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PRESS CONFERENCE ON KOSOVO STATUS PROPOSAL

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

8 February 2007

The aim of the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement was to lay the foundation for a future Kosovo where members of all communities –- Albanians, Serbs and other communities -– could live a dignified, safe and economically sustainable life, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the status process, Marti Ahtisaari, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this morning.

He said the Proposal, which he presented to the parties in Belgrade and Pristina last Friday, laid out specific provisions for the protection of Kosovo’s non-Albanian communities, including their guaranteed representation in the Kosovo Assembly, the Government and Judiciary. A number of new Kosovo Serb majority municipalities would be established with additional competences, in particular in the areas of education and public health. More than 40 key religious and cultural sites would have Protection Zones to ensure that the Serbian Orthodox Church would remain a living religious community.

“Everyone in Kosovo agrees that the dire economic situation needs most urgent attention”, he continued. The Settlement outlined provisions designed to promote sustainable economic development, including Kosovo’s ability to apply for membership in international financial institutions or international institutions in general.

Stressing the importance of the consultation phase, he said he was prepared to consider “constructive” amendments to the Proposal and integrate compromise solutions that the parties might reach. Noting his intention to invite the parties for further consultations, he said both parties would once again be given the opportunity to make their points. He would then finalize the Proposal for submission to the Security Council, hopefully before the end of March. At that stage, he would elaborate on the status issue.

Describing his activities in New York and next week in Europe, he said he was visiting New York to brief the Secretary-General and senior United Nations officials on the process and discuss the way forward. He had also held meetings with Security Council members and would see European Union Member States and representatives from the region. On the way back to Vienna, he would stop in Brussels to brief European Union foreign ministers on Monday.

The European Union was an active partner in the process, he added. Generally speaking, if the European Union was united, it could play an effective and constructive role in world politics, as he had learned first-hand during the Aceh peace process. He hoped to experience that again with Kosovo.

Recognizing the need for continuing international involvement in Kosovo, the Settlement proposed the establishment of an International Civilian Representative to supervise the Settlement’s implementation. The Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) would continue to provide a safe and secure environment by supporting Kosovo institutions for as long as necessary.

The package represented a compromise proposal after year-long negotiations, he said. He and his colleagues had held 15 rounds of direct talks between the Belgrade and Pristina negotiating teams last year. Experts had visited Belgrade and Pristina some 26 times to talk separately to the parties on various issues. The last meeting had taken place on 10 December 2006 in Belgrade and 11 December 2006 in Pristina. He had also consulted with key international partners, in particular the Contact Group, the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). They had been involved in every step taken and had been supportive throughout the process.

Asked whether there was a deadline or timeframe for submitting the plan to the Security Council, Mr. Ahtisaari noted that, when he had presented the draft proposal to Belgrade and Pristina last Friday, he had given them his timeframe. He had offered to use this week for the purpose of sending his colleagues to Belgrade and Pristina to clarify the contents of the 58-page document. Pristina had used that offer and his colleagues had already been there. He had also indicated that he would like to have the parties in Vienna on 13 February.

He noted that he had been hearing through the press that Belgrade might need a little more time to go through the process in Serbia, and that the Parliament would have to appoint a new negotiating team after the elections. He had not been contacted yet, but expected that to happen today or tomorrow. He would then decide how to adjust the timetable. No one was asking, however, for a long delay. His idea was to finalize the document and submit it to the Council before the end of March.

Asked if “constructive amendments” included the possibility of major changes to the plan, he said it depended on what one meant by major changes. It had been a painstaking, year-long exercise. The position he was proposing was fair. It also depended on the parties. He could not incorporate something that one party loved and another hated. While he would have to make his judgement in the end, he was open to changes. That was the important thing.

Was the European Union really united behind the plan and how did he expect the Union to state its view? a correspondent asked.

Responding, he said he believed the European Union was united. The Union recognized that, if it was not united, it would be unable to play a role in world affairs. He was very pleased to work with the German Presidency of the Union and hoped to resolve the issue during its Presidency.

