Monday, February 28, 2005

Kosovo Corps close to recruiting number of Serbs required by Standards

The Kosova [Kosovo] Protection Corps [TMK] will not be responsible if inclusion of Serb minority members does not reach the figure of 10 per cent as outlined in the Standard VIII, the TMK officials said.

The spokesperson for the TMK, Col Muharrem Mahmutaj, said that they are close to fulfilling the requirements of this standard, but inclusion of Serb minority, despite some progress, is going slowly.

"Fulfilment of standard should not be measured only by figures, but also the TMK efforts for inclusion of members of all minorities should be taken into account," he said.

Currently only 7 per cent of the TMK members are from minorities and this figure must be increased to 10 per cent by mid-2005.

Mahmutaj said that the minorities at the TMK enjoy privileges, but there are stalemates in terms of including Serb members.

"We have managed to include tens of members of Serb minority. We would have included more if there were no pressure from Belgrade and from some Kosova Serb political representatives."

Some of the members of Serb minority are said to have left the TMK due to the pressure from their compatriots. Moreover Belgrade officials have many times called on the local Serbs to boycott the TMK.

UNMIK to take action against any officials impeding standards for Kosovo

The international authorities in Kosova [Kosovo] have announced the possibility of undertaking measures against all those who impede or block the fulfilment of obligations and duties that emerge from the plan of standards. According to UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] officials, transfer of powers will also be accompanied with accountability from the local institutions.

"UNMIK is ready to undertake measures against officials, at the central as well as municipal level, who fail to accomplish their responsibilities and duties or who impede or block the efforts in making progress in the key fields," UNMIK spokesperson Remy Dourlot said.

Among priority standards remain minority rights, freedom of movement, return of displaced people, equitable provision of services, media responsibility and security. But, according to Dourlot, the standards are not limited only to these fields.

According to him, the special representative of the UN secretary general [SRSG - Soeren Jessen-Petersen] has several means and measures at his disposition based on the mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

The use of punitive measures could follow after violations, and their use is the last resort. "The SRSG is ready to undertake several measures in the interest of moving ahead towards the standards and status of Kosova."

Sunday, February 27, 2005

U.S. scholars draft charter for Kosovo

If Serbia's Kosovo province wins full independence in talks beginning this year, it will have a constitution ready for its new government, thanks to a team led by a U.S. professor.

Bruce Hitchner, of Tufts University near Boston and formerly of the University of Dayton, was in the region this week presenting a draft constitution to Kosovar leaders.

Kosovo has been under United Nations and NATO control since a U.S.-led bombing campaign drove Serbian forces from the province in 1999, but simmering unrest continues.

Talks on Kosovo's final status --- whether the majority ethnic Albanians get the independence they want, or the minority Serbs get their wish to remain part of Serbia --- are expected to begin this year.

With this in mind, Hitchner and a team at the U.S.-based nonprofit Public International Law and Policy Group drafted a constitution for Kosovo in the same spirit in which the group already has advised more than a dozen countries --- not to impose a solution, but rather to create a document that local politicians can use as a starting point.

''We drafted in the course of the last four months a boilerplate constitution,'' he said. When a delegation that included Hitchner brought the document to Kosovo, courtesy of a German Marshall Fund grant, ''the Kosovars leapt on it,'' he said. ''They'll send us back suggestions for revision, and when they need us we'll go back in there.''

The draft constitution foresees a strong parliamentary democracy that emphasizes the role of the prime minister rather than the president and enshrines the rights of the individual. It would not include what Hitchner calls ''ethnic set-asides,'' or quotas for representation of various groups.

While Kosovo's provisional government and Albanian opposition parties embraced the document, Hitchner said there had been no response from the Serb minority.

Hitchner foresees traveling to the region about once a month to hear all the concerns, and to continue a fledgling constitutional project in nearby Bosnia.

He chairs the nearly 10-year-old Dayton Peace Accords project, and was in Bosnia this week for what he called ''low-key'' consultations with leaders about where to start when considering changes to their constitution.

Bosnia's present constitution is part of the peace agreement initialed in Dayton in November 1995. The agreement ended a nearly four-year war that pitted the country's Croats, Muslims and Serbs against each other, leaving some 200,000 dead and about half the country's population displaced from their homes.

Nearly 10 years later, Bosnia is far from a model country, but its challenges are mostly unrelated to the threat of renewed war.

And the country's tangled structures --- for example, Bosnia has three presidents --- are increasingly seen as a stumbling block to Bosnia's bid to join the European Union.

''It's more nation-building now than it is peace implementation work --- that phase is over clearly,'' Hitchner said. ''What we're trying to do is establishing some principles for political and constitutional change that everyone can agree to.''

Hitchner is facing a tight deadline. Any changes will have to be presented to parliament by March 2006, in time for the general elections later that year.

But he is optimistic. ''The goal is to get the Bosnians in charge of shaping their future,'' he said.

Government Calls for Serb Refuguees' Return to Kosovo

The Kosovo government urged Serb refugees Friday (25 February) to return to their homes in the province. In a statement, the cabinet emphasised that the Albanian community should create conditions for free movement of Serbs and other minorities. It also said monuments and religious facilities were part of Kosovo's culture and history and must be protected, regardless of which community they belong to. Meanwhile, Kosovo's Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj announced that the preparations on Pristina's side for future talks with Belgrade on missing persons have been completed.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Thursday, February 24, 2005

UNMIK chief denies Hague indictment handed to Kosovo premier

UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] chief Soeren Jessen-Petersen has said that Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has not been handed a Hague tribunal [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY] indictment because the handing of indictments is his duty as the UN administrator in Kosovo.

"The handing of indictments is my responsibility, and an indictment has not been handed to Prime Minister Haradinaj, unless I did it in my sleep," Jessen-Petersen said in a telephone statement for the Belgrade media from New York, where he participated in the UN Security Council session on Kosovo.

He said that Haradinaj had not come to the session because of his many obligations this week. He said that the Kosovo prime minister had to stay in Pristina to meet Italian Foreign Minister Fini, among his other duties.

Jessen-Petersen also recalled that, after the November session of the UN Security Council, he had announced that he wanted to come next time to New York with the prime minister, but that Haradinaj also had to take part in the session of the Kosovo Economic-Fiscal Council, and had many other duties.

"He has set his priorities very responsibly and I respect him for that," the Kosovo administrator said, adding that Haradinaj could not come to New York because "of responsibilities no one else could take on for him."

Jessen-Petersen said that he was "completely taken aback" by rumours that Haradinaj had already received an indictment, and reiterated that this was definitely not true.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Top US Diplomat: Kosovo Making Progress

Serbia-Montenegro to split

The War We Haven't Finished - NY Times


PR/CP (2005)022 22 February 2005


We, the 26 Heads of State and Government of the member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance, reaffirm the enduring value of the transatlantic link, renew our commitment to collective defence, and remain united in our commitment to our shared security and common values of democracy, freedom, individual liberty and the rule of law in addressing today’s security challenges. Recent elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories, as well as Ukraine have once again demonstrated, in diverse circumstances, that these values are shared in the aspirations of people around the world.

Afghanistan has turned an important corner in building a stable, democratic and multiethnic state. In support of the Government, NATO is expanding its ISAF operation to the western part of Afghanistan and will provide additional forces for the forthcoming National Assembly elections. We will continue the expansion to the rest of the country, and enhance cooperation and coordination with Operation Enduring Freedom, with a view to increasing synergy and better integrating the two operations.

The Iraqi people have shown enormous courage in shaping their own future at the election booth. Reaffirming Iraq’s sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity, we are united in our commitment to support them and their newly-elected government in their effort to build an inclusive democracy and secure nation. Consistent with UNSC Resolution 1546, all 26 Allies are contributing to the NATO mission to assist in training Iraqi security forces, to hasten the day when they can take full responsibility for the stability of the country and the security of its citizens.

We remain firm in our commitment to stability in the Balkans and see the future of this region firmly anchored in the Euro-Atlantic community. NATO will maintain its strong presence in Kosovo and contribute to the UN-led political process of building a multiethnic, peaceful and prosperous society.

The Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative are proving effective tools in enhancing consultations and developing mutually beneficial relationships and cooperation on common security concerns with states of the Mediterranean and Broader Middle East. We welcome the recent positive developments in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and we expect they will benefit the whole region as well as those initiatives.

We intend to develop further our strategic partnership with the EU. A stronger EU will further contribute to our common security. We will enhance cooperation with the United Nations and with other international organizations in our common efforts. We will continue to work closely with Russia, in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, and with our partners and friends to address common threats to our security.

We met with President Yushchenko and congratulated the people of Ukraine on their commitment to democracy and the rule of law. We pledged continued support and welcomed their aspirations for building a democratic and prosperous Ukraine and strengthening their integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.

We are determined to fight terrorism, strengthen security, and build peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond. We will further transform the Alliance and its capabilities to respond to our common security challenges. We are committed to strengthening NATO’s role as a forum for strategic and political consultation and coordination among Allies, while reaffirming its place as the essential forum for security consultation between Europe and North America.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Kosovo official criticizes premier's "failure to go to New York"

Nothing justifies Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj's failure to go to New York, Democratic Party of Kosova [Kosovo] [PDK] chairman Hashim Thaci said today during a visit to Shkup.

During his visit, the PDK chairman met Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski and Democratic Party of Albanians [PDSh] chairman Arben Xhaferi. [Passage omitted]

Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski said after the meeting with Hashim Thaci that Macedonia had nothing to fear from the status of Kosova.

