VIENNA, Austria: Yearlong talks on the future status of Kosovo ended Saturday in deadlock, a U.N. envoy said, reflecting bitter divisions between Serbia’s government and the disputed province’s pro-independence ethnic Albanian leadership.
“I regret to say that at the end of the day, there was no will on the part of the parties to move away from their positions,” envoy Martti Ahtisaari said. “The parties’ respective statements on Kosovo’s status do not include any common ground.”
The former Finnish president confirmed he would deliver the contentious package to the U.N. Security Council — which will have the final say on Kosovo’s status — by the end of the month.
There was no point in extending the negotiations, he said, because the disagreement between the rival sides was so broad on the central question of whether Kosovo should remain part of Serbian territory or be given internationally supervised statehood under the U.N. blueprint.
“I wish you could have heard the debate” over the past few weeks, an exasperated Ahtisaari told reporters at Vienna’s former imperial Hofburg Palace.
The plan envisages that Kosovo — which has been a U.N. protectorate since the end of a 1998-1999 war between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serb forces — be granted the trappings of independence, including its own constitution, army, national anthem and flag.
In exchange, it would give the dwindling Serbian minority broad rights in running their daily affairs and preserving their culture in the province.
Ahtisaari’s deputy, Albert Rohan, conceded that both sides were unhappy: Serbia sees the proposal as a breech of international law, and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians had pressed for full independence.
“Neither side is enthusiastic,” he said.
Serbia’s nationalist prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, delivered a statement inside the closed-door talks declaring: “Snatching Kosovo from Serbia would represent the most dangerous precedent in the history of the U.N.”
Kostunica called on all countries to keep Serbia from losing 15 percent of its territory, which he said “will result in new redrawing of borders and endanger the foundation on which international order is based.”
Putting Kosovo on the road to independence, Serbian President Boris Tadic warned, “could lead to long-lasting instability in the region and beyond.”
But Kosovo’s president, Fatmir Sejdiu, made it clear that ethnic Albanians saw eventual independence as the only acceptable eventual outcome.
“Independence is the alpha and omega — the beginning and end of our position,” he said.
Western officials fear that impatience is growing among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority, which has pressed for independence since the early 1990s.
There are concerns that tensions could plunge the territory back into violence.