21st May 2019

EU appoints German mediator on Kosovo

The EU has appointed German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger to help mediate in a new round of talks between Serbian and Kosovan leaders over the future status of Kosovo.

Mr Ischinger, 61, is a former German deputy foreign minister and is currently serving as Berlin's ambassador to the UK. He secured a reputation for being an expert on the Balkans after his role in brokering the 1995 Dayton Accord that ended the war in Bosnia.

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EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana announced his appointment on Sunday (29 July) after consultation with the European Commission and EU member states, saying that the bloc's envoy would "make every effort to achieve real and meaningful negotiations between the parties."

The German diplomat will join US representative Frank Wisner and a Russian mediator, according to AFP.

The international troika is a short version of the six-member contact group on the Balkans - comprised of the US, Russia, Germany, France, UK and Italy - which has been appointed to moderate the talks between Belgrade and Pristina.

A single representative for all four EU states in the group was pushed for by German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "All parties have to use the opportunity of this negotiating process to strive as much as possible to come to an amicable settlement," he said in reaction to the news on Mr Ischinger.

The contact group recently took over in dealing with the Kosovo issue from the UN's security council following several failed attempts by the EU and US to draft a resolution outlining the final settlement of the province, which has been under an international protectorate since 1999.

Russia had opposed all the draft UN resolutions presented because of their direct or indirect reference to UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari's earlier proposal, which favoured the supervised independence of Kosovo.

Kosovo is formally still a province of Serbia but around 90 percent of its two million inhabitants are ethnic Albanian. Moscow insists it will not back any plan that is unacceptable to Belgrade, which is resisting Kosovan independence.

The new round of talks between Serbs and ethnic Albanians should take about four months and it comes on the back of the failure of the 13-month UN-brokered negotiations between the two sides to reach consensus on the issue.

During his weekend trip to the US, Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic unveiled a new plan suggesting that it would guarantee "the broadest possible self-governance" for the Kosovo Albanians, AP reported.

But the ethnic Albanian leaders in Pristina have previously refused any alternative to formal independence of the province.

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