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Kosovo Status Talks Near Halfway Point With Little Progress Reported


Little progress is reported in the negotiations led by Russia, the European Union and the United States aimed at reconciling the conflicting views of Belgrade and Pristina on the future of Kosovo. VOA's Barry Wood reports that the US participant in the Troika rejects any possibility of partition as a solution to Kosovo's disputed status.

Frank Wisner, the retired US diplomat who represents Washington in the Troika, says it is unlikely that the Kosovo issue can be resolved this year. There is, he tells VOA, simply not enough time.

"Practically speaking, we expect to have our report ready by the 10th of December to the Secretary General [UN]," said Wisner. "He then is going to have to discuss the matter with the key contact group [US, UK, Russia, Italy, France, Germany] countries. I wouldn't rule out that there is going to have to be some Security Council discussions. So, just the calendar is going to press very hard to get a definitive conclusion in 2007."

The Troika negotiations were launched in August after Russia threatened to veto a US and EU backed plan for Kosovo's conditional independence. Moscow proposed the latest talks as a final attempt to bridge the wide gulf between Serbia and Kosovo's 90 percent majority ethnic Albanians. While the Kosovars demand independence, Serbia says it will accept nothing more than widespread autonomy.

Last week (September 28) in New York, the Troika brought Serbian and Kosovar leaders into face-to-face discussions. A second such meeting will take place in Brussels on October 14. Wisner says that while the respective leaders have not yet presented substantive new proposals, they do agree that partition of the province is not an option.

"Dividing Kosovo is not on the table with the Kosovars and isn't on the table with the Serbs, and isn't on the table with the Troika," he said. "That's out. It is against contact group principles. It would only produce havoc in the region. So that [it] is beyond the realm of possibility."

But Council on Foreign Relations Europe specialist Charles Kupchan says any Kosovo outcome is likely to destabilize the Balkans. Kupchan offers two reasons why the separation of the mostly Serb inhabited north of the territory should not be completely ruled out.

"One is that it is possible that partition could bring Belgrade around, get Belgrade to say we could live with the independence of Kosovo as long as northern Kosovo remains part of Serbia," said Charles Kupchan. "And if Belgrade says yes, then Russia says yes and this whole problem goes away. And secondly, because Kosovo, if it has northern Kosovo as part of it, starts life at a disadvantage; it will have a major part of its territory that doesn't want to part of that new state."

Most analysts expect the Troika negotiations will fail. In that event, Kosovo Albanians have said they will declare their independence. Washington, which favors an independent Kosovo, has indicated that it would recognize the new state. The European Union is divided but most states favor independence. Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations says Europe-including Germany-is ultimately likely to follow the American lead.

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