Monday, December 05, 2005

BALKANS: ASHDOWN, SOLANA - NO PARALLEL BETWEEN BOSNIA AND KOSOVO

Belgrade, 5 Dec. (AKI) - Two key international officials said on Monday that no parallel could be drawn between Bosnia and Serbia’s southern Kosovo province, where majority ethnic Albanians demand independence, and warned that if Serbs in Bosnia tried to secede they would be playing with fire. Paddy Ashdown, 'viceroy' for Bosnia, told Belgrade daily “Vecernje novosti” the international community would not allow the partitioning of Bosnia, even if Kosovo was granted independence. The same line was taken by the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, in an interview with Sarajevo daily “Dnevni avaz”.Both interviews were obviously aimed at discouraging speculation that in the event that Kosovo is granted independence, the Serbs, who have their own entity in Bosnia, Republika Srpska (RS), with many state attributes, might use it as a precedent to secede. The talks on the final status of Kosovo, which has been under United Nations control since 1999, are in the initial phase, but Solana said that “the international community will decisively reject any attempt to tie the Kosovo talks to any other regional problem”. He added that “all serious politicians in the region” agreed that “Bosnia-Herzegovina has internationally recognized borders which will not be changed”.Ashdown, who has large arbitrary powers in Bosnia, has been stripping RS of its state attributes and strengthening the central government, provoking extreme reactions among some Bosnian Serbs who argue that that if Serbia’s borders can be changed so too can Bosnia's. But Ashdown left no doubt that the international community viewed Kosovo and Bosnia as two separate and unrelated problems.“Whatever happens in Kosovo, it will not affect Bosnia-Herzegovina borders,” said Ashdown. Kosovo, in his words, was Serbia’s internal problem, “while Bosnia-Herzegovina is another state and whoever believes that its borders would be changed, lives in a dangerous deception”.Ashdown said that changing Bosnia’s borders would not only slow its drive to join the European Union, but “would raise the tensions in the region to a very dangerous leve" by "playing with fire".Serbia opposes the drive by 1.7 million Kosovo Albanians for independence, though it has had no authority in the province since 1999. Belgrade has warned that any change of state borders would destabilise the entire region, but the international community seems to be leaning towards granting Kosovo some sort of “conditional independence”, with strong international presence. (Vpr/Aki)

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