Belgrade, 3 Nov. (AKI) - After persistent demands by ethnic Albanian leaders for the province of Kosovo independence, supported by shady paramilitary groups which have appeared in the province, Serbian leaders in Belgrade have finally joined forces to chart an apparent diplomatic counter- offensive to retain Kosovo within Serbian state boundaries.
Serbia-Montenegro's president, Svetozar Marovic, called the meeting of the country’s top leaders late on Wednesday to name Belgrade's negotiating team and finalise a strategy for the upcoming talks on the final status of Kosovo - which has been under United Nations administration since 1999. Marovic, Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, and his Montenegrin counterpart, Milo Djukanovic, and the presidents of both republics, Boris Tadic, and Filip Vujanovic, attended.
The statement released after the closed-door meeting revealed few details. To solve the Kosovo problem, "compromises should be sought, in which there would be no imposed solution,” it said. The leaders were unanimous in backing Kostunica’s stands as presented to the UN Security Council last week that ethnic Albanians should get broad autonomy, but not independence.
But the Belgrade daily Blic, quoting unnamed government sources, said on Thursday that Belgrade's negotiating team had been put in place, although it released no names. Belgrade negotiators would also have an international expert as advisor, but his name will be made public only after the parliament approves Serbia's “strategy and tactics” for the talks. Parliament could pass a resolution opposing Kosovo's secession, to counter a pro-independence resolution being tabled by Kosovo's parliament, political analysts said.
Ethnic Albanian politicians in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, have recently come under pressure from a paramilitary group, which calls itself The Army for the Independence of Kosovo (AIK), to proclaim independence or face a “difficult situation”. But a spokesman for the international military force in Kosovo (Kfor), Pio Sabetta, told journalists in Pristina that the threats were being investigated, adding: “those people can’t influence the security situation in Kosovo”.
His UN administration (Unmik) colleague, Niraaj Singh, said that such threats might become a “daily event” during status talks. But, “regardless of media commentaries, electronic messages and other forms of pressure, the decision on Kosovo's status will not be made in the street, or through internet,” he added, in a clear reference to the AIK threats.
Meanwhile, special UN representative in Kosovo's status talks, former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, met with representatives of a six-nation Contact Group for Kosovo in Washington on Wednesday to discuss the framework for the talks. But issues concerning Ahtisaari's remit immediately arose, as he reportedly wants to lead the talks, while the United States sees his role as “first among equals”, and wants him to share decision-making with special envoys to be appointed by Washington, Moscow and the European Union.
Opening an eastern diplomatic front, Serbia-Montenegro's foreign minister, Vuk Draskovic told the Moscow daily Rossiyskaya gazzeta on Wednesday that granting Kosovo independence would be a dangerous precedent which would lead “the malign tumor to metastasis”. It would, in his word “darken the perspective of the entire region,” and instead of bringing the Balkans closer to Europe, “would Balkanize Europe”, Draskovic said.
Fearful of loosing Kosovo, Belgrade sees a possible Moscow veto in the Security Council as a 'safety net' to prevent this happening.