Serbian negotiating team for Kosovo status talks formed

Serbia's government on Thursday announced its negotiating team for the talks on the final status of Kosovo, as special United Nations envoy in the talks, former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, arrived in the Serbian capital to discuss the Kosovo issue with Serbian leaders.

He is on the second leg of a tour of the Balkan capitals, having held talks with ethnic Albanian leaders in the Kosovan capital, Pristina on Tuesday.

After several weeks of political squabbling and an open rift between prime minister Vojislav Kostunica and president Boris Tadic, the government named a 13-man team, which will be co-chaired on an equal footing by Kostunica and Tadic, with the active participation of foreign minister Vuk Draskovic.

The so-called “operational” part of the team includes members of Tadic’s and Kostunica’s political parties, representatives of Serbia and Montenegro, and two Kosovo Serbs. The government also named Thomas Fleiner, a law professor at the Swiss University of Freiburg, as a permanent international adviser of the team.

Most Serbian political parties have reacted to the negotiating team line-up by saying it was “the best Serbia has to offer” at present.

Tadic says he has imposed himself as a member of the team, while Draskovic was imposed “by Western powers”.

At today’s meeting, Kostunica presented Ahtisaari a copy of the resolution which opposes any changes of the state borders in the Balkans, offering ethnic Albanians a large autonomy instead of independence. Ethnic Albanian leaders in Pristina handed Ahtisaari their own resolution on Tuesday, when he began final status talks with with them.

The resolution calls for the international community to respect Kosovo's Ethnic Albanian Muslim majority's wish for nothing less than independence. A total 1.7 million Kosovans are Ethnic Albanians, while just 100,000 Serbs remain in the province, which has been under UN control since 1999.

Kostunica told Ahtisaari he should also consult neighbouring Romania and Bulgaria, because they have made “constructive proposals” for the solution of the Kosovo problem. Romania, which has a 1.5 million Hungarian minority, opposes any change of state borders in the Balkans, fearing that Kosovo's independence set a bad precedent for Hungarians in Romania. Bulgaria is equally fearful it might generate unrest among the million Turks living in the southern part of the country.

Draskovic has warned Ahtisaari that granting independence to Kosovo will trigger “a chain of dramatic shake-ups in the Balkan region and throughout Europe and the world." Ahtisaari is scheduled to meet on Friday with Tadic and the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle, before leaving for the Montenegro capital of Podgorica. In the coming days, he will also hold talks with Albania's leaders in Tirana and with minority ethnic Albanians in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, AKI reports.


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