Friday, July 14, 2006

Kosovo already lost to Serbia, despite PM Kostunica's efforts - Croatian paper

Text of commentary by Marko Barisic in "Above the Belt" column entitled "The Kosovo knot" published by the Croatian newspaper Vjesnik on 14 July

Even though it is already virtually certain in the foremost international circles that Kosovo is going to receive conditional or compete independence by the end of the year, Serbian official circles have launched a diplomatic offensive in recent days in order to prevent it.

Speaking in Washington after a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said that "the independence of that province is out of the question". Kostunica did not pass up the opportunity to warn that an independent Kosovo would result in "serious instability in the region".

Even though he did not spell out in greater detail what kind of potential instability might ensue, it should not be doubted that, in that regard, he pointed with his finger for his US collocutors at Bosnia-Hercegovina, that is to say at the Serb Republic, whose authorities have already made threats about an independence referendum, and presumably also at Montenegro, in which those who supported the survival of the state union with Serbia make up almost half of the population (44.5 per cent), and at Serbia itself.

Some analysts have already warned that, in the event of Kosovo's independence, it will be hard to prevent the further radicalization of the political scene in that country, in which the strongest political force even today is the extremist Serbian Radical Party, which continues to support the plan for a great Serbian state.

As support for the standpoint that the independence of Kosovo is dangerous for the region, certain Belgrade circles also cite the situation in Macedonia. It is peaceful today, but relations between the Macedonian majority and the Albanian minority, which inhabits the northwestern parts of that state next to Kosovo and Albania, cannot exactly be called exemplary. Since for the Western countries, and thus also for the United States, the keyword in tailoring peace plans or the pacification of certain tremor zones is stability, it is obviously no coincidence that Kostunica has played precisely the card of potential instability in order to prevent Kosovo from gaining independence. The extent to which he is going to succeed in that is the question, however.

Namely, all the negotiations on the future status of that region have proceeded from the principle that there is no returning to the pre-1999 situation - when Kosovo was part of Serbia - and that, in the event of independence, that sovereign entity does not have the right to unification with Albania. The Serbian prime minister, in the meantime, is offering Kosovo broad autonomy but also existence within Serbia. The Kosovo Albanians, on the other hand, see their future only outside Serbia, and that as a completely independent entity. Since is it difficult to find a compromise between those two standpoints, it comes as no surprise that the negotiations between the two sides have been stalled for quite a long time already and have not been yielding any kind of results. Now, Belgrade and Pristina have finally agreed on the continuation of those talks. Most international observers, however, are convinced that their reaching a mutual agreement is impossible.

That is the alternative that those in Washington have evidently been figuring on as well, because, as the New York Times published not long ago, they have begun the preparation of a resolution on Kosovo that the UN Security Council would adopt by 15 November of this year at the latest. According to what has been announced, Russia would also support that resolution, and, according to that proposal, Kosovo would get its de facto independence.

By making threats about the potential destabilization of the region, Kostunica is now trying to prevent the separation from Serbia of that province, which Belgrade really lost back in 1999 in the war that Milosevic waged with NATO.

Source: Vjesnik, Zagreb in Croatian 14 Jul 06

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