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Experts at Washington Forum Warn of Difficulties in Determining Kosovo's Future


Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center Friday brought together a panel of experts to analyze the Kosovo status negotiations that may conclude in the next few weeks or months. There is no expectation that Kosovo's Albanians and Serbia will agree on Kosovo's future.

All of the six presenters suggested difficulties in the months ahead. After seven years of being a ward of the international community, moves are underway to determine the status of the still nominally Serbian province whose population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian.

Serbia rejects independence while the Albanians refuse any other option. Kosovo is ruled by the United Nations and security is the responsibility of NATO led peacekeepers.

Veton Surroi, a member of Kosovo's negotiating team, warned of the danger of an ambiguous outcome-partial independence, in which Kosovo would remain a weak and ill-defined territory. Kosovo, he said, must become a fully independent sovereign nation. "It is for a practical reason. Only sovereign states assume responsibilities. And this needs to be a sovereign state that assumes responsibility for everything, for its security, etcetera, etcetera," he said.

Steven Meyer, a professor at the U.S. government's National Defense University, outlined the dangers that might result from independence. "Kosovo is a small, crime-infested very poor (state) with high unemployment that has always been integrated into a much larger, broader regional market," he said.

There was concern about the plight of the minority Serbs who fear the Albanians and whose communities require protection from the NATO-led force. Vladimir Matic of Clemson University said it would be a disaster if these 100,000 Serbs are forced out. Ross Johnson of the Hoover Institution said that is a real possibility as 70 percent of Kosovo Serbs say they won't live in an independent Kosovo.

"Because what is being said over and over again is that Serbs can not survive in an independent Kosovo. Well, if you believe that, and if it looks like Kosovo will become independent, then you draw the consequence and if you have the resources you leave," he said.

NATO in 1999 undertook a three-month long bombing campaign against the Serbs accused of ethnic cleansing in their fight against secessionist Kosovo Albanian rebels. This past February the United Nations launched status negotiations between Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians. With those talks deadlocked, the UN chief negotiator has been authorized to present his own status proposal, which may be unveiled shortly.

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