Buckovski went on to say that Thaci had assured him that the idea of a Greater Kosova did not enjoy any support and that the entire political spectrum in Kosova was striving for tolerant, peaceful and good relations with Macedonia.

Buckovski also said that the PDK leader had told him that Kosova did not dispute the demarcation of the border with Macedonia, but only the legal entity that had signed the agreement.

Kosovo premier "confirms contacts" with offices of Serbian leaders

Kosova [Kosovo] Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has reconfirmed the statements made for the Austrian newspaper Der Standard that his office has contacts with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's office and that of Serbian President Boris Tadic.

"Once again I can confirm that my office has contacts with Kostunica's office and Tadic's office. This is my answer. You can assess this as you wish," the Kosova prime minister stated, without giving details regarding the channels through which these contacts had been established and of what function they were.

In the meantime, the Kosova prime minister's statements were rejected in Belgrade. Serbian newspaper Blic quoted an adviser to Prime Minister Kostunica as denying having any contacts with Haradinaj's cabinet. "There could be no contacts with Haradinaj, neither by the government nor by the president, or by the members of the Serbia-Montenegro Council of Ministers," Kostunica's political adviser Aleksandar Simic told Blic. [Passage omitted]

The dialogue with Belgrade is one of the priority Standards. Since the election of the new governing cabinet of Kosova chaired by Haradinaj, the Serbian government publicly rejected the dialogue and influenced representatives of the Kosova Serbs to remain outside the institutions of Kosova.

Kosovo premier says work prevents attendance at UNSC meeting

Kosova [Kosovo] Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj will definitely not go to New York on 24 February, when SRSG [Special Representative of Secretary General] Soeren Jessen-Petersen is expected to report to the UN Security Council on the latest situation in Kosova. This was the main news that these two presented to journalists after their regular meeting at the Kosova government's headquarters on Friday [17 February].

The Kosova prime minister's comprehensive and very important agenda in the coming week was given as the only reason for not going, following the "official invitation" that is reported to have been made to the prime minister by head administrator Jessen-Petersen.

"The Kosova prime minister's departure to New York will not happen. I will be staying in Prishtina to continue my work, my activities, with the needed dynamics for the assessment of Standards. We will have important visits and I have to be here," Haradinaj said, mentioning this as an issue that interests everyone.

Meanwhile, head administrator Jessen-Petersen expressed his respect for the Kosova prime minister's decision.

"I respect the prime minister's decision to stay in Kosova and deal with decentralization, meet municipal chairmen and the Economic Fiscal Council [EFC], and deal with a very comprehensive and very important agenda here," Jessen-Petersen stated.

"I will be there and we will have a very close cooperation with the prime minister of Kosova," he said.

"I am not saying no to New York, but Kosova will be represented there by head administrator Jessen-Petersen and I have total confidence that he will do this in the worthiest manner," Haradinaj said when asked to give the main reason for refusing the invitation to New York.

He said that very soon in Kosova there would be a key report, on which the political assessment of Standards would depend.

"We have a very busy week and the days ahead are not enough; therefore, we have to make the most of them," Haradinaj stated.

In addition, he also mentioned the government's meeting, the Kosova Assembly session, when the budget will be adopted, the process of assuming powers in the Economic Fiscal Council, and evaluation of the work of working groups on Standards as reasons for not travelling to New York.

"The important thing is that Kosova is being represented; the process is moving ahead and there will be situations and moments when we will represent Kosova. But the key issue for us is how to work now until the next assessment," the prime minister stated.

Haradinaj would have been only Jessen-Petersen's companion in New York

"Although I would want Haradinaj to represent Kosova, unfortunately he would not be able to address the UN Security Council. This is clear," Jessen-Petersen stated when asked if Haradinaj's trip would be understood as unblocking the institutions because this would be the first time that the Kosovo prime minister would have travelled abroad.

"I believe that I represent Kosova there and this should be clear," he stressed.

"The most important thing is that you have heard how important the Kosova agenda is in the coming week and it can move ahead better if the prime minister is here," he concluded.

"I believe I can help the process by reporting realistically on the progress that has been made in Kosova," he added.

"But nobody can replace the prime minister here. He has to work here. I cannot replace him, either," Jessen-Petersen stated again, trying to justify Prime Minister Haradinaj's decision not to travel with him to New York.

"I hope one day prime minister will replace me in New York"

"I hope that one day the prime minister will replace me in New York," Jessen-Petersen stated.

"For the time being, the agenda is such that does not allow the prime minister to come with me," he repeated.

"There is no need to speculate. The prime minister said exactly why he was not going to New York. I appeal to you to look at the facts which were presented and try to think if this might be in Kosova's interest. Not all of us can be there. The prime minister stays here to continue the processes," the SRSG told the journalists.

"There I would have been only Jessen-Petersen's companion," was how Haradinaj tried to minimize the importance of his failed trip.

"Given that we have confidence that he will present our work in the way we have worked, it is important for us to continue the process," Haradinaj concluded.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Secretary-General appoints Jean Dussourd Deputy Special Representative in Kosovo

International body urges fast resolution of Kosovo status

The head of the International Committee on the Balkans, former Italian prime minister, Giuliano D'Amato, called on the international community to resolve the issue of Kosova's [Kosovo] status as soon as possible.

Giuliano D'Amato stressed that the commission aims at acceleration of integration of the whole region of the Balkans into the EU.

He evaluates that the challenges would overcome easier if there were a clear perspective for the countries of Southeastern Europe.

"The international community should make clear who are the players in order for this process to start. And of course the pending issue of Kosova should be solved in the shortest time possible, or else the actors would not be clarified," he said.

The delegation of the International Commission is in a fact-finding mission to get first hand information in the developments and the progress made in Kosova. It is learned that in the focus of their mission will be gathering of evaluation from the governmental and political leaders of Kosova on final status.

Expressing the concern on relations between the two ethnic communities in Kosova, (Albanians and Serbs), D'Amato highlighted the need for their improvement, "what would enable everyone to live safe here".

"This is the key prerequisite for every society. I can say that this is a key standard for them before they are together in Europe. This is dependent from the laws, from the institution, but mostly from us, from our culture, feelings, and from our basic values," he said following the meeting with Kosova President Ibrahim Rugova.

The president and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj had separate meetings with the delegation.

"We insist that a quick recognition of independence would resolve the internal democratic and economic problems. It would enable integration of minorities in our country, as well," said Rugova.

Whereas Haradinaj said that it is a general will here for the status to be resolved in the shortest time possible, "as an independent country, which is a necessity for our life in Kosova".

"I assured him that we are determined to work for all, including Serbs, to have a future in Kosova. In particular we are interested to give our contribution for better relations in the region."

The International Commission for the Balkans, which numbers many former senior politicians, has not a decision-making power, but it has an influence at the EU structures.

Make Kosovo independent to avoid violence - group.

The Balkan province of Kosovo should move to independence as quickly as possible to head off any renewed violence, an international think-tank said on Friday.

Kosovo has drifted through over five years of United Nations administration since a NATO bombing campaign ended a separatist war between Serbia and ethnic Albanian guerrillas in 1999.

"From the Serbian side there has to be a recognition that Kosovo can never return to Belgrade rule. There also has to be a recognition that partition (of Kosovo) is simply not an option as part of this settlement process," said Gareth Evans, president of the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank working to resolve conflict.

Serbia and its traditional ally Russia oppose Kosovo's independence, but Evans said the settlement process needed to move forward even without their support.

"This train is leaving the station with or without the Serbs, with or without the Russians," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this week that Kosovo had not made enough progress on a list of standards it needs to meet before its long-term status can be assessed.

The list includes progress on law and order, democracy, security and human rights.

Evans, a former Australian foreign minister, told a media briefing in London that any delay in resolving Kosovo's status could lead to further violence.

Ethnic Albanian rioting in Kosovo against Serbs and other minorities last March killed 19 people and forced hundreds from their homes.

"The truth of the matter is that an explosion of violence on a scale even to put last year's March events in the shade has to be contemplated," Evans said.

He blamed ethnic Albanian frustration for the riots, but added that Kosovo's parliament has to do more to protect the Serbian minority.

About 90 percent of the 1.9 million population are ethnic Albanians who demand independence. The Serbian government in Belgrade says Kosovo should remain part of Serbia and Montenegro.

A group of six countries including Russia and the European Union is heading the review of Kosovo's international status.

Around 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians died in the 1998-99 war and tens of thousands fled to neighbouring Albania and Macedonia.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Kosovo officials reject Annan’s claims

The Kosovo government and Albanian officials say that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s claims that Kosovo Serbs are living in fear are untrue and unrealistic.

The Kosovo government said that they are actively involved in integrating Serbs into the governmental structure, despite obstructions of the process by Belgrade.

The Kosovo media, particularly daily’s written in Albanian, also denied Annan’s statements, saying that the Secretary-General’s claims that no standards have been implemented in Kosovo are a drastic exaggeration.

Annan released a statement yesterday saying that Kosovo Serbs are living in fear and that ethnic divides are becoming even greater in the region, linking this to the fact that the Kosovo government has not done enough to punish those who participated in ethnically motivated crimes and attacks.

The Secretary-General’s full report on the situation in Kosovo and the work of the UN mission will be presented in detail to members of the UN Security Council at a meeting in New York City, scheduled for February 24.

