Kosovo rejects 'Hong Kong' model proposed by Serbia-Europe-World-The Times of India
Kosovo rejects 'Hong Kong' model proposed by Serbia
6 Nov 2007, 0408 hrs IST,AFP
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VIENNA: Serbia proposed a "Hong Kong model" for Kosovo on Monday in future status talks in Vienna, but officials from the southern Serbian province rejected the idea and still pushed for independence.

"I cannot say that the propositions discussed will help breach the gap," Russian mediator Alexander Boltsan-Kharchenko said. "The chance of a compromise is very slim."

Top EU negotiator Wolfgang Ischinger had said the so-called troika overseeing the discussions -- the European Union, Russia and the United States -- would accept any compromise solution agreed by both sides.

But multiple rounds of talks have failed to budge either side from their fundamentally opposing views and time is now running out on the UN-imposed deadline of December 10 for a negotiated solution.

Kosovo Albanians have demanded independence from Serbia but Belgrade is only prepared to offer autonomy. The issue has split the international community with Russia strongly backing Serbia and the United States pushing independence.

Serbia went to war with Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1998, withdrawing its troops only after weeks of NATO bombing which led to the establishment of a UN protectorate in Kosovo a year later.

Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica were present at Monday's talks at the Austrian foreign ministry, as well as Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Agim Ceku.

Kostunica proposed a "Hong Kong" model for Kosovo, where 90 percent of the population is Albanian.

Hong Kong was transferred back to China in 1997 after 156 years of British rule.

"This model has been proposed in order to show that the proposal is based on compromise and it is showing what can work," Kostunica said.

He added that "nobody thinks of transplanting the Hong Kong case to Serbia" but that "it's a compromise combination of different solutions".

Kosovo officials considered the idea confusing and unworkable, said Skender Hyseni, senior adviser to Kosovo's president.

The Kosovo team proposed a "permanent council for cooperation" between two independent nations that would meet every six months on issues of mutual concern, such as energy and transport. Serbia did not agree to the plan.

Monday's talks focused again on a 14-point document drawn up by the troika, which calls for the presence of an international civil and military mission to oversee Kosovo but barely touches on the issue of its status and makes no mention of independence.

"We are here to find an agreed solution, not to impose one," said Ischinger.

Kosovo's status is a festering sore left from the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia and its resolution one way or another could have far-reaching consequences for the volatile region's security.

The talks followed another meeting in Vienna on October 22 where little progress appeared to have been achieved.

"We have two different concepts," Ceku said at the time, following talks with the Serbs.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders want the Serbs to accept a plan -- shelved due to a Russian veto at the UN Security Council -- to establish internationally supervised independence for the tiny southern province.

Some Kosovo Albanian leaders have threatened a unilateral declaration of independence, a move that Tadic warned could lead to further violence.

"Everything is possible. I would like to avoid imagining some scenarios but everything is possible in Serbia in that circumstance, including violence," he told AFP on the weekend.

"Some think it's much more important to stabilise two million Kosovo Albanians than to avoid destabilising 10 million Serbs," the president said.
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