The United States Friday called the newly released Kosovo settlement plan of U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari fair and balanced, and urged authorities in both Serbia and Kosovo to work toward a final settlement. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is consulting European colleagues on the next steps in the process. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The United States has strongly supported the Ahtisaari mission and a written statement here expressed gratitude for his efforts and urged all those involved, including the skeptical Serbian government, to engage constructively with the U.N. envoy as he tries to finalize a settlement.
The statement by State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the Ahtisaari plan is fair and balanced and is a blueprint for a stable, prosperous and multi-ethnic Kosovo.
It said provisions of the plan protecting the rights of all of Kosovo's citizens will advance democratic development, and said the United States encourages Ahtisaari to complete his work soon so that Kosovo, and the region, can finally have clarity about the future.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the issue at a private meeting late Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose government has said it shares Serbia's misgivings about a potentially-independent Kosovo.
Rice also discussed the issue Friday morning with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who like Lavrov was in Washington for a meeting of the international quartet on the Middle East.
Spokesman McCormack told reporters the United States is ready to assist the final push for a Kosovo solution with a diplomatic team led by U.S. special envoy for Kosovo Frank Wisner, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Dan Fried, Undersecretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, and when necessary Secretary Rice herself:
"We're there," he said. "We're part of the [Kosovo] Contact Group. That will remain. Ambassador Wisner and Dan Fried will be the working-level people involved in this."
"Nick [Burns] takes a great interest in this as well. And when she's needed, the Secretary will get involved in it, to push the issue forward. Nobody expects that this is going to be a smooth pathway. So when you need a closer, she'll be there," he added.
McCormack said the issue of Kosovo's ultimate status needs to be addressed by the U.N. Security Council, since Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate for the last several years.
The United States has not publicly endorsed any final status formula for Kosovo, but Serbian officials have frequently asserted that Washington supports independence and have said they look to their ally Moscow to block such a development.
U.N. authorities have administered Kosovo since 1999, when NATO air strikes drove Serbian and Yugoslav security forces from the province following a deadly Belgrade crackdown on ethnic Albanians, who account for 90 percent of Kosovo's population of two million.
The Ahtisaari plan would give the province many of the trappings of a separate state including the right to join international organizations, but does not mention independence from Serbia.