Macedonian premier to meet Kosovo opposition leader 18 Feb

It has been announced in Skopje today that Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski is to hold an informal meeting with Democratic Party of Kosovo [PDK] leader Hashim Thaci in Skopje tomorrow.

Buckovski and Thaci are scheduled to discuss the situation in the region.

Hashim Thaci, who is a deputy in the Kosovo Assembly, is going to take part in a Skopje roundtable on Kosovo and its prospects, organized by the Swiss Embassy in Macedonia and the Forum Centre for Strategic Research and Documentation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: UN rep. in Kosova has invited Kosovo PM to accompany him to the UN Security Council meeting at the end of this month...developing

"Es gibt keine Klage gegen mich" - Der Standard interview with Kosova PM - in German

Der Premierminister des Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, präferiert den Einfluss der Amerikaner während der Statusverhandlungen fürchtet sich aber nicht vor der Position Russlands. Mit dem ehemaligen UCK- Kommandanten sprach Adelheid Wölfl.

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STANDARD: Sind Sie nach Wien gekommen, weil der serbische Präsident Boris Tadic in den Kosovo gefahren ist?

Haradinaj: Nein, das war wirklich ein Zufall. Wir sind aber bereit, direkte Kontakte mit der serbischen Regierung aufzubauen. Entschuldigungen von kosovarischer, von serbischer Seite sollten gemacht werden.

STANDARD: Der serbische Premier Vojislav Kostunica will aber nicht mit Ihnen reden.

Haradinaj: Es gibt schon Kontakte mit seinem Büro. Belgrad muss eine andere Haltung einnehmen, wenn es den Kosovo-Serben helfen will.

STANDARD: Was erwarten Sie sich von den Statusverhandlungen 2005?

Haradinaj: Dieses Jahr wird vieles in Bezug auf die Unabhängigkeit des Kosovo gelöst werden. Aber es könnte sein, dass danach noch Punkte abgeschlossen werden müssen.

STANDARD: Serbien will einer Unabhängigkeit des Kosovo nicht zustimmen. Was könnte der Deal sein?

Haradinaj: Für Serbien ist es das Beste, bei der EU zu sein. Wir hoffen, dass Brüssel Belgrad ein konkretes und klares Angebot für einen EU-Beitritt geben wird. So wie wir das für uns selbst erwarten.

STANDARD: Erwarten Sie eine Anklage vom UN-Kriegsverbrechertribunal in Den Haag?

Haradinaj: Es gibt keine Klage gegen mich. Es gibt nur Anschuldigungen, die vom früheren Regime in Belgrad fabriziert wurden. Ich erwarte also die Bestätigung, dass es gegen mich keine Ermittlungen mehr gibt.

STANDARD: Fürchten Sie Unruhen im Kosovo während der Statusgespräche?

Haradinaj: Wenn es in Richtung Unabhängigkeit geht, wird es keine Schwierigkeiten geben.

STANDARD: Wie sehen Sie eine Europäisierung des Kosovo?

Haradinaj: Wir sind froh, dass Europa und die USA im Kosovo gut zusammenarbeiten. Aber während der Statusgespräche - erlauben Sie mir das zu sagen - bevorzugen wir die Rolle der USA.

STANDARD: Befürchten Sie, dass Russland einer Un^abhängigkeit nicht zustimmen wird?

Haradinaj: Ich denke, Russland wird zustimmen. Da gibt es eine ganz neue Einstellung. Russland wird beweisen, für das Richtige einzustehen.

STANDARD: Spielt Österreich eine Rolle?

Haradinaj: Wenn die Statusgespräche hier stattfinden, sind wir froh. Zudem wird Österreich 2006 die EU-Ratspräsidentschaft übernehmen.

(DER STANDARD, Printausgabe, 16.2.2005)

Serbia "continues to promote stereotypes" on Kosovo - Slovene daily

Commenting on this week's visit of Serbian President Boris Tadic to Kosovo, the daily Delo observes on Tuesday [15 February] that Serbia has still not drafted a clear political strategy concerning this ethnically-divided province.

Instead of a strategy, Serbia continues to promote stereotypes; Tadic did the same during his visit by vowing that Belgrade would never accept an independent Kosovo, the daily writes under the headline "Fear gets the better of Tadic".

The Serbian ruling coalition, which places on the right of the political spectrum, behaves like the Kosovo Albanians, who account for nine tenths of the province's population, were non-existent.

By reiterating that "Kosovo will never be independent", Tadic did not only stir Albanian extremists but also the Kosovo moderate politicians who have been hinting at the Belgrade authorities for a while that a time has come for launching talks on the province's status.

The refusal to negotiate meanwhile takes its toll on all the people in the province, the Albanians as well as non-Albanians. As the economy continues to deteriorate to become worse than before 1999, the black market and the drug and human trafficking flourish, the daily concludes.

Kosovo Cabinet: Tadic Words Deepen Split

Kosovo officials said on Tuesday that remarks made by Serbia's president during a recent visit to the U.N.-administered province widened the gulf between its ethnic Albanian and Serb residents.

The Kosovo government called the comments made by Boris Tadic "unprecedented."

Tadic on Monday told Serbs living in isolated enclaves in Kosovo that independence for the province of Serbia would be "totally unacceptable."

"The statements of the Serbian president do not help the integration of the Serb community in Kosovo society and institutions," the cabinet's press office said in a statement.

Tadic's statements show a continuation of "Belgrade's policy to deepen the split and isolation of Serb citizens in Kosovo," the statement put out by the government of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj went on to read.

Tadic's visit should have stressed peace, tolerance and understanding, as well as pressed for the co-operation and integration of the Serb minority in Kosovo society, the statement added.

Tadic was the first Serb head of state to visit Kosovo since it became a U.N. protectorate in 1999, following NATO's 73-day bombing campaign to halt the Serb repression of the ethnic Albanian majority in the province.

Kosovo is legally part of the loose union of Serbia and Montenegro that succeeded rump Yugoslavia in 2003. The final status of the province is subject of a dispute between its ethnic Albanian residents, who seek independence, and its Serbs, who insist on autonomy within the union of Serbia and Montenegro.

Final status talks should begin later this year.

Kosovo is lost cause for Serbia, says Albanian minister

Albanian Defence Minister Pandeli Majko said Tuesday the UN-run southern Serbian province of Kosovo was a "lost cause" for Belgrade, which has vowed to resist the Kosovo Albanian majority's demands for independence.

"Kosovo is a lost cause for Serbia," he told a local television station a day after Serbian President Boris Tadic ended a landmark visit to Serb minority enclaves in the province, the first by a Serbian head of state since the 1998-1999 war.

"The current Serb political leadership still does not want to recognise that the responsibility for the loss of Kosovo is not theirs, but rather (former Yugoslav president Slobodan) Milosevic's and his former regime's."

Kosovo became a UN protectorate after a NATO bombing campaign forced Milosevic's forces to withdraw from the province and end a crackdown on ethnic Albanian guerrillas, who had taken arms to demand independence.

The province technically remains part of Serbia and Tadic reiterated Belgrade's refusal to contemplate its independence during his visit to Serb villages there this week.

The UN is expected to convene talks on Kosovo's final status later this year.

Kosovo and Serbia to resume talks on fate of missing: UN

alks between the Kosovo government and Serbia on the fate of some 3,000 people listed as missing from the 1998-1999 conflict will resume in early March, UN mission chief Soren Jessen-Petersen said Tuesday.

"I asked for a meeting of the working group for the missing to be held in the second half of February but the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), which has a leading role in facilitating the dialogue, insisted on better preparations for talks," Jessen-Petersen said.

The talks would be the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides since violent anti-Serb riots erupted in the UN-run southern Serbian province in March 2004, leaving 19 dead and some 900 injured.

Of 3,192 people still listed as missing from the war, 2,460 are from Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, 529 are Serbs and 203 are from other ethnic backgrounds.

Top Serbian and Kosovo politicians held their first face-to-face talks since the war in Vienna in October 2003, agreeing to launch an ongoing dialogue on matters of mutual concern such as the missing persons, energy, communications and refugees.

Kosovo became a UN protectorate after a NATO bombing campaign forced forces under then-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to end their crackdown on the ethnic Albanian majority, which demands independence.

Serbian President Visits Kosovo; Vows to Oppose Independence - NY Times

Sunday, February 13, 2005

German Chancelor on Kosova - Munich Security Conference

2005 will also be a key year in the western Balkans where the European Union is increasingly engaged. Lasting stabilization of this region can only be achieved through close cooperation between the European Union, NATO, the UN and the OSCE. This applies to Bosnia and Herzegovina and, above all, to Kosovo. Around mid-year, it will be decided whether and when negotiations on the status issue can begin. It is up to political leaders - both Albanians and Serbs - to create the prerequisites for an acceptable solution.

We will lend our support to a solution which is both realistic and points the way ahead. Above all, this includes a long-term constructive European perspective based on European values and standards, such as protection of minorities, the repatriation of refugees and decentralization. The European perspective applies to Kosovo and to the entire western Balkans.

Serbia Leader Rejects Kosovo Independence

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Kosova: SRSG address to the OSCE Permanent Council

Pristina - SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen this morning addressed the OSCE Permanent Countil in Vienna. This is the text of his speech.

“Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to address the OSCE Permanent Council. May I first thank the Slovenian Presidency for having invited me and in particular Chairman-in-Office Foreign Minister Rupel for having placed Kosovo so firmly on the OSCE agenda for the year 2005.

