Thursday, May 18, 2006

Serbian Kosovo negotiator says Belgrade firm on number of Serb municipalities

Text of report by Serbian TV on 17 May

[Studio anchor] After four rounds of talks on decentralization in Kosovo and Metohija [Kosmet], Albert Rohan, the deputy of special envoy Martti Ahtisaari, met in Belgrade with Serbia's negotiating team. Rohan came to salvage the talks on decentralization in the province, but Belgrade will not bargain with the number of new Serb municipalities in Kosmet, negotiating team member Aleksandar Simic told RTS.

Rohan has left for Pristina. We have learned unofficially that he will try to persuade Albanians to agree to three or four new Serb municipalities, apart from the three already agreed on in Vienna.

[Reporter Julija Krunic] Simic does not expect the negotiators in Pristina to yield, but adds that Belgrade will remain firm in its demands for 14 new Serb municipalities. Our sources said that Serbia's insistence on some of the municipalities were considered unrealistic by some people in the international community. For instance Velika Hoca only because of nearby monasteries - as they said, or Gazimestan because of a monument.

Belgrade rejects this. Simic concedes that the two are small municipalities, but Velika Hoca is the only authentic Serb settlement in Metohija which has survived Albanian terror, while Gazimestan has the geographical, historical, and demographic prerequisites to become a municipality.

[Simic] It is not true that such a settlement cannot become a municipality. Please, following the Ohrid agreement, some municipalities in Macedonia have populations under 1,000, so this is nothing new in the Balkans. Speaking of Gazimestan, there are two Serb villages in the area where Serbs live even though this is very close to Pristina where severe ethnic cleansing took place. Those Serb villages survived which is why I believe they deserve to maintain the status of municipality.

[Krunic] Speculation that a majority in the Contact Group is in favour of Kosovo's independence should not be believed, said Serbia's negotiator.

[Simic] Russia's stance is explicit and so is China's; I was there last week. It is not true that the international community is united on the future status of the province.

[Krunic] In NATO's headquarters in Brussels, chief international negotiator Martti Ahtisaari and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer discussed the progress of the Vienna talks. Ahtisaari said that Kosovo's status should be sought between two extremes: a consensual and imposed solution.

Source: RTS 1 TV, Belgrade, in Serbian 1730 gmt 17 May 06

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