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Kosovo: Internationally Mediated Talks End Without A Deal

International mediators in talks between Kosovo and Serbia have concluded that no agreement can be reached on Kosovo's final status ahead of a UN deadline on December 10. The troika of the European Union, United States, and Russia spent four months trying to broker a deal. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority has been pushing for independence, something Belgrade rejects. Moscow has urged for talks to continue between the parties.

EU, U.S., and Russian mediators reported to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday (December 7) that the international negotiations "served a useful purpose."

The report says the talks led to "the most sustained and intense high-level direct dialogue since hostilities ended in Kosovo in 1999."

But the troika also concludes that they could not bridge the gap between Kosovo's Albanian leadership, which refused to give up on its demand for independence, and the Serbian government, which offered a high degree of autonomy to Kosovo but insisted that the province remain part of Serbia.

A "Worthwhile" Exercise

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin described the 120 days of negotiations as a "worthwhile" exercise. "Of course, one cannot claim that their effort culminated in a complete success, because there was no definitive outcome which we were hoping for. But we certainly believe that it was a very worthwhile exercise and that it was an exercise that produced some serious results," he said.

In light of that, Churkin said Moscow will be calling for negotiations to continue beyond December 10.

Bosnia's Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik agreed, saying "any kind of unilateral action will not contribute to additional stability and that's why we oppose such acts. We advocate an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo under the United Nations auspices."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, made clear that Washington would not support more negotiations, saying "It is not going to produce stability in the Balkans to ignore the reality of the situation."

Kosovo's drive for independence has the backing of the United States and several EU nations.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Kosovo's independence would set a precedent for the rest of the world. "Certainly the way the Kosovo crisis is resolved will set a precedent, and that is not because we say it will, and not because our partners, for example, say it will not. It is not up to them or us to decide. A precedent will be set only because it will take place," he said.

Earlier this year, Russia blocked the UN Security Council's approval of a plan drawn up by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari that proposed internationally supervised statehood.

Pledges Of Continued Security

Meanwhile NATO pledged to keep its 16,000 peacekeepers in the Serbian province to deter any clashes, with the organizations' Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer saying: "NATO's continued commitment to the security and stability of the region remains crucial. And we will act resolutely against anyone who seeks to resort to violence. Regardless of the outcome of the status process, Kosovo will remain and has to remain a place where Kosovar Albanians, Serbs, and others must be able to leave in peace together, free from fear and from intimidation."

The Serbian province of Kosovo has been administered by the UN for the last eight years.

Belgrade's security forces were driven out of Kosovo by a NATO bombing campaign in 1999, launched to stop a violent Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanians.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the Kosovo report on December 19.

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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