needed. We highly appreciate the leadership of President Bush and advancing freedom and democracy throughout the world. We have both emphasized the importance of Macedonia's NATO integration and EU candidacy in cementing our progress and helping the region make the final step on the path of the Europe.

And finally, I told President Bush that Macedonia will continue to play a positive and constructive role in the Balkans, especially now, when Belgrade and Pristina, together, lead the international community, will start negotiation about eventual permanent status of Kosovo.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. Appreciate you.

10 Bangladeshis seek asylum in Kosovo

Thirteen people from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are seeking asylum in the UN protectorate of Kosovo, the UN refugee agency said yesterday.
"Ten people from Bangladesh, two from India and one from Pakistan arrived on a flight from Istanbul on Monday. They have sought asylum in Kosovo," said Shpend Halili, a spokesman for the UNHCR in Kosovo.

"It is an unusual case and a new experience for Kosovo," which has no system for dealing with such cases, Halili told AFP.

The United Nations and NATO have run Kosovo since a conflict between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian separatists was brought to an end by NATO in June 1999. Legally, the province remains a part of Serbia.

"If we define them as refugees according to our mandate, the UN mission (UNMIK) and the government would have to take the case over because it is their responsibility to look after people who come to Kosovo seeking sanctuary," said Halili.

On Monday the UN Security Council approved talks on resolving Kosovo's future status.

Ethnic Albanians, who outnumber Serbs and other minorities in the province by more than nine to one, are seeking nothing short of independence from Serbia, which Belgrade firmly opposes.

Status for Kosovo - The International Herald Tribune

International Herald Tribune

Soren Jessen-Petersen's comments on Kosovo ("For Kosovo, only one way forward," Views, Oct. 24) are both coherent and kind. The legal limbo, of course, was never sustainable, but its long life has become institutionalized in the public life of Kosovo.
Success on final status talks now depends on whether the peoples of Kosovo, through their leaders, create the final architecture. The international community has not, in that society at least, favored local ownership and empowerment, but must now accept these principles and allow them to be implemented if final status talks are to have any hope of success.
This will depend primarily, although not exclusively, on the dialogue between the Albanians and Serbs of Kosovo. There is no doubt that they can do it - critical elements of their leadership want to make it work - if we support them rather than lead them. Those of us who have lived and worked in Kosovo know the strength, courage and deep intelligence that is everywhere in that land. Our thoughts and hopes will be there as the process unfolds.

Carolyn McCool, Vancouver Former director of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, 1999-2002

Nine suspects detained in Serbia in connection with Kosovo massacre

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Serbian police detained nine people Wednesday on suspicion of taking part in a 1999 massacre of four dozen ethnic Albanians in southwestern Kosovo, prosecutors said.

The suspects, including six Serbian policemen, appeared before an investigative judge and prosecutors asked for a month's detention pending formal charges, said Snezana Malovic of Serbia's war crimes prosecutors office. Malovic did not identify the suspects.

The detentions marked a watershed since Serbs who fought ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are still revered by many as war heroes.

But pressure from human rights groups prompted Belgrade to launch an investigation, both in Serbia and Kosovo, to determine who is to blame. Over 60 witnesses, including ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, have been questioned in the investigation.

The 48 victims of the Suva Reka massacre -- among them 14 children, two babies, a pregnant woman and a 100-year-old woman -- were among hundreds of ethnic Albanians killed during the war in Kosovo whose bodies were later transported to Serbia.

They were dumped in mass graves near a high security police facility at Batajnica outside Belgrade, the Serbian capital. Autopsies showed the victims were executed.

The massacre is the first war crimes case in Serbia related to the mass graves discovered after Slobodan Milosevic's ouster. The victims' identities were established through DNA analysis and their remains have since been returned to families in Kosovo.

The United Nations has administered Kosovo since NATO's 1999 air war against Yugoslavia that forced Milosevic to end a crackdown on rebel ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

An estimated 835 ethnic Albanians, many of them women and children, were buried in three mass graves in central Serbia during the war.

Pro-Western Serbian authorities revealed the locations of mass graves, including Batajnica, in 2001 -- the year Milosevic was handed over to the U.N. war crimes court at The Hague, Netherlands.

Hundreds of bodies have since been unearthed and returned to families in Kosovo.

Serbians arrested over wartime massacre in Kosovo

SARAJEVO, Oct 26 (AFP) -

Nine people including six acting Serbian policemen have been arrested on suspicion of killing 48 ethnic Albanian civilians in the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict, a spokesman for Serbia's war crimes prosecutor said here Wednesday.

