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South Slavic: April 1, 2004


1 April 2004, Volume 6, Number 13

WHAT PROSPECTS FOR THE PRISTINA-BELGRADE TALKS?

A Radio Most (Bridge) program by RFE/RL's Branka Trivic, broadcast on 15 March, i.e. just before the unrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 10 March 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 October 2003 and 13 February 2004), with Baton Haxhiu, president of the Association of Independent Journalists of Kosova, and Dusan Janjic, coordinator of the Forum for Ethnic Relations.

RFE/RL: Where are the talks between Pristina and Belgrade headed?

Haxhiu: I do not expect any concrete results. The two meetings took place thanks to pressure from the [UN Mission in Kosovo] UNMIK and international community, not because the Albanians and Serbs were ready to meet and talk.

There are several reasons why nothing will come of the talks. First, this is an election year in Kosovo, which is why the political parties here are not focused on dialogue with the Serbs. Similarly, the Serbs from Serbia are not ready for dialogue because their own internal politics are in flux, and the Americans are taken up with Iraq and their own elections.

On the other hand, I find it good that a dialogue has begun at all.... But one can expect concrete results only after the elections in Kosovo.

RFE/RL: Mr. Janjic, do you agree?

Janjic: I do agree with the last thing he said, as well as with the most of what Mr. Haxhiu said before. It is very good that the talks have started.

It is also true that the talks were not very well prepared and somehow forced by Mr. Holkeri. I am talking about the working groups dealing with the power supply and with missing persons....

Next, many technical details need to be clarified, such as Mr. Holkeri's role. It is also true that the process began with a curious mixture of technical, political, and complicated humanitarian issues.

I don't like the way the international community considers the questions of missing or kidnapped persons -- as well as refugee returns -- to be "technical" matters. Those are not technical issues. Those are basic political and emotional issues, consequences of the war, and it would be much better if we treated them accordingly so that they might better contribute to reconciliation.

However, if they are not dealt with properly, new conflicts could arise. One thing is sure: whatever you try to discuss concerning the Kosovo issue, you quickly come back to those basic issues. There are always some general political issues that make it impossible to conduct talks that are purely technical.

RFE/RL: You have just said that some details need to be straightened out, especially regarding Holkeri's position, the role of Serbia, etc.

Janjic: According to the basic rules of negotiation, it is inappropriate to have one and the same person as both mediator and the leader of one side.

Mr. Holkeri is...responsible for the situation in Kosovo [and] heads the delegation in Kosovo. In practice, he is likely to decide as mediator in favor of the side he represents....

This odd situation will force us to search for a solution outside this process, not in the political sphere but in the form of international arbitration, which is not necessarily a wise beginning.

Also, it is very important that the main international players or EU assign a representative or mediator who will not be merely a symbolic figure but will ensure that what has been decided will be implemented.

Haxhiu: I agree with Dusan Janjic, but the EU has already assigned a mediator for the issue of power supply, Joly Dixon, who has already arrived from Brussels.

The key issue is not whether Mr. Holkeri is the right person or UNMIK the right institution to mediate. The problem is how to ensure that serious talks can begin in 2005. But as I have said, I do not think much will happen now.

I do agree with Mr. Janjic that the problem of missing persons is not a technical one. I think that these very sensitive issues will be a huge issue in the negotiations, since we are talking about some 3,000 concerned families.

As soon as the names of those responsible for [disappearances] become public, it will no longer be a technical but a political and emotional issue. This is why I think the problem of missing persons is a very sensitive topic, requiring a mediator with a strong personality for the talks to be successful.

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