Bulgaria’s capital hosts Kosovo talks

 By Polina Slavcheva -Sofia Echo-

 solution to Kosovo’s status should come quickly and guarantee the EU prospects of the western Balkan region, participants in the Contact Group for Kosovo (CG) said.

The CG met in Sofia for two days, September 11-12, to discuss progress achieved so far. The meeting preceded a decisive report that UN envoy to Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari is to present to the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

As agreed by the CG in January 2006, the solution should come within this year.  Status talks, however, have been strained and achieved little, even in their latest ninth round in Vienna on September 7-8. However, the potential of these meetings had not been exhausted and they should continue, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin said in Sofia.

The Sofia meeting was not only an important gauge of progress, but also a chance to have Southeast European leaders, CG, delegations of the EU, NATO, OSCE discuss their positions. Representatives of Slovenia, Croatian, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and Greece were present.

Discussions were constructive, but neither the international community, nor the CG or Ahtisaari can promise a miracle solution that would satisfy all sides, said Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Lubomir Kuchukov.

Kalfin said that a solution to Kosovo should rest on the cornerstones of stable institutions; minority rights; and a guaranteed protection of the cultural and historical heritage. The latter is the only area that had Kosovar Albanian and Serbian ministers meet in direct talks on a high ministerial level. The first such meeting was hosted by Minister of Culture Stefan Danailov and is known as the Arbanassi process.

Asked about the potential of the Sofia meeting to turn into a political asset for Bulgaria, Kuchukov said he would not put things that way. What was important was to have the two sides talk and solve the status problem, he said. Bulgaria had helped boost the administrative capacity of Kosovo and aided the province’s economic development as well, he said.

When the United Nations Mission In Kosovo (UNMIK) mandate in Kosovo expires at the end of the year, Bulgaria will continue policing the province as part of the new EU mandate, he said. KFOR should, however, remain in the province after negotiations are over to control the implementation of the future Kosovo status, Kalfin said.

The co-ordinator of the Serbian negotiating team said that Serbia should continue negotiations despite difficulties.

After the policies of the 1990s, Serbia has less arguments that convince, but this does not mean that we would give up on our position, Serbian president Boris Tadic told Serbian media before he left for the US. On September 7, the two states signed an agreement on military co-operation.

“An independent Kosovo might turn out to be a precedent that would destabilise the Balkans,” he told US media.

Kosovar prime minister Agim Ceku is of the opposite opinion. An independent Kosovo will not be endanger anyone, including Macedonia, he said in Sofia. Kosovo’s policy toward Macedonia will be like that toward other neighbouring countries. That also means that the two should build a strategy to achieve their common EU aim, Ceku said.
“There will be no splitting of Macedonia. We will all be European states with European standards and a European perspective,” Ceku told Macedonian and Bulgarian media.

Ceku did not deny claims that certain circles in Kosovo wanted a greater Albania, but said that this view was not supported by the majority of Kosovar Albanians who saw no reason to look toward Tirana.

Along with a quick resolution of Kosovo’s status, while in Sofia Ceku also asked that Kosovo be given a place in the UN, Kosovar media said.

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