Speaking to the Permanent Council of the OSCE is like a homecoming for me, so intensively interwoven are UN and OSCE tasks under the UNMIK umbrella in Kosovo. I continue to be impressed – and my friend Ambassador Fieschi will certainly agree – by the outstanding commitment and unity of purpose within the mission, of which Pillar III, the OSCE pillar, is an integral part. Let me take this opportunity to pay tribute to all OSCE staff in Kosovo. In particular, I would like to thank Ambassador Fieschi for his very able and fine leadership over the past three years.

2005 is and will be a crucial year for Kosovo. Kosovo remains one of the last pieces of the Balkan jigsaw that still confronts us with serious threats to stability. It must be a prime objective of the International Community in 2005 to address this situation.

Let us be clear: 2005 must be the year to move forward and fling open the windows of opportunity. Challenges are staggering, admittedly: They range from security challenges, from standard implementation and an accelerated transfer of ever greater competencies to Kosovo authorities to preparing for the mid-2005 comprehensive review of standards implementation, with future status negotiations to follow. High local expectations regarding an early status resolution bring further weight to the calendar this year.

Today, I would like to outline where we are at this critical juncture and where we are going.

Kosovo is a very different place to what it was five and a-half years ago when the war ended and UNMIK was established. In fact, we have gone a long way even since the March 2004 riots. Let me make seven points:

First: Security

Security has improved considerably in the last few months. Kosovo is now generally stable and calm. Importantly, over the last ten months, there has been virtually no inter-ethnic violence; incidents are mostly related to local criminality whose rates are not higher than comparable rates in Western Europe. Cooperation between KFOR – to whose commander, Yves de Kermabon, and forces I also want to pay tribute – UNMIK Police, and KPS has been strengthened and is functioning well; operational lessons from last March have been learned and operational preparedness and refined contingency planning is at hand. I am confident that, because of KFOR and UNMIK’s hands-on, preventive approach to security, which includes community outreach and a constant communication with all of Kosovo’s communities, we are better prepared for any eventuality that may occur.

At the same time, security remains fragile. Risks do exist – not least the uncertainty revolving around possible indictments by the ICTY and temptations of certain quarters to block Kosovo’s progress towards status talks. It is all the more important that the international community plainly engages the people of Kosovo. The message should be crystal clear, and KFOR and UNMIK are conveying it in no uncertain terms: Compliance with the political and judicial processes is indispensable and will affect positively Standards Implementation, review and status talks. Violence would set back the entire process and risk scuttling hopes of putting Kosovo on the road toward European integration. If, on the other hand, violence is provoked with a view to obstructing the way forward, it will of course not be held against those respecting democracy and rule of law but against those who still believe that Kosovo can be a prisoner of the past.

Second: Democratic institutions

Democratic institutions are functioning well. The two party multi-ethnic Government coalition elected on 3 December last year under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Haradinaj has embraced Standard Implementation and showed a clear determination to secure a favourable assessment of progress in mid-2005. Signs of political maturity are emerging in the Kosovo Assembly, where for the first time we now have a political opposition. We are drawing also here very heavily on Pillar III and its valuable assistance to the PISG and the Assembly in particular.

Third: Standards Implementation

Standards have become the hallmark of Kosovo’s future. This has to be said particularly forcefully here to the OSCE Council, since the OSCE is the guardian of European standards and values, largely drawn from the Helsinki Charter. The International Community has consistently reiterated that any progress on status resolution depends on standards fulfillment. But standards are much more than an entry ticket into status discussion. Standards are acts and deeds defining what kind of a society Kosovo wants to be, notably in dealing with its minority communities. They are the “admission tickets” for Europe, and they are already the backbone of Kosovo’s ongoing EU Stabilisation and Association Process Tracking Mechanism. They will certainly serve as a basis for any kind of EU conditionality and monitoring. Kosovo without standards is a Kosovo definitively outside Europe.

In brief, by implementing in particular those standards that are aiming at better protection and better living conditions for the minorities in Kosovo, we are determined to right everything that went wrong last March and to make sure that poststatus Kosovo is a place where everyone can feel safe, secure and confident about their future.

UNMIK has just concluded the latest Technical Assessment of Standards implementation for the quarterly report to the Security Council that I will present on 24 February in New York. Although progress will be stated as tangible, and a laudable trend towards the better is definitively in place, many shortcomings remain, in particular with regard to freedom of movement for the minorities, and to the returns of displaced persons. Urgent actions are still required at the central government and municipal level, including addressing security fears or often merely perceptions of insecurity.

Needless to say, Standards implementation will remain a top priority, with the OSCE Mission in the lead for those set of standards dealing with Democratic Institutions and with Property Rights, but instrumental, indeed, also in other priority standards. In a sense, the OSCE’s mandate to build democratic institutions and promote human rights in Kosovo cuts across all Standards and in particular those relating to multi-ethnicity.

Fourth: Reform of Local Self-Government

Much welcome headway has been made in attempts to bring about a devolution of powers to the local level which should serve a dual purpose of, on the one hand, aligning the centralistic, post-Yugoslav structures to European standards of local self- government and, on the other, empowering and reassuring, notably at the local level, the minority communities concerned. This is in any country a complex and difficult exercise, and Kosovo certainly is no exception. Following at times sensitive and difficult negotiations, the Government is ready to designate locations for so-called pilot projects, among them two projects in areas of particular interest to the Kosovo Serbs. Implementation of the pilot projects could start as early as next month.

Fifth: Transfer of authority

UNMIK continues to transfer more competences to the Kosovo authorities in areas not related to sovereignty. Three new ministries (Energy and Mining, Local Government Administration and Returns and Communities) have recently been established. Further transfers of competences are being made in the economy in the short and medium term, among others with respect to Tax Legislation, Forest and Mining administration, with regard to Frequency Management, Publicly-Owned Enterprises and in the Banking sector, to be followed by additional transfers in the fields of justice and security. All this reflects UNMIK’s policy to incrementally entrust local leaders with ownership for the reform processes under way, but, correspondingly, demanding full accountability for actions or, indeed, failure to act. Ownership and institution-building do not come easily. A greater transfer of authority and a robust accountability policy must be accompanied by a systematic policy of capacity-building. A larger capacity-building initiative was launched by UNMIK last November. The OSCE, as the core capacity-building organisation within UNMIK, is uniquely placed to identify capacity gaps in consultation with the PISG and help address them. Particularly helpful are programmes on urgent cross-cutting issues and retreats on strategic planning for the Prime Minister and Ministers, but also courses aimed at strengthening management skills of high-level civil servants as well as police training and capacity-building at the municipal level.

Sixth: The Economy

Here, also, light and shade are to be found. There has been some progress related to the economy as a recent mission of the IMF has also noted. Institutional capacity in the sector of the economy has been strengthened and privatisation is proceeding. A fourth round of privatisation was concluded in January and - with the highest value of bids ever received - demonstrated a growing confidence in the business environment despite outstanding legal obstacles which we expect to overcome shortly. However, unemployment remains rampant, Kosovo’s public-sector wage bill excessive, the social safety net beyond budgetary means. There has thus been a need for severe cuts in overall expenditures in the 2005 budget. At the same time, the main problem is that largely unresolved social and economic hardship could turn into a threat to political stability.

Seven: Kosovo Serbs and Belgrade

For the majority Kosovo-Albanian community, a functioning civil society is gradually taking shape. However, many members of minority communities, notably Kosovo Serbs, still feel insecure. Some municipalities continue to hamper returns. Isolated incidents of stoning of minority transport do happen – and are not always adequately condemned by local political leaders. Illegal occupation and use of property remain widespread. Largely self-imposed restrictions to freedom of movement - in a bid to avoid encounters or confrontation with members of the majority community – still show a sense of fear. It is in this field where deficiencies against standards still are greatest, and the need for constructive and corrective action is most fundamental. Kosovo Serb participation in the political process has not improved since the almost total boycott of last year’s Assembly elections. However, one Kosovo Serb has been appointed Minister for Returns and Communities. Regrettably, the authorities in Belgrade have not encouraged Kosovo Serb participation in any of the processes. However, recent readiness by the authorities in Belgrade to resume the Pristina – Belgrade dialogue may hold out some prospects for imminent progress. As a result, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as chair of the Working Group on Missing Persons, will shortly, during this month, convene a resumption of this urgent humanitarian dialogue on missing persons. Dialogues on other issues may follow, on the understanding that Belgrade remains constructively engaged and interested.

It remains paramount for Belgrade to engage on the crucial issues before us in 2005, an objective to be pursued in every European forum available, not least here in the OSCE Council. The time has come for some sober analysis. While certainly acknowledging grievances stemming from the past on all sides, we cannot change history, but we should work together to shape the future. And the future of the Kosovo Serbs lies in Kosovo. It is in the immediate interest of the Kosovo Serb community to be part of the ongoing and the upcoming processes shaping Kosovo in one way or another. Those who believe that lack of engagement would delay the overall process, need to understand that blockage is rarely an effective policy and does a disservice to those they are expected to serve. Lack of progress as a result of boycotts or disengagement will not and cannot be held against those who are determined to move forward.

So we know where we are. Now a few words on the road ahead

The timetable is clear. PISG and UNMIK are now set to move forward rapidly in all key Standards implementation areas. In May, UNMIK will assess progress in meeting standards in another quarterly review to be followed by the comprehensive review on standards implementation this summer.

