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Kosovo sets out on road to independence - Independent, UK

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  • Zafar Khan
    Kosovo sets out on road to independence By Tim Judah Published: 24 October 2005 http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article321722.ece The United Nations
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 24, 2005
      Kosovo sets out on road to independence
      By Tim Judah
      Published: 24 October 2005


      The United Nations Security Council convenes at 10am
      today. By lunchtime, it is expected to have made a
      momentous decision, that could lead to the birth of a
      new state in Europe.

      The 15-member council is to recommend that talks on
      the future status of Kosovo, a territory contested
      between Serbs and the majority ethnic Albanians, begin
      as soon as possible.

      Meeting in Rome last Thursday, diplomats from the main
      Western countries that deal with the former
      Yugoslavia, plus Russia agreed on what will happen
      today so as to make sure that there are no late

      Ever since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999 the
      territory has been under the jurisdiction of the UN,
      although legally it remains a part of Serbia. The
      process, which will begin today, is expected to end
      Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo.

      The council will be addressed by Kai Eide, the
      Norwegian diplomat who drew up the report on Kosovo.
      Within days of the meeting, Kofi Annan, the UN
      Secretary General is set to appoint Martti Ahtisaari,
      the former Finnish president to lead talks.

      After a period of shuttle diplomacy he is expected to
      draw up a draft plan for the future of the territory
      that will propose what is known as "conditional
      independence". It means that Kosovo will no longer be
      part of Serbia but its independence will, for a
      transitional period, be curtailed, rather like that of
      Bosnia where policy is shaped by a high level
      representative of the international community.

      While Serbia will resist the ending of its sovereignty
      over Kosovo, diplomats say that Russia, on whom the
      Serbian leadership was hoping for support, has already
      betrayed it.

      In 1999, Nato mounted a 78-day bombing campaign
      against what was then still known as Yugoslavia. The
      bombing came after talks failed to produce a
      settlement between Serbs and separatist Albanian

      Ever since, Kosovo has been run by the UN although
      progressively power has been transferred to its own
      elected authorities. Some 100,000 Serbs remain in
      Kosovo out of a total population of 2 million, more
      than 90 per cent of whom are ethnic Albanians who have
      consistently shown that they want independence.

      Most of those Serbs who remain, live in enclaves some
      of which have to be protected by Nato-led
      peacekeepers. In March 2004, ethnic Albanian rioting
      left 19 dead and some 4,000 Serbs and Roma were
      ethnically cleansed. In his report, Mr Eide described
      inter-ethnic relations as "grim".

      Serbia will fight a fierce rearguard action to retain
      sovereignty, if little else, over Kosovo.

      Indeed, according to Dusan Batakovic, advisor on
      Kosovo to Serbian president Boris Tadic: "People think
      Serbia has given up Kosovo but it is not the case - to
      the contrary in fact."

      Serbia says the Albanians can have virtually anything
      they want except full independence. Albanians say that
      everything is negotiable except independence. Indeed a
      movement is now gathering pace in Kosovo to oppose the
      coming talks.

      It is led by Albin Kurti, a 30-year old former
      political prisoner who is organising supporters to be
      ready to take to the streets. He says he is against
      talks because they aim at compromise and there can be
      no compromise on the question of independence.

      Diplomatic sources believe the talks will last up to
      nine months, after which the main Western powers will
      then act to impose "conditional independence" on
      Kosovo. The Albanians will probably accept that, plus
      a high level of autonomy for Serbian areas. Serb
      leaders however, resigned as they may be to the
      reality of the situation, say they will never formally
      accept the loss of Kosovo, which they regard as the
      cradle of their civilisation.

      In principle, Kosovo Albanians will be led into talks
      by Ibrahim Rugova, their president and the best-known
      symbol of Kosovo.

      However Mr Rugova is ill with lung cancer. If he dies
      or is incapacitated, it is expected to weaken the
      Albanian negotiating position.

      History of a troubled territory

      * 1389: Battle of Kosovo heralds 500 years of Turkish
      Ottoman rule.

      * 1918: Collapse of the Ottoman empire; Kosovo
      absorbed into Serbia.

      * 1946: Kosovo absorbed into Yugoslav Federation.

      * 1974: Yugoslav constitution recognises Kosovo's
      right to autonomy.

      * 1981: Troops suppress separatist rioting.

      * 1987: Future president Slobodan Milosevic rallies a
      crowd of Kosovo Serbs protesting against Albanian

      * 1989: Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
      abolishes autonomy rights.

      * 1990: Ethnic Albanian leaders declare independence
      from Serbia.

      * 1992: Academic Ibrahim Rugova, right, elected
      president of the self-proclaimed republic.

      * 1998: Open conflict between Serb police and
      separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Hundreds of
      thousands of civilians are driven out in Serb military

      * 1999: Belgrade rejects internationally-brokered
      peace deal. Nato launches 11 week bombing campaign
      against Yugoslavia. President Milosevic agrees to
      withdraw troops from Kosovo. Nato forces deployed.

      * 2002: Ibrahim Rugova elected president

      * March 2004: 19 people are killed in worst clashes
      between Serbs and ethnic Albanians since 1999.

      * October 2004: President Rugova's Democratic League
      wins elections.

      * October 2005: UN Security Council gives green light
      for final status talks to begin.

      UN council backs launch of talks on Kosovo status
      24 Oct 2005 17:54:59 GMT
      Source: Reuters


      UNITED NATIONS, Oct 24 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security
      Council on Monday embraced U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
      Annan's recommendation that international negotiations
      be launched to determine Kosovo's future.

      "The council offers its full support to this political
      process, which would determine Kosovo's future status,
      and further reaffirms its commitment to the objective
      of a multiethnic and democratic Kosovo which must
      reinforce regional stability," said a statement
      adopted unanimously by the 15-nation council.

      The council acted shortly after Serbian Prime Minister
      Vojislav Kostunica told it that Belgrade ruled out a
      process that could result in Kosovo's independence.

      In a letter to the council, however, Kosovo's prime
      minister, Bajram Kosumi, wrote that Kosovo's
      government in Pristina and the vast majority of its
      people felt the province should be granted

      "The state of Kosovo should be a multiethnic,
      democratic and law-abiding place, which exists in
      peace and cooperation with its neighbors in the region
      and with the wider world," Kosumi wrote. "Within this
      broader vision, we are ready to elaborate more precise
      details of how Kosovo should be organized in both its
      institutions and its constitution."

      Two U.N. envoys acknowledged that Serbs and Kosovars
      differed strongly over what the eventual fate of the
      southern Serb province should be.

      But they argued that resolving the issue would benefit
      both sides and bring more stability to the region.

      "We all know that the positions of Belgrade and
      Pristina on the issue of Kosovo's status are far
      apart, but it will remain so until and unless it is
      resolved by an internationally managed process, and
      the sooner that is done, the better for the citizens
      in Kosovo and in the region," said Soren
      Jessen-Petersen, the province's U.N. administrator.

      U.N. special envoy Kai Eide said he believed there had
      been a change in the region and both Pristina and
      Belgrade now had a "shared expectation" that the
      process would begin.

      "I am convinced that all will benefit from clarity
      with regard to what Kosovo will be," Eide said. "Such
      clarity will also remove an element of instability,
      which today hampers the political and economic
      development of Kosovo as well as of the region."

      "The time has come to start the future status
      process," he said.

      Background on Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo at:
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