Boris Tadic: Serbia preparing new offer on Kosovo future
Boris Tadic told The Associated Press that in the next few days, Serbia will put forth a proposal offering Kosovo "something between autonomy and independence." Details of the plan will be presented to the six-nation Contact Group overseeing negotiations on Kosovo's future status, he said.
"I think we can achieve some very, very creative solution on Kosovo," Tadic said. He said Serbia wants to inject "new dynamics" into the talks on Kosovo's future but reiterated Serbia's long-held stance that the province must not have full independence.
Kosovo remains officially a province of Serbia, although it is a de-facto U.N. protectorate since the end of the 1998-99 war between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serb forces. Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians insist on full independence.
Tadic spoke shortly after he attended a ceremony to raise Serbia's flag outside U.N. headquarters, after Serbia become a sovereign state following Montenegro's decision to quit their union last week. Since the alliance broke up upon Montenegro's initiative, Serbia automatically inherited the seat in the U.N., while the smaller republic needs to apply as a new member.
Tadic warned that giving Kosovo independence could destabilize the entire Balkan region and lead other ethnic groups to break away as well. As a result, he said the international community needs to slow down and resist trying to settle the Kosovo question right now. "This is why I am asking for ... new patience, new strategy and new approach on Kosovo," he said. "To simply find a solution is from time to time very useful, but that can be very dangerous."
The talks between Kosovo's ethnic Albanians and Serb officials have been going on in Vienna for several weeks. Officials have reported little progress so far. U.N. mediators hope to push the sides to an agreement on Kosovo's final status, including whether it becomes independent or remains at least partly under Belgrade's control, by the end of the year.
Tadic urged Kosovo to be more flexible on the issue. "First of all, independence is not a precondition for development of Kosovo," he said. "Secondly, I have to say you cannot eat independence. For example, you have to solve economic problems and the problems with organized crime in Kosovo." Tadic also said Serbia is doing everything it can to find war crimes suspect Gen. Ratko Mladic, who is believed to be in Serbia and getting help from hard-liners in the military.
A U.N. tribunal has charged Mladic with genocide in the 1995 slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslims in eastern Bosnia and a three-year siege of Sarajevo by Bosnian Serb troops during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. On Wednesday, chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said Serbia was not fully cooperating with her efforts to track down Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. Tadic said Del Ponte needs to give his government more help and stop passing along information about Mladic's possible position that only hinders his investigators.
Serbia's cabinet missed a recent European Union deadline to extradite Mladic to the Netherlands-based U.N. war crimes tribunal, leading to a suspension of talks with the European Union. "We have to do everything that is in our power to be closer to European Union membership and this is our strategic goal and if someone is making obstacles on this road we have a critical problem," he said. "We know that we have to do everything that is in our power to solve these problems," Tadic said. "We know our responsibility and we ask for understanding."