On Saturday in Vienna, the United Nations envoy seeking a status agreement for the disputed territory of Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, concludes his 13-month mission with a final meeting of the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia. VOA's Barry Wood reports that, just as the former Finnish president predicted, the two sides have not been able to agree on the territory's future.
When Ahtisaari last month presented his plan, which could lead to eventual independence for Kosovo, it was accepted by the negotiatiors for Kosovo but rejected by Serbian leaders. At Russian insistence, Ahtisaari slightly modified his proposal, but this too was rejected by Serbia.
The plan offers Kosovo self-government and membership in international organizations, but falls short of the outright independence demanded by Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian majority. Kosovo has been Serbian territory for hundreds of years, but its population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, a community that is determined to sever official links to Serbia. The U.N. has been running Kosovo since 1999, when NATO bombing forced out the Serbian military, which was accused of oppressing the Albanian majority.
Vladimir Matic, a former Yugoslav diplomat who teaches foreign policy at America's Clemson University, says Serbia made an error in the Vienna negotiations by concentrating on who controls the territory of Kosovo rather than on securing rights for the Serbs who live there.
"For Serbia, the destiny and position of Serbs in Kosovo, the protection of monuments, churches, access to them and so on should have been at the center all the time. People should have been the focus, not the territory," he said.
Matic says Serbia needs to have the Kosovo problem resolved as only then can democracy fully take hold in Serbia.
But Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic Friday warned that Kosovo independence would boost nationalist sentiment in Serbia and unleash instability and turbulence throughout the Balkans.
Ahtisaari's proposal will be presented to the U.N. Security Council later this month with a vote expected by June.
A six-nation contact group comprised of Russia, the United States, Italy, France, Germany and Britain has been guiding the Kosovo negotiations. The U.S. and European Union have endorsed the Ahtisaari plan, but the position of Russia is less clear with Moscow insisting that the status proposal must be acceptable to both Kosovo and Serbia.