A United Nations proposal for the future status of the Albanian-majority Serbian province of Kosovo, which the world body has run Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting, will not be presented until after Serbia’s parliamentary elections on 21 January.
Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Kosovo’s future status process Martti Ahtisaari had originally been expected to present his proposal to the parties soon, but he announced the new date today after consulting with the so-called Contact Group – the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Russia – who have been helping to seek a solution for the province where outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1.
Independence and autonomy are among the options but Serbia rejects independence.
“There are many compelling reasons to come to clarity on Kosovo’s status as soon as possible,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Joachim Rücker said of Mr. Ahtisaari’s decision. “Therefore I look forward to the presentation of the status proposal.
“I will continue to work closely with the Contact Group, the Special Envoy and the parties on preparing Kosovo for final status and on ensuring a smooth transition to the future authorities as well as to the future international presence,” he added.
Since his appointment a year ago, Mr. Ahtisaari has been holding talks with Kosovo and Serbian delegations in Vienna but these have not progressed beyond technical issues such as the decentralization of municipalities, dashing his hopes that the process would be completed by the end of this year. A major issue is providing sufficient security to encourage Serb refugees to return.
In his latest report in September Mr. Annan said he was disappointed that little common ground had emerged between the Serbian and Kosovar delegations in the discussions, noting that they remain “committed to ‘substantial autonomy’ and ‘full independence’ respectively, with minimal space for negotiation.”
In early 1999, the province was the scene of atrocities and the forceful displacement of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians. After a three-month intervention by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), culminating in the arrival of troops, most of the Albanian population returned to their homes within days.
But only some 15,600 returns of ethnic Serbs, Roma have been registered out of the estimated 250,000 who fled after the withdrawal of Serbian forces in 1999.