"The nine are suspected of having taken part in the murders of 48 civilians including four babies, 10 children, a pregnant woman and an 100-year-old woman," Bruno Vekaric told AFP.

The atrocities had taken place in the small town of Suva Reka, about 60 kilometers (36 miles) southwest of Kosovo's main city of Pristina, said Vekaric.

The remains of the victims were found in a mass grave in Batajnica, a suburb of the Serbian capital Belgrade, Vekaric said, adding the nine were questioned by a magistrate and that the prosecution demanded they be kept in custody.

The arrests are the first of acting Serbian policemen for their possible role in war crimes committed during the Kosovo conflict, which claimed an estimated 10,000 lives.

The remains of some 800 ethnic Albanians killed during the war were found in mass graves across Serbia after the collapse of the regime of former president Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000.

Three mass graves have since been found in Serbia including the one at the secret police training camp in Batajnica, which was discovered in 2001.

The remains of 834 ethnic Albanians have been exhumed from the sites, according to legal authorities in Belgrade. Some 635 of them have been identified and delivered to their families in Kosovo.

Kosovo, which is a province of Serbia, has been under UN protection since a NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian forces to withdraw in 1999 and end a crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.

Milosevic is on trial at the UN war crimes court at The Hague for his alleged role in atrocities during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.

Kosovo president tells EU envoy direct recognition of independence "best solution"

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 26 October: President Ibrahim Rugova reiterated during a meeting with [Javier] Solana's special envoy to Kosova [Kosovo], Fernando Gentilini, that direct recognition of independence is the best solution for Kosova.

"However the institutions of Kosova are ready for resolving of Kosova's status, for achieving independence through international roadmap, namely through possible talks," Rugova said.

The meeting was focused on the recent developments in Kosova and on the work of Kosova institutions and international community after the UNSC decision for beginning of status talks. Both Rugova and Gentilini evaluated this event as a very important moment for Kosova.

Gentilini has appreciated the work of the president and the appointment of the negotiation team. "European Union is also making it own preparations for this issue," Gentilini said.

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 26 Oct 05

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

NATO's top military brass in Kosovo as talks on its future announced

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - NATO's highest military body was arriving Tuesday in Kosovo, after the United Nations said talks on the disputed province's status could begin as early as next month.

NATO's Military Committee -- made of the permanent representatives of the 26 member nations -- will meet the top military officials in Kosovo for two days, while the alliance also considers its own future role in the province.

Lt. Gen. Giuseppe Valotto, the commander of NATO's peacekeeping force, known as KFOR, will brief the alliance's top brass about the situation in Kosovo and the peacekeeping force's plans, KFOR spokesman Col. Pio Sabetta said.

The delegation's visit to the province "demonstrates NATO's continuing strong commitment to its missions in the Balkans, and its support to the U.N.," the peacekeeping force in Kosovo said in a statement.

NATO moved into Kosovo as part of the United Nations deal following the alliance's war against Serbia in 1999, which halted Serb forces crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians and put the province under the international trusteeship.

The province -- legally part of Serbia-Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia -- has been run by a U.N. mission since then.

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council decided to launch talks on Kosovo's future, clearing the way for tough negotiations on the status of the ethnically divided province.

Though eagerly awaited, the prospect of the talks where ethnic Albanians and Serbs hold diametrically opposed views, have raised fears that extremists could use violence to protest the outcome. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders are seeking independence, while its Serb minority and Belgrade officials want it to remain within Serbia-Montenegro.

Serbian president: UN decision to open talks on Kosovo status "expected"

Text of report by Serbian news agency Beta

Belgrade, 24 October: Serbian President Boris Tadic said this evening that Serbia faces a period of hard and complex talks on the future status of Kosovo-Metohija.

In a statement to the Beta news agency, Tadic said that the UN Security Council's decision to open talks on Kosovo-Metohija's status was an expected one.

"The scope for defending our interests has been narrowed down by a legacy of difficult consequences of the rule of Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbian Radical Party," the Serbian president said.

"We will protect our legitimate national and state interests with the force of arguments and with a mutually agreed plan and strategy," Tadic stressed.

Source: Beta news agency, Belgrade, in Serbian 1942 gmt 24 Oct 05

Slovene president defends Kosovo independence plan proposal

Text of report by Slovene television on 24 October

[Presenter Edita M. Cetinski] Following harsh reactions [to his statement that independence was the only realistic option for Kosovo], mainly in Belgrade, but also in Kosovo and Slovenia, President Janez Drnovsek again discussed the resolution of the issue of Kosovo's status. He reiterated the reasons for his initiative: too much time has been wasted on the resolution of this issue, people there do not have a good life and it is high time we all started to behave responsibly. He also stressed that the plan put forward by him had been thoroughly deliberated.

