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Kosovo Conundrum

DW staff (sms, kjb)December 10, 2007

Ahead of the negotiation deadline set by the UN for Monday, Dec. 10, the EU, the US and Russia said further talks over Kosovo's status would be superfluous. The Serbian province could declare independence any time.

Albanian students shout slogans for the independence of Kosovo, during a rally in Mother Teresa square, in Tirana, Thursday, Nov. 15 2007
The international community is divided on how to react if Kosovo declares independenceImage: AP

Key European powers and the United States are gearing up to recognize Kosovo as an independent state, while Serbia, backed by Russia, has said it will never accept a self-ruling Kosovo.

In response to the deadlock, the so-called Kosovo troika -- made up of the EU, the US and Russia -- ended four months of UN-initiated talks on Friday by concluding that negotiations had failed.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also made it clear that it is too late for negotiations on Kosovo's future status -- a stance that her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov criticized on the weekend as being the biggest obstacle to a solution.

Flags of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian parties are held in the air
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian parties are united in their calls for independenceImage: AP

"Neither party was willing to cede its position on the fundamental question of sovereignty over Kosovo," the troika report said. "This is regrettable, as a negotiated settlement is in the best interests of both parties."

The mediators said the two sides did find some issues they could agree on and promised to work together on reconciliation, even if they couldn't break through on the big question of Kosovo's status.

Kosovo's Albanian majority appealed to the West on Sunday to back their bid for independence. A joint statement from government and opposition leaders said: "The people of Kosovo urgently need clarity about their future."

The EU's foreign ministers will meet behind closed doors on Monday with the EU envoy to the Kosovo talks, Wolfgang Ischinger, to discuss ways to prevent violence in the case that Kosovo Albanians declare independence.

EU letter reveals bloc's internal divide

In a separate letter addressed to the European Union member states, Germany, France, Britain and Italy said that continuing talks would be pointless.

Diplomats said that the letter was intended for those countries in the bloc that continue to advocate further talks, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported.

Romania, Slovakia and Spain have been hesitant to back independence for Kosovo due to fears that the move would encourage their own ethnic minorities to break away. Cyprus, which is divided into a Greek and internationally unrecognized Turkish portion, has also found the one-sidedness of the Kosovo independence proposal hard to swallow, as has Greece.

Wolfgang Ischinger
Ischinger said the troika did everything "humanly possible" to negotiate a dealImage: AP

"It's regrettable that the EU member states, due to their respective domestic situations, have reached different conclusions," the EU's coordinator for the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, Erhard Busek, told Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel. "The different positions of EU states on the issue of Kosovo's status invite Russia and China to interfere."

Solana: Kosovo's future is in the EU

Leaders of the 27-nation bloc are to confirm the impasse in a statement at a summit this coming Friday, diplomats told Reuters news agency.

They are also expected to verify their willingness to dispatch police and justice missions and appoint a high representative to oversee Kosovo if asked to by the Kosovo-Albanian government and the United Nations.

"It is clear that the future of Serbia and Kosovo lies in the European Union. That's something that both sides agree on," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in an interview with Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

The UN Security Council is due to discuss the Kosovo troika's report on Dec. 19.

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