Interview with Vuk Jeremic

Vuk Jeremic, Serbian Foreign Minister, spoke about the forthcoming meeting of the Kosovo Contact Group and talks between senior Serbian and Albanian leaders set to take place later this week.

Russia Today: What do you expect from the meeting of, first, the Contact Group, and then the direct negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade?

V.J.: The opening of talks between Belgrade and Pristina on Friday is a very important step. It will be the first time that we get to negotiate directly sitting face to face across the table. I think it is the key meeting that will decide whether we are going to keep on meeting in such a fashion. And I think it’s the job of the Contact Group, the negotiating Troika, to make sure that the environment at this first meeting is proper and can lead to a dialogue. We hope that these talks may bring up a compromise solution on the future status of Kosovo.

RT: In light of this, what do you think the chance is for compromise when Kosovo says independence can't be stopped, and Serbia saying it'll never agree?

V.J.: There’s a very important landmark date in this process, and this is December 10. By December 10 the negotiating troika – comprising the U.S., the Russian Federation, and the EU – will report to the United Nations on the progress made so far . The critical thing is whether or not a compromise can be reached by then. Our position is this: if it’s not reached by then, we have to continue the negotiation until a compromise is reached.

What is not helpful at this stage is that we have some countries that have come out with official statements saying that if the compromise is not reached by December 10, they are going to  support Kosovo’s independence, which is exactly the position of Kosovo’s Albanians. Under such circumstances I see very little reason for the Kosovo Albanian side to do anything but just wait until December 10 and then secure the delivery of the promises made by these countries.

I would make a strong appeal to all the members of the international community, especially to those members who are directly involved in the negotiation process – that is the Russian Federation, the EU and the United States – to refrain from calling the outcome and saying what is going to happen if by December 10 the compromise is not reached. Otherwise the failure of the negotiations will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Serbia is strongly committed to the negotiations. Serbia is strongly committed to finding a compromise solution. We believe that only a compromise solution can provide a long-lasting sustainable peace and stability in that part of the world.

RT: Is such a compromise the only solution or does Serbia have any other suggestions for resolving the issue?

V.J.: Compromise is the only solution. Everything else is not a solution. Now we can talk about what a compromise might constitute. We see the compromise along the lines of allowing the Albanians in our southern province of Kosovo to exercise the maximum degree of autonomy. This amounts to unimpeded self-governance – unimpeded by Belgrade.

When, though, it comes to the issue of sovereignty, and therefore to the territorial integrity of Serbia, that is the red line that the Serbian Government is not prepared to cross. The issue of sovereignty is not up for grabs. We cannot negotiate our sovereignty away, but we can talk about the maximum degree of self-governance – a degree of self-governance that would allow the province to run itself without the influence of Belgrade. But sovereignty has to stay with Belgrade.

RT: What part would you expect Russia to play in adopting the resolution?

V.J.: So far Russia has played a very constructive role. Russia has held the basic position that one cannot really impose a change of borders on parties, that this would create a very dangerous precedent. It would be the first time since 1945 that this precedent has been created. Russia’s fundamental stance is based on the recognition of international law, namely the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, which are the cornerstone documents of international law as we know it. Russia has said that they will not support any kind of Security Council Resolution that  amounts to an endorsement of an outcome that is not the result of a compromise between the two sides.

This is a position that I very much appreciate, and I hope that this position will be maintained in the future. It is only through this approach and by adherence to international law that we can hope to solve this very difficult problem – probably the last difficult problem in the Balkans – so that we can provide peace and stability, so that we can continue with our reforms, so that we can continue with our economic development and the integration of the western Balkans into the EU.