Wien, 7. November 2005 Press release

Plassnik: "Experienced mediators for a difficult Kosovo question"

07.11.2005

Martti Ahtisaari and Albert Rohan to head negotiations on the future status of Kosovo -

Stefan Lehne designated as EU envoy

Vienna, 7 November 2005 - The Security Council will shortly confirm the nomination of the former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Kosovo, and of the former Secretary-General in the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Albert Rohan, as his deputy.

EU Foreign Ministers started consultations with Ahtisaari in Brussels today. They also appointed the Austrian EU top official Stefan Lehne as EU envoy for the status process in order to ensure the closest possible cooperation between the EU and the UN, given the increasingly important role played by the EU in Kosovo.

"These decisions ensure that experienced mediators will be in charge of the difficult Kosovo negotiations," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik. "In view of his successful mediation activities ranging from Namibia to Aceh, President Ahtisaari enjoys an excellent reputation and is a respected networker. As early as 1999 in the Kosovo conflict, he played a decisive role in the negotiations on UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which paved the way for the termination of the armed conflict and also forms the legal basis for the forthcoming negotiations on the future status of Kosovo," said Plassnik.

"Ambassador Rohan, who is an outstanding expert on the region, will support him. Albert Rohan was one of the first to warn against the impending Kosovo conflict. After the change in government in Belgrade five years ago he also sought dialogue with the democratic forces in Serbia and Montenegro early on. He has contributed decisively to the dynamic development of relations between Austria and Serbia-Montenegro," Plassnik continued.

"As a leading assistant of Javier Solana, Stefan Lehne has been an important contributor to the resolution of the conflicts in southern Serbia and Macedonia. He, too, has enormous experience in negotiation processes and impressive local expertise," Plassnik added.

"We will support President Ahtisaari and Ambassador Rohan to the best of our abilities - especially under the Austrian EU Presidency. I informed President Ahtisaari about this in talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September. Stefan Lehne will ensure close cooperation between the EU and the UN," Plassnik continued.

Austria today enjoys the confidence of the entire region and is valued as a meeting place and venue for dialogue. This is illustrated by the fact that the first direct negotiations held between Belgrade and Pristina at the political level in 2003 and the ministerial meeting on decentralisation in September 2005 both took place in Vienna. In the past two years Austria has contributed to the Kosovo discussions in particular with its initiatives regarding decentralization, the position of religious communities and the protection of religious sites. These aspects will be important elements in the creation of a peaceful and multi-ethnic Kosovo, in which all ethnic groups can assert their identity.