Reuters, March 27, 2007
UN report recommends Kosovo independence
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, March 26 (Reuters) - The U.N. mediator for Kosovo recommended on Monday supervised independence for Serbia's breakaway province, a move fiercely opposed by Serbia.
"Independence is the only viable option for a politically stable and economically viable Kosovo," special envoy Martti Ahtisaari said in a report to the U.N. Security Council and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who backs the proposals.
"I propose the exercise of Kosovo's independence and its fulfillment of the obligations set forth in my settlement proposal, be supervised and supported for an initial period by international civilian and military presences," he said.
Serbia rejects independence for Kosovo as a violation of international law.
Europeans as well as the United States back the proposals, which were produced after a year of fruitless Serb-Albanian negotiations. The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote on them by the summer, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said in Brussels.
Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999, when NATO launched bombing raids to stop Serb forces from driving out the province's ethnic Albanians, who comprise 90 percent of the population.
"While independence for Kosovo is the only realistic option, Kosovo's capacity to tackle the challenges of minority protection, democratic development, economic recovery and social reconciliation on its own is still limited," said Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president.
The Ahtisaari plan would give independence to the 90 percent Albanian-majority province but provides for a European Union overseer and broad self-government for the remaining 100,000 Serbs.
KOSOVO IN LIMBO
The Ahtisaari plan recommends Kosovo be given the right to join international organizations reserved for sovereign states. It provides for a powerful foreign overseer and an EU police mission alongside the current 16,500-strong NATO peace force.
Ten thousand Albanians died and almost one million fled during a 1998-99 Serbian war against separatist guerrillas. The crackdown drew NATO into its first "humanitarian" war, and the West sees no prospect of restoring Serb rule.
Burns said he expected five to seven weeks of consultations with Kosovo Albanian leaders, the Serb government and members of the Security Council to try to format the best resolution.
But Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power, backs Serbia and has called for the talks to continue, if necessary under a new mediator. Moscow insists a solution must be acceptable to both Albanians and Serbs, a task Western analysts say is impossible.
Ahtisaari said Belgrade demanded Kosovo's autonomy within Serbia, while Pristine would only accept independence and that "no amount of additional talks, whatever the format, will overcome this impasse."
British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett said in a statement that Ahtisaari's proposals gave Kosovo clarity over its future, which "would enable the Balkan region as a whole to draw a line under the conflicts of the recent past."
"We look forward to working with our partners in the U.N. Security Council, on the basis of the U.N. special envoy's settlement proposals, to bring the status process through to completion," she said.
"Kosovo's current status of limbo cannot continue," Ahtisaari said. "Pretending otherwise and denying or delaying resolution of Kosovo's status risks challenging not only its own stability but the peace and stability of the region as a whole." (Additional reporting by David Brunnstorm in Brussels and the London bureau)