Global Policy Forum

UN Envoy Rejects Russian Call for More Kosovo Talks


By Matt Robinson

March 19, 2007

U.N. mediators on Kosovo rejected on Monday a Russian call for more talks between Serbia and ethnic Albanians on a Western-backed plan for the province's independence, saying discussions had been exhausted. "Our position hasn't changed," Remi Dourlot, the spokesman for U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, said. "The talks held between the two parties in Vienna have been exhausted." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday called for the talks, which Ahtisaari halted on March 10, to continue and suggested appointing a new envoy if the former Finnish president "thinks he has done all he can". But Western powers heading 16,500 NATO soldiers in Serbia's southern U.N.-run territory want the U.N. Security Council to endorse Ahtisaari's plan for independence by mid-year, concerned that delay would spark unrest among the Albanian majority. Serbia has rejected the plan outright, and the Russian ambassador to the United Nations said on Monday the talks had yet to run their course. "There must be serious efforts for negotiation and the kind of preaching of inevitability and absolute need for immediate solution on the status, those things are unhelpful," Vitaly Churkin told reporters after the Security Council discussed a quarterly report from the U.N. mission in Kosovo. Ahtisaari last week submitted his plan for independence supervised by the European Union, having declared an end to 13 months of fruitless Serb-Albanian dialogue in Austria.


Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of the 2 million people, has been run by the United Nations since NATO bombs drove out Serb forces in 1999. Ten thousand Albanians died and almost one million fled during a 1998-99 Serbian war against separatist guerrillas. The crackdown drew NATO into its first "humanitarian" war, and the West sees no prospect of restoring Serb rule. Dourlot said Ahtisaari had delivered his plan to the U.N. "within the framework" set by the six-power Contact Group of the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Russia. He said the way forward "is now in the hands of the U.N. secretary-general, the Security Council and the Contact Group." The head of the U.N. mission in Kosovo, German Joachim Ruecker, told reporters in New York: "Expectations are high that the international community is not only able but willing to bring this to a timely conclusion." In Brussels, former U.S. Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke warned of violence as early as next month if Russia stalls the plan, saying "the long pent-up desire of the Albanians in Kosovo for a rapid move towards independence will explode".

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