[Reporter Polona Fijavz] President Drnovsek has established that he shook up and perhaps woke up the international stage with his proposals for solving the status of Kosovo. Today, he was even more determined in his statements. The postponement of the issue of Kosovo's status is contrary to all interests. As for the last six years - since the international community took over the administration [of Kosovo] - we cannot talk about some dazzling development, according to him. Therefore the time has come for the international community to transfer its responsibility for development to the Kosovo authorities.

[Drnovsek] Besides this, I have noticed that no-one has the guts to call a spade a spade and tackle the core of the issue, although today Kosovo is in reality already independent. Nobody talks about this as an option which we need to discuss directly.

[Reporter] Drnovsek stressed he truly believed that the proposed plan was useful and reiterated that it was imperative to guarantee the Serbian minority in Kosovo a decent life and grant it an appropriate status. The international community should withdraw after five years - only then would Kosovo be recognized internationally [as an independent state]. The EU should be put in charge of a development plan until then.

[Drnovsek] Too much time has already been wasted. There is too much standstill, people do not live well. It is high time everyone started to behave responsibly - the international community as well as the two sides [Serbia and Kosovo] - and that a solution was found.

[Reporter] On 2 November, the president will allegedly visit Pristina instead of Belgrade [the visit was cancelled by Serbia after Drnovsek announced his Kosovo proposal], but he did not want to either confirm or deny this news.

Source: Television Slovenia, Ljubljana, in Slovene 1700 gmt 24 Oct 05


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, how soon will you name your special negotiator, chief negotiator, for Kosovo, and is that going to be Mr. Martti Ahtisaari?

KOFI ANNAN: I expect to name my Envoy in the course of the week. Yes, it is likely to be Martti Ahtisaari.

UN overrides Serbia to launch talks on the future of Kosovo

The UN Security Council took the historic decision last night to begin talks on the future of Kosovo " over-riding Serbian objections and calling for negotiations on the territory's final status to begin. If Western powers have their way, the process, following appointment of a UN envoy, is expected to lead to 'conditional independence' for the ethnic Albanian-majority territory within a year.

That means Kosovo would no longer be part of Serbia but its independence would, for a transitional period, be curtailed, rather like that of Bosnia where policy is shaped by a highlevel representative of the international community.

After a meeting attended by Serbia's President Vojislav Kostunica, the 15-member council decided to act on a recommendation by the UN secretary general Kofi Annan to begin the final-status talks.

Mr Kostunica told the council that 'dismemberment of a democratic state and the change of its internationally recognised borders against its will are options not to be contemplated'. Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999, when Nato forced Serbian forces out. Some 100,000 Serbs remain out of a population of two million.

Germany welcomes Kosovo status talks

BERLIN, Oct 25 (AFP) -

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer Tuesday welcomed the UN Security Council's decision to back the start of talks on the status of Kosovo.

He urged all parties to now act "constructively" over the troubled Serbian province.

Fischer said in a statement that it was now "high time" for a process to begin to determine Kosovo's final status and "continue the political momentum that has developed in the last six months".

He said both Kosovo and Serbia had a right to "clarity about the road ahead."

The Security Council gave its support Monday to UN chief Kofi Annan's "intention to start a political process to determine Kosovo's future status" as foreseen in a council resolution adopted in 1999.

The key issue in the talks will be whether or not the province should be allowed to become independent as sought by its Albanian majority -- a demand that is opposed by Belgrade.

"All parties are called on to contribute constructively to the status process. The international community will not accept unilateral steps -- compromises are expected from all sides," Fischer said.

"Any solution on the status of Kosovo must also contribute to strengthening of stability in the entire region," he said.

"Our goal remains the creation of a multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo in which all residents, regardless of their ethnicity, can live in peace and security and according to European principles."

Kosovo premier hails UNSC's "historic" decision on status talks

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 25 October: Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi viewed the decision of the UN Security Council for launching of status talks for Kosova's [Kosovo] future as a historic step.

Kosova Prime Minister, who is in a two day visit in Albania, emphasized that an independent Kosova would open perspective for all citizens. "I welcome the decision of the UN Security Council. This is an important and historical decision for the Kosova people. It will open the perspective for Kosova towards a peaceful future."

"An independent Kosova would be an example of citizens' democracy, coexistence and human values. It will help the regional stability and general economic development of our country," Kosumi said.

