A Belgrade newspaper says there was a "stormy response" to Foreign Office political director John Sawers when he conveyed to Serbian politicians that the Contact Group has agreed Kosovo should be given independence. It adds that Foreign Office representatives have reportedly claimed "for weeks" in meetings in Belgrade that Serbia has lost sovereignty over Kosovo and that the pressure on Serbia is not letting up. Washington and London would like Belgrade to agree to Kosovo independence of its own volition rather than force an imposed solution which would be vetoed by Russia in the Contact Group and by China in the UNSC, it says. The following is the text of the report by Dragana Matovic and Vladimir Radomirovic entitled "Pressure on Serbia to give up Kosovo: London undermining talks" published by the Serbian newspaper Politika on 8 February:
Even though he was about to get up from the table on Monday [6 February], when [British Foreign Office political director] John Sawers was "delivering" to Serb representatives in Pristina the Contact Group's supposed decision that Kosovo be granted independence, Goran Bogdanovic, a member of Serbia's negotiating team, yesterday said with a cool head that it would be fatal to discontinue the talks on Kosovo's status.
"It is all a trial balloon, an attempt to provoke us to make an injudicious decision in that direction and then to blame us for contributing to Kosovo's independence," said Bogdanovic.
He said Sawer's statement met with a stormy response, that the meeting passed in a tense atmosphere and that the Serb representatives had told the political director of Britain's Foreign Office that "Serbs do not want to live in an independent Kosovo".
Ever since the message reached the public, speculation has been rife on whether Sawers' supposed message had been properly conveyed, because he never said publicly that the "Contact Group has decided that Kosovo should be granted independence".
The British diplomat, who is in charge of reporting on the Balkans and regular contacts with the five other members of the Contact Group (United States, Germany, France, Italy and Russia), merely told the press on Monday: "The more the Kosovo leaders offer the other communities and prove that democracy is mature in Kosovo, the greater independence will be."
After meeting the Albanian negotiating team, Sawers said in an obvious message to both sides in Kosovo that the solution should be found by the end of the year, and that the pace would depend largely on the leaders of all ethnic communities in the province and their readiness to understand the needs of the other communities.
However, Sawers spoke differently behind closed doors, Kosovo Serb politicians claim. This is not the first time that British diplomats have conveyed such radical messages to the Serb side "face-to-face".
Politika has learned from diplomatic sources that representatives of the Foreign Office had for weeks maintained, in meetings with domestic officials, that Serbia has lost sovereignty over Kosovo.
Thus British Ambassador in Belgrade David Gowan "explained" to Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica that the Contact Group stance that there would be no return to the status prior to 1999 meant that the province would never again be under Serbia's jurisdiction.
Kostunica asked that the Contact Group explain this "explanation", saying that if it were true, it would considerably alter Belgrade's stance in the talks, in which case he would have to consult the assembly, which had given him the mandate for the talks. Kostunica asked the Contact Group urgently to issue a statement on Sawer's stance.
The meeting was held, but the British ambassador did not show up, but sent his deputy instead. US Ambassador Michael Polt did the same. At the meeting of the four ambassadors and two deputies, France and Russia supported Serbia's stand, Politika has learned, and Belgrade was told that there was no change in the Contact Group's position.
Pressure on Serbia, however, has not ceased, because the West (chiefly Washington and London) would prefer at this moment if Belgrade agreed to Kosovo's independence on its own. If the province were to obtain independence through a solution imposed on Serbia, it would mean that NATO did not wage the war in 1999 to "prevent a humanitarian catastrophe" but to break away Kosovo. And if independence were imposed, it would be a basis for Belgrade possibly to sue the nations that took part in seizing part of the state's territory.
But the United States and Britain want to avoid imposed solutions, as Russia would not agree to it in the Contact Group, nor would China in the Security Council, both countries looking after their own interests.
"I said this would happen back in April, when everyone attacked me over the proposal that Kosovo will get independence the day we enter the European Union," said Goran Svilanovic, member of the International Balkans Commission. He said that Belgrade should certainly not consider walking out of the talks because "there is much to negotiate".
Source: Politika, Belgrade, in Serbian 8 Feb 06 pp 1, 7