International Negotiations: Kosovo, Serbia, NATO

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Kosovo-Serbia Negotiations

There were numerous erstwhile grievances posted by the Albanian preponderance in the 1980s. For instance, one single most intriguing concern of this population was the quest to be granted the status of a republic. In addition, they petitioned for better living conditions which were notably pathetic during that time. On a similar note, the attitude of the Albanians towards the minority Kosovo Serbs was a hostile one and this threatened the Serbs in Kosovo. As an upshot, they appealed for the elimination of the unpopular Albanian leadership. The crisis was chiefly aggravated by Slobodan Milosevic who was the leader of the Communist Party of the Serbs. Under his leadership, he valuably capitalized on the situation. Instead of cooling down the flaring temper of the rioting Serbs, he instigated them more to demand for their rights and civil liberties. The senior officials serving in the communist party were reinstated by Milosevic and later before the close of 1989; a state of emergency was declared (Nardulli, Perry, Pirnie, et al 30). Heavy casualty was recorded due to massive deaths and afterwards, a new constitution was imposed on the province. This paper seeks to explore the historical development, current status and future prognosis of the Kosovo-Serbia peace talks as well as the relentless input by the international community to resolve the stalemate.

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As the minorities and perhaps marginalized group in Kosovo, the Serbs were not living freely and they afterwards opted to exit the region in huge numbers. As an alternative, they were encouraged by Milosevic to move to Kosovo as immigrants. Every endeavor was made to deface the history and culture of Albanians. One area that was negatively impacted was the university education which was inadequately funded, while the professors who were considered to be of a contrary opinion and supporting the separatist initiatives were relieved of their employment positions. This wave of cruelty was extended to the rest of Albanians. Moreover, those who were deployed in the police force were also fired by Belgrade (Weller, Metzger, Barbara & Danvers 98).

At the onset of 1990, a separatist regime was created by the Albanian Kosovars in order to counter the growing threat from the opposing camp. This group also established a constitutional document that was completely different and not reliable on Belgrade. In the wake of all these political developments, Rugova Ibrahim ascended to Presidency after being elected in the 1992 polls. This development also brought about the inception of a parliamentary structure. Unfortunately, the new parliamentary system was rather handicapped since it could not perform its functions openly owing to police fear. However, these initiatives were largely ignored by Belgrade at the time when it was heavily involved with Bosnia in incessant conflicts. Incidentally, the political tension was growing by the day owing to these events and as will be noted later, these political occurrences would be the landmark causes of abortive peace negotiations.

In order to settle down the disputed region, more than a few peace initiatives have been conducted in the past with little success. For instance, an air strike carried out by NATO launched in early 1999 was occasioned by a series of failed peace initiatives for a period of two years. In spite of the NATO offensive, a myriad of treaties and agreements have been made to resolve issues surrounding the region under dispute. To this end, Kosovo remains to be the subject of political upheaval and protracted war between the Albanian population and the Serbs. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 which was enacted before the close of 1999 attempted to reintroduce tranquility and political sanity in Kosovo. Consequently, the UN resolution that was enacted by the Security Council witnessed the withdrawal of Serbian forces from the disputed region while the UN administration was instituted to run the affairs of the province. This was taken as a transition measure before decision could be made whether Kosovo should be made an independent state or not.

A report written by a Norwegian diplomat in 2005 on behalf of the United Nations Security Council recommended that the long awaited independence status for Kosovo should commence. However, Kai Eide, who was the diplomat at that time, observed that both the warring parties needed to obtain thorough clarification on the posterity of Kosovo. A Presidential Statement was released by the UN council dealing with security in 2005. This acted as the approval status for Kosovo in the recommendations made by the Norwegian diplomat. Meanwhile, international negotiations started in earnest after the end of 2005 which aimed at concluding the political status of the disputed Kosovo province. In addition, the majority of the population in Kosovo by the start of 2006 was still seeking independence although the Kosovars Serbs had positioned themselves well and largely enjoying the sovereignty of the region.

At the start of 2006, the peace negotiation talks backed by UN Security Council began under the directive of Marti Ahtisaari. He was a Special Envoy to United Nations at this time. Both parties remained theatrically indifferent on the subject of independence in spite of the talks and negotiations which were going on.

