Monday, July 17, 2006

No Breakthrough Seen At Next Wk's Kosovo Talks -UN Envoy

BRUSSELS (AP)--The U.N. mediator for Kosovo said Monday he didn't expect any breakthroughs at next week's unprecedented talks between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo on the future status of the disputed territory.

The conference will be the first meeting between the presidents and prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, since the 1999 NATO bombing campaign that turned the province of two million people into a de facto international protectorate.

"It is the first occasion where high-level politicians will present their views," U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari said after meeting with E.U. foreign ministers.

Ahtisaari said he didn't expect the talks to generate any concrete results, adding that would likely have to wait until after the next U.N. General Assembly session in September.

An E.U. statement said the grouping intended to remain involved in the resolution of Kosovo's future status after the phasing out of the U.N. administration there at the end of this year.

Ethnic Albanians, who account for 90% of the impoverished region's population, want full independence, while Belgrade is insisting that Kosovo must formally remain part of Serbia, albeit with wide-ranging internal autonomy.

"The EU intends to become the driving force within the future international presence" after the phasing out of direct U.N. rule, said the statement released by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and Olli Rehn, its commissioner for enlargement.

"Provided Kosovo reaches a sufficient degree of democratic and institutional stability ... the prospect of contractual relations with the E.U." should be made available to the territory," the statement said.

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