Invited for an “extended round of talks” by a Troika of mediators from the EU, Russia and the US, the two sides are set to meet in the Austrian spa town of Baden until Tuesday night.
After these talks, the Troika will start preparing its report, which will be delivered to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon on December 10, when the mediators’ mandate officially ends. “The Troika is offering here one further opportunity to seek an agreement and a negotiated settlement. I hope that both sides will seize this opportunity”, the Troika’s EU member, Wolfgang Ischinger, said.
The Belgrade and Pristina delegations arrived for the talks with their approaches seemingly as far apart as ever.
Kosovo’s President Fatmir Sejdiu said before the the face-to-face meeting that agreement with the Serbian side was not possible.
“We are pursuing our mandate for independence while the Serbian side is continuing to try to keep Kosovo, even through violent means”, said Sejdiu.
“Very soon we will make a decision in parliament, in coordination with our international partners, notably the US and the European Union”, he added, referring to plans by the Kosovo Assembly to declare independence after the completion of the current diplomatic process on December 10.
Hashim Thaci, a member of the Kosovo negotiating team and Kosovo’s likely next prime minister, said that Kosovar Albanians had no intention of giving up their insistence on independence.
“I don’t expect agreement with the Serbian side concerning independence, but I hope we will find agreement for neighbourly cooperation in the future”, Thaci said.
Serbia’s Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said on his arrival: “Serbia is a free, democratic and internationally-recognized state, therefore we won’t allow an inch [of our territory] to be taken away”.
Serbia's President Boris Tadic sounded a more conciliatory note, telling reporters that the Belgrade delegation had come to Baden in search of "a mutually acceptable solution."
"The ball is in the Kosovo Albanians’ court,“ Tadic said.
The Serbian president added that Serbia's negotiating team "would work constructively and defend Serbia’s legitimate rights until the very end of the negotiating process."
Asked whether Kosovo’s independence would be acceptable for the government in Belgrade, Tadic said that the Serbian delegation firmly remains "against independence" and "against the undermining of our sovereignty over Kosovo."
Not even the mediators are optimistic that an agreement can be reached between Belgrade and Pristina.
However, Serbia is insisting that the talks should continue beyond the December 10 deadline if no settlement is reached by then.
Ischinger said that it was not up to him to decide whether this should happen.
When asked if he saw any signs that would justify a possible continuation of the talks, he replied tersely: “My answer is no”.
|< Prev||Next >|