He said that Kosova institutions and citizens want and will get all responsibilities for building a new democratic state, where the rights of all the citizens, will be respected. "The process of talks will help in creating of confidence and in overcoming of disagreements between Kosova and Serbia. It will serve for solving of a numerous of unsettled issues between the two countries," Kosumi emphasized.

Tests indicate no signs of avian flu in Kosovo

Text of report by Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 24 October

Prishtina [Pristina], 23 October: Via a press release circulated to the media, the Kosova [Kosovo] Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Rural Development and the Veterinary and Food Service of Kosova (AVUK) have advised that the results of tests on four samples of [sick] poultry have shown that there are no signs of avian flu in Kosova. The tests were done by the Veterinary Institute of Kosova.

"In all the cases we were dealing only with the cannibalistic [word as published] diagnosis of birds, which commonly occur in our farms. On this occasion, we would like to advise the public once again that there is no bird flu of any kind in Kosova," the statement reads.

According to officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Rural Development, the AVUK and other relevant governmental agencies have been mobilized in the Crisis Centre of Kosova. The ministry said in its statement, "Whenever there is any kind of suspicion, we constantly making appropriate examinations and analyses of samples. We have sophisticated equipment for this purpose donated by the United States; this makes it possible to determine a diagnosis quite quickly."

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Rural Development has also proposed holding a conference by the end of this month to address measures for preventing avian flu.

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 24 Oct 05 p 3

Russia approves UN decision on Kosovo - Foreign Ministry

MOSCOW. Oct 25 (Interfax) - Russia is satisfied with the UN Security Council's decision to approve the UN secretary general's recommendation to begin negotiations on the status of Kosovo, says a statement by Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko posted on on Tuesday.

"The decision made by the council regarding Kosovo fully agrees with Russia's position. Moscow has always been in favor of the UN Security Council playing the leading role at all stages of the Kosovo settlement," the statement says.

The Security Council should continue monitoring the situation in Kosovo, the statement says. "At the next stage, the task of observing standards will become particularly important. Without this, achieving long-term stabilization and a settlement in the region is impossible," the statement says.

BBC Interview with UNMIK Chief Petersen

As the UN prepares to start final status talks on Kosovo, the BBC's Matt Prodger spoke to Soren Jessen-Petersen, head of United Nations Mission in Kosovo.

Q: Do you expect Kosovo to be independent by this time next year?

A: I expect that status talks will have reached a result by then, but I will not comment on what that final result may be.

Q: The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has recommended that negotiations should begin soon. What is the framework for those negotiations?

A: He has recommended that status talks should begin because there is a growing international understanding - and I would even say consensus - that the status quo is unsustainable. Status talks will begin with shuttle diplomacy, an envoy will be appointed and will shuttle between Pristina, Belgrade, and the capitals of key countries.

Q: How long will the process take?

A: Anywhere between six and 12 months. That's why I say that by this time next year there will be an outcome.

Q: Serbia says it will not accept independence for Kosovo, yet Kosovar Albanians say they will not accept anything less. What will be the compromise?

A: The very fact that these two positions are diametrically opposed also means that there would be no sense in asking the two sides to sit down and solve it. That would almost be an exercise in futility. If we want to arrive at a solution then we cannot expect them to agree.

Q: So it will be a "top down" solution, devised by the international community and imposed on the two sides? If so, what is it?

A: Not exactly. First of all, it's extremely important both in Kosovo and Belgrade that there is some kind of a dialogue. And also within civil society. They need to prepare their people both in Serbia and here. I know this is easier said than done but it must happen. Secondly, status talks will be conducted according to a set of already agreed guiding principles. For example: no partition of Kosovo; no return to the situation before March 1999; no union of Kosovo with neighbouring states; and other important principles such as protection of minorities, protection of important sites.

Q: The phrase "conditional independence" is being used a lot to describe the most probable outcome of talks. What do you understand by that?

A: I don't really know what it means, but I would say that in Europe today there are very few countries that have what I would call full sovereignty; some is ceded to international institutions such as the European Union. If you look at the countries in this region, they're already under a lot of conditions - the international financial institutions, the EU stabilisation and association agreements, conditions on entry to the EU in the case of Croatia. We are already looking at an important set of conditions imposed on states in the region.

Q: How are you going to enshrine the protection of minorities, in particular Serbs?

A: The protection of minorities in any status settlement is absolutely key. Whatever authority emerges from the status talks, the first it would do is ask for a continued international security presence - Nato. On police and justice, the EU. What there will certainly not be is a UN presence. Unmik will come to an end with a decision on status for Kosovo. But it's more than likely the international presence will continue in other forms and mainly through European institutions - the EU, OSCE and on the security side Nato. No doubt about that.

