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Kosovo: Analyst Says Ahtisaari Plan Still Relevant

UN special envoy for Kosovo Finnish Martti Ahtisaari (epa) July 23, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations Security Council on July 20 decided against a vote on a resolution on the final status of the internationally administered province of Kosovo. Instead, the issue is being passed to the six-nation Contact Group. RFE/RL's Balkans analyst Patrick Moore discusses what is likely to happen next.

RFE/RL: Was the decision by the UN on July 20 a surprise?

Patrick Moore: No, not really. What was involved was the United States and the other Western powers agreeing not to press the resolution in the Security Council because they knew there would be a Russian veto. The idea, since the way through the UN is obstructed, is to withdraw and move around the obstruction by taking the work into the international Contact Group.

RFE/RL: Can this be seen as a diplomatic victory for Russia?

Moore: It's hard to say, because I guess anybody can read into it what they want to. It's also an acknowledgement -- and to me this was the important thing -- by the major powers within the European Union that the road through the UN was going to get nowhere, and that the matter had to be taken outside the UN. And so, in this case, I see it as a victory for the United States. Frankly, I think that the Americans gave up on the UN route, probably along with the British, months ago -- they could see where it was going. And the exercise that had to be gone through in introducing different resolutions was mainly aimed at convincing countries like Germany and Italy that if they wanted a solution to the Kosovo problem then it was going to have to be done outside the UN. The point was that they were walking it through, showing that they were doing everything they could to be accommodating to the Russians and the Serbs.

RFE/RL: If Kosovo declares independence unilaterally, it will need the support of European countries -- it already has the support of the United States. What are the countries in Europe that are unlikely to support Kosovo's independence?

'You're going to have this high unemployment rate, particularly among young males, and that's a recipe for disaster anywhere.'

Moore: What seems to be going on is that the [Kosovo] Albanians, I'm pretty sure, are clever enough not to go down the route of a unilateral declaration of independence. This isn't in the cards and the Americans are not encouraging them to take this route. I think we're going to be getting a continuation of what we had before -- namely, the Americans diplomatically [and] carefully preparing the ground so that everyone can move forward together. In this morning's "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" there is an interview with [European Commission President Jose Manuel] Barroso in which he says quite clearly that the EU has to have an agreed-upon line. So what we will have is, I would guess, a fairly unified position with the usual amount of horse trading. So for example, there are two countries that have had special reservations about Kosovo because of their own minority issues, namely Spain and Slovakia. These countries, along with a few others, will require some special persuading, but it's not insurmountable.

RFE/RL: So are there parts of UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan that are still very relevant?

Moore: The United States and the EU have agreed to accept the Ahtisaari plan and I think that's ultimately what's going to go forward. The Ahtisaari plan was presented in 2006 following a recommendation in 2005 by a Norwegian diplomat, Kai Eide. Both these Scandinavian diplomats were tasked by [then UN Secretary-General] Kofi Annan to look into the situation and make recommendations. Both men came to the conclusion that failure to resolve the status question of Kosovo was contributing to instability and uncertainty throughout the region. [So there is] a real practical grounds for moving forward on the Ahtisaari plan and I don't think this is lost in Washington or Brussels.

RFE/RL: But couldn't Kosovo declaring independence also be a source of instability on the ground?

Moore: If they did it without preparing the way, without any support from major powers, it certainly could be. The unilateral declaration of independence that I referred to before, or UDI, was that of the Ian Smith government in what was then Southern Rhodesia (Eds: Smith declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1965. Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe) and they didn't have any international backing for this. They got the enmity of Britain for the way they went about it and the results were predictable. I don't think that there's going to be any real danger of the hotheads holding sway among the Albanians. So I really don't think that that's a realistic scenario.

RFE/RL: On the ground in Kosovo, do you think that patience is running a little thin?

Moore: It certainly is. This is one reason why Kai Eide and Ahtisaari made the recommendation that it's time to move forward. This doesn't have only to do with fulfilling nationalist aspirations, but until they have a clear future, a clear status set down, there's no legal framework, there's no framework for people to know what to do about investments -- and until you get the economy working a little better than it is now, or a lot better than it is now, including through investments from Albanians living and working in Switzerland, Germany, and the United States, you're going to have this high unemployment rate, particularly among young males, and that's a recipe for disaster anywhere.

RFE/RL: Kosovo's prime minister and president are in Washington today for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. What's likely to be on the agenda and how important are these talks?

Moore: I think that the Americans are going to concentrate on making sure that there is a unified policy and approach between Pristina, Washington, and Brussels; that nobody takes any unilateral moves; and that people see that there will clearly be a reward for patience. I was at a conference a few weeks ago in Munich and one of the leading British Albania experts pointed out to the German audience that the Albanians of Albania and Kosovo are probably the most pro-American people on the face of the Earth and the reason for this is that the Americans are the only international power who have kept their word to the Albanians. And for that reason, I don't expect that these talks are going to be particularly rocky.

The Kremlin Looks At Kosovo...And Beyond

The Kremlin Looks At Kosovo...And Beyond
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) greets Serbian President Boris Tadic in the Kremlin in November 2005 (TASS)

WILL THE KREMLIN BACK INDEPENDENCE? As the drive for independence grows in the Serbian province of Kosovo, the international community is speculating on how Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, will act. On September 22, Nicholas Whyte, director of the International Crisis Group's Europe Program, gave a briefing on the subject at RFE/RL's Washington, D.C., office. He speculated on what the Kremlin's "price" might be for agreeing to Kosovo's separation from Serbia.


Listen to the entire briefing (about 45 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media


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RFE/RL's coverage of Kosovo and Russia.


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