Albanians, Serbs pledge their talks will promote peace in Kosovo

BUDAPEST, Apr 10, 2000 -- (AFP) Albanian leaders from all over the Balkans and Serb opposition members finished two-day roundtable talks that could promote peace in the troubled province of Kosovo, they said Saturday.

"Our contribution will be to create such an atmosphere in Kosovo and around it that will enable all people to want to return and to live there in peace and safety," said coordinator for the Serbian opposition Alliance for Democratic Parties Zarko Korac.

He said "serious differences" remained over the future status of Kosovo but each side has identified its points, and "this conference was not arranged to find final solutions."

The main bone of contention remained whether Kosovo should become independent.

"The best solution in Kosovo is independence," president of the Democratic League of Kosovo Ibrahim Rugova told a press conference.

"That would be a guarantee for all the Serbs in Kosovo and for all other ethnic groups," said Rugova, adding that such a decision should be jointly taken by all the countries of the region.

President of the Executive Board of the Serbian National Council of Kosovo, Momcilo Trajkovic, pointed out that no decision on Kosovo's independence can be taken without Serbia and Yugoslavia, to which Kosovo legally belongs.

"Independence for Kosovo now would be a too radical and extremist goal because others would not accept it, and do not accept it now," he said.

He hit out at Albanian delegates for their "national and ethnic egotism which does not see the problems of others".

"I really do not know how Albanians can establish an independent state of Kosovo peacefully and democratically. Perhaps after all the Serbs have disappeared from there. But such a concept would imply full support from the international community," he warned.

He excluded running in elections in Kosovo in the current situation.

"In order to discuss election participation, we should meet ... There is no possibility to take part in elections under the current conditions," he told journalists.

Delegates pointed out that the situation in Kosovo has improved a lot since the NATO bombing campaign last spring.

"All those who do not want to see a democratic solution will be gradually left out of the game," Trajkovic said.

Rugova said Kosovars were "frustrated" and needed time to get over it. "We are advancing towards a positive direction. It is only nine months and we have achieved a lot," he said.

Participants praised the conference as an opportunity to get closer and spell out their points in "serious and open discussions" that would be followed up later, said president Allen Kassof of the organizing US Project on Ethnic Relations foundation.

Eduard Kukan, the UN Secretary-General's special envoy for the Balkans, delegates from the Balkan states, Hungary, Slovakia, Italy, the United States as well as observers from the EU, NATO and other international organizations were present at the talks.

Original article