Kosovo sets out on road to independence - Independent, UK
- 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
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
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
* 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
* 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
* 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
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: