Monday, October 09, 2006

Report: Serb negotiator says revision of Kosovo talks needed in order to reach compromise

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) - A chief Serb negotiator in the Kosovo talks called Monday for a "serious revision" of the U.N.-brokered process, including the replacement of U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, according to a news report.

Slobodan Samardzic, an adviser to Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, said that a "new methodology" is needed in order to reach a compromise between Serbia and Kosovo Albanians on the future status of the contested province, according to the official Tanjug news agency. He did not elaborate.

The negotiations, which started early this year under U.N. auspices, so far have produced no result with both sides entrenched in their positions -- the ethnic Albanians demanding independence from Serbia and Belgrade offering broad autonomy for the breakaway region.

On Monday, the chief mediator, Ahtisaari acknowledged that compromise is nowhere in sight because he said both sides remain too far apart.

"The parties remain diametrically opposed," Ahtisaari said in the Finnish capital, Helsinki. "I can't see there will be a negotiated settlement."

But, he added his team "will continue to press forward until all potential areas for compromise have been explored."

Kosovo, formally a Serbian province, has been run by the United Nations and NATO since a 1999 war. The region remains a potential flash point in the Balkans.

The United States and its allies in the so-called Contact Group for Kosovo -- which also includes Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia -- have sought to wrap up the talks by year end.

Most analysts have predicted Kosovo would be granted some form of independence, despite Serbia's opposition to the secession.

The plans to find a solution for Kosovo this year have failed, Samardzic said, according to the Tanjug interview. He said a different approach and a new envoy are needed next year to push the process forward, the report said.

"The situation will take a new course from Jan. 1," Samardzic was quoted as saying. "I believe this course will entail a serious revision of the entire process by the United Nations and the Contact Group."

In Finland, Ahtisaari failed to specify what would be the next step in case no solution is found for Kosovo at the negotiating table.

But he warned that "Kosovo is the last piece of the Balkan puzzle. Without a lasting solution for Kosovo, there will be no lasting solution for the Balkans."

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