Our focus up to the comprehensive mid-2005 review is evident: Standards implementation. Sustained efforts by the Kosovo authorities will be necessary, both at the highest levels and increasingly also by the municipalities, where the greatest challenges to Standards implementation lie.

And the faster we are approaching the mid-year review, the greater the risks will become. We cannot exclude provocations and violence by those who do not want to see progress. KFOR and UNMIK indeed are prepared to address these risks. Thus, consolidating security remains an overriding priority. Moreover, UNMIK will accelerate transfer of competencies in all areas not related to sovereignty and move forward toward more local ownership. The assumption here is that increases in the responsibilities of the local authorities correspond to a gradual reduction of UN engagement, thus paving the way for successor arrangements to be discussed over the coming months. Finally, particular emphasis has to be placed on the economy, in particular measures to stimulate economic growth through restructuring and reform.

It is therefore a simple message that is to be carried home to the people and institutions of Kosovo in the few remaining weeks and months before mid-year review: the key to the future of Kosovo is in your hands. The way to status goes through Standards: standards to design a stable multi-ethnic democratic Kosovo that is ready for status determination, and ready for status. There are no shortcuts, no bypasses, no automaticity.

As we move forward, dialogue will be all-essential at every level. Locally, engaging the minority communities, but also within the various strata of the Kosovo Albanian society, notably between the government and the parliamentary opposition. Civil society must be strengthened, be engaged and be a part of a Kosovo wide consensus on the way forward.

It is paramount that Kosovo Serbs, so badly, albeit deliberately, marginalised due to the ill-conceived election boycott, return to the democratic institutions and to the public debate. Moreover, direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade must be resumed as early as possible. However local Kosovo issues must be addressed locally, i.e. in Pristina, between the majority community and the minority communities as the principal interlocutors.

On a regional scale, there is a need for a regular dialogue with each of Kosovo’s immediate neighbours who are taking a particular interest and would certainly wish their views being duly reflected in upcoming developments.

Finally, dialogue with major international actors and institutions needs to be pursued as intensively as possible; certainly with the Contact Group which already meets every six weeks with UNMIK and the PISG in Pristina to monitor and support progress, with the Security Council, in whose session on Kosovo I shall report on 24 February, with the EU, whose next General Affairs Council of Foreign Ministers I shall address ten days from now, with NATO and all the other stakeholders. My presence today here in the OSCE Council forms an important part of that ongoing dialogue with relevant members of the International Community.

Over the next several months, informal and more formal discussions will begin on the principles that will guide status talks. I shall refrain from further comments on these principles today. Suffice it to say that the Kosovo society we are helping to build, not the least through Standard implementation, is a place with internal peace, with space for all communities and at peace with its neighbours as a stable, tolerant, multi-ethnic democracy. As such all talk about partition of Kosovo becomes an agenda for those who may be eager to re-ignite the divisions and flames of the past rather than designing the integrated path of an European future. Partition of Kosovo is not an option as we move forward.

As we rapidly approach the mid-year review and further down the line the future status determination, the UN’s role in Kosovo will have to change and will change, ultimately leading to a hand-over of functions to institutions or successor missions set up through the political process on which we are now embarking. As the UN scales down its presence, the role and responsibilities of other main international actors are likely to increase. A continued OSCE role in key areas of Human Rights Monitoring, Institution- and Capacity-building and the Rule of Law may well become even more important in the foreseeable future.

Nearly 14 years after war began to rage in the Balkans, nearly six years after NATO intervened to stop gross violations of human rights in Kosovo, we may be moving towards resolving one of the last pieces of the conundrum. Certainly, this issue will not to be decided in a vacuum. There are broader regional and global implications that need to be taken into consideration. Considerable risks remain, bumps on the road are likely and a lot of business remains before us all, not the least before the Kosovars themselves.

But hopes remain that Kosovo, the Western Balkans and the region at large will rise to the challenge of finally putting the fratricidal and impoverishing conflicts of the past to rest and concentrate on a common European destiny. It is a time of opportunity now, a time to seize it. It’s for the International Community, including the member States of the OSCE, to muster the will, the courage and the patience to see this through.”

Kosovo Future is in the Hands of Kosovo People, said UNMIK Chief

Speaking to the Permanent OSCE Council in Vienna, UNMIK chief Soren Jessen Petersen said that his message to the people of Kosovo was simple: “The key to the future of Kosovo is in your hands”, announced the OSCE press office

2005 is and will be a crucial year for Kosovo says UN Rep. in Kosova

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Condoleeza Rice press conference remarks after the NATO meeting in Brussels

Good afternoon. I'd like to report just a little bit on my first meeting here at NATO as the US Secretary of State but I'd like to begin by thanking very much the Secretary General for his outstanding leadership of NATO and my colleagues the Foreign Ministers of the NATO countries for their warm welcome here and for the excellent discussions that we just had.

It was frankly very gratifying to sit at this table with the members of this NATO Alliance to remember its extraordinary past which of course is a past that managed to, through common values and resoluteness, face down imperial Communism on this continent and to see the emergence of a Europe, whole, free and at peace with itself.

It is an Alliance that today talked about its common future and talked about how this Alliance, as great as it has been in the past, will have an even better future because it will remain devoted to those values and it will remain devoted to the spread of liberty.

It was remarkable in the sense that in sitting around this table we sat with nations that have not so long themselves lived in tyranny. The Baltic States, the States of Central and Eastern Europe and this great Alliance now united across Europe has an opportunity to deliver that promise to people beyond the transatlantic borders.

I was gratified by the fact that as the discussion went on it was very clear and very obvious to everyone that we agree on the agenda before us and that countries are prepared to take practical steps to advance that agenda.

We had an extensive discussion of Afghanistan, of the remarkable events that have taken place there in the last three and a half years, of NATO's seminal role in stabilizing that country, in the role of ISAF, in the role of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams--many NATO members have contributed to those teams. To the progress that is being made by the Afghans themselves first in having their presidential election and to the support that NATO must give to the parliamentary elections that will take place this spring.

We discussed the work yet to be done in the Balkans and in Kosovo but from a perspective of how far we have come in NATO's support for that process and in the discussion of, while there is work yet to do, the quite excellent work that was done in the turnover of the SFOR Mission from NATO to the EU demonstrating that the EU and NATO can work very effectively together and that Berlin Plus works.

We then went on to a discussion of the Middle East and I was able to report to my colleagues on my trip to the Middle East, my meetings with Prime Minister Sharon and with President Abbas. Everyone noted the historic decisions that are being taken, the historic and difficult decisions that are being taken by those two leaders, and pledged the support of all to the efforts that they are undertaking.

We had discussions also of Ukraine and the remarkable events that have taken place there over the last month. We look forward to a Ukrainian-NATO Summit meeting when President Bush is here on February 22nd and we look very much forward to continuing to work with Ukraine as it develops its democratic future.

Finally, we had a very good discussion of Iraq and I have to say that it is the best discussion of Iraq that we have had as an Alliance since the Saddam Hussein regime fell and in fact well before that; because it was clearly a unified Alliance. Unified because we know what the work is to do- to be done ahead. Unified also because the Iraqi people in going to the polls in large numbers despite the threats of terrorists to literally take their lives was reminiscent for this Alliance of what many around that table had gone through in their countries where people had died to be able to have the simple benefits of liberty and freedom and recognising that the Iraqi people had taken many of those same risks; and I think there was a kind of coming together of the common purpose that the Iraqi people have given us to support their historic turn for the better.

We talked about, and the Secretary General put before the Alliance, the need for continuing contributions to Afghanistan and especially for new contributions to support the evolution of Iraq and particularly to support its security forces and their training and the security mission that was established by NATO back at the Istanbul Summit.

I can say with gratitude to colleagues around the table that there were a number of countries that immediately agreed to contribute and a number of others that said that they would intend to contribute because everyone understands the importance of training the Iraqi Security Forces so that the Iraqis are capable of taking on their own security tasks--something that they are not yet capable of doing but something that, given the way that they took control of their own political future last week, that everyone believes they are quite capable of doing with the right support and the right training.

All in all it was a wonderful experience to be here at this great Alliance. It was a wonderful experience to talk about how this Alliance is going to move forward into the future and it is always a gratifying experience to sit in a room that is full of people united by common values, by a common past, by common sacrifice but more importantly by a common future.

Thank you.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Car bomb targets moderate Kosovo Serb leader - Reuters


And it is no secret that the United States and France have sometimes disagreed in the past about how to proceed on a common aga.

The good news is that while France and the United States have disagreed from time to time and everybody has paid attention to that, the United States and France have continued to cooperate on a wide, wide range of efforts. I sometimes say that U.S.-French relations are far better in practice than they are in theory because if you look at what we do -- we've done on Lebanon, if you look at our cooperation in Afghanistan, if you look at the Kosovo work that we've done, earlier in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Balkans more generally, if you look at the Proliferation Security Initiative -- I can go on and on and on -- the fight against terrorism, the intelligence and law enforcement work that we do together, this is a deep, broad, active relationship that is very effective on behalf of world peace.

When we disagreed, we still disagreed as fris. And as long as we remember that we have not just common values, but a common future built on those values, I think we are going to see an even stronger relationship, if you will, a kind of rebirth of energy in the U.S.- French and the U.S.-European relationship because we have great things ahead of us.

