Kosovo leaders demand independence

Russian, EU and US diplomats visit Pristina to push for compromise.

    The "troika" are due to report back to the UN on December 10 [EPA]
    The envoys began their mission in July after a UN resolution calling for Kosovan statehood was blocked by Russia, acting in support of its ally Serbia, after 13 months of fruitless Serb-Albanian talks.
    'No discussion'
    Despite mediation efforts, Kosovo, a province of two million Albanians, is likely to declare independence unilaterally and seek recognition from major Western powers.

    "This is not a starting point for negotiation. This is not an offer for discussion," Ceku said.

    "I do not want to waste the next 120 days talking about things that will not be possible."

    Veton Surroi, a senior Kosovo political leader, said Albanians had "no intention of making compromises on top of compromises".

    He told villagers in western Kosovo: "We must prepare Kosovo to function as an independent state after 120 days. This means that before Christmas we must be ready.

    "With or without the agreement of the UN Security Council we must follow our own path," he said.

    Ceku is committed to independence [AP]

    The "troika" group, which consists

    of Wolfgang Ischinger representing the European Union, Russian official Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko and US diplomat Frank Wisner,

    is due to report back to Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, by December 10.

    Washington says that date is the final deadline for a deal and a decision on independence should then be taken. Russia insists talks should be open-ended.

    Wisner said: "We will agree to whatever the parties agree to," adding that

     "We have a sense of urgency."

    Botsan-Kharchenko said it was essential the process "stay within the UN framework".

    UN blueprint

    Kosovo has been run by the UN since 1999, when Nato bombed the province for 11 weeks to drive out Serb forces blamed for the ethnic cleansing of Albanian civilians in their war against separatist Albanian fighters.

    Washington and Kosovo had expected a resolution last year, but Russia shows no sign of giving in at the UN Security Council, where it holds a veto.

    Western nations have presented a UN blueprint drafted by Martti Ahtisaari, UN special envoy for the future status of Kosovo, offering independence under EU supervision.

    Serbia and Russia say the plan will not work.

    Goran Svilanovic of the Stability Pact for South-East Europe told the Serb state news agency Tanjug: "Those leading the process are further apart than they were two years ago, and are supposedly going to close the gap between Belgrade and Pristina."

    The status of Kosovo could cause problems for the 27-member EU, with half a dozen members refusing to recognise Kosovo.

    Nato powers leading 16,000 troops in Kosovo, also fear unrest if independence is denied.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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