EU, U.S., and Russian mediators reported to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on December 7 that the international negotiations "served a useful purpose." The report says the talks led to "the most sustained and intense high-level direct dialogue since hostilities ended in Kosovo in 1999." But the troika also concludes that they could not bridge the gap between Kosovo's Albanian leadership, which refused to give up on its demand for independence, and the Serbian government, which offered a high degree of autonomy to Kosovo but insisted that the province remain part of Serbia.
A 'Worthwhile' Exercise
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin described the 120 days of negotiations as a "worthwhile" exercise. "Of course, one cannot claim that their effort culminated in a complete success, because there was no definitive outcome which we were hoping for. But we certainly believe that it was a very worthwhile exercise and that it was an exercise that produced some serious results," he said.
In light of that, Churkin said Moscow wanted negotiations to continue beyond December 10.
Bosnia's Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik agreed, saying, "any kind of unilateral action will not contribute to additional stability and that's why we oppose such acts. We advocate an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo under the United Nations auspices."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, made clear that Washington would not support more negotiations, saying, "It is not going to produce stability in the Balkans to ignore the reality of the situation."
Kosovo's drive for independence has the backing of the United States and a number of influential EU states.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Kosovo's independence would set a precedent for the rest of the world. "Certainly the way the Kosovo crisis is resolved will set a precedent, and that is not because we say it will, and not because our partners, for example, say it will not. It is not up to them or us to decide. A precedent will be set only because it will take place," he said.
Earlier this year, Russia blocked the UN Security Council's approval of a plan drawn up by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari that proposed internationally supervised statehood.
Pledges Of Continued Security
Meanwhile, NATO has pledged to keep its 16,000 peacekeepers in the Serbian province to deter violence. "NATO's continued commitment to the security and stability of the region remains crucial," Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said. "And we will act resolutely against anyone who seeks to resort to violence. Regardless of the outcome of the status process, Kosovo will remain and has to remain a place where Kosovar Albanians, Serbs, and others must be able to leave in peace together, free from fear and from intimidation."
The Serbian province of Kosovo has been administered by the UN for the last eight years.
Belgrade's security forces were driven out of Kosovo by a NATO bombing campaign in 1999, launched to stop a violent Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanians.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the Kosovo report on December 19.
Kosovar leaders have hinted at their intention to declare independence in "coordination" with the United States and European governments.
Pro-independence graffiti in Prishtina (epa)
FINALLY STATUS? Sabine Freizer, director of the Crisis Group's Europe Program, told an RFE/RL briefing that deep divisions in the UN Security Council make it uncertain what form Kosovo's future status might take.
Listen to the entire briefing (about 70 minutes):
RFE/RL's coverage of Kosovo
. The website of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Language Service