Kosovo's Ceku proposes date for independence declaration

20/07/2007

Hours before the UN Security Council was scheduled to start discussing the latest draft resolution on Kosovo, the province's prime minister suggested it could unilaterally declare independence on November 28th.

(Reuters - 20/07/07; AP, Reuters, AFP, DPA, VOA, UPI, Xinhua, B92, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network - 19/07/07)

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"We are committed to an independent Kosovo," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. "We will get there one way or another." [Getty Images]

Kosovo should unilaterally declare independence from Serbia on November 28th, Prime Minister Agim Ceku suggested on Friday (July 20th), arguing that Western efforts to put the province on the path to statehood through the UN have failed.

He made the proposal hours before the UN Security Council was due to begin discussing the latest Western-sponsored draft resolution on Kosovo, which envisions new talks between officials from Belgrade and Pristina.

However, representatives of the six nations that submitted the document -- Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States -- appeared uncertain Thursday about whether they would push for the draft to be put to the vote, given Russia's threats to veto the text.

"There is still disagreement about the draft resolution and some members believe there is zero probability for its adoption," British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said. "I can only conclude that we are not going to progress in the Council. But I think that it is deeply irresponsible to imagine that the Council is not going to proceed and try and tackle this issue because it is a source of ferment, certainly within the region, and quite clear that this is the last piece in the Balkans jigsaw."

Russia has rejected all previous versions drawn up by the United States and its European allies in the past few weeks. It argues that the latest draft virtually endorses the plan proposed by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, under which Kosovo would be granted supervised independence.

Insisting that it must retain some sovereignty over the province, Serbia has staunchly rejected independence as a possible option. Moscow has threatened to block any resolution unacceptable to Serbia.

According to Reuters, the new draft sets a 120-day period for Belgrade-Pristina negotiations, after which the Security Council would take up the matter. It also reportedly allows the EU to immediately appoint an international civilian representative to administer the province during the four-month negotiating period.

Technically still part of Serbia, Kosovo has been a de facto UN protectorate since the end of the 1998-1999 conflict.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana suggested earlier this week that if Russia continues to oppose a decision, the six-member Contact Group composed of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and the United States, will likely take the lead in a bid to find a compromise. "

I am sure there will be agreement within the Contact Group to open a process of negotiation," the DPA quoted Solana as saying on Tuesday. "We have to move on and open negotiations between the two sides ... without having a UN resolution, and see at the end of the process how it evolves."

The Contact Group is scheduled to meet on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose country has voiced firm support for Ahtisaari's plan, appeared confident Thursday that Kosovo would ultimately gain independence through one avenue or another.

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"We are committed to an independent Kosovo," she told reporters during a flight to Lisbon. "We will get there one way or another."

Ceku is scheduled to meet with Rice in Washington on Monday, amid mounting frustration among Kosovo Albanians over the status stalemate. Other politicians in the province have said a deadline should be set for an internationally endorsed settlement.

"The essential thing would be to set a date for Kosovo's independence," former Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi has said. "If there is no resolution, Kosovo should declare independence this year."

Veton Surroi, the leader of the opposition ORA party and a member of Kosovo's negotiating team, echoed those words Thursday, saying that Kosovo's assembly should "fulfil its obligation before Kosovo's citizens by declaring independence by Christmas".

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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