Q: Do you think Kosovo is ready to administer itself? Talks are going ahead without a number of key standards being met despite an earlier assurance that those standards would come first.

A: Let me qualify that - not fully met. Nobody disputes the fact that there has been a lot of progress. The discussion is about the degree of progress.

We know that on the standards linked to minority issues there are problems. On the return of refugees, for example - there has been an insignificant number of returns. On freedom of movement, we still have a problem where more than 20% of people say they don't feel they can move freely. These are problems that have to be addressed.

On the other hand, institutions are improving, there has been progress in the rule of law, we have a fairly good local Kosovo police service, the foundations have been laid for a legislative framework for the economy. The real improvement will only come with status. Frankly the standards that Kosovo has been asked to meet are standards that even my own country Denmark would have difficulties meeting.

Q: Kosovo is under international administration and the role that Serbia has in running it is minimal. Does it really matter what Belgrade thinks?

A: It matters because what we are seeking to do is not merely normalise Kosovo but normalise and stabilise the region. It also matters because UN resolution 1244 still recognises a role for Belgrade. Serbia's sovereignty has been temporarily suspended.

But most important is that the settlement of Kosovo must be in the interest of regional stabilisation and that means we have to be extremely careful how that is addressed. I think the way to do it is a settlement in the context of a clear European perspective for the region including, of course, Serbia.

Q: Is the intention ultimately is to take Kosovo into the EU alongside Serbia?

A: The intention is to take the entire region into the EU, and frankly if you do that then at the end of the day it doesn't really matter where the lines are.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/10/24 08:38:10 GMT

Monday, October 24, 2005

UN council endorses start of Kosovo status talks


UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council on Monday embraced U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation that international talks be launched to decide whether Kosovo gains independence or remains a Serb province.

"The council offers its full support to this political process, which would determine Kosovo's future status, and further reaffirms its commitment to the objective of a multiethnic and democratic Kosovo which must reinforce regional stability," said a statement adopted unanimously by the 15-nation council.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in anticipation of the council statement, said he would name a special envoy this week to lead the talks and added it was likely to be former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, as expected.

Before the council vote, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica warned it that Belgrade ruled out a process that could result in Kosovo's becoming a nation.

In a letter, however, Kosovo's prime minister, Bajram Kosumi, told the council that Kosovo's government in Pristina and the vast majority of its people felt the province should be granted independence.

In an apparent shift from past insistence on a complete break with the past, however, Kosumi added that Kosovo would welcome "the continued presence and involvement of the international community in our development."

In an interview with Reuters in Pristina, Kosumi said he expected an international "observation or advisory" mission after talks as "a psychological and practical guarantee for ethnic groups that their rights are observed."

The southern Serb province bordering Macedonia and Albania has been administered by the United Nations since Serb forces, accused of ethnic cleansing in a war with separatist guerrillas, were ousted by NATO in 1999.

Three months of NATO bombing that year forced Serbia's then leader, Slobodan Milosevic -- now on trial in an international tribunal in The Hague on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes -- to withdraw his forces.

Some 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians died and 800,000 were expelled into neighboring Albania and Macedonia.


More than six years later, Kosovo Albanians are impatient for the independence they thought they had won in 1999. Most are fed up with a U.N. administration perceived as overbearing and unable to revive an economy crippled by war and neglect.

But March 2004 Albanian mob riots against Kosovo Serbs killed 19 people and destroyed hundreds of homes, undermining Kosovo leaders' stated commitment to a multiethnic


Diplomats say the West, though publicly refusing to back any particular solution, is preparing to push for "conditional independence" in talks that could last until spring 2006.

The West has all but written off Serbia's offer of broad autonomy as unworkable as the province's 90-percent Albanian majority flatly reject any return to Serb control, they say.

Kosumi's letter said Kosovo's final status "should be that of an independent state with the borders of Kosovo as they currently stand with neither partition nor cantonization."

Kosovo should be "a multiethnic, democratic and law-abiding place, which exists in peace and cooperation with its neighbors in the region and with the wider world," Kosumi said. "Within this broader vision, we are ready to elaborate more precise details of how Kosovo should be organized in both its institutions and its constitution."

Serbian premier Kostunica, however, called on the council to ensure Kosovo remained part of Serbia.

"I am convinced that the international community, embodied in the United Nations, will not succumb to threats of violence and permit a dismemberment of a democratic state and the undermining of the most basic principles of the international order," he said.

