- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2007

Germany will send an additional 500 troops to Kosovo to ensure stability after delegates failed to reach an agreement on the future of the territory, the defense ministry announced yesterday.

The 500 troops will be added to the 17,000-strong NATO-led Kosovo Force.

Officials fear renewed violence in the Balkan territory after Serbian and Kosovar delegations failed to agree on Kosovo’s final status. A three-day meeting outside Vienna, Austria, was the last of six meetings between Kosovar and Serbian leaders. Kosovo is now expected to declare independence within the next three months.

“We cannot say the exact time and date when independence will be declared in coordination with the international community but it will happen very quickly,” Kosovar President Fatmir Sejdiu told Agence France-Presse yesterday.

In March, U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari presented a comprehensive plan to determine the final status of Kosovo, a Serbian province that has been under U.N. administration since 1999.

The plan — supported by the European Union, United Nations and the United States — describes the current situation as unsustainable and says an independent Kosovo under international supervision is the only viable option.

The negotiators are scheduled to report back to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by Dec. 10.

“Only in an independent Kosovo will its democratic institutions be fully responsible for and accountable for their actions. This will be crucial to ensure respect for the rule of law and the effective protection for minorities,” Mr. Ahtisaari wrote in a letter to the U.N. Security Council.

Serbia, backed by Russia, has offered relative independence to Kosovo as an autonomous part of Serbia but want to retain control over its foreign policy, security and borders.

In a joint statement, Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said negotiations should continue until an agreement is reached.

Mr. Tadic warned that Belgrade would immediately take legal steps to quash any unilateral independence proclamation. He said Kosovo’s independence would contribute to instability in the region but underlined Serbia’s determination not to resort to violence.

“We are going to annul all these decisions that would bring Kosovo to independence. We are going to use all legal and diplomatic measures to fight any such decision,” Mr. Tadic said.

The U.S. strongly supports the Ahtisaari plan and considers complete independence with international supervision the only option, State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson said.

But she said the U.S. would strongly discourage both parties from making statementsthat might harm stabilization in the area.

If Kosovo declares independence within the next few months, most of the European countries together with the U.S. are likely do recognize it within the first six months, said James Lyon, a senior adviser for the International Crisis Group stationed in Belgrade.

Although it can’t be ruled out, Mr. Lyon does not think Serbia will intervene militarily, but he said the main risk is that unrest will spill over to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro.

“At this stage, it does not appear Serbia will intervene; they will certainly have a concerted diplomatic response but not an armed response,” he said.



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