Serbia

FAST Update Kosovo: Trends in conflict and cooperation Mar - Apr 2007

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POLITICAL

The discussions regarding Kosovo's final status continued to dominate the political agenda during the reporting period of March to April 2007. The end of the talks held in Vienna (2 March) between the Kosovo and Serbian negotiating teams under the mediation of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, did not result in a compromise regarding the final Kosovo status. Hence, the issue has been left to the UN Security Council to resolve. Not only the negotiation teams of the two countries but also the international community still finds it difficult to forge a single opinion. While the USA has continued to express their strong support for "independence of Kosovo under international supervision," Russia keeps opposing any "imposed solution" to the final status. The EU remains generally in favor of Ahtisaari's proposed package, while there are a number of EU Member States (Spain, Greece, Slovakia and Romania) that have reservations about independence for Kosovo, as proposed by Ahtisaari.

In March, Russia called on the UN Security Council to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Kosovo in order to assess the "real" situation on the ground before the Security Council begins to discuss the issue. The Kosovo authorities criticized this proposal arguing that the UN Security Council has its presence there through UNMIK, but nonetheless welcomed the delegation. Senior Serbian officials praised the decision, stating that perhaps the international community would arrive at another solution for the province's status. The UN Security Council mission visited Serbia and Kosovo at the end of April, and held meetings with both the Serbian and Albanian leadership as well as with representatives of relevant interest groups from the two ethnic communities in Kosovo.

The uncertain political situation in Serbia following its parliamentary elections in January 2007 and the absence of a unified political voice from Belgrade regarding Kosovo's final status, have raised additional concerns. While few from the Serbian political block have publicly called for a division of Kosovo along ethnic lines (with the northern part of the province being annexed to Serbia), the majority of the political actors officially support the concept of "supervised autonomy." The possibility of dividing the northern part of the province has also been acknowledged by UNMIK; its reliable sources have stated that, since the beginning of March, the administration has begun considering possible scenarios if the north and south of Kosovo would be divided. Moreover, one commentator in Kosovo has warned that, if the international community rejects a partition as a solution to the Kosovo status, Russia may use the issue of the existing proposals for a de facto partition of Kosovo as an argument against any solution that does not have the support from Belgrade and the Serbian community in Kosovo.

Kosovar political actors, on the contrary, seem to be much more coherent regarding their position on the final Kosovo status. The members of the negotiation team (President Sejdiu, Prime Minister Çeku, Assembly Speaker Berisha and the two opposition leaders, Hashim Thaçi and Veton Surroi) signed a declaration on 15 April pledging to cooperate during the 120 days of transition to independence in order to ensure that the "new state of Kosovo" would be democratic and based on the rule of law. Moreover, they recently retracked their statements that Kosovo would become independent with or without a resolution, stating that Kosovo would become independent only with international partnership.