One year later, the diplomat handed over the draft proposal of the UN Security Council resolution over Kosovo. From the content of the report, the region was granted the status of “supervised independency” (Baev 76). Nonetheless, other key players in the UN peace council such as United States, Russia and European Union interests and concerns had to be accommodated in the draft resolution report. This scenario complicated the earlier recommendations made, leading to the rewriting of the report four more times. Besides, the leadership of both Belgrade and Pristina had to be incorporated in the process of seeking a political solution for the province of Kosovo. For example, Russia, being a powerful UN member with veto power argued that unless the resolution was agreed upon by Belgrade and Kosovo, it would not support or endorse the proposals. Although granting Kosovo full independence was the major expectation of most observing parties especially at the initial stages of the negotiations. However, there were those who noted that a quick resolution to the political stalemate would not be a better option. As a matter of fact, the talks went into disarray after many weeks of deliberations on the draft document. The negotiations were discarded by the key players in the talks namely US and European members. A new and fresh session of negotiations was initiated in mid July 2007

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Position of the parties

Serbia

Belgrade has remained adamant over the possibility of granting Kosovo full independence. Instead, it argues that the province should only enjoy full autonomy. In this regard, Belgrade has maintained that granting Kosovo independence will not solve the political stalemate that has existed for ages. Instead, Kosovo should be allowed to govern itself by far and large. As a result, Kosovo should remain as part and parcel of Serbia and no international recognition of its independence should come to pass. Though complicated, a system whereby one country is run by two distinct systems has also been proposed by Serbia as a way of resolving the political quagmire. However, the politicians of the Albanian origin vehemently turned down this proposal. In addition, the territorial integrity of Serbia would be grossly interfered with should Kosovo be granted independence. This is one of the arguments presented by Serbia even as it defends its proposal of rejecting the imminent independence of Kosovo. If the latter attains independence, it will equally violate the provisions of international law as contained in the UN Charter. This position has also been taken seriously by the Vojislav Kostunica, the Prime Minster of Serbia.

Kosovo Albanians

The Albanians who stay in Kosovo have refused to stay put within the state of Serbia asserting that the repressive regime of Milosevic which reigned during the 90s is a bad political experience to them. Agim Ceku, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, argues that full independence status in Kosovo will assist in concealing the dark history of the Balkan state. Moreover, this will pave way for the creation of a new and politically rejuvenated state that will sustain peace and stability in the region.

Contact Group

Countries which belong to the Contact Group also acted independently towards resolving the political crisis in Kosovo towards the end of 2005. The group issued what they referred to as “guiding principles” that could be used to shed light on the stalemate. According to the group’s guiding principles, the borders of Kosovo were not to be altered in any way. In addition, everything possible was to be done not to reverse the political situation that prevailed prior to 1999. Besides, Kosovo was to keep off from any union with any other state whatsoever. These guidelines were to go along way with avoiding taking any unilateral decisions which would cause the eruption of violence (MSNBC par. 3). According to the Contact Group, any pertinent resolutions made on Kosovo should be approved by the United Nations Security Council.

At the beginning of 2006, the group further asserted that any resolution made on Kosovo should be unanimously accommodated by the people being affected. In particular, the interests and concerns of the minority groups in Kosovo were to be given due consideration to avoid discrimination of any kind (King 2-3).

In a presidential statement from Russia in September 2006, Vladimir Putin outlined that the intervention measures applied in Georgian regions which was practicing separatist policy should be used in the Kosovo scenario. Russia also voiced her concern that should any resolution on Kosovo violate the stated rights, it would not backup any United Nations Security Council proposals.

On-going talks

The past two decades have witnessed endless and fruitless negotiations between Albanians and Serbs. Owing to the unsuccessful nature of the myriad of negotiation held, most of the resolutions made have been emanating from outside forces such as NATO. Notwithstanding the external forces, many observers have noted that the current on-going talks may bear some fruits.

Each of the warring sides has had its own grievances in the conflict. For instance, the technical issues have been the main point of concern for the Serbs even before Kosovo declared its independence. On the other hand, the Albanians have been more interested at initiating talks on the status of Kosovo (Dedaić & Miskovic-lukovic 6). This divergent point of view has protracted the process, with no visible light at the end of the tunnel. From 2008 when Kosovo declared its sovereignty, roles have completely changed. The recently concluded ruling (July 2010) by the International Court if justice on the endorsement of Kosovo’s independence does not seem to reverse the existing political storm: Serbia is still adamant that status talks should be given precedence while Kosovo has stuck on its guns that technical issues are more significant that the status of Kosovo.

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Both the European Union and Serbia approved a joint resolution in September 2010. This took place at the United Nations General Assembly. Under the resolution adopted by the two parties, a call for unconditional talks in preference to status talks was proposed (Rezun 63). Genuine talks have now been initiated by these resolutions. Both the warring parties are now ready to deliberate on status rather than technical issues.

