Balkans: Kosovo Conundrum

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February 5, 2006: How to replace a giant? The UN, Albanian Kosovars, Serbian Kosovars, and Serbia, are asking that question. Ibrahim Rugova's death leaves a huge political and personal vacuum in Kosovo. Rugova had three jobs: head of his own LDK party, chief Kosovar negotiator, and president. Rugova served as a bridge; many Serbs may not have fully trusted him but he was not the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army). Albanian Kosovars want an independent Kosovo; Serb Kosovars want a connection to Serbia. Britain has now said that it favors (quote) "some form of independence" (for Kosovo). Discussions held February 2 and 3 indicated that other European countries hold the same view. Kosovar independence is viewed as the most "durable" solution.

January 30, 2006: With Irbahim Rugova gone UN negotiators and western European leaders are concerned that the Kosovo status talks will flounder. One Finnish spokesman who had been involved in the peace process asked for "calm" among the parties in Kosovo. The UN's mission chief in Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen, issued a statement that said: "It is particularly tragic that president Rugova should leave us in this very decisive moment for the future of Kosovo. The best tribute that we can pay to president Rugova and his legacy is to stay united during the coming months." The diplomats are trying to keep the negotiations on track and stop renewed civil war in Kosovo.

January 22, 2006: With Kosovo in official mourning following the death of President Ibrahim Rugova, the UN has decided to delay the Serbia-Kosovo "final status" talks. The conference was supposed to begin January 25 in Vienna, Austria. The UN said that the talks will begin sometime in February.

January 21, 2006: The president of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova, died from lung cancer. He was 61 years old. Rugova is the "grand old man" of Albanian Kosovar politics and resistance. Rugova was the key figure in the Kosovar Albanian movement of the early 1980s, and as Kosovar Albanians go, a definite political moderate. The Kosovo government declared a 15 period of official mourning. Kosovo's parliament has three months to elect a new president. Rugova's death was expected, but he still leaves a huge political void. Albanian Kosovar "hardliners" are --unfortunately-- in the best position to succeed him. While Rugova was pro-independence, he was not viewed as "anti-Serb." That's not true of the hardliners, many of them with roots in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

 

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