EU seeks early Contact Group talks on Kosovo

July 30, 2007 - 0:0

BRUSSELS (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) hopes that the Contact Group negotiations over the future status of Kosovo will start as soon as possible once the negotiating ""troika"" of EU, U.S. and Russian envoys are named, a spokeswoman said on Friday.

""Our intention will be to start as soon as possible, and to stick to the 120-day period,"" said Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Briefing a group of reporters on Solana's trip to the Philippines, where he will attend the 14th Asian Regional Forum (ARF) on Aug. 2, Gallach said that once the three sides appoint the negotiators, they will be able to finalize the modalities for the Kosovo talks. ""The talks have to be open-ended in terms of no-prejudging the outcome, but not open-ended in terms of the timeline (of 120 days),"" she said. She also repeated the EU's position that it supports the plan by UN special envoy on Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari, which should be the basis for future talks. Under the plan, Kosovo should be granted independence supervised by the international community. Meanwhile, Gallach warned of difficulties ahead in the future talks, and cautioned against any unilateral moves on the issue. Last Friday, the Western nations announced they are not seeking a UN Security Council vote on their draft resolution concerning Kosovo's future status. The negotiations will now be pursued through the Contact Group on Kosovo, which is composed of Britain, France, Italy, Germany, the United States and Russia. Russia was against the draft, which calls for further negotiations between Belgrade and Kosovo's ethic Albanians during a 120-day period but drops a previous reference to an automatic road to internationally supervised independence if the talks fail. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday voiced again his clear opposition to Kosovo's independence, saying that peace in Europe can only be built by respecting Serbia's territorial integrity. ""Today the people of Serbia are defending their sovereignty and territorial integrity,"" Putin said at a Kremlin ceremony. ""Peace cannot be built in Europe without taking into account the fundamental principles of international law."" The Serbian breakaway province of Kosovo, with 90 percent of its two million population ethnic Albanians, has been under UN administration for eight years. On another issue concerning both the EU and Russia, Gallach said Solana would not be pressing Russia on the case of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, which has stirred a diplomatic row between Russia and Britain. Gallach said the EU supports Britain's position on the case, but ""at the moment, I don't see any new involvement from Mr. Solana on the issue"" when he meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Manila