EU, US: negotiated Kosovo solution impossible

( France24 ) - The UN Security Council failed to break the impasse over Kosovo Wednesday as Western envoys said further talks between the parties would be pointless and that the status quo in the breakaway Serbian province is "unsustainable."

Speaking on behalf of Western members of the council, Belgian Ambassador Johan Verbeke said presentations made by leaders of Serbia and Kosovo's Albanian majority confirmed that "their views remain irreconcilable."

The 15-member body met behind closed doors to hear Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu make their respective cases.

It was the council's first meeting since four months of talks between Belgrade and Kosovo's Albanian separatists ended in failure December 10 over the issue of sovereignty for the UN-ruled province.

"The presentations made by the parties confirmed that their views remain irreconcilable on the fundamental question of sovereignty," Verbeke said. "The status quo is unsustainable," he added.

Belgrade, backed by Moscow, says it is willing to offer Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority broad autonomy but not independence, as it views the province as its historic heartland.

Leaders of Kosovo's 1.8 million ethnic Albanians, however, insist they will make a unilateral declaration of independence in "coordination" with Washington and most European Union (EU) members within weeks, after 18 months of failed talks with Serbia.

"We will work with the European Union and NATO in a careful and coordinated manner toward a settlement for Kosovo," Verbeke said. "We underline our shared view that resolving the status of Kosovo constitutes a sui generis case that does not set any precedent."

He said Western members of the council plus Germany endorsed the view that "the potential for a negotiated solution is now exhausted" and believed that further negotiations "will not make a difference."

"Numerous other council members expressed the same view in today's debate," he added.

But his Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin, whose country is a veto-wielding permanent council member, begged to differ.

"We do believe that negotiations can continue and they can produce an outcome which would be acceptable for the two parties," he added.

Churkin floated a new initiative that would aim to work out a roadmap in support of the negotiation offers made by Belgrade and Kosovo leaders.

US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad warned that "the continuation of the status quo poses a threat not only to peace and stability in Kosovo but to the region and therefore to Europe."

"The United States, the Europeans, others are determined to move forward with the implementation" of UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan for internationally supervised independence "in order not to allow the situation to get out of control."

But Kostunica told reporters that any unilateral declaration of independence would be "null and void" and would be a violation of Security Council 1244, which governs the UN presence in Kosovo.

He said talks over Kosovo's future status "must continue," state television RTS reported later.

"These negotiations must continue since we are facing a dilemma, a dramatic and historically important one: whether the international law exists to be respected or to be breached," Kostunica said.

Sejdiu, while insisting that Kosovo would continue to seek better ties with Belgrade, defended its claim to independence.

"Our situation is not a case of ethnic secession, but rather a special case that must be seen in the context of Yugoslavia's collapse," he said. "The Ahtisaari plan provides a solid basis for us moving forward. We are prepared to commit fully to its implementation."

Last Friday, EU leaders deployed around 1,800 police and prosecutors to Kosovo in an action that had been planned under the UN proposal for "supervised independence."

EU leaders also offered Serbia "accelerated" entry to the European Union.

But Russia has insisted that the EU police mission would be illegal without UN approval, something disputed by Western ambassadors here.

Kosovo has been under UN stewardship since NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to end a crackdown on separatist ethnic-Albanians.

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