5 March 2013, 13:10

US won't break the Serbia-Kosovo deadlock - expert

US won't break the Serbia-Kosovo deadlock - expert
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Shpend Kursani, Senior Researcher at the Kosovo Institute for Policy Research and Development, comments on Kosovo's appeal to the United States to advocate its cause in negotiations with Serbia.

Kosovo turned to the United States to ask for assistance because Kosovo’s Prime Minister has noticed in his last meeting with Prime Minister of Serbia Mr. Dacic that the EU as the only facilitator of this dialogue is basically not able to help Kosovo maintain its position, defend its constitution as an independent state and that is because not all the EU member states recognize Kosovo. So, the Prime Minister of Kosovo has found himself in a difficult position because he is negotiating with Serbia, which has not recognized Kosovo and the EU, which remains divided on the stance of Kosovo. So, the Prime Minister of Kosovo believes that the United States as a true supporter of Kosovo and its independence can help Oslo defend its position in these negotiations, which will happen on the 4th of March.

But is the United States ready to mediate the negotiations?

No, the United States will not mediate these negotiations and this is mainly because the United States is basically shifting its focus away from the Balkans and it is clear that the United States is leaving the problems in the Balkans on the EU stance. So, the United States will basically play a backseater role and will leave basically the EU to decide in the end what will happen. So, I don’t believe the United States will jump into these negotiations as mediators. It will actually support Kosovo verbally but I don’t believe that the United States will play a main role in defending Kosovo’s position in this case.

But what are the main sticking points in the negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia?

The most important thing basically, which the prime ministers are discussing, is the northern part of Kosovo, which remains out of Kosovo sovereignty, basically the northern part of Kosovo is under Serbia’s control and NATO-led Kosovo Force KFOR mainly. So, basically while Kosovo retains as almost full sovereignty throughout its territory, the northern part of Kosovo remains mostly under Serbia’s sovereignty with very minimal presence of Kosovo police. So, basically the both prime ministers are going to discuss on what to do with Northern Kosovo, Serbian side wants to maintain as much sovereignty as possible over Northern Kosovo, which is populated with majority of Serbs, around 30,000 Serbs live in that part of the territory, and Kosovo of course wants to maintain its position to defend its territorial integrated sovereignty and get its northern part under its full control and sovereignty. So, this is the biggest part, which the both parts are going to discuss – it is all about Northern Kosovo.

But are there any potentially compromised decisions? Is there any room for a compromised solution on this issue?

There is actually a compromise, there is a room to compromise and this is where the EU tries to play its main role to attract both parties into its integration process, there is a carrot the EU is providing both parties and the parties seem to be willing to compromise. However, the problem is that both prime ministers are not going to focus on the issue. What the prime ministers will do in the next meeting is basically talk to Miss Ashton, the Head of CFSP of the EU who is mediating the meeting basically. Both Prime Ministers are going to ask her to write a statement, which supports both sides, but in the end whatever the prime minister will agree, the chance that the agreement will be implemented is dim because simply there is no will and the EU doesn’t have the capacities to guarantee the implementation of the agreement because EU doesn’t see Kosovo as a party, as a state in these negotiations because of the division it has inside. So, both parties are going to try to look nice for their own domestic political agendas and they are going to ask Miss Ashton to just write a nice statement that will make both prime ministers look good and the reason is because the parties do not sign any agreements, whatever the agreements will be reached, will be communicated through Miss Ashton’s statements and that is what will be considered in the agreement. Miss Ashton has been very successful in issuing very generalized and ambiguous statements that no one knows basically what they are.

Sir, do I get you right, just in a nutshell, that you believe that the deadlock is bound to continue in the foreseeable future?

Yes, basically the parties will agree on some issues and the deadlock will definitely continue, and the problems in the northern part of Kosovo will continue regardless of the agreements that the parties will reach on the 4th of March, and the main reason is because the population in the northern part of Kosovo seem to be very static and unwilling to move forward to integrate just like the other Serbs did in Kosovo institutions and more the dialogue has moved closer to the issue of solving Northern Kosovo, the tenser the situation got in the Northern Kosovo. Basically we hear here bombs being thrown every day as much as Prime Minister talks about Northern Kosovo, and these attacks and use of force basically are both interethnic and mono-ethnic. Some Serbs who refuse to integrate in Kosovo’s institutions throw bombs in the apartments of those other Serbs that work for Kosovo institutions. They also throw bombs to other Albanians living in the area. So, basically the situation gets tenser the more the prime ministers discuss about this region.

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