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Blueprint sees Kosovo as ward of EU

January 26, 2007

By Guy Dinmore in Washington and Mark Turner at the United Nations
Published: January 26 2007

The special UN envoy charged with negotiating the future status of the Serbian province of Kosovo plans to submit his compromise recommendations on Friday, with Nato peacekeepers braced for a backlash from ethnic Albanians demanding full independence.

Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, has already disclosed that his proposal “foresees strong international civilian and military presences within a broader future international engagement in Kosovo”.

In effect, Kosovo would be given the attributes of independence but remain under the wing of the international community, diplomats said. Neither “independence” nor Serbia’s continued sovereignty are expected to be mentioned. Ultimate authority will be transferred to a special representative of the European Union from the United Nations, which has administered the province since Nato intervened in 1999 to stop Serbia’s campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Mr Ahtisaari will also set out provisions for the protection of minority rights, in particular for the Serbs living mostly in small enclaves.

After submitting his report to the six-nation Contact Group in Vienna on Friday, the UN envoy, who was appointed in November 2005, will take the report to Belgrade and Pristina on February 2. Neither side is expected to embrace the plan, but both are under intense pressure not to reject it outright.

The formula of supervised independence is similar to the status given to Bosnia in 1995, except that the concept of sovereignty in Kosovo’s case will remain vague.

Analysts said the Bush administration did not appear to have the political will to take on Russia over the issue, perhaps because of other priorities needing Moscow’s acquiescence, namely Iran, North Korea and energy security.

“I think there are all sorts of possibilities which can be there, if the parties get into creative discussions,” Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s envoy to the UN, told the FT, indicating Moscow’s willingness to continue along this tack.

Russia has previously said it would block an effort at the UN Security Council to recognise Kosovo as a breakaway sovereign state against the will of Belgrade.

A senior US official said Mr Ahtisaari would propose “a very generous package” to protect the Serb minority and the ancient Orthodox churches that remain a powerful symbol of Serbia’s national identity.

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