If I could just close with a personal reflection in this regard, I was lucky enough in 1989 -- and by the way, I said in my speech at one point it was my first visit to Paris. My first visit to Paris was actually in 1979 on my way to language training in Russia.

And I love coming here. But I was here in 1989 for the bicentennial.

It was a remarkable year. And I was lucky enough to be the White House Soviet specialist at the of the Cold War. So I got to participate in the liberation of Eastern Europe, the unification of Germany, the beginnings of the peaceful breakup of the Soviet Union -- things that I never thought I would see, let alone have a chance to participate in.

Do you know, I realized that I was just lucky enough to be harvesting good decisions that had been taken in 1946 and in 1947 and in 1948 and in 1949 when those leaders, at the of World War II, faced a dizzying array of threats, strategic threats to the progress of freedom and liberty. When you think about the fact that in 1946, much of Europe lay in ruins, and there were real concerns about the importation of communism into Europe from the Soviet Union; if you think about in 1947 there were civil wars in Greece and Turkey; in 1948 we experienced the Czechoslovak crisis and the collapse of that democratic government; in 1948 the Berlin crisis split Germany for what seemed to be permanently; in 1949 the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule, and the Chinese Communists won the civil war -- now, how did they do it? How did they form NATO? How did they support a united Europe?

How did they move forward on an aga that, 50 years later, produced the circumstances in which Germany could be unified, the rest of Europe could be freed of tyranny, and we could be talking about a NATO that includes not just France and Germany and the United States, but Poland and the Czech Republic and Slovakia and the Baltic States.

How did they do it? They did it because they remained united as an alliance of values.

And I know it looks really hard to talk about the spread of freedom and liberty into places where it has never been. I know it looks really hard when we see the pictures from Iraq of the suicide bombers to think that the Iraqi people are going to build a free and stable, democratic state. I know it looks hard when we look at Afghanistan and how far it has to go. But this last month or so -- a little more than that -- has been something else. How could you not be impressed with the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the Palestinian people going to elect a leader who says that it is time to give up the armed intifada and live in peace in Israel. And how could you not be impressed by the Afghans, really in a very underdeveloped society, standing along dusty roads to vote, where women used to hide their faces and couldn't even have medical care without a male relative, and now they stand, and they vote, and they run for office.

And how could you not be impressed with the Iraqi people and their facing down fear?

So much is changing in our world. So much is changing in the Middle East. And if we in this great alliance put our values and our efforts and our resources to work on behalf of this great cause, we've only just begun to see what freedom can achieve.

Thank you very much. (Applause.) MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary.

Kosovo police force suspends five Serb officers

The Kosovo Police Service (KPS) command in consultation with the international police command in Kosovo-Metohija has suspended five Serb members of the KPS.

"They have been suspended for obstructing the work of the KPS and international police during the 17 March incidents last year," it was confirmed to SRNA by the KPS information service in Pristina.

Some of the suspended officers confirmed in written statements that they were suspended due to witnessing the causes of the violence and incidents on 17 March.

"We were witness to the gathering of [ethnic] Albanians on the southern side of the River Ibar and the firing of shots from the southern part of Mitrovica when two Serbs in the northern part were casualties," the statements to the investigating bodies say.

Rice in Paris: US-Europe working toward lasting reconciliation in the Balkans..developing

Monday, February 07, 2005

  Rumsfeld to Discourage NATO Interference

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, traveling to France this week, will press NATO countries to reduce political interference in the alliance's operations, an issue that U.S. officials contend has hampered NATO efforts in Kosovo and Iraq.

In some cases, the political leadership of individual NATO countries have ordered their officers and soldiers, assigned to NATO units and headquarters, not to take part in operations carried out by NATO as a whole.

Rumsfeld will make his case to eliminate these "national caveats" on the use of alliance forces at a NATO defense minister's meeting in Nice, a senior U.S. defense official said Monday, discussing the upcoming conference only on the condition of anonymity.

Five NATO members have told their military personnel assigned to NATO staff positions to either not go to Iraq or not take part in any work involving the NATO mission in Iraq, set up to assist in training Iraqi security forces, the official said. The official did not identify the countries, but Germany, France, Belgium, Greece and Spain, who have previously announced they will not take part in the mission.

NATO has about 80 soldiers in Baghdad for the mission, a number that is expected to grow to 300 or more. Several members have offered soldiers at the meeting of foreign ministers, including Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands. Other countries have offered equipment or money, or to run training programs outside of Iraq.

Another example of national interference in NATO, according to the official: in March, some countries did not allow their troops, serving as NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo, to move into certain areas to help in riot control. The violence, the worst since the end of the 1998-99 war, came as mobs of ethnic Albanians targeted Serbs and other minorities in a two-day rampage in mid-March, triggered by the deaths of two children allegedly chased into a river by Serbs.

The violence left 19 people dead and 900 injured, and 4,000 people, mostly Serbs, were displaced, and at least 600 homes and Orthodox Christian churches were burned.

Some 18,000 NATO-led peacekeepers are in the province working alongside some 10,000 U.N. and local police officers.

The senior defense official said some fixes had already been implemented should violence flare up again in Kosovo.

In Nice, Rumsfeld and his foreign counterparts will also discuss the alliance's efforts in Afghanistan, where 8,300 NATO troops are taking part in peacekeeping and reconstruction there. France is to hand over leadership of the force to Turkey this month.

The defense secretary will also meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who will be in Nice for parallel Russia-NATO meetings.

It remains unclear whether Rumsfeld will also travel to Germany later in the week for the annual European security conference in Munich.

U.N. chief in Kosovo says status talks possible in 2005

The top United Nations official in Kosovo said Monday that efforts to start talks on the province's permanent status could begin this year.

Soeren Jessen-Petersen, on a visit to Greece, said 2005 would be a very important year for the U.N-administered province in Serbia-Montenegro.

"I count on Greece to move up the Kosovo issue on the agenda of the European Union and as a (non-permanent) member of the (U.N.) Security Council," Jessen-Petersen said.

"The process leading into status talks might be launched in the second half of the year," he added.

Jessen-Petersen, who met Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, called on Kosovo's minority Serbs as well as the Serb government in Belgrade to play a more prominent role in the U.N. dialogue on the province.

"It is extremely important that the settlement of Kosovo is seen as normalizing and stabilizing the western Balkans, including Serbia and Montenegro," he said.

The province has been under U.N. control following the 1998-1999 war which left about 10,000 people dead. NATO bombed Serb forces to end Belgrade's crackdown on majority ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

The U.N. says talks aimed at deciding Kosovo's final status can only start when Kosovo's administration fully complies with EU standards on minorities and governance.

Greece opposes any changes in Balkan nations' borders, fearing further instability.

"Our political aim for the region is to cement peace, stability and prosperity by promoting the gradual course of the countries toward the European Union," Molyviatis said.

Jessen-Petersen refused to comment on a weekend report in Belgrade that Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj could soon be charged with war crimes by the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

"Nobody, nobody, but the officials of the tribunal knows whether there will be an indictment or not," he said.

The claim was made Saturday by an adviser to Serbia's president. Haradinaj, a former ethnic Albanian rebel leader, has denied the war crimes allegations but has said he is willing to cooperate with the tribunal.

Serb General Pleads Not Guilty for Kosovo Exodus

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Prime Minister, The Past Is Calling - Time Magazine

Kosovo's dynamic leader aims to reform and stabilize his homeland. But a war-crimes indictment could stall progress — and end his career


When Kosovo Albanians first took up arms to free themselves from Serb domination in the mid-1990s, Ramush Haradinaj was working as a bouncer in a Swiss nightclub. He returned to his homeland and, on the strength of his battlefield wits and charisma, rose to become the most visible commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (K.L.A.), losing two brothers and surviving three wounds of his own. After the war, he launched a political party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK), and following elections last October, at 36, he joined the ruling coalition as Prime Minister — completing the transformation from soldier to statesman in just over five years. But now the conflict that made his career is threatening to end it.

Shortly after Haradinaj's election, investigators from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague came to Pristina and questioned him as a war-crimes suspect. A few days earlier, the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, had told a NATO meeting in Brussels that she was preparing a "solid" indictment against "the K.L.A. leadership." Because Haradinaj is the most senior K.L.A. commander known to have been questioned since then, analysts in Kosovo speculate that he is next on the list of suspected war criminals to be invited to the Hague for trial. If they are right, the latest turn of the wheel of international justice will come at a price; Haradinaj is widely perceived as the most effective leader Kosovo has seen in its five years as a quasi-independent, U.N.-administered province — and the best choice to lead the government as it attempts to clear the final hurdles on the way toward full independence.

A tribunal indictment, if issued, would likely focus on incidents that occurred in Haradinaj's home region during the war. In one of these, 40 civilians were shot or clubbed to death and dumped in a ditch not far from Haradinaj's home village, in a region nominally under his control. In another case, following a Roma wedding party, several women were raped and four men shot to death. Though Serbian authorities have long accused Haradinaj of war crimes and demanded he be removed from office, no evidence linking him to these crimes has ever been made public. A Serb war-crimes court last month brought charges against Anton Lekaj, a close associate of Haradinaj's, in the Roma wedding case, but not against Haradinaj himself.

