United Nations report urges independence for Kosovo

Posted in Europe , UN | 27-Mar-07 | Author: Julia Preston| Source: International Herald Tribune

United Nations envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari.

UNITED NATIONS: Martti Ahtisaari, the United Nations secretary general's envoy for Kosovo, on Monday officially recommended its independence, saying it was the only way the strife-worn Serbian province could become economically viable and politically stable.

In a 61-page report submitted to the Security Council, Ahtisaari said he had concluded that negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo had reached an insurmountable impasse. He recommended that Kosovo's independence be supervised for "an initial period" by the European Union with NATO forces and European police officers.

Ahtisaari's proposals gave new momentum to Kosovo's drive for independence, United Nations diplomats said. But Serbian officials quickly rejected the plan, setting the stage for wrangling in the Security Council between the United States, which embraced the independence proposals, and Russia, another veto-bearing Council member that reaffirmed its support for Serbia.

During thirteen months of negotiations, Ahtisaari wrote, "both parties have reaffirmed their categorical, diametrically opposed positions," and any possibility for an agreement had been "exhausted." After Belgrade unleashed a campaign of attacks against Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, who make up more than 90 percent of the population, NATO forces intervened with aerial bombing in 1999 to stop the Serb offensive. Since then, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations.

Ahtisaari said Kosovo would not accept a return of Serbian rule. "This is a reality one cannot deny; it is irreversible," he wrote.

The envoy's proposal calls for Kosovo to become a democratic, "multiethnic society." He called for a decentralized government in which Kosovar Serbs would have "a high degree of control" over their affairs.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said in an interview that the United States was preparing for tough negotiations with Moscow. Washington will stress that Kosovo is a "unique case" that has long been under United Nations governance, American officials said, and its independence would not set any precedents for restive provinces in other countries, including Russia.