Kosovo: UN and EU look at next move after talks collapse

New York, 29 Nov. (AKI) – United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana are looking for a new way to break the deadlock over the future of Kosovo after the collapse of talks on Wednesday.

While details of the talks were not made public, negotiations centred on the replacement of the UN administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) by European officials.

But negotiations on the status of the province, which has been under UN control since 1999, have stalled.

 “The secretary-general and Solana discussed the order of moves in the process of solving Kosovo status,” UN spokesman Brendan Varma told journalists.

The 16,000-strong NATO-led international forces stationed in Kosovo (KFOR) have been reinforced by 550 German soldiers now stationed in the northern part of the province, populated mostly by minority Serbs.

Tensions have been on the rise in Kosovo since the failure of two years of discussions to reach a negotiated settlement, with ethnic Albanians threatening to unilaterally declare independence and Belgrade saying it would oppose it by all “legal means.”

The UN negotiating troika, consisting of US diplomat Frank Wiesner, European Union’s Wolfgang Ischinger and Russia’s Aleksandar Bocan Harcenko, is due to submit a report to Ban by 10 December.

But Kosovo's future is uncertain and Ban was quoted as saying the situation was “difficult”.

Meanwhile, the Kosovo issue has disappeared from the front pages of Serbian newspapers - only daily Glas javnosti said in a front page banner that big powers, which support Kosovo 's independence, were “playing big games” over the future of the province.

There has been speculation in Belgrade that ethnic Albanians would declare independence with the support of the United States and most EU countries, and that Serbian officials were contemplating how to respond to it.

But Serbian defence minister Dragan Sutanovac said Belgrade was not considering military action, and expressed the hope that KFOR would protect the remaining Serbs against violence in Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians outnumber them by 17 to one.

KFOR commander, French general Xavier de Marnac, said on a visit to Washington it “would be difficult,“ but vowed his forces would react decisively to any attempts at destabilising the situation and the use of violence.

But De Marnac demanded clear instructions from the international community on how to behave if Serbia tried to establish parallel institutions in northern Kosovo.

Pointing to the fact that the average age of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo was 28 years, while that of Serbs in the province was 54, De Marnac said the prospects were that “one people, meaning Serbs, would simply disappear.”

Meanwhile, the Kosovo Serb Council appealed to president Boris Tadic and prime minister Vojislav Kostunica to protect Serb rights, saying they would reject any one-sided declaration of independence”.


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