PRISTINA/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- Serbian Christians in Kosovo were anticipating more difficulties Saturday, March 10, after talks on the future of the volatile Serbian province ended without agreement between Serbia's government and Kosovo's independence-seeking ethnic Albanian leadership.
Speaking after negotiations in Vienna, UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari said the two sides failed to narrow their differences on the future of Kosovo province, which has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 when NATO ended a Serb military crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.
Under the UN-drafted proposal, the territory would become autonomous with its own flag and the right to join international organizations. The ethnic Albanian delegation has accepted the plan, although it falls short of demands for full independence from Serbia for the Albanian-majority province.
But Serbs rejected the proposal. Belgrade has made clear that Serbia cannot accept an independent Kosovo because it considers the province the cradle of Serbian culture and religion. The Serb Orthodox Bishop of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija, Artemije Radosavljevic, warned earlier that Christians would be wiped out of the region under a completely independent regime.
"Kosovo Albanians committed numerous crimes and were conducting terror on Kosovo Serbs," Artemije told Cybercast News Service recently. "The independence of Kosovo would be a sort of reward for the terrorists ... that would lead to the total disappearance of my people in that province."
Several churches, monasteries and other Orthodox sites were damaged in recent months and years by revenge seeking ethnic Albanians following the 1998 and 1999 conflict against Serb forces in which an estimated 10,000 people died, BosNewsLife monitored. About 200,000 Serbs fled and a tiny minority still lives between the predominantly ethnic Albanian population of up to two million people.
Ahtisaari expressed his disappointment that, after 14 months of talks, no agreement was reached on the future status of Kosovo between ethnic Albanians and Serbs. "With all these efforts, I had hoped, and very much preferred, that this process would lead to a negotiated agreement. But it has left me with no doubt that the parties' respective positions on Kosovo's status do not contain any common ground to achieve such an agreement," he added.
The envoy stressed he would present his draft plan for approval to the UN Security Council later this month. Serbia hopes veto-wielding Russia will stick to its long-held view that it will not accept a deal on Kosovo's status, unless both sides agree.
There are Western fears however that if Ahtisaari's proposal is not adopted by the U.N. Security Council, Kosovo's ethnic Albanians will declare independence from Serbia anyway, perhaps as early as this year.