Kosovo vows to move to independence by year-end
( Reuters ) - Kosovo sees no way forward in talks with Serbia and will move towards independence by the end of the year, the prime minister of the breakaway province said after another inconclusive round of negotiations in Vienna.
Mediators from the United States, Russia and the European Union have until December 10 to try to bridge the chasm between Serbia's offer of autonomy for Kosovo and the 90-percent Albanian majority's demand for independence.
"We are really looking for a way forward, but after this meeting we must conclude that we haven't found it," Agim Ceku told Austrian daily Der Standard for its Tuesday edition.
"All Serbia is talking about is the past," he said.
On the table are 14 principles of common ground drafted by the envoys to "open a path to a solution" before they report back to the United Nations.
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said on Monday that the proposals "as they were first presented, mean practically a relationship between two independent states."
"That, for Serbia, is completely unacceptable," he told a news conference.
Serbia instead proposed Hong Kong as a possible model to resolve the question of Kosovo's status, an idea the Kosovo Albanian delegation dismissed as "totally inappropriate."
Kostunica's spokesman said later that Belgrade was prepared to continue discussing the 14 points. The next meeting is due on November 20 in Brussels.
Russian envoy Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko admitted on Monday that chances of a deal were "very slim." Kosovo Albanians say they will declare independence without a new U.N. resolution, and seek recognition from their Western backers.
Ceku said Kosovo wanted "a sustainable solution, very soon after December 10 ... but we want it peacefully and in partnership with the international community."
"Our goal is independence in coordination with our allies by the end of the year," he told Der Standard. "I told the Serbs today: 'Let's agree to disagree about status'."
Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombed for 11 weeks to drive out Serb forces and halt the killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanian civilians in a two-year counter-insurgency war.
Serb ally Russia has blocked the adoption at the United Nations of a Western plan for independence under EU supervision, forcing the latest bid for compromise that began in August.
Diplomats say Western powers are working on a way around current U.N. Resolution 1244, to allow the EU to deploy a 1,800-strong police mission and for individual countries - led by the U.S., Britain and France - to recognize the new state.