Monday, February 20, 2006

Serbs and Albanians ease into Kosovo talks

By Matthew Robinson

VIENNA (Reuters) - Serbs and ethnic Albanians eased their way into direct negotiations on Monday that ultimately will lead to a decision on whether Kosovo gets independence or remains part of Serbia.

"It went well," an official close to the United Nations-chaired meeting told Reuters as delegates left the Vienna venue. "There were disagreements, but they were to be expected. Everyone was very frank, but constructive."

All signs are that the major powers will steer the talks towards independence for the province which is legally part of Serbia, but has a 90-percent ethnic Albanian population.

The province of 2 million people has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombing drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against ethnic Albanian civilians in a 2-year war with separatist rebels.

Some 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed and up to 800,000 driven from their homes. The Albanians insist independence is non-negotiable, but Serbs regard Kosovo as sacred land.

"There's no blood on the floor and they're still in the room," the official said during an earlier break, reflecting the relief felt at finally getting the two sides at the same table. The talks are expected to last into late this year.

The first round, due to close on Tuesday, focuses on practical issues regarding Kosovo's remaining Serb minority of 100,000, ghettoised and targeted for revenge since the war. Thousands of their kin fled a wave of revenge attacks that followed NATO's deployment in 1999. Few have returned.

The two 8-member teams of mid-level politicians and advisers sat at a horseshoe table, chaired by a deputy to U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari. Delegates posed stiffly for photographs. There were no handshakes.

"We want the status resolved as soon as possible," Kosovo Albanian delegation chief Lutfi Haziri said on arrival. "Independence is coming and we are playing a positive role."


Western diplomats say independence hinges on the Albanians offering Kosovo's minorities a viable future.

"The majority population here in Kosovo has a right to expect that their aspirations will be met when status is decided," U.N. governor Soren Jessen-Petersen said on Sunday.

"But it is equally important that the majority is seen to be committed ... on minority issues."

Belgrade wants an autonomous Serb entity with strong ties to Serbia. Albanians say this means partition of Kosovo, a concept ruled out by the West. They offer more modest devolution.

Major powers want a deal on "final status" within the year.

Back in Kosovo, Albanian activists angry at having to negotiate with Serbia handed out "wanted posters" for the province's leaders, saying they were "trading with the lives of 2 million people without asking".

Rich in Orthodox religious heritage, Kosovo has been central to Serb history and identity for 1,000 years.

Kosovo Serbs rallied to urge their negotiating team in Vienna to "defend Serbia and protect its territory." Rally organiser Zivorad Tomic said: "If Kosovo gets independence, not a single Serb will remain on this land".

(Additional reporting by Shaban Buza in Pristina)


Anonymous said...

I love template articles from the agencies. Does anyone really care if Serbs leave or stay? To those that threaten with suicide you provide psychological counseling.

In other developments today...

Rich in Orthodox religious heritage, Kosovo has been central to Serb history and identity for 1,000 years.

Anonymous said...

Rally organiser Zivorad Tomic said: "If Kosovo gets independence, not a single Serb will remain on this land".
Just to remaind Mr. Tomic, a lot of Serbs consider Kosova their home, they will and they should stay, because we will be richer all together. Everyone in Kosova wants some peace, and we will have and enjoy together with independence.

Anonymous said...

Now you see whose really Kosova is. Those who believed that their ancestors left the land to them, even after 60% were forced out of the country - returned. Now Serbs are feeling foreign in Kosova, because the land just doesn't attract them.

Anonymous said...

They might changer their minds if we offer them fringe benefits.

Anonymous said...

"1000 years of deep rooted history"? When will every one stop recycling serb lies. Kosova has been and always will be albanian. It was like that way before the serbs came as shoe makers and traders. They lose one of many wars and albanians must suffer because some churches were built their. What about thousands of years that the land in kosova fed us and we nurtured it? If serbs want to stay in FREE KOSOVA then I invitet them, but I will be ruled by them no longer.

Dardania 2006 said...

It is our fault.

We don't care enough about our history.

For example, why do we not call a country that has an ancient name Dardania as such? :)

It is our history and heritage and we must embrace it.

fauna said...

well, the serbs were smarter in the sense that they branded it as the cradle of their civilization bla bla bla.

we on the other hand, didn't care much about creating a stronger identity and relationship with the land we've always lived in -- at least that's the image.

passive as always

Chris Blaku said...

The Serbians repeat the fabricated lines taught to them by Russian Orthodox priests often enough that the world eventually believes them. Other than a few Orthodox Churches and the fact that the Patriarch of Pej held a seat within the borders of Kosova (although historical documents prove the Patriarch resided closer to Belgrade rather than Pej, must have been an ethnic difference in the surroundings), there is absolutely no valid historical precedent for stating any sort of aboriginal claim for the Serbians on Kosova. The origins of the Serbian people lie within Rascia, clearly northwest within Serbia and far beyond Kosova's present day or historical borders. Even the lies fabricated by the Serbians themselves carry no weight in the journalistic missteps that constantly declare Kosova to be the original homeland of the Serbians, to have extravagant historical importance to Kosova, and to be the cradle of some sort of heritage for the Serbian people.

Aside from a few churches and an absentee Patriarch (whose residence was burned on two occassions), there is no link between "Ancient" Serbia (if you consider ten centuries ancient, medieval sounds more accurate) and Kosova, which is more properly defined as a territory belonging to the Illyrian tribe of Dardan, who eventually became the Albanians of Kosova, occupying that land as a clear majority throughout recorded history.