Text of report by Agron Bajrami entitled "Status will be decided by November, with or without Serbs" published by Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 9 May
Prishtina [Pristina], 8 May: The Kosova [Kosovo] status negotiations will conclude in November, while the solution that is decided on will be implemented even if Belgrade does not accept it. A reliable source in Vienna, who spoke on the condition of not being named, has said that this is the firm stance of [UN] chief negotiator Martti Ahtisaari.
"Ahtisaari is convinced that he will finish his job by the end of November," the senior European official said.
According to the official who made these comments during an informal meeting that was also attended by a Koha Ditore representative, the Serbs should come to their senses and accept the messages on Kosova status that have been sent to them for several months by international officials, because the opinion that predominates in Martti Ahtisaari's team and other international circles is that Belgrade will not accept the solution, and therefore the international community is preparing to move forward even without the Serbs' consent.
Moreover, the senior European official said, signs are emerging that the Kosova Serbs have started to become frustrated by Belgrade's rigid stance. Some Serb representatives from Kosova, whom the source did not want to name, have told European officials that they are "fed up" with the current situation and that now "we only ask for guarantees of security and autonomy," and that they would accept a solution agreed upon in Vienna.
Furthermore, the source went on to say, an essential point is that a change has occurred in Moscow's stance regarding the solution for Kosova.
"Until recently, Russia supported the option of dividing Kosova in two... [daily's ellipsis] but now it has changed its stance, and it is no longer an obstacle," the source said, explaining that from now on Moscow will try to reposition itself so as to secure a favourable position in the existing political disputes in the territories of the former Soviet Union. Moreover, the source said, "The Russians have said all this to [Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav] Kostunica, but he is pretending not to hear."
This radical change in the Russian position was confirmed by another West European diplomat who attended the Contact Group meeting in London on 31 January where a private message was drawn up, which was later delivered by US envoy Frank Wisner and John Sawers, political director at the British Foreign Office.
"It was a surprise for everyone when the only Russian opposition was their statement that they would not be able to sign a private message. They simply said that the others could send that message, but Moscow could not be seen as an open supporter of it," the diplomatic source told Koha Ditore. He added that that was in complete contrast to the position the Russians had held until then.
In the meantime, the senior European diplomat said that it is likely that now Russia will request that a solution be reached in Vienna instead of its being dealt with in the UN Security Council, where Russia and China could use their veto. That is to say, Kosova's independence is supposed to be voted on in the UN General Assembly, and if it is not done there, Russia would be able to say that it could not prevent Kosova's independence.
But while it seems that Moscow has already agreed with the framework for resolving Kosova's status, the Western allies see the implementation of the solution in a slightly different way. According to a diplomatic source, most Europeans insist that independence should be delivered to Kosova gradually - over a period of at least three years, meaning that Kosova would not get a seat in the United Nations immediately, but would be able to exercise that right later.
"It is the Americans who want everything to conclude in November," the source said, explaining that this might be linked to their desire to withdraw from the region, and may also be because Washington faces congressional elections in November, and a closed chapter in foreign policy would help President George W. Bush and his administration, which anticipates other US engagements outside US territory, especially in Iraq, to be part of the election debates.
Martti Ahtisaari himself indirectly confirmed the trend in the Kosova status negotiations on Monday [8 May] in Bulgaria, where he stated that a solution will definitely be found by the end of this year.
"It is no surprise that we are not seeing progress in the talks right now," he said after a meeting with the chief of Bulgarian diplomacy, Ivaylo Kalfin.
"What matters is to see whether it is possible to create the conditions in Kosova where the minorities - not only the Serbs but also others - can live comfortably, before we come to the talks on status," he said.
Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 9 May 06 pp 1, 3