"I am convinced ... that no democratic and free state could accept this under any circumstances," Kostunica said.

Two key U.N. envoys, also appearing before the council, acknowledged Serbs and Kosovars were deeply divided over what the eventual fate of the southern Serb province should be. But they argued that resolving the issue would ultimately benefit both sides and bring more stability to the region.

"We all know that the positions of Belgrade and Pristina on the issue of Kosovo's status are far apart, but it will remain so until and unless it is resolved by an internationally managed process, and the sooner that is done, the better for the citizens in Kosovo and in the region," said Soren Jessen-Petersen, the province's U.N. administrator.

U.N. special envoy Kai Eide said he believed there had been a change in the region and Pristina and Belgrade now had a "shared expectation" that the status talks would begin.

"I am convinced that all will benefit from clarity with regard to what Kosovo will be," he said. "Such clarity will also remove an element of instability, which today hampers the political and economic development of Kosovo as well as of the region."

As Kosovo moves towards future status talks, UN administrator lays our priorities

24 October 2005 – With forthcoming talks on the future status of Kosovo presenting risks and confronting political leaders with difficult choices, the United Nations administrator of the ethnically-divided Serbian province today laid out six priority areas to promote a multi-ethnic future, including better living conditions for minorities.

"While the way ahead will no doubt be difficult, it must nonetheless be clear to all of us that continuing with the status quo is not a viable option," Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, Søren Jessen-Petersen, told the Security Council of the province where ethnic Albanians outnumber others, mainly Serbs, by about nine to one.

The UN has run Kosovo since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops amid grave human rights abuses in fighting between Albanians and Serbs in 1999. On Friday Mr. sent a letter to the Council calling for status talks to begin very soon, and he has mentioned independence or autonomy as options.

"We all know that the positions of Belgrade and Pristina on the issue of Kosovo's status are far apart," Mr. Jessen-Petersen acknowledged, referring to the capitals of Serbia and Kosovo. "But it will remain so until and unless it is resolved by an internationally managed process, and the sooner that is done, the better for the citizens in Kosovo and in the region.

"After more than six years of UN involvement and investment in Kosovo, we now have the chance and the challenge to support the citizens to leave the painful past behind and build a peaceful and prosperous future."

Mr. Annan, who attended the Council meeting, told reporters afterwards that he would likely appoint former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari as his Special Envoy to deal with status talks. Mr. Ahtisaari has most recently served as Mr. Annan's Special Envoy for the Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa.

The status process offers an opportunity for the Kosovo Albanian leadership "to show true commitment and take more decisive steps towards building the kind of multi-ethnic, democratic, and tolerant society that will undoubtedly bring them closer to realizing their dreams and goals when status is decided," Mr. Jessen-Petersen emphasized.

The first priority he mentioned was the need to reassure the Serbs by improving the living conditions of those now in Kosovo and fostering the sustainable returns of those still displaced.

"I don't expect major returns before status is clarified, but to reassure Kosovo Serbs of their future and to promote returns we need a constructive engagement of Belgrade and the direct involvement of the Kosovo Serbs," he said.

The other priorities are: a comprehensive reform of local government, an issue of crucial importance to minorities; establishing a transparent and non-politicized security apparatus; capacity building to ensure that Kosovo's institutions can take on their responsibilities; restructuring the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK); and maintaining a safe and secure environment.

"The security environment in Kosovo is at the moment stable, but isolated recent incidents remind us that, with the difficult status process about to begin, there is no place for complacency," he declared.

"That process, and possibly provocations from all sides, will undoubtedly test our ability to maintain the secure environment that has, by and large, prevailed in Kosovo during the last 18 months."

Also addressing Council members was Kai Eide, the Secretary-General's former Special Envoy for the Comprehensive Review of Kosovo, who introduced the report on his work.

Mr. Eide repeated his long-standing view that there would never be a good moment for addressing Kosovo's future status, and said both parties remain diametrically opposed with very little common ground. While prospects for reconciliation are modest, he supported the commencement of a process to determine future status, because it was important to keep the political process from stagnating.

Scarred Kosovo faces challenges

By Matt Prodger
BBC News, Kosovo

The United Nations Security Council is expected to give the go-ahead for negotiations to resolve the status of Kosovo.

The province, which legally remains part of Serbia and Montenegro, has been under international administration since a war six years ago which left 10,000 people dead.

Negotiations are expected to last a year and will most likely result in some form of independence, with a continuing role for foreign peacekeepers to prevent further outbreaks of violence between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, and its remaining Serbs.

