Interview with Elena Guskova

Elena Guskova joined Russia Today to speak on the failure of the talks between top Serbian and ethnic Albanian leaders on the future of Kosovo.

RT: The stumbling block of the negotiations was the position of the Serbian delegation. Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said the draft, as it had been fashioned, violated international law. Why was this?

E.G.: Serbia’s position was not the stumbling block of the negotiations. The case is it’s very difficult to cut part of a sovereign nation’s territory and stay within the international law framework. It would involve all sides’ consent – both Albanian and Serbian. It’s quite natural that if no agreement is achieved, you should proceed on with the negotiations, and that’s exactly what Serbians insist on now. They have made many concessions during the talks, but two issues are non-negotiable for them. First – they will not tolerate an army in Kosovo i Metohija [full name of the province] that would consist of Albanians. Second – they are not willing to let Kosovo i Metohija to act as an independent state in international organisations.

RT: The Albanians made it clear that by no means will they remain in the Serbian state. Why did the document accommodate their interests and not the interests of Serbs?

E.G.: If you observe the whole development of the crisis in the territory of the former Yugoslavia during the previous 15 years, you would see that all sides benefit from some sort of concessions there except Serbia. This one-way approach by the international organisations really frustrates. We see little change to this anti-Serbian policy, though there are some positive moves. Russia is been trying – maybe for the first time in 15 years – to return the process in Balkans and in Kosovo in particular to the field of international law principles that would take the interests of all sides involved into account.

It was Russia’s insistence on upholding the international law, its firm position on the issue, let the negotiation process to continue and not end in December last year, as was expected by many, including Mr Ahtisaari, who proposed to resolve the issue of Kosovo’s status at a Security Council session by the end of the year. And Albanians were already promised that the dispute would be solved by June. They accepted the draft plan, which is maybe not as straightforward as they would prefer, but still they are preparing to praise their independence by June.

RT: Serbia wants veto-wielding Russia to hold on to its position that it will not accept a deal on Kosovo's status unless it is agreed by both sides, when Mr Ahtisaari presents his final plan to the UN Security Council at the end of March. How do you think Russia is likely to react?

E.G.: The negotiations are over, but the problems are still there. Russia will certainly hold on to its position, but the position is quite flexible. We understand quite well that before the issue is brought to the Security Council, a series on talks between the members will be held. Russia will negotiate its position with the U.S., France, and Germany. And the issue will not be discussed in the Security Council before the positions are brought together and the member states come to a wording that would satisfy them all, because no-body wants the veto to be officially used.

Meanwhile other scenarios for giving Kosovo i Metohija independence that do not involve the Security Council are being considered, for example a unilateral declaration and then the recognition by several countries starting with the U.S. that would call other states to follow. The issue can be resolved in several ways. But anyway Russia’s firm position shows quite well that the times when decisions on such crucial matters could be forced upon are gone.

RT: Some of the EU countries hint that if the plan is blocked in the UN, Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population could go ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence. Do you reckon it’s going happen?

E.G.: Albanians themselves certainly take no decisions. They have been co-ordinating them with their partners since 1999, even since 1998, when it was decided on how to punish Serbia for its stubbornness on several issues, including Kosovo’s status. But Albanians certainly can count on the U.S.’ support in case they are given a “go” to declare independence.