"This is Belgrade rubbish," the Kosovar Prime Minister told Time in Pristina late last month, just after wrapping up a budget meeting with senior U.N. officials. He denied any wrongdoing. "These are fabrications of the Milosevic regime, 'discovered' during the war and intended to discredit the K.L.A. I am very insulted. It is like asking you, 'Did you rape your mother?' I didn't fight for freedom in order to do these things." Haradinaj added that the only charges he heard from Hague prosecutors in the November interview were ones that had been posted "on the Internet for five-and-a-half years." He pledges to cooperate, if asked, and leave office if necessary in order to "take the opportunity to clear my name," but he expresses confidence that an indictment will never arrive.

In fact, thanks to the baroque mechanisms of the Hague tribunal, not even the people responsible for indictments can be sure whether one is on its way. The prosecutors' office confirmed last week that they have completed their work and are now awaiting a court ruling on whether their evidence is strong enough to warrant a trial. They do not know whether the court will accept their argument. And they are prohibited by law from divulging the identity of potential indictees until the court has ruled. Only one thing is certain: if Haradinaj is indicted, it will end a promising career.

In the two months since taking office, say U.N. officials in Pristina, Haradinaj has galvanized his coalition government with an impressive blend of energy, discipline and attention to detail. "He's someone who does not confuse declarations with accomplishments," says a veteran U.N. official familiar with the region. "He has built up a head of steam and has not let up. And he works well with the international community." Despite the public and noisy objections of his own coalition, for example, Haradinaj was able to push through a pilot project granting limited autonomy to a Serb-dominated area near Pristina. "He wants, and he gets, results," said the official. Even some opposition leaders are impressed. Veton Surroi, the respected newspaper publisher who now heads the Ora party, calls Haradinaj "hyper-intelligent and hands-on. You give him a list of 10 things and he will do them."

The next six months are critical for Kosovo. The U.N., which has administered the province since 1999, is in the process of handing over power to Haradinaj's provisional government, which has until August to demonstrate that it is implementing reforms ranging from fiscal transparency to security guarantees for the Serb minority. Passing this U.N. test would trigger "final status" talks on Kosovo's independence from Belgrade — the ultimate aim for Kosovo Albanians. Full sovereignty could follow as early as next year. If Haradinaj were indicted, analysts say, it is unclear how ordinary Kosovo Albanians would respond. Haradinaj is popular, but mainly in his home region of western Kosovo. Security experts predict "manageable" protests. The bigger fear is that a change in leadership could cause a breakdown in the reform program. That in turn could trigger a return to the violence that shook the region last March, when 19 died, dozens of U.N. staffers and peacekeepers were attacked, and thousands of minority Serbs were driven from their homes by Albanian mobs impatient with the lack of progress toward independence.

This is not the first time the tribunal has stirred controversy in the Balkans. In Croatia and Serbia, the prosecutor is reviled for targeting "war heroes." "The case had better be solid," says a senior diplomat. While some Kosovo Albanians resent having one of their own placed in the same dock as Slobodan Milosevic, others concede that the tribunal has brought their enemies to trial when no other court could. "The timing of the tribunal is never good," says opposition leader Surroi, "but you have to deal with it."

©TIME. Printed on Sunday, February 6, 2005

Friday, February 04, 2005

Future of Kosovo Remains Unresolved

By  Barry Wood
04 February 2005

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The future of Kosovo, the Albanian populated southern province of Serbia administered by the United Nations, remains unclear nearly six years after a NATO military campaign forced Serbian troops out of the territory. Western powers and Russia hope to resolve Kosovo's final status later this year.

NATO troops from more than a dozen countries are still an essential peacekeeping presence in Kosovo. In an upsurge of violence last March several people were killed and dozens injured when majority ethnic Albanians rioted, attacking the homes and churches of Kosovo's tiny Serb minority.

Alarmed at the absence of clear policy statements from the major powers, a Brussels-based research group in late January issued a report calling for Kosovo's independence. Gareth Evans, the former Australian foreign minister, is the president of the International Crisis Group. Mr. Evans sees no alternative to independence.

"The truth of the matter is that this train has left the station. Return to Belgrade [Serbia] rule is not going to happen,” said Mr. Evans.  “The international community is not going to allow it to happen. Circumstances on the ground are going to militate against that happening. The status quo is untenable. The economic situation is pretty catastrophic and can't begin to turn around until you've got all the status and legal identity issues resolved."

While Kosovar Albanians demand independence, Serbia opposes it. Vuk Draskovic is the foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro.

"According to the charter of the United Nations, that is impossible legally to promote an independent state on the territory of another independent state against the will of that state,” Said Mr. Draskovic.  “That's clear. The status of Kosovo can't be the same before the tenth of June 1999."

Independence for Kosovo will have to be approved by the United Nations Security Council, of which at least two members oppose independence.

The United Nations is insisting that before final status can be discussed, the elected authority in Kosovo must demonstrate its compliance with European standards of good governance. For Mr. Draskovic those standards have not yet been met.

"It means that all Serbs expelled from Kosovo after June 10 1999 must be in a position to come back,” he added.  “[It means] the repairing of more than 40,000 Serbian houses, more than 150 centuries old churches and monasteries. [It means] that there is a European level of protection of minorities-Serbs and the other non-Albanians.  [And it means] the European model of the decentralization of power in Kosovo."  

Mr. Evans of the Crisis Group believes the standards can be fulfilled and consensus ultimately reached among all parties.

"We just have to move out of this impasse,” said Mr. Evans.  “And the way forward is to recognize the reality of the independence train. But to [also] set the conditions for that happening, which will give real protections for the people who need it inside Kosovo. And will give the international community some confidence that we're not creating a whole new batch of trouble. And I think you can do that by a continued international monitoring presence for the indefinite future. You can do by an international presence in the Kosovo judiciary. You can do it by some constraints on an independent Kosovo joining up with Albania or a neighboring territory."

There are some signs of progress. Both Ramush Haradinaj, the new Kosovo prime minister, and Mr. Draskovic speak openly of the need for dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. And yet there is still complete disagreement on the key issue of independence.

Kosovo, Serbia to resume talks on fate of missing

Talks between the Kosovo government and Serbia on the fate of some 3,000 people listed as missing from the 1998-1999 conflict will resume later this month, officials said Friday.

UN mission chief Soren Jessen-Petersen, after meeting Kosovo's ethnic Albanian prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, said the meeting would take place "in the second half of February and it will be held in Belgrade".

The proposed talks will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides, divided over the Kosovo leadership's claims for independence from Serbia, since an outbreak of anti-Serb violence in the province in March last year.

"The issue of the missing persons is a humanitarian one which requires engagement," said Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN mission that has administered Kosovo since the end of the war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian separatists.

Haradinaj confirmed "the readiness of the Kosovo government to give the necessary support for the resumption of dialogue, in this case the working group for missing".

The top Serbian official in charge of Kosovo issues, Nebojsa Covic, proposed a resumption of dialogue last week when he urged the two sides to "overcome the stalemate".

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which will chair this month's meeting, has already expressed its readiness to take a lead role in facilitating the dialogue.

Of 3,192 people still listed as missing from the war, 2,460 are from Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, 529 are Serbs and 203 are from other ethnic backgrounds.

Top Serbian and Kosovo politicians held their first face-to-face talks since the war in Vienna in October 2003, agreeing to launch an ongoing dialogue on matters of mutual concern such as energy, communications and the return of refugees.

But the process was badly undermined after violent anti-Serb riots erupted in the province in March, leaving 19 dead and some 900 injured. Thousands of Serbs were forced to flee their homes, in addition to the more than 200,000 who have left since the UN arrived in Kosovo in 1999.

The southern Serbian province became a UN protectorate after a NATO bombing campaign forced forces under then-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who is now on trial for war crmies, to end their crackdown on the ethnic Albanian majority.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership wants full independence but talks on final status are not expected to start until later this year under UN auspices

Kosovo premier guarantees ethnic violence not to recur in province

Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj expects that all regional standards will be implemented by May and that discussions regarding Kosovo's final status will be ready to start by September.

"Then we will begin talking with the international organizations about the constitution, guarantees for minorities and what the Kosovo community will look like, as a whole," Haradinaj said.

He added that the status talks would be led between Kosovo institutions and the international organizations alone. Belgrade, in his opinion, "can participate as a third party, but not as a direct party that will make decisions regarding status, because that will be completely up to the Kosovo government and the international community".

Haradinaj said that he had not received an indictment from the Hague tribunal, although he was interviewed. "Unfortunately, the government in Serbia has, since the war in Kosovo, been leading their politics against me and saying that I am a criminal and a bad person, and they wish to prove all of that with an indictment from the Hague tribunal," Haradinaj said, adding that the citizens of Serbia should know the truth about him.

"I stand by my claims that I have never committed any war crimes," the Kosovo prime minister said, adding that he wished to do everything he could to ensure the safe return of Serbs refugees to the region. The Kosovo return minister [Slavisa Petkovic] at this moment has a budget of 14m euros to work with and many countries are ready to invest more into the return effort.

"We have put aside 4m euros in our budget for the rebuilding of Orthodox churches and are waiting for church officials to approve the move so that we can begin. I keep reiterating that there is no reason for the Serbs to fear for their safety in Kosovo. As Kosovo prime minister, I guarantee that something like 17 March [when ethnic violence broke out in the province last year] will never happen again," Haradinaj said.

Haradinaj added that "independence is the only and best solution for all Kosovo citizens in this part of the region," and that there is no alternative "because that is the political stance of the Kosovo community".

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Serbian Authorities Blocking War Crimes Probe -Activist

A prominent Belgrade human rights activist has accused authorities of blocking an investigation into alleged burning of bodies of the slain ethnic Albanians during the Kosovo war.

