"International troika" needed to tackle Kosovo's future: Steinmeier
Jul 23, 2007, 9:47 GMT
Brussels - An international troika, including the European Union, Russia and the United States, should take charge of discussions on the final status of Kosovo, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Monday.
With time running out on a decision on the future of the Serbian breakaway province, Steinmeier said he wanted discussions on Kosovo to be led by a small team rather than the six-nation Contract Group composed of the US, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Russia.
'I favour the concept of an international troika, made up of the US, Russia and EU, so with that we would have three international partners to negotiate with the Serbs and the Kosovars,' Steinmeier told reporters at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
He said that such a troika offered the 'best chance' to secure a so far elusive deal on Kosovo.
Steinmeier's proposal comes after Russia last week threatened to veto yet another draft UN Security Council resolution calling for supervised independence for Kosovo.
Others, also seeking to avert a Russian veto by putting preparations for the UN resolution on hold, have said discussions on Kosovo should be spearheaded by the Contact Group.
Steinmeier said there was also a suggestion that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should appoint a new envoy to replace Martti Ahtisaari to mediate between Serbs and Kosovars.
Steinmeier said he had discussed his troika proposal with Ban, Russian Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
'Now that we all have to presume there will not be a Security Council resolution, I feel it is important that we don't leave the ongoing process to its own devices,' Steinmeier insisted.
The German foreign minister said that stability in the Western Balkans was a key EU priority, adding, 'The international community needs therefore to maintain its joint responsibility towards the region.'
The talks would continue to focus on Ahtisaari's plan for supervised independence for Kosovo, he said.
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn backed Steinmeier's proposal, saying it was important that Serbs and Kosovars came back to the negotiating table.
'If they are not able to talk together about their future, then others will take the decisions,' Asselborn cautioned.
Moscow fiercely opposes any form of independence for Kosovo, arguing that this could set a precedent for other disputed territories.
Serbia has said such a move would be a breach of its national sovereignty but concedes it could give special autonomy to Kosovo.
However, Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku proposed Friday that the province unilaterally proclaim independence on November 28. The EU has warned repeatedly against such a move.
Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999, when a NATO air campaign drove out Serb forces after accusing them of committing atrocities against ethnic Albanians.
In April this year, Ahtisaari proposed independence under the supervision of the EU after 13 months of Serb-Albanian talks ended in deadlock.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur