Thursday, July 13, 2006

UN envoy "doing his job poorly" - member of Serbian negotiating team for Kosovo

Excerpt from interview with Aleksandar Simic, adviser to Serbian prime minister and member of Serbian negotiating team for Kosovo, by Biljana Mitrinovic in Belgrade entitled "Rohan's assessments do not stand" published by the Serbian newspaper Politika on 10 July

Albert Rohan, the deputy special UN envoy for Kosmet [Kosovo-Metohija], did not pay the announced visit to Belgrade last Friday [7 July]. So he had a meeting with President Tadic scheduled but not one with the prime minister?

"I do not want to go into whom the president of the republic receives. Ambassador Rohan was undoubtedly an important figure in the Austrian Foreign Ministry and is a diplomat with great international experience. However, I think that he has been doing his job poorly. He bears the greatest responsibility for the fact that the Vienna talks have not produced results to date," Aleksandar Simic, an adviser to the Serbian prime minister and a member of the [Serbian] negotiating team for Kosmet, has told Politika.

[Mitrinovic] What are your objections as far as the talks are concerned?

[Simic] They were poorly prepared, poorly conducted, the rules were not known, there are no minutes, it was not known when the next meeting would be held, what the obligations were. The assessment that the talks were unsuccessful was presented by Javier Solana, the EU foreign-policy and security representative, back in June, when he even said, in a talk with representatives of the Serbian government, that the Vienna process was dead as far as he was concerned. If we take it that Solana is a neutral observer in the talks, then that is not only my personal opinion.

[Mitrinovic] Does that have anything to do with Rohan's failure to show up in Belgrade?

[Simic] Regardless of the explanation that the health condition was the reason, it must be said that what he has achieved in terms of the so-called non-status topics so far is inadequate at this point.

[Mitrinovic] Rohan caused something of a scandal with his recent interview to Politika. How do you look on his mediation in that light?

[Simic] I, too, was surprised by the lack of tact shown by the deputy special envoy. I will not go into whether his possible exhaustion was the reason or the capability of the journalist to get answers to the questions that the interviewee would have rather avoided. In any case, it was not only that the assessments presented by Mr Rohan in that interview exceed his current mandate, but they profoundly do not stand. And, something potentially even more important, they will make the people in Serbia doubt whether the international negotiators truly and sincerely want to reach an agreement on the resolution of the Kosmet issue.

[Mitrinovic] No official invitation for the summit has arrived yet?

[Simic] As far as I know it has not. However, even the proposal that it be held in Vienna probably reflects that the special envoy himself likes his convenience, being that his Secretariat is in Vienna. Maybe the venue should be changed in view of the fact that Vienna has been a symbol of unsuccessful talks so far. Maybe the very change of venue could provide an additional motivation.

[Mitrinovic] Do you have any suggestion?

[Simic] The place is totally unimportant. It can be held in Belgrade. It can be held somewhere in Kosmet. Prime Minister Kostunica had proposed to the former prime minister of the provisional institutions in Kosmet that it take place in Prizren, Gnjilane, Pec. [Passage omitted]

[Mitrinovic] The United States and Russia have also exchanged diplomatic "volleys" that point to major differences in views in connection with Kosmet.

[Simic] The issue of negotiations on the status of Serbia's southern province is inseparably linked with the developments in international relations. One of the key reasons for Serbia's diplomatic tours is the wish that the key world factors get to understand us better and that we clearly say what we have to say, unambiguously, so that there would be no mistake later that Serbia had not said some things. I hope that we will all be guided by the existing international order, the same principles. If not, we will enter a state that could lead to greater anarchy in international relations than we have now, and anarchy is linked with instability. Instability equally does not suit the citizens of rich and poor countries, or of powerful and less powerful countries.

[Mitrinovic] The resolution of the status of Kosmet raises many questions as far as Serbia is concerned. How will the government respond to them?

[Simic] It is not just a legal and state issue. The issue is not just that 15 per cent of someone's territory is being seized and that that someone is a democratic, internationally recognized, and relatively respected country, but it is, at the same time, a matter of equal treatment. If the Serbs were treated differently when they, as Ambassador Rohan says, waged aggressive wars, how is it then possible that the treatment is the same when the Serbs not only do not wage aggressive wars but conduct an aggressive campaign for a compromise. It is simply unbelievable that you are punished the same when you pursue an aggressive campaign for a compromise as when you "waged aggressive wars."

[Mitrinovic] What concession do you expect of the Kosovo Albanians in terms of the decentralization?

[Simic] I think that it is hard to ask them for compromises at this point without more serious pressure from the international community, which has for years encouraged them that they will get something that is not rightfully theirs.

[Mitrinovic] How will then this situation be "unblocked?"

[Simic] It will be unblocked through great efforts that the negotiators will have to invest - of the kind that they have not invested so far - to find at least some points in common, like those that it was possible to find after the second round of the talks on decentralization when, in March, the Kosmet Albanians actually accepted the basic principles of our platform. Instead of making use of that for a triumph of the Vienna talks, Ambassador Rohan enlarged the decentralization list to such an extent that we started dealing with "technicalities," which we had suggested be dealt with by experts of the relevant ministries.

[Mitrinovic] Do you believe that there is a chance for the negotiators to be replaced?

[Simic] I would not go into that. However, bearing in mind the failure achieved by the deputy mediator, I think that it is up to the mediator and in his interest at least to change his deputy.

Source: Politika, Belgrade, in Serbian 10 Jul 06 pp 1, 7

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