Text of report by Gazmend Syla entitled "'Negotiations have not failed, I am optimistic,' says Wisner" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 15 April
Prishtina [Pristina], 14 April: Frank Wisner [US envoy on Kosovo status] does not believe that the talks held in Vienna [between the representatives of Pristina and Belgrade] have failed up to now. Nor does he think that the three rounds of talks in the Austrian capital have failed to make any progress. He said he has not come to the region to accelerate or fix anything after the three rounds of talks, which the media have described as unsuccessful. He argues that this is only a beginning, and that the future will be better when both parties are more flexible. He is very optimistic.
"The negotiations have only started - there were three rounds of discussions on one issue. I can say it is very immature to say that the negotiations are facing a difficulty," Wisner said during a meeting with some print media editors in Prishtina on Friday afternoon [14 April].
"We cannot prejudge the failure before the results. I am optimistic, and I suggest that people think in this way," he said.
Wisner noted that there are some things both parties need to fulfil for the negotiations to be successful. "First, each party should place its cards on the table, and say what they can do for a different future for the people living in Kosova [Kosovo], and what is required for building sustainable trust and for creating prosperity," he said.
"Before they insist on their stances with grudges and play a game of words, the parties must be fully involved in the game. This is my message, and I do not see that the negotiations are facing difficulties, they have just started," he added.
The US envoy on Kosova status declined to comment if the negotiations on status should start as the talks on technical issues have not progressed adequately.
"The structure of negotiations and the schedule addressing the issues are [UN envoy] Martti Ahtisaari's job. So, it is not up to me to offer timeframes about issues that should be addressed, except that they need to move more quickly," he said.
Wisner noted that there are two other issues that have not been addressed yet - the cultural and religious heritage and minority rights. The US official announced that President Ahtisaari's team would come here to resume the talks on decentralization. He said he would like to see an agreement on decentralization in place as well as its implementation.
"I would like to see the parties agree on concrete issues, and this makes sense, so that the political decisions are translated into laws, and the laws are adopted by an elected parliament. This would give a different signal for the future of the communities in Kosova. Yes, I believe that decisions can be reached and implemented, and it is a fact that their implementation builds trust among the communities before the status," Wisner said.
During the conversation with Kosovar journalists, Wisner explained that there were three reasons that had made him come to Prishtina, the region and the EU for a second time. The first is to meet the European Commission in Brussels and make it clear there that the United States and the European Commission are on the same wavelength, and that all the steps that these two mechanisms take to achieve progress in the negotiations process are coordinated, and that both parties should confirm that this process should be completed by the end of 2006.
"This suggests huge efforts, and both parties should be prepared to support the result, and on this I wanted to make it clear that our plans are synchronized," he said.
The second reason is that he wanted to meet the leaders of the region. He said he had met the Macedonian government, Kosovars and Serbs, and he was also going to meet the governments of Albania and Greece.
"I am doing so because I and my government believe that the countries in the region are direct partners in what is going to happen in the future. We have to hear their views, and they need to understand our need for the urgency on principles on which we agree."
Wisner said that the third reason for his visit was directly linked to the negotiation process. "We want to see the course of negotiations being as intensive as possible, and we want to deal with other issues of the final status," he said.
However, Wisner did not say if he had a specific message for Prishtina and Belgrade. He said his message is a general one, and that Martti Ahtisaari has been leading the negotiations and that the United States supports them. However, he said he had encouraged "our friends here, that is, the authorities in Kosova, to continue to actively participate in the negotiations and to present ideas on the table, because the final status will not work until the partners involved express themselves in a full, friendly and flexible way".
"I deeply believe that the climate of trust among the communities has to be enhanced, because this is an excellent opportunity to send out signals that the future will be different from the past. The sending of signals is important to both parties, Albanians and the Serbs in Kosova, as the international community and the United States want to see a result where the people can live in peace and seek prosperity together, and the door is open to international economic cooperation, be it public or private," he said.
Wisner said that when he goes to Belgrade he would encourage the government there "to stick to negotiations, to present the differences on the table, and to find a solution to them and see if we can find ways to manage the needs of all."
[Box] US has not changed stance on negotiations
Wisner ruled out any possibility that the United States would change its stance on Kosova's status at some later phase of the negotiations.
"I think that the United States administration's stance has been articulated as part of a consensus agreement articulated in London, and I refer to it," he said.
He declined to comment on the US undersecretary of state statement's that "the negotiations are moving towards independence". "I have seen that (statement). What Burns said. I know what my mission is, and the instruction I have is to negotiate a final status, and to encourage and move the negotiations forward," he said.
Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 15 Apr 06 pp 1, 4