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United States Welcomes U.N. Envoy's Proposal for Kosovo

02 February 2007

State's McCormack says province's status now entering "concluding phase"

Washington -- The proposal by U.N. Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari recommending that Kosovo govern itself democratically and be allowed to make international agreements is “fair and balanced,” according to the Bush administration.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a February 2 statement that the settlement proposal, released earlier in the day, is “a blueprint for a stable, prosperous and multi-ethnic Kosovo.”

“The Settlement Proposal's broad provisions to protect the rights of all citizens will help advance Kosovo's democratic development,” he said.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Ahtisaari's proposal "offers the prospect of a better, more secure future for the entire region, including through integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures."

"NATO will continue to play its full part in providing a safe and secure environment in Kosovo, through and beyond a status decision," he said, adding that the NATO-led international security force in Kosovo, KFOR, "will respond firmly to any attempts to use violence to disrupt the political process.

Kosovo, a province of Serbia, has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, when U.S. and NATO-led military forces fought and expelled Yugoslav Serb troops and police following human rights abuses against the province’s majority ethnic Albanian population.

As many as half of Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs are believed to have fled since the fighting, and NATO forces continue to protect the minority Serb communities and religious sites. Serbs maintain that Kosovo is central to their cultural heritage because of its historic sites and shrines.

Ahtisaari, who was formerly the president of Finland, told reporters in Belgrade, Serbia, that his plan is "a compromise proposal" balancing the aspirations of ethnic Albanian for Kosovo’s independence and Serbia's desire to keep the province as part of its territory.

"I'm willing to integrate compromise solutions that parties might reach, and I will then finalize my settlement proposal for submission to the U.N. Security Council," Ahtisaari said, after presenting a copy of his proposal to Serbian President Boris Tadic.

McCormack thanked Ahtisaari for his work, which involved over a year of negotiations, and said the process of determining Kosovo’s status “is now entering its concluding phase.”

He called on the leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, the seat of government for Kosovo, to “engage constructively” with Ahtisaari in the coming consultations intended to finalize the settlement and encouraged the U.N. envoy to complete his work “so that Kosovo and the region can finally have clarity about the future.”

“Our goal remains an outcome that advances regional stability, promotes multi-ethnicity and is acceptable to the people of Kosovo,” McCormack said.

In subsequent remarks to the press, the spokesman acknowledged early criticism of the proposal by Serb leaders, saying “Nobody expects that this will be a smooth pathway.”

He said the United States is asking Serbs and the Kosovars to work on a solution with Ahtisaari and the Contact Group, consisting of France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, which has coordinated international action in the Balkans since 1994.

McCormack added that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will become involved personally in the process when needed.

The full text of a U.N. press release on Ahtisaari's proposal is available on the organization's Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Southeast Europe.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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