France proposes delay on Kosovo status

Kosovo’s prime minister urged the West on Friday not to betray the trust of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority on a U.N. plan for independence, after the French president suggested a six-month delay on a decision.

The U.S. and key European nations back supervised independence for the Serbian province, but Russia, Serbia’s traditional ally, objects.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at the Group of Eight summit in Germany on Thursday that he suggested to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that Belgrade and Pristina be given six months to work out a deal; if there is no agreement, then the U.N. plan would be applied. A Putin spokesman said only that there was “some movement” on the matter.

Agim Ceku told The Associated Press on Friday that he was waiting for the details of what was agreed at the summit in Germany and that he still hoped that Russia and the other countries could agree “a practical and realistic deal on Kosovo quickly.”

“But, I want to say this to the international community: we have trusted you to bring clarity to Kosovo. We have committed to the U.N. path and we have been very patient,” Ceku told AP. “I urge you, do not betray this trust.”

Ceku said that every day of delay increased frustration in Kosovo and was hurting the province’s communities.

“We cannot wait forever,” Ceku said. “Give us clarity, give us freedom and let us go.”

The United States and key European countries at the U.N. Security Council have endorsed a plan that would grant Kosovo independence. However, Russia, with veto power at the council, has opposed the province’s secession and warned it could use its vote to block the resolution on Kosovo.

The top U.S. diplomat in Kosovo, Tina Kaidanow, said G-8 leaders “did not reach any agreement on Sarkozy’s proposal or another way forward for Kosovo” and appealed for patience.

She said the U.S. and its European Union partners would continue high-level discussions with Russia and other Security Council members about the need for the Security Council to make a decision soon.

“We believe the best way forward is the adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution based on (U.N. plan’s) recommendations,” Kaidanow said in a statement. “Intense diplomacy of this kind often takes time. All parties should remain patient.”

Talks between ethnic Albanians and Serbia ended in March after the two sides failed to agree on the disputed future of the province. Since then, the U.N. envoy in charge of the talks has recommended Kosovo be granted internationally supervised independence and his plan has introduced a set of measures to give Serbs living in Kosovo broader rights.

But the West has so far failed to convince Russia to favor a Kosovo split from Serbia and the contest has further strained relations.

Washington officials had committed previously to a vote in May. European Union leaders have warned against delay, concerned that with ethjnic Albanians growing impatient, the province would be engulfed in renewed violence.

The Serb minority, concentrated in the province’s north, has threatened to split the areas it dominates from the rest of Kosovo if the province gains independence.

While Kosovo remains a province of Serbia, it has been under U.N. and NATO administration since a 78-day NATO-led air war that halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.

Russia is concerned that having the U.N. Security Council grant independence to a province of a sovereign country would set a dangerous precedent. The Americans and Europeans insist Kosovo is a special case because of Yugoslavia’s violent break-up and the massive violence and repression in Kosovo before and during 1999.

Kosovo Albanians have indicated they will declare independence if the resolution is vetoed.

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