Tuesday

26th Oct 2021

Bush urges speedy Kosovo independence

US president George Bush called for speedy independence for Kosovo during visits to Italy and Albania this weekend, while suggesting that Washington might back a solution without Russian or Serb agreement.

"The question is whether or not there is going to be endless dialogue on a subject that we have made up our mind about. We believe Kosovo ought to be independent," Mr Bush said while visting Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha in Tirana on Sunday (10 June).

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"There just cannot be continued drift, because I'm worried about expectations not being met in Kosovo," he added, calling on the Albanian leader to use his "good contacts" among Kosovar Albanians to help "maintain calm during these final stages."

The US president's Tirana speech indicated that Washington is getting impatient that Russia - a UN security council veto holder and G8 member - continues to take Serbia's side in blocking the so-called Ahtisaari plan on Kosovo statehood.

The G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany last week saw no agreement on the future of the Balkan province, which fell under UN and NATO control after a crackdown by Serb froces in 1999.

"It's important to push the process along, the time is now. And by that I meant that secretary [of state] Rice will be moving hard to see if we can't reach an agreement. And if not, we're going to have to move," Mr Bush said, in a hint the US may "move" without Russian assent.

"There has to be an effort to see if we can't find a way for everybody to say, well, it's a good idea. And if you end up being in a position where you don't, at some point in time, sooner rather than later, you've got to say enough is enough, Kosovo is independent. And that's the position we've taken," he added.

The president also said "most people in the EU are very much in favour" of US ideas on Kosovo, but scotched a recent French proposal to put off the status solution for six months.

Inside the EU, countries such as Slovakia, Cyprus and Spain harbor quiet reservations about giving their own separatists political ammunition via a Kosovo deal.

The German EU presidency also voiced a new sense of urgency following the G8 discord. "In the interest of the stability of Kosovo, Serbia and the entire region this issue must be settled soon," a post-G8 German statement said.

Meanwhile, nationalist Serb prime minister Vojislav Kostunica, meeting Vladimir Putin at an economic forum in St Petersburg over the weekend, shot back at the Bush line.

"Seizing 15 percent of the territory of a UN member state" would set a "severe precedent of violating international law," he said, Russian newswire Ria Novosti reports.

"Our position was formulated long ago and it has not changed since then," Putin told Mr Kostunica on his G8 discussions. "I got the impression that finally our arguments are being treated seriously by our G8 colleagues."

The Kosovo question is likely to come up again on Monday, when Mr Bush visits another US ally in the Balkans, Bulgaria, before flying home after an eight day European tour.

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