On a hilltop outside the village of Racak lies a cemetery with a difference.

It is not the Albanian flag fluttering above it in the autumnal sun, nor the flowers wrapped in plastic which adorn each grave. It is the fact that every person buried here is a murder victim.

Six years ago, Serbian police from nearby villages rounded up more than 40 people from Racak and massacred them. For Nato it was the final straw, and soon after, its bombs were ending Serbian rule in Kosovo.

At the local mosque, nearly every worshipper has a relative who died in the massacre. For 68-year-old Ramiz Ymeri, it was his son, his throat cut from ear to ear.

No compromise

He is in no mood today to compromise with Serbs over the future of Kosovo.

"Before we can even talk to Serbia, it first has to accept the independence of Kosovo," he says. "Only then can we start sorting out the past."

An hour's drive from Racak is another village, Brestovik. This is home to Serb refugees returning to Kosovo after six years in Serbia. Their houses have been rebuilt with aid from the Italian government.

Stana Dzavric has yet to plaster and paint her house, but she says she is overjoyed to be back home. Yet when I ask her how she will feel next year if Kosovo gains independence from Serbia and Montenegro, her face darkens.

"We won't stay here," she says. "We'll pack our bags and leave."

And there is no sign of compromise on a political level. Veton Surroi, a member of the Kosovo Albanian negotiating team says the demand for independence is non-negotiable.

"We are at the final stage of deciding on our independence," he tells me. "This is a mutual project with the Kosovans and the international community.

"The Kosovo Serbs will be involved in this process, no doubt about it, but the question of Belgrade is another issue. Belgrade lost its right to make decisions about this area by committing genocide six years ago."


The Serbian government minister for Kosovo Sanda Raskovic-Ivic says: "We've compromised enough by offering the Albanians everything they already have: executive, legislative and judicial powers, plus a president. Under our plan we would retain sovereignty, one seat at the UN as Serbia and Montenegro and we would control the borders."

The most senior figure in Kosovo, the head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (Unmik) Soren Jessen-Petersen, says that there is so little common ground between the two sides that getting them to agree would be "an exercise in futility".

Instead, the "non-negotiables" have been determined by the international community: for example no partition of Kosovo, no union of Kosovo with neighbouring states, no return to the situation before March 1999, and an insistence that Nato peacekeepers remain indefinitely.

High-ranking officials in Unmik are angry about the stance of the Serbian government.

"Belgrade is going to have to concede that Kosovo is a lost cause," one told the BBC. "And we need a strong negotiating partner in Belgrade to do that. But no democratic forces in Belgrade are standing up and saying that today."

Sanda Raskovic-Ivic says Serbs would throw out any government which gives up Kosovo.

"Having Kosovo taken away from Serbia would be very painful and very dangerous," she says. "It's the best way of encouraging nationalists and it's the best way of turning the clock back to the [Milosevic era of] the 1990s."

Within Kosovo another clock is ticking. Graffiti on the streets calls for "self-determination" now, and "no negotiations".

Shadowy groups issue statements warning of dire consequences if independence is not granted. The status quo, as diplomats like to say, is unacceptable. But change also brings its own problems.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/10/24 13:53:56 GMT

UN mulls talks on Kosovo's fate, BBC

The United Nations Security Council is debating whether Kosovo is ready for talks about its final status.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said the talks should begin despite numerous shortcomings.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants independence, but Serbia wants to maintain sovereignty over the province.

Kosovo has been administered by the UN since Nato-led troops expelled Serb forces in 1999 to end the war there.

The head of the UN administration in Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen, told the BBC the current situation was unsustainable.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is expected to tell the Security Council that Kosovo should remain part of Serbia despite obtaining wide autonomy.

"Any imposed solution that would seize part of our territory would be a violation of international law," he was quoted as saying before leaving for New York.

Shuttle diplomacy

Mr Jessen-Petersen told the BBC the two positions are "diametrically opposed", and that asking the two sides to sit down and solve it would "almost be an exercise in futility".

But he was confident that with the help of a UN special envoy, who will shuttle between Pristina and Belgrade and other capitals in the region, an agreement would be reached within a year.

He went on to say that negotiations would be based on a set of principles that have already been agreed.

These include:

# no partition of Kosovo
# no return of the situation before March 1999
# no union of Kosovo with neighbouring states
# protection of minorities.

In 1999, Nato launched a 78-day air campaign against Serbia to stop a violent crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatist rebels.

