Thursday, July 29, 2010

Serbian proposes new talks on outstanding issues in Kosovo

BELGRADE — Serbia submitted a resolution to the United Nations Wednesday which, in an apparent concession to international pressure, called for new negotiations on Kosovo but did not insist on status talks.

Belgrade wants the UN General Assembly to call on both sides "to find mutually acceptable solutions for all outstanding issues through peaceful dialogue in the interest of peace, security and cooperation in the region."

The draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, makes no mention of reopening talks on the status of Kosovo, which Belgrade had previously insisted on.

Serbia had insisted that it would not hold talks on any outstanding practical issues, as the EU and the US have called for, if the question of status was not dealt with.

Pristina however quickly condemned the Serbian proposal as a confrontational move that "does not contribute to dialogue".

"This is a political game pursued for the (Serbian) public in order to show that the battle (for Kosovo) is continuing," Kosovo's deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci's told AFP by phone.

"It also aims at misleading the international community."

According to some observers, Pristina believes that by insisting on talks on "all outstanding issues" instead of just technical issues as Kosovo would like, Belgrade is trying to sneak in status talks through the backdoor.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, a move that Belgrade refuses to recognise as it still considers the territory its southern province.

However, the draft that Belgrade wants adopted asks the general assembly to take "into account the fact that unilateral secession cannot be an acceptable way to solve territorial issues".

The resolution was submitted following last week's non-binding opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Pristina's declaration of independence did not violate international law.

It was drafted "after consultations with a wide circle of international factors, including all permanent members of the UN Security Council," the foreign ministry said in the statement.

Political analyst Predrag Simic told B92 radio that the draft resolution showed that Belgrade had received "the message from Brussels... that status talks were not possible any more after such an outcome at the International Court of Justice (ICJ)."

The text showed "a political realism of Belgrade emerging from the position recently announced by President (Boris) Tadic that Serbia does not want a confrontation with the big powers," Simic, a political science professor and Serbia's former ambassador to France, added.

One diplomatic source in Belgrade however said the draft resolution was "not enough" to satisfy the international community and the text had been drafted without consultation with other interested parties.

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the text has "ambiguous formulations that show that (the Serbs) want to raise the issue of status.

"The western powers do not want a wording that will allow Serbia to reopen the discussion on status," the diplomat added.

Sixty-nine countries, including the United States and 22 out of 27 member states of the European Union, have so far recognised the majority ethnic Albanian Kosovo as an independent state.

Kosovo had been under UN administration since a NATO air campaign against Serbia ended the 1998-99 war between Serb forces and separatist Kosovo Albanians. Some 13,000 people mostly ethnic Albanians lost their lives in the conflict.

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