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UN: Security Council Deciding Whether To Start Talks On Kosovo's Future

  • Ron Synovitz --> (RFE/RL) The United Nations Security Council is due today to decide whether to start talks on the future of Kosovo. The predominantly ethnic Albanian province legally remains part of Serbia. But it has been administered by the United Nations since June 1999. At today's meeting, the Security Council will consider a recommendation by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the time has come to launch status talks for Kosovo.

Prague, 24 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Kosovo's ethnic Albanian Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi has said his province must be made an independent and sovereign state without any conditions or new interim phases.

But Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has said repeatedly that independence for Kosovo is not possible. Serbian officials say only wider autonomy is acceptable for the province.

Although 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people are ethnic Albanians, the province legally remains part of Serbia. It has been administered by the UN Mission in Kosovo since NATO forces brought an end to a two-year war between Serbian troops and ethnic Albanian guerrilla fighters.

With positions entrenched on both the ethnic Albanian and Serbian sides, the Security Council will consider whether to move ahead with Annan's recommendation to launch status talks on Kosovo.

Speaking in Pristina today, Kosumi used the Albanian pronunciation "Kosova" while outlining what he hopes will come out of status talks. "Kosova and its citizens want to have the right to be self-governed as soon as possible," he said. "Kosova's society will need -- even after the settlement of the final status of Kosova -- the presence of the international community. But this presence should be an advisory one -- only to help and observe the process."

In Pristina last night, the province's ethnic Albanian president, Ibrahim Rugova, said the will of the population is clear. "An independent and democratic Kosova -- integrated into the European Union and NATO and in permanent friendship with the United States -- is the political will of Kosova's people and its citizens," he said.

Neither Kosumi nor Rugova will be present at today's UN Security Council meeting. Instead, the position of Kosovo's provincial government will be communicated by Annan's special representative in Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen.

In the past week, Jessen-Petersen has described Kosovo as "the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle" needed to keep a stable peace in the Balkans.

Soren Jessen-Peterssen (file photo)

Jessen-Petersen said status talks on Kosovo will be difficult. But he said there is absolute agreement within the international community that the future of Kosovo must be "stable, tolerant, multiethnic, and democratic."

Members of the Kosovo Contract Group -- comprising foreign-policy advisers from Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United States, and France, have also been noncommittal about the province's future status.

However, European diplomats have recently described plans to negotiate toward what they call "conditional independence" for Kosovo.

Rosemary DiCarlo, the U.S. State Department's deputy assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, told RFE/RL recently that there is a widely held view that an eventual definition of Kosovo's status will help trigger broader stabilization efforts in the Balkans.

"We have every intent to move full speed ahead. We want to see a continued implementation of standards -- of reforms. This is something that will continue and should continue throughout the process," DiCarlo said.

"Kosova and its citizens want to have the right to be self-governed as soon as possible." -- Kosumi

The chief of the U.S. mission in Kosovo, Philip Goldberg, said he envisions the European Union and the United States playing a key partnership role with Kosovo's provincial leadership.

"What I think we do know is that, in areas like the judiciary, and in areas that require a continued international presence after the final status decision, that we will do it in a way that is not top-down necessarily -- where the international community, as has been the case in the last six years, is running Kosovo. But rather more of a partnership. One that leads Kosovo towards those European institutions and integration with the rest of the region," Goldberg said.

Some Western diplomats say what is under consideration is an independent Kosovo without full sovereignty -- a situation in which the international community would reserve certain powers for years to come, particularly over human rights and the protection of minority groups in Kosovo. It is thought that the status talks could easily last until spring of next year.

One development offering clues about the potential diplomatic wrangling ahead is Belgrade's cancellation last week of a visit by the Slovenian president after he backed the idea of independence for Kosovo.

Analysts predict that Belgrade will continue to oppose independence for Kosovo -- conditional or not. Meanwhile, analysts say Belgrade's offer of broad autonomy is an unworkable solution for Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population, which rejects the idea of returning the province to a Serbian administration.

(Ilirjana Bajo from the Kosovo subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service contributed to this report.)