Asked if he had spoken to the Russian Federation, he noted that the Russian Federation was part of the Contact Group. Without the Contact Group’s support, he did not know whether he would have accepted the assignment. They had worked very closely throughout the process. It was important that the Contact Group, including the Russian Federation, had, in a statement last Friday, urged the parties to engage constructively. They had sent a message to both Belgrade and Pristina. That was a good sign. He would not speculate, however, on when the matter would go to the Council. The end-game would really start then.

Did he share the concern that de facto independence for Kosovo could instigate separatist movements, especially on the territory of the former Soviet Union? a correspondent asked.

Replying, he said he did not think that the separatists, wherever they existed, needed Kosovo for their ambitions. They seemed to be very capable of putting their viewpoints together. Every situation was a special case, including that of Kosovo, which had its own history. Understanding his proposal or finding a solution to the problem of Kosovo would not be possible without looking at what had happened since 1989. He would argue, moreover, that a decision on Kosovo’s status in the Council would not form a precedent. In the Council, solving the situation in any problem area required the agreement of the five Permanent Members. Each party would need to be convinced. Solving issues outside of the Council was a different ballgame.

Given the concerns expressed by the Serbian minority, how did he hope to be able to adjust his proposal to gain their support? a correspondent asked.

Responding, he said it was most unfortunate that, when he had made himself available in Pristina last Friday, Kosovo Serb representatives from the north, centre and south had declined to see him. He had also offered to meet with the Serb Orthodox Church. Only one group had come to see him. An executive summary and fact sheets on the different issues had also been made available on his Office’s website in English, Serbian and Albanian. It seemed that people had reacted to the Proposal without even reading it. Two thirds of the Proposal dealt with Kosovo Serbs and their protection. He had always said that no one needed to leave Kosovo because of the Proposal. If they decided to leave, it would be for other reasons.

Asked if he expected more pragmatism on the part of Belgrade, he said he would not speculate on how the parties would behave in the talks. Many meetings had already been held. “I have an open mind,” he said. “If they can come up with constructive ideas -- good and well.” He did not want to start analyzing either side’s psychological inclination towards the negotiating process. He sometimes found people trying to look at the situation, like others, as if it had no history. No one could escape history.

Regarding the Albanians, he said he expected them to come. They had already said that they wanted to meet with his colleagues. They were going through the document and asking questions. He did not expect anything other than their using the chance to look at the plan once again before he finalized it.

Was it a realistic projection that the issue could be resolved during Germany’s Presidency of the European Union? a correspondent asked. Responding, he said he hoped it would be solved much earlier. He had said that he wanted to come to the Council with his final proposal before the end of March. It would then be up to the Council.

Asked what Kosovo might look like in five years, he said the whole idea was to decide on Kosovo’s status on the basis of his proposal to the Council. Under any circumstance, there would be a European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and NATO presence to assist the Government and supervise the package’s implementation, provided it was accepted by the Council. He would not speculate on how it would go. He was, however, looking forward to a resolution to the issue.

Clarifying a comment he had made in an interview with the Guardian, he said he had had to make a decision in November 2006 not to present the plan before the end of the year. The Contact Group had supported him in that. Together, they had concluded that the plan should not be the number one item in the election discussion. The Contact Group had agreed to meet on 26 January in Vienna. The process had, therefore, been delayed. While Pristina had not liked the delay, it had accepted it. It had been expected that the international community would get its act together during the first quarter of the year.

There had also been agreement with the Contact Group that the parties would be engaged again in a final attempt to see if anything new could be put into the plan, he added. There was a strong expectation that he would go to the Council with his plan in March. The United Nations had been in Kosovo for some eight years. It had been more his expression of concern about the costs of delays to all.

Responding to a question on his meeting with the Secretary-General, he said they had basically discussed where the process stood and how to move forward. It was also important to note that there had been supporting statements from the European Union, the Contact Group, NATO and individual Governments. He was not planning to ask the Secretary-General for more assistance than he had already shown. The Secretary-General had fully supported his work. He had always enjoyed good support from the Secretary-General.

Responding to questions on Kosovo’s future status, he asked correspondents to have patience and bear with him. When he put his final plan forward, he would make a very clear statement on Kosovo’s status.

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For information media • not an official record



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