I HAVE been tracking the Kosovo situation in this space for over a year, hoping that a solution might be found; but that now seems unlikely in the short term and the possibility of conflict between Serbia and Albania cannot be ruled out despite the protestations of both countries that they want a peaceful settlement. Kosovo has belonged to Serbia for centuries but its population is 90 per cent ethnic Albanian. During the Balkan disturbances in the 1990s the United Nations took over administration of Kosovo and 16'000 Nato troops are stationed there. Earlier this year an international panel advised that Kosovo should have qualified independence under EU supervision and with special protection for the Serbian population. The United States and some EU countries support this proposal but Serbia and Russia have resisted it at meetings this week; the deadlock will be reported to the UN Security Council next week when Russia will almost certainly veto any resolution proposing Kosovar independence. The Kosovar prime minister in waiting, Hashim Thaci, wants to declare independence, unilaterally if necessary, in mid-December.
Nato has said it will stop any violence that arises. Britain has offered more troops to Nato if they are needed. Paddy Ashdown, wise in the ways of the Balkans, said yesterday: Unless we get a grip on this situation very fast the Balkans will be back on our agenda with a vengeance.