The talks will address a UN proposal that foresees greater autonomy for Kosovo, without explicitly mentioning independence for the province.
The top UN envoy to the Kosovo staus talks, Martti Ahtisaari, today said in an interview with "Le Monde" that it is "very difficult to imagine" Serbia's government, which rejects independence for Kosovo, reaching a negotiated agreement with the province's ethnic Albanian leaders.
Meanwhile today, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said granting independence to Kosovo would set a dangerous precedent for other breakaway regions.
"If we imagine a situation in which Kosovo receives independence, then the people of many other unrecognized territories will say, 'Why are we worse than them?' This concerns the post-Soviet region, and not only the post-Soviet region, but Europe in general," he said. "This could cause a chain reaction, in other words we must be careful not to open a Pandora's box."
Both Romania and Croatia today gave their full support for the UN plan, saying it will help stability in the region.
(AFP, AP, Reuters)
THE WORLD'S NEWEST NATION? The region of Kosovo has a population of more than 2 million, some 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanians. It was one of the poorest regions in the former Yugoslavia, but has considerable mineral wealth and an enterprising population, many of whom work abroad but keep close contact with Kosovo. All ethnic Albanian political parties seek independence on the principles of self-determination and majority rule. They feel that Serbia lost its historically based claim to what was its autonomous province under the 1974 constitution by revoking that autonomy in the late 1980s and then conducting a crackdown in 1999 that forced some 850,000 people to flee their homes.
Since NATO's intervention that year to stop the expulsions, Kosovo has been under a UN administration (UNMIK). The UN has begun to gradually transfer functions to elected Kosovar institutions. The primary Serbian concerns are physical safety for the local Serbian minority, a secure return for the tens of thousands of Serbian displaced persons, and protection for historic Serbian religious buildings. The main problems affecting all Kosovars, however, are economic. Until Kosovo's final status is clarified and new legislation passed and enforced, it will not be able to attract the investment it needs to provide jobs for its population, which is one of the youngest and fastest growing in Europe. Prosperity is widely seen as the key to political stability and interethnic coexistence in Kosovo, as is the case in much of Southeastern Europe.
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