One of the most important technical issues under negotiation is the tentative role that will be played by Belgrade especially in regard to the type of services it can offer to Kosovo Serbs. Some of the much needed services include healthcare and education. Besides, the degree of autonomy that Kosovo can maintain is top on the current negotiation agenda. Similar to previous talks, the current talks may not be successful if certain conditions are not met. To begin with, there is need to set the primary scope of discussions. It is the role of the warring parties to assess their needs and set the right scope. Secondly, both Kosovo and Serbia should have a sneak preview of the likely outcome of the talks. Moreover, the participating parties should not maintain a hard-line stance; compromise is necessary if the negotiations are to progress with minimal hitch (Vickers 54). Finally, the talks should be sold as victory by both sides. The parties involved should perceive the talks as a win-win situation and not a matter of one single side is losing out. Indeed, the fact that no breakthrough has been realized in the Kosovo crisis implies that the only way to move out of these murky political waters is by fulfilling the aforementioned conditions. These benchmarks seem to be the only future of these negotiations.

There are quite a number of key players who are also very instrumental in ensuring a breakthrough is realized during the process of negotiations. One of these key players is Russia (Sejdiu 2-5). As observers have noted in the recent past, Russia may take advantage of the recognition of Kosovo as a campaign platform for its own ambitious plans in the Diaspora. Hence, there is need to involve Russia among other external and impartial players in order to achieve political breakthrough of the situation in Kosovo. a deal between Serbia and Kosovo can easily and smoothly be reached if and only if Russia and other key players are ready to do away with their rejection of Kosovo being a member of both the European Union and United Nations. However, this may not be walk in the park bearing in mind that Kosovo is not willing to be signaled by Serbia to be recognized by others. Another reason why Russia is a key player in the negotiation process is because it has the veto power in the UN Security Council. Hence, it can decide to reject some of the most sensitive and binding resolutions proposed by UN thereby throwing the entire process into disarray.

Although the new round of negotiations seems to be hopeful, there is more than meets the eye: timing of the talks is paramount if any meaningful end is to be reached. Most of the previous negotiations have failed on the basis of poor timing. For instance, initiating such bilateral talks when both parties are either not ready or have not set the scope of the negotiations is futile. A common ground should be established before parties can sit on a round table for deliberations. In the current scenario, it is imperative to ponder the question whether the European Union is ready, let alone Serbia and Kosovo alone.

The on-going conflicts

For a considerable period of time, Kosovo has not been able to run its affairs as an independent territory owing to continual and persistent interference from Serbia. The main claim by the Serbia is that it owns the region between Serbia and Ibar River since over 90 percent of its population resides there. Contrastingly, Kosovo’s fight for the northern territory is on the basis of protecting and conserving its territorial integrity (McGuigan 154-155). Hence, it is only through full integration of the north that Kosovo can achieve this ambition. Consequently, the north is legally locked into a freezing dispute since the United Nations Security Council may not be in a position to draw a fresh resolution. Moreover, the fact that the northern Serbian Kosovars are under the jurisdiction of Serbian authorities, Kosovo has no well defined territory or population that it can boast over.

Still under the ongoing conflicts, there are a myriad of technical issues that have not been resolved to date due to pending and previously unsuccessful negotiations. There is a huge communication problem in the disputed north. The persistent conflict in the north is the major drawback for Kosovo as far as government stability and outside relations are concerned.

Currently, Kosovo cannot establish an independent regime owing to telecommunications problems occasioned by the dispute. Kosovo cannot control its taxes in the north bearing in mind that that the Serbian operators do not incur any taxation when transmitting signals to the disputed north. To make matters worse, Kosovo’s independence has also been usurped by Serbia since it has an upper hand in controlling its foreign relations (Gower & Graham 103). A case example is when Kosovo was successfully restricted and blocked by Serbia from engaging in a multilateral trade agreement called CEFTA.

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Why the dispute has not been resolved

Natures abhors vacuum and Kosovo’s case is no different. When Kosovo’s president resigned in September 2010, it created a power vacuum that is being blamed for imminent delays in Serbia negotiations. This was not a planned political event and therefore could not have been factored or put into consideration prior to the Serbia talks (Pease 57-65). Moreover, the no-confidence vote against the government has equally slowed down the momentum with which the Serbian talks were to pick up. The two reasons have been cited by observers as the major current setbacks in seeking a lasting solution to the Kosovo crisis. In any case, Serbia had already agreed to enter its talks with the province of Kosovo before the two political events took centre stage. Although the vote of no-confidence was no better for the Kosovo government, the single most important reason for the delay of the talks was the resignation of President Fatmir Sejdiu, according to Hashim Taqi, the Prime Minister. Further, it may not be possible to elect another head of state in 2010 since it is the constitutional duty of parliament to elect the president in Kosovo.

