Independent Kosovo Only Solution, U.S. Envoy Wisner Says
New York -- Negotiations on Kosovo's future status have reached the "crucial and final stage," the U.S. special envoy for Kosovo status talks says, and the international community should accept the U.N. settlement plan to help bring peace and stability to southeastern Europe.
(Media-Newswire.com) - New York -- Negotiations on Kosovo's future status have reached the "crucial and final stage," the U.S. special envoy for Kosovo status talks says, and the international community should accept the U.N. settlement plan to help bring peace and stability to southeastern Europe.
"The United States believes the time is at hand. Kosovo needs to be settled. It can't be left dangling and we are determined to do everything in our power to make sure the issue is settled," Ambassador Frank Wisner, the secretary of state's special envoy for Kosovo, said April 4.
"We have a chance to bring to a conclusion the last of the territorial quarrels that erupted in the wake of the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, the last of the areas of uncertainty in southeastern Europe; a chance to establish a stable environment with clarity, so that people in the region know what their choices are and where they are headed," Wisner said.
On April 3, the U.N. Security Council held its first session with U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari to discuss his proposal on Kosovo's status.
Under its 1999 resolution ( UNSC Resolution 1244 ), which placed Kosovo under U.N. administration and envisioned a political process to determine Kosovo's final status, the Security Council has the responsibility to determine a settlement.
Ahtisaari, who spent 15 months talking with Serbian and Kosovo officials, concluded after exhaustive negotiations that independence is the only option to ensure Kosovo's political and economic stability. Under his plan, Kosovo would be a multiethnic society with the culture, language and educational policy of all communities protected and promoted. The Serbian Orthodox Church also would be safeguarded. The NATO-led Kosovo force would continue to provide security and an international civilian representative would oversee the settlement. ( See related article. )
Speaking at the New York Foreign Press Center, Wisner said that the United States supports Ahtisaari’s conclusions and sees them as "fair, sensible" and "skillfully negotiated." Independence is the only choice, he said.
The issue has reached a culminating point and further delay in arriving at a long-promised settlement would cause only more instability, he said. Pointing to the violence that erupted in March 2004, he said the "status quo is simply not an option."
New negotiations would not bring any better solution than the one at hand, Wisner added. "Every reasonable avenue has been explored" by Ahtisaari, he said.
Serbia strongly opposes independence, but given the circumstances of the past 15 years, Wisner said, "there is no way, in short, that the Albanian speaking majority [in Kosovo] would ever accept to go back under the rule of Serbia."
"We recognize Serbia has the strongest views over maintaining its sovereignty over Kosovo," the ambassador said.
Other issues related to the breakup of the former Yugoslavia – the status of Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina -- have been settled, he said. "It is now Kosovo that needs to be settled," he said.
The United States has a long-standing and very deep relationship with the Republic of Serbia, Wisner said. "We want to build on that relationship. We believe we can do it better when the problems of the area are settled."
Negotiations in the U.N. Security Council will be intense, the ambassador acknowledged. Russia, which has veto power in the council, has reservations about the plan.
Nevertheless, Wisner said, Russia has been part of the deliberations from the beginning. "We would like ... to end this association over Kosovo in the same spirit of collaboration and cooperation that we began it."
"Our objective is: That which we began together, let's end together," he said.
SOLUTION URGENTLY NEEDED
Wisner said that there will be ample opportunity to discuss and consider Ahtisaari's proposal over the next weeks. Opposition "can only be overcome through the active exercise of diplomacy -- lay out choices, talk them through, think of the road ahead, reflect on basic and core interests."
From the U.S. perspective, the proposal is "overwhelmingly clear and so urgently needed that the odds of the right conclusion being reached by [the] Security Council are quite clear," Wisner said.
Kosovo is "of vital significance" to Europe and the United States, the ambassador said. "Europe's southeastern stability depends on a settlement in Kosovo." ( See related article. )
"Europe provides a substantial portion of the troops that are deployed under NATO command. Europe is a major contributor to the economic environment, and the support of present [U.N.] mission," the ambassador said. Approximately 17,000 international troops, including 1,700 Americans, continue to serve under NATO’s Kosovo Force, also known as KFOR.
"We went to war over this issue, we have 1,700 American soldiers on the ground, we are major contributors to the peacekeeping and U.N. costs in Kosovo,” Wisner said. “We've made our statement. This is important to us."
The future for Serbia, Kosovo, and the rest of the region "lies inside of Europe not as some island off the shore with no association with Europe," Wisner also said.
Kosovo today is a poor nation, with 50 percent of its people unemployed, he said. "It can't move ahead unless it has sovereignty, but it will not move ahead to its fullest without being part of Europe."
See also "Draft U.N. Plan Would Protect Minority Groups in Kosovo" and "U.S. Believes an Independent Kosovo Would Not Set Precedent."
For more information on U.S. policies in the region, see Southeast Europe.
( USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov ) By Judy Aita USINFO United Nations Correspondent
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