Serbian forces were driven out, and the UN took over the administration of Kosovo, which formally remained a province of Serbia and Montenegro.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Kosovo sets out on road to independence - The Independent

By Tim Judah
Published: 24 October 2005
The United Nations Security Council convenes at 10am today. By lunchtime, it is expected to have made a momentous decision, that could lead to the birth of a new state in Europe.

The 15-member council is to recommend that talks on the future status of Kosovo, a territory contested between Serbs and the majority ethnic Albanians, begin as soon as possible.

Meeting in Rome last Thursday, diplomats from the main Western countries that deal with the former Yugoslavia, plus Russia agreed on what will happen today so as to make sure that there are no late hitches.

Ever since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999 the territory has been under the jurisdiction of the UN, although legally it remains a part of Serbia. The process, which will begin today, is expected to end Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo.

The council will be addressed by Kai Eide, the Norwegian diplomat who drew up the report on Kosovo. Within days of the meeting, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General is set to appoint Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president to lead talks.

After a period of shuttle diplomacy he is expected to draw up a draft plan for the future of the territory that will propose what is known as "conditional independence". It means that Kosovo will no longer be part of Serbia but its independence will, for a transitional period, be curtailed, rather like that of Bosnia where policy is shaped by a high level representative of the international community.

While Serbia will resist the ending of its sovereignty over Kosovo, diplomats say that Russia, on whom the Serbian leadership was hoping for support, has already betrayed it.

In 1999, Nato mounted a 78-day bombing campaign against what was then still known as Yugoslavia. The bombing came after talks failed to produce a settlement between Serbs and separatist Albanian guerrillas.

Ever since, Kosovo has been run by the UN although progressively power has been transferred to its own elected authorities. Some 100,000 Serbs remain in Kosovo out of a total population of 2 million, more than 90 per cent of whom are ethnic Albanians who have consistently shown that they want independence.

Most of those Serbs who remain, live in enclaves some of which have to be protected by Nato-led peacekeepers. In March 2004, ethnic Albanian rioting left 19 dead and some 4,000 Serbs and Roma were ethnically cleansed. In his report, Mr Eide described inter-ethnic relations as "grim".

Serbia will fight a fierce rearguard action to retain sovereignty, if little else, over Kosovo.

Indeed, according to Dusan Batakovic, advisor on Kosovo to Serbian president Boris Tadic: "People think Serbia has given up Kosovo but it is not the case - to the contrary in fact."

Serbia says the Albanians can have virtually anything they want except full independence. Albanians say that everything is negotiable except independence. Indeed a movement is now gathering pace in Kosovo to oppose the coming talks.

It is led by Albin Kurti, a 30-year old former political prisoner who is organising supporters to be ready to take to the streets. He says he is against talks because they aim at compromise and there can be no compromise on the question of independence.

Diplomatic sources believe the talks will last up to nine months, after which the main Western powers will then act to impose "conditional independence" on Kosovo. The Albanians will probably accept that, plus a high level of autonomy for Serbian areas. Serb leaders however, resigned as they may be to the reality of the situation, say they will never formally accept the loss of Kosovo, which they regard as the cradle of their civilisation.

In principle, Kosovo Albanians will be led into talks by Ibrahim Rugova, their president and the best-known symbol of Kosovo.

However Mr Rugova is ill with lung cancer. If he dies or is incapacitated, it is expected to weaken the Albanian negotiating position.

John Beyrle - U.S. Envoy for Kosovo Talks?

U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria

A career officer in the senior Foreign Service at the rank of Minister-Counselor, John Beyrle has held policy positions and overseas assignments with an emphasis on U.S. relations Central and Eastern Europe and Russia and the USSR. He took up his duties as U.S. Ambassador in Sofia, Bulgaria in August, 2005. From 2002-05, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, following a Washington assignment as Acting Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States, an Assistant Secretary-level position overseeing relations with the states of the former Soviet Union. He had previously worked as Deputy Special Adviser in the same office.
From 1993-95, Mr. Beyrle was Director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs on the staff of the National Security Council. His overseas assignments have included postings to the U.S. Embassies in Moscow and Sofia as a Political Officer and as Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Prague. He has served as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the CFE Negotiations in Vienna, as a staff officer to Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker, and as a Pearson Fellow and foreign policy adviser to the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL).
Mr. Beyrle received a B.A. degree with honors from Grand Valley State University (Michigan) and an M.S. as a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College, where he later taught as a Visiting Professor of National Security Studies. His foreign languages are Bulgarian, Czech, French, German and Russian. He is married to Jocelyn Greene, who is also a Foreign Service Officer. They have two daughters, Alison and Caroline.