As another third party involved in the negotiations, the European Union will have to delay its talks with Serbia due to first ever elections to be held in Kosovo since trh region declared its independence in 2008. The interim president has also reiterated that unless the new institutions crafted from the elections are fully put in place, the Belgrade dialogue should not commence (Bieber & Daskalovski 102).

Even as the leadership vacuum is troubling the conflict resolution process, Kosovo politicians have proved to be yet another stumbling block in the process. They have formed part of the on-going conflict arguing that they are not ready for dialogue at this juncture. They have emphasized that as far as the Pristina’s agenda is concerned, dialogue is not top of the priority list (Friedman 29).

Another source of hostility is the Serbian government itself. The turnout in the 2009 elections was poor due to the order from the Serbian government which instructed the Serbs from the north not to participate in the polls. Marko Papic, a political analyst within the intelligence community of United States once observed that the US and EU patience on Kosovo was running out.

On a different note though, a diplomat attached to the European Union law enforcement mission to the disputed north observed that his top priority would be to establish once more, the rule of law in the conflict torn region.

Conclusions

The disputed Kosovo region has been a watershed in the search for lasting international peace. Both the European Union and United States have been embroiled in a myriad of unsuccessful peace talks between Serbia and Kosovo even before the latter declared its independence in 2008 which was equally endorsed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In line with this, the road towards seeking a lasting solution to the Kosovo crisis has been bumpy, largely because of the hard-line stance taken by both the internal and external parties. For instance, while Serbia has been stressing the need of focusing on the status of Kosovo in the negotiations, Kosovo has quite often maintained that the technical issues such as healthcare and communication should be the scope of discussion in the talks. Further, Russia is a key external actor owing to the veto power it has in the UN Security Council as well as the underlying political interests it has far away from the Balkans. On the other hand, Belgrade has remained politically adamant over the possibility of granting Kosovo full independence. Instead, it argues that the province should only enjoy full autonomy. In this regard, Belgrade has maintained that granting Kosovo independence will not solve the political stalemate that has existed for ages. Instead, Kosovo should be allowed to “govern itself”. In the final analysis, Belgrade has argued that Kosovo should remain as part and parcel of Serbia and no international recognition of its independence should come to pass.

As part of the political impasse, countries which belong to the Contact Group also acted independently towards resolving the political crisis in Kosovo towards the end of 2005. The group issued what they referred to as “guiding principles” that could be used to shed light on the deadlock. According to the group’s guiding principles, the borders of Kosovo were not to be altered in any way.

Finally, it is imperative to note that Kosovo dispute will only be resolved if all actors opt for some level of compromise rather than hard-line stance in addition to setting the basic scope of negotiation before starting the negotiation process as well as proper timing of the talks.

Works Cited

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Bieber, Florian and Daskalovski, Denisa. “Kosovo: the politics of identity and space”, Oxon: Routledge, 2005.

Bieber, Florian and Daskalovski, Zidas. “Understanding the war in Kosovo”, London: Frank Cass Publishers, 2003.

Dedaić,N. Mirjana and Miskovic-lukovic, Mirjana. “South Slavic Discourse Particles”, PA: John Benjamin Publishing Company, 2010.

Friedman, George. “The Russo-Georgia War and the Balance of Power: The Russians seize an opportunity to flex their geopolitical muscle.” The American Legion, 2008.

Gower, Jackie and Graham, Timmins. “Introduction.” In Russia and Europe in the Twenty-First Century: an Uneasy Partnership, edited by Jackie Gower and Graham Gimmins. New York: Anthem Press, 2007.

King, Charles. “The Kosovo Precedent.” News Net 2008, 48(3): 1-3.

McGuigan, Mark. “NATO and Russia: Progress or Process.” In Russia and Europe in the Twenty-First Century: an Uneasy Partnership, edited by Jackie Gower and Graham Timmins. New York: Anthem Press. 2007:149-168.

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Nardulli, Bruce R., Perry, Walter L., Pirnie, Bruce., et al., Disjointed War: Military Operations in Kosovo, 1999; Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2002.

Pease, Kelly-Kate. “International Organizations: Perspectives on Governance in the Twenty-First Century”, Third Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson- Prentice Hall, 2008.

Rezun, Miron. Europe’s Nightmare: The Struggle for Kosovo; Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.

Sejdiu, Korab. The revival of a forgotten dispute: deciding Kosovo’s future. 2010.

Vickers, Miranda. Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo; New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

Weller, Marc; Metzger, Barbara and Danvers, Niall Johnson. “Settling self-determination disputes: complex power-sharing in theory and practice”, New York: Hotei Publishers, 2008. Web.

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