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The last attempt to reconcile the Serb and ethnic Albanian leaders
The last attempt to reconcile the Serb and ethnic Albanian leaders in the Austrian resort city Baden proved to be a total failure.

The mediating Troika (Russia, the European Union and the United States) did not persuade the rebel republic's leaders to give up their idea of independence. Now a new state is virtually bound to appear on the map of the world, but it is not clear when.

Belgrade was ready to sacrifice everything, or almost everything, in order to keep the Kosovo province part of Serbia. In the last few months, it has been making one concession to Pristina after another. The autonomy promised to Kosovo is so broad that it actually amounts to de facto independence. This autonomy is truly unique. Kosovo was promised full self-government; direct access to international and regional organizations (except for the UN, Council of Europe, and the OSCE) and to international financial institutions; it was allowed to open foreign trade and cultural missions abroad, to use its own symbols, and even have its own national sports team.

Talk about sports and football in particular was not superficial. Listing the grounds for Kosovo's independence, Kosovo Planning Minister Ardian Gjini once told me: "After all, we are independent. People are independent in their hearts and thoughts. Besides, we have everything to consider ourselves independent, save, probably a football team." The Serbs promised the team.

In effect, the only demand which the Serbs continued to insist on was a resolute "no" to Kosovo's membership in the UN. Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said that Kosovo having a seat in the UN "is certainly something we cannot envisage under any circumstances."

He said that Belgrade should preserve its "exclusive rights" in foreign and defense policies, and the protection of the state border. He also said that the Serbian police should stay in the province, which would be fully demilitarized. Jeremic urged the conclusion of a treaty to protect national minorities as a guarantee of the rights of 100,000 Serbs residing in Kosovo.

To exemplify compromise, the Serbs quoted a dozen of precedents - Hong Kong, both Germanys, the Aland Islands, Catalonia, the Basque Country, and South Tirol....

But nothing helped. The Kosovo Albanians refused to settle for anything less than full independence.

They did not even consider other options. Strictly speaking, they stopped considering them when they understood that the West was on their side. If Kosovo declares independence, it will be recognized, although not instantly and not by everyone. Maybe, in a different situation, Serbia would have given up a long time ago. But Russia made it very clear that it was not going to make any concessions on the status of Kosovo and not out of Slavic friendship, a favorite topic of Russian MPs, although this is also a factor, but proceeding from its own national interests. If Kosovo becomes independent, there will be a line for seats in the UN - South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdnedr - the republics, which have long ago proclaimed their independence. Russia has not recognized them and is not going to do so in the future, but it will find it hard to explain to their leaders why the situation in Kosovo is so special, as the West is trying to present it.

The Serbs are rushing between Scylla and Charybdis. They are ready for concessions but to a certain limit. Having realized that there is no hope, Belgrade changed its tune and threatened Kosovo with an economic blockade, closure of the borders and a shutdown of electricity supplies. Judging by everything, this is just a tentative list. In Baden Jeremic urged those who make such decisions to display responsibility. Belgrade predicts a big explosion in the Balkans and the domino effect in the rest of the world; a large number of autonomous regions will snatch at this long awaited opportunity.

What next? Next week, the Troika will go to Kosovo but little depends on this trip. On December 10, they will submit a document to the UN Secretary General; by December 20 it is likely to be transferred to the Security Council. If its members decide to vote on the issue, Moscow will veto it.

Pristina has promised to take further steps after it consults with the United States, NATO and the EU. But EU foreign ministers have already urged the Kosovo leaders not to proclaim independence unilaterally. But the big question is whether Pristina hears them.

Some sources say the French Foreign Ministry has allegedly devised a secret plan where Kosovo will announce "the last warning" in the middle of January, and will proclaim independence in February. Kosovo will then be recognized by Albania and the United States (Washington does not want to be the first on the list). Muslim nations and some European countries - Britain, France and Baltic nations will follow suit...

But this is still theoretical and the sources have preferred to remain anonymous. At the very latest, by the end of winter we will see whether they are right.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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