UN Aide Urges Speedy Decision On Kosovo's Future Status
The U.N. administrator in Kosovo urged the Security Council to make a speedy decision on the province's future status, warning that any delay beyond January will raise tension and play into the hands of extremists.
"Resolving Kosovo's status would benefit the entire Balkan region, including Belgrade," said Joachim Ruecker, the U.N. special representative. "Further delay would entail significant political and economic costs for Kosovo, for our neighbors, for the region as a whole and for the international community."
Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90% of Kosovo's 2 million people, are seeking independence from Belgrade. Serbia and Kosovo's Serb minority say the province is the heart of Serbia's ancient homeland and should remain within its borders.
Martti Ahtisaari, the U.N.'s chief negotiator on Kosovo, said last month he would delay the presentation of a report on the future of the province until after Serbian elections on Jan. 21. He has been leading talks between Kosovo leaders and their counterparts in Serbia.
Ruecker told the Security Council on Wednesday that "anxiety has clearly risen" since Ahtisaari's decision.
"While the status process has clearly been brought a long way forward this year, momentum needs to be kept up and a timely status settlement achieved," he said.
"Delay will raise tension and play into the hands of extremists on all sides," Ruecker warned. "Delay will not make a solution easier - it will make it much more difficult. No one can have an interest in such an outcome."
He said Kosovo's government under Prime Minister Agim Ceku, who attended the council meeting, has continued to demonstrate "effective leadership" in implementing standards in key areas including strengthening central and local government institutions and carrying out reforms. Kosovo has also passed laws giving the Albanian and Serbian languages equal status and ensuring religious freedom and protection of cultural heritage, he said.
Ruecker urged the council to wrap up the U.N. administration of Kosovo in an orderly way and keep up the momentum in the status process, and see it through.
Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, president of the Coordination Center of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija, countered that only by systematic, responsible, and gradual management of negotiations on Kosovo's future status could a long-term solution be found.
"There is a saying - avoid a short cut, it can be the wrong way," she said, stressing that a solution cannot be achieved in haste.
Kosovo Albanians are waiting to be given another Albanian state in the Balkans within Serbia's borders which is not acceptable, she said.
Raskovic-Ivic called for a compromise solution that would give Kosovo substantial autonomy within Serbia.
To achieve that goal, she proposed that Vienna talks between the Kosovo Albanians and Serbs resume immediately to find the broadest autonomy, with European Union participation.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country has close ties to Kosovo's Serbs, welcomed Ahtisaari's wise decision to interrupt status talks until the election is over.
Both sides need to show more flexibility in the status talks, Churkin said, adding that he saw no alternative but to negotiate a compromise.