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R. Nicholas Burns Interview With BBC

Interview With BBC

Under Secretary for Political Affairs, R. Nicholas Burns
U.S. Mission to NATO
Brussels, Belgium
July 5, 2006

BBC: Can I just ask you about Kosovo again, but in quality as it were.

Tell me first of all, Undersecretary of State, you have said that 2006 is a key moment for Kosovo but nothing is guaranteed. Given that, why should we expect a conclusion to these negotiations by the end of this year?

UNDERSECRETARY BURNS: I think all of us agree that 2006 has to be the year of decision for Kosovo, to decide Kosovo's future.

Let's remember what happened. A savage war in 1999. A million people who Milosevic tried to ethnically cleanse. He was prevented by NATO from doing that.

Now seven years where these people haven't been told what their future's going to be. They haven't been allowed to determine that themselves. So I think all of us agree in the international community that 2006 has to be the year when the talks conclude, when Kosovo's final status is determined, when all those people who have been waiting to know what their future is will know what their future is. But that's going to entail a major responsibility on the part of the Kosovar-Albanian leadership to do a better job of ensuring minority rights and a big responsibility on the part of the Serb government in Belgrade to step up to these negotiations, to come to the table, to let the Kosovar Serbs be part of those negotiations so they can speak up for themselves to determine their own future, and for both sides to meet squarely in the middle and arrive at a fair decision that will be good for the vast majority of people who want to live a peaceful life there.

BBC: How far are you concerned, though, that this might provide a template for other ethnically divided countries? President Putin has said that if Kosovo becomes independent, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia should similarly become independent.

UNDERSECRETARY BURNS: We disagree completely with the idea that a resolution of the Kosovo problem somehow sets a precedent or establishes a template for difficult problems elsewhere. Kosovo is unique. A major international war was fought there. Some of the worst war crimes in Europe occurred there. The United Nations took Kosovo into its own hands in June of 1999 in passing a Security Council Resolution that effectively said Kosovo's sovereignty will be determined at a later date.

So we don't question Georgia's territorial integrity or sovereignty. We know that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are now and will be part of Georgia as far forward into the future as we can see. But we know that Kosovo's sovereignty needs to be determined and agreed by all of us in the international community. So the two situations are completely opposite and we don't agree at all with this idea that somehow one is a precedent for the other.

BBC: Thank you very much.

Released on July 3, 2006

ENDS


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