Global Policy Forum

Ruecker: Kosovo Communities Need Clarity on Status

Southeast European Times
November 16, 2007

An agreed-upon settlement would be the best possible outcome of ongoing talks on Kosovo's future, but the international community should consider how to deal with a possible stalemate, UNMIK chief Joachim Ruecker said on Thursday.

UNMIK head Joachim Ruecker called on the international community Thursday (November 15th) to consider what action it will take should ongoing talks on Kosovo's future fail to produce a deal, stressing that the province cannot remain in political limbo. "I continue to have faith in a positive outcome," the German diplomat said, addressing the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna. "An agreed solution would be the optimal outcome, and the easiest to implement. Still, even if no agreement is reached, clarity on Kosovo's future, key to ensuring stability in the region, will have to be forthcoming."

The ongoing negotiations are due to end on December 10th, when the EU-US-Russian troika mediating this last-ditch effort to resolve the issue is due to submit a report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on results of the talks. But, with Belgrade and Pristina deeply entrenched in their positions on the question of Kosovo's future, prospects for an agreement appear slim.

Officially still part of Serbia, Kosovo has been a de facto UN protectorate since the end of the 1998-1999 conflict in the province. The 90% ethnic Albanian majority demands independence. Belgrade says essential autonomy is all it can offer. Ahead of next week's meeting between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian officials, the EU representative in the troika indicated on Wednesday that the mediators are planning to propose a solution, based on a "neutral status" formula. But, senior Serbian and Kosovo Albanian officials immediately rejected the idea, further dimming prospects for a deal.

Kosovo's leaders have pledged to declare independence on or shortly after December 10th, if the ongoing talks end in a stalemate. Reaching a solution will be difficult, Ruecker said on Thursday. But he said "the chances for the troika to find an agreed settlement are not zero". He voiced concern however about Saturday's general elections in Kosovo, amid continued calls for a boycott from top Belgrade officials.

"I have concerns that undue pressure has been exercised on the voters within the Kosovo Serb community not to participate in the elections," Ruecker said. "Actions by certain Kosovo Serb leaders and statements by officials in Belgrade amounting to such pressure have been documented and strongly deplored."

He said he sent a letter to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica on October 6th, calling for his co-operation in ensuring that all communities living in Kosovo could freely exercise their right to vote. "I have not received a reply yet," he said. Voters are due to elect the members of Kosovo's 120-seat parliament, with 100 of the seats reserved for parties representing ethnic Albanians and ten for ethnic Serbs.

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