Natasa Kandic, of the Humanitarian Law Fund, accused Serbia's police and army of transporting the bodies into Serbia and burning them in a factory to hide evidence of war crimes.

She claimed that current Interior Minister Dragan Jocic and head of Serbia's intelligence agency Rade Bulatovic - both close allies of conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica - were protecting the perpetrators and preventing further investigation.

There was no immediate comment from the government to the allegations.

U.N. official arrested over allegedly sexually abusing minors

Associated Press Writer
165 words
3 February 2005
10:47 am
Associated Press Newswires
(c) 2005. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - A UNHCR official working in Kosovo was detained on suspicion of sexually abusing minors, officials said Thursday.

The official, who was identified as Rashidoon Khan of Pakistan, was detained last Friday and was reprimanded for a 30-day pretrial detention, U.N. officials said.

Khan was working for United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Kosovo at the time of the arrest.

His alleged crimes were committed last year between September and December, said Neeraj Singh, a U.N. spokesman. Those crimes include "sexual and narcotic related offenses involving minors," Singh said. The official charges have not been filed yet as the investigation into the case continues, he said.

Another official, who spoke on condition of anonymity called his alleged crimes, "really ugly."

Khan allegedly gave minors drugs before having sex with them, the official said.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations 1999.

Contact Group Plus calls for urgency in decentralization

All daily newspapers carry an extensive coverage of yesterday’s meeting of the Contact Group Plus in Pristina. The CG Plus has welcomed the progress in the issue of decentralization and has called for pilot projects to be finalized.

At the same time, the Kosovo Government has stated that it appreciates the assessment of the CG Plus and added that it would continue its plan for decentralization and the first municipal pilot project. On the other hand, representatives of the opposition said they were against the plans for this process.

According to Koha Ditore, Kosovo Serb representatives have blamed official Belgrade for everything related to decentralization, because they claim that with its policy official Belgrade has excluded Serbs from the process of reforms in local government. Zëri also reports on the front page that Oliver Ivanovic has regretted listening to Belgrade on the issue of decentralization.

Zëri on page three also reports that four pilot projects for decentralization will start in March.

Some daily newspapers are reporting that CG Plus representatives have called on Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova to resign from the post of LDK leader by the end of this month.

According to Epoka e Re, Haradinaj was seriously asked to cooperate with the ICTY and to behave in a responsible way, although he was told he was doing a good job regarding decentralization.

Serb general wanted over Kosovo war crimes hands himself into UN court

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

No one has rejected the International Crisis Group plan for Kosovo, White

The director of the International Crisis Group (ICG) for Europe, Nicholas White, has said that all countries which received the latest report of this non-government organization for Kosovo containing the initiative for the independence of the province have not called it unacceptable.
No one said that such a plan is impossible, White told Pristina Albanian-language daily Bota Sot. If something like that were to happen, we would reconsider the plan. He said that the plan was sent to the governments of the Balkan countries and countries involved in the resolution of the Kosovo problem.

No one has rejected the International Crisis Group plan for Kosovo, White

The director of the International Crisis Group (ICG) for Europe, Nicholas White, has said that all countries which received the latest report of this non-government organization for Kosovo containing the initiative for the independence of the province have not called it unacceptable.
No one said that such a plan is impossible, White told Pristina Albanian-language daily Bota Sot. If something like that were to happen, we would reconsider the plan. He said that the plan was sent to the governments of the Balkan countries and countries involved in the resolution of the Kosovo problem.

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for February 1

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for February 1 -- Transcript

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 1, 2005

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on the Balkans. Mr. Wesley Clark, who described Yugoslavia in 1999, in an article published today in the Wall Street Journal has the guts to advise President Bush to address the resolution of Kosovo's final status now, before it's too late to prevent another tragedy in the spring, claiming that Albanians will not settle until full independence. Since it's obvious something is going on against the entire western Balkans, could you please once again clarify the U.S. position vis-à-vis to Kosovo's status?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I think I did that last week. Our position on Kosovo has not changed since then, and I'll refer you to exactly what I said back then. Nothing has changed at all. Second of all, I'm not sure it's obvious that something is going on against the entire western Balkans, but I'll leave that aside for the moment. Okay?

QUESTION: How would you assure the international community that the U.S. will never allow the unification of Kosovo with Albania against the territorial integrity of Serbia? Because it's a lot of discussion in the --

MR. BOUCHER: We -- and I know there may be discussion out there. There is certainly no discussion by our government to any other government involved in this matter of changing -- altering the territorial integrity of the areas and states that have emerged. We have stood for the territorial integrity of Macedonia and every other state where it's been challenged and we'll continue to do so.

Our belief is that a peaceful Balkans requires good relations between all of the states of the region, it requires proceeding with Kosovo on the path outlined by the United Nations. And we're not interested, supportive -- we remain opposed -- to any alternation of borders and things like that.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Set Kosovo Free - Wesley Clark on WSJ

In his visionary inaugural address, President Bush talked about the challenges of promoting freedom abroad. Naturally our attention has been focused on the elections in Iraq. But to focus exclusively on Iraq will raise dangers elsewhere, such as in the Balkans. With each passing day, tensions in Kosovo grow, threatening to destroy hard-won freedoms with renewed conflict. In 2005, the U.S. and the international community must address the resolution of Kosovo's final status before it is too late to prevent tragedy.

Since NATO's intervention in 1999, Kosovo's final status has never been resolved. It is a U.N.-administered province whose sovereignty still formally rests with Serbia and Montenegro. But after a decade of Belgrade's oppression capped by war, mass expulsion and atrocities, Kosovo's 90% Albanian majority rejects completely any renewed link with Serbia and will not settle for less than independence.

Nearly six years on, Serbs and Albanians still cannot live together. Serbia's avowed aim is to prevent Kosovo from becoming independent. With conflict simmering, Kosovo's Albanian majority regards the Serb minority as a fifth column, and neither side is ready for bridge-building. The puzzle of Kosovo is clearly not going to resolve itself.

Tensions in Kosovo and Serbia are now on the rise again, and a violent collision may occur before year-end if not headed off by a concerted Western effort. Further clashes, like the ones last spring, in which 20 people died and another 800 were wounded, could result in an emergency partition of Kosovo's territory, creating a precedent threatening to unravel U.S. and EU investments in stabilizing multi-ethnic states throughout the Balkans.

After the rioting of last March, some have questioned whether this fragile, volatile and underdeveloped society either deserves or can sustain its own state. While these concerns are valid, it is important to remember that Kosovo has already held two democratic elections and developed the foundations of a modern, functioning economy. It has laid the basis for statehood. But the protection of minority rights cannot be assured without progress in resolving final status. And this, of course, is the key issue.

Some in Serbia's political, security and media establishment have signally failed to move on from the Milosevic era in their attitudes toward Kosovo, and a territorial carve-up takes higher priority in their maneuvering than the welfare of the Serb minority on the ground.

They see advantage in further Albanian frustration and violence, and are making a sustained effort to provoke it in order to force a partition solution that would hive off the Serb-inhabited northern municipalities of Kosovo and part of the divided town of Mitrovica (a perennial flashpoint for violence), while jettisoning the two-thirds of Kosovo's remaining Serbs who live farther south.

A relentless Serbian media campaign predicting new Albanian riots, saber-rattling over the Albanian-inhabited Presevo Valley in south Serbia, and a southward redeployment of the Serbian army in December, may mark just the opening salvoes in a strategy of provocation.

To head off the nightmare scenario of a Kosovo Albanian rebellion triggering all-out fighting over Mitrovica and a Serbian army adventure to secure north Kosovo, a vigorous U.S.-led drive to resolve Kosovo's status has to begin now.

The six-nation Contact Group (the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia) and the U.N. Security Council have set mid-2005 as a date for deciding whether to begin a process to decide Kosovo's future status. Beginning immediately, they should set the ground rules for negotiations and a timeline for a settlement. The framework for Kosovo's future should be: no return to Belgrade rule; no partition of its territory; and no future union with Albania or any neighboring territory. The pace at which Kosovo is allowed to progress toward full independence should be made contingent on its treatment of minorities. This last point is absolutely critical.

The U.N. secretary general should also appoint a special envoy to begin consultations on a draft settlement text, the "Kosovo Accord," to include a new Kosovo constitution guaranteeing minority rights and continuing international monitoring, assistance and security presences in a new Kosovo state.


Finally, an international conference should be organized in late 2005 to finalize and endorse the Kosovo Accord. If Serbia cooperates, it will gain a role in shaping guarantees for Serbs in Kosovo's new constitution, to be drafted by Kosovo's Assembly in agreement with the conference's international sponsors. But if Serbia boycotts the process and refuses formally to relinquish sovereignty, Kosovo is in too fragile a condition to be kept hostage. Similarly, should resolution of Kosovo's status be blocked in the Security Council, the U.S. should lead a coalition of its European allies to organize the conference; endorse a Kosovo referendum for adoption of the new constitution to go ahead in early 2006; and then give diplomatic recognition and sustained support to Kosovo as a new state.

Unlike the case of Iraq, there is today no active conflict in Kosovo. But prompt measures to resolve Kosovo's final status are warranted now, lest we lose both peace and freedom in the Balkans.


Gen. (Ret.) Clark was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the 1999 Kosovo campaign and is currently a board member of the International Crisis Group, whose new report, "Kosovo: Toward Final Status," can be viewed at .