Kosovo bides time on independence

President assures US it will not unilaterally declare independence from Serbia.

    President Fatmir Sejdiu, left, and Prime Minister
    Agim Ceku, met Rice in Washington [EPA]
    "Of course, a formal announcement of independence will happen in due course, but in co-operation and in close partnership with the countries which are supportive of the Kosovo independence," Sejdiu told AFP.
     
    US assurances
     
    In turn, Rice gave assurances that the US was committed to achieving international recognition of Kosovo's independence within months – even without a UN Security Council resolution.
     
    "The United States made clear very firmly that the issue needs to be resolved sooner rather than later," Sejdiu told The Associated Press.
     

    Kosovo remains a province of Serbia but has
    been run by the United Nations since 1999

    He said he was "reassured" that the US "remains very consistently engaged in the issue".
     
    "But ultimately, Kosovo cannot remain hostage of whatever obstruction on the part of some countries," he said.
     
    On Friday, Russia blocked a UN resolution drafted by the US and EU allies that would have set the territory of nearly 2 million Muslims on the road to independence.
     
    The US and EU said they would move the forum for deciding Kosovo's status from the Security Council to the so-called Contact Group on Kosovo - Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the US.
     
    Deadline
     
    US and European officials have agreed to allow 120 days for further negotiations that would include talks with Kosovo and Serbia in a last attempt to reach an agreement.
     
    Sejdiu said the US had assured Kosovo that countries would move to recognise an independent Kosovo after that deadline regardless of Russian objections.
     
    "Of course, a formal announcement of independence will happen in due course, but in co-operation and in close partnership with the countries which are supportive of the Kosovo independence"

    Fatmir Sejdiu, Kosovo president

    "We can see that the United States is very serious about this 120 days of engagement and this was quite an assurance," he said.
     
    During a visit to neighbouring Albania in June, George Bush, the US president, hinted that the US could recognise Kosovo even without Security Council consent, saying there could not be endless negotiations over its independence.
     
    But Agim Ceku, Kosovo's prime minister who met Rice along with Sejdiu and other provincial leaders on Monday, has already rejected further talks and hinted at declaring independence in November.
     
    Before the meeting, Sean McCormack, the spokesman for the US state department, said Rice would urge the leaders to be patient, arguing that "nobody gains by trying to short-circuit the diplomatic process that is under way".
     
    "What we have been counselling is that it's in nobody's interest to try to short circuit the diplomatic process, because the last thing anybody wants to see is a renewed outbreak of violence that we have seen in that part of the world before," he said.
     
    Kosovo remains a province of Serbia but has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when a Nato bombing campaign helped end a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists and their supporters.
     
    Meeting in Brussels on Monday, EU foreign ministers urged Serbia and Kosovo to hold fresh talks but did not address deep divisions in the 27-country bloc on recognising Kosovo should it grow impatient and declare its own independence.
     
    In April, the UN special envoy on Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, recommended that Kosovo be granted internationally supervised independence.
     
    On Thursday, Rice will discuss the province's future with Vuk Jeremic, Serbia's foreign minister, in Washington.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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