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“Security Council wants Kosovo talks”

Published on 28/06/2007

28 June 2007

BRUSSELS (AP) – Belgium’s foreign minister said Wednesday that many members of the U.N. Security Council back a move to reopen negotiations between Serbia and its breakaway province of Kosovo which would not automatically lead to the region’s independence.

“If you have negotiations than you should not say in advance what the result will be,” said Karel de Gucht, Belgium’s foreign minister and this month’s council president.

A United Nations plan has recommended that Kosovo – a province of 2 million of whom 90 percent are ethnic Albanians – be granted supervised independence.

“Many members of the Security Council and a majority of European Union nations” now support a new round of talks without a predetermined outcome, De Gucht said after meeting with his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic. He said the new talks should last four months.

The statement appears to be an effort to bridge the gap between Washington’s strong support for an independent Kosovo, and Moscow’s threat to veto any Security Council resolution that would go against Serbia’s wishes. Kosovo has emerged as one of the most intractable problems in relations between the United States and a resurgent Russia.

Serbia insists that Kosovo, which has been administered by the United Nations since a brief war in 1999 – cannot secede. Belgrade says it is willing to give its ethnic Albanian majority wide-ranging autonomy.

Earlier this year, the two sides ended 14 months of U.N.-mediated talks without agreement on the province’s future status.

Washington has backed an amended security council resolution that called for new talks, but said that in the case of another failure to find common ground the international community would recognise Kosovo’s independence.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Kosovo has to be “resolved in a way that will be stabilising in the Balkans. As President Bush has said, that means ultimately there will be an independent Kosovo.”

Serbia has rejected Washington’s position, saying this would not provide any incentive to Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders to negotiate seriously, knowing that they would automatically be granted independence after a four-month period.

“It’s like going into a football match knowing in advance your side will win with a 2-0 result,”‘ Jeremic said.

Earlier in the day, Jeremic urged NATO to step up measures to protect the Serbian minority in Kosovo, where tensions have escalated after the independence plan was put on hold.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said de Hoop Scheffer had reassured Jeremic that NATO troops were fully capable of ensuring security in the region.

“Any party that engages in violence will meet with a stiff response,” Appathurai said.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Belgian news