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Viewing cable 09PRISTINA77, SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF KOSOVO PRESIDENT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09PRISTINA77 2009-02-23 17:05 2010-12-09 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Pristina
VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPS #0077/01 0541724
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 231724Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY PRISTINA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8846
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
Monday, 23 February 2009, 17:24
C O N F I D E N T I A L PRISTINA 000077 
SIPDIS 
DEPT FOR S, P, EUR (FRIED, JONES) 
NSC FOR HELGERSON, OVP FOR BLINKEN 
FOR THE SECRETARY AND THE VICE-PRESIDENT FROM THE AMBASSADOR 
EO 12958 DECL: 02/14/2019 
TAGS PREL, PGOV, UNMIK, KV 
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF KOSOVO PRESIDENT 
SEJDIU AND PRIME MINISTER THACI TO WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY 26, 2008
Classified By: AMBASSADOR TINA KAIDANOW FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (C) It has been a difficult but in many ways successful year since Kosovo declared its independence on February 17, 2008. Though we spent much time planning for the possibility of large-scale population flows after the declaration and took precautions lest the independence move sparked outright conflict between Kosovo and Serbia, none of this has taken place. Instead, with our strong support and encouragement, Kosovo has weathered a series of provocative and sometimes violent actions taken by Serb hardliners, demonstrating through patience and restraint that it is a responsible member of the international community and an eager aspirant for eventual inclusion in Euro-Atlantic institutions. Kosovo has a modern constitution, has passed laws to protect its minorities, and is looking to build a sustainable economic base through development of its energy sector and other private investment. Acknowledging Kosovo’s achievements, 55 of the most important countries in Europe and elsewhere have recognized Kosovo, though the pace of recognitions has been slowed by Serbia’s unfortunate decision to refer the question of Kosovo independence to the International Court of Justice.  Kosovo is working to expand the group of recognizers, and would appreciate the assistance of the new U.S. administration in convincing friends and allies -- particularly in the Islamic world -- to come on board.

2. (C) Kosovo’s temperate line is in many ways due to the leadership of President Sejdiu and Prime Minister Thaci, two men of very different backgrounds and political sentiment who chose to make common cause at a critical time for Kosovo. The two formed a coalition government just prior to independence, an arrangement that has held steady despite historical animosities and considerable mistrust between their two parties. This visit and your visible endorsement of Kosovo’s moderate approach will help fend off growing domestic criticism -- from dissatisfied members of the governing coalition and from the vocal opposition -- that Kosovo leaders have not been assertive enough in establishing control over Kosovo’s rebellious Serb-majority north or defending against Serbian encroachments on Kosovo sovereignty.

3. (C) And those encroachments will likely persist, even under the pro-European government of Serbian President Tadic in Belgrade. The previous Serbian government under Prime Minister Kostunica engineered a policy of full ethnic separation in Kosovo, physically intimidating local Serbs into abandoning jobs in Kosovo’s once multi-ethnic police force and municipal administrations. Serbia held its own illegal municipal elections in Kosovo despite warnings from the UN that such a move violated UNSCR 1244 and moved rapidly to emplace parallel institutions in Serb-majority areas throughout Kosovo. Serbia also backed open violence by the thuggish and criminalized Serb leadership in Kosovo’s north, which ordered the destruction of two northern border gates and the subsequent March 17, 2008 attack on UN and KFOR peacekeepers.

4. (C) While Tadic has made significant steps on key issues of importance to the West, including on ICTY commitments, he has pursued a policy in Kosovo not materially different from that of his predecessor. Serbia continues to assert the authority of parallel Serb municipal authorities throughout Kosovo, sowing the seeds of potential conflict in areas where Serbs and Albanians live side by side. Tadic’s Serbia has refused to restore customs operations at the two northern gates, resulting in a rash of smuggling and organized crime in northern Kosovo. No local Serbs have yet been permitted by Belgrade to return to Kosovo institutions. While Tadic and his foreign minister Jeremic (the mastermind of Belgrade’s Kosovo policy) finally bowed to European pressure to accept the deployment of an EU rule of law mission (EULEX) throughout Kosovo, they have resisted engaging in discussions with EULEX on the resolution of practical issues including customs and police, insisting instead that the UN impose Belgrade-crafted measures -- the so-called “six points” -- to effectively separate Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs from its majority population. Should these six points be implemented in the way Belgrade foresees, Kosovars worry that partition could once again become a viable reality.

5. (C) The Kosovo government remains prepared to engage in quiet diplomacy with Serbia via EU mediation, and has held open those positions in the police and public sector that
were once occupied by local Serbs in anticipation of any signal from Belgrade to the Kosovo Serb community that they are free to resume a more collaborative approach. You can impress upon Sejdiu and Thaci once again the imperative to maintain outreach to their minority communities and implement fully those obligations they undertook to the Serb population under the plan developed by UN Special Envoy (and Nobel laureate) Ahtisaari.

6. (C) Kosovo’s challenges are not limited to the political and security realm. Last year’s Donors Conference saw over $1.5 billion pledged in support of Kosovo, but the momentum of Kosovo’s economic development and its attractiveness to international investors -- particularly in the energy field, where Kosovo’s huge lignite deposits can be transformed over the next decade into a reliable domestic supply of electricity as well as an export commodity -- will ultimately depend not on the largesse of donors but on the government’s own credible pursuit of its economic objectives, something you can stress in your discussions with them. They will also need to avoid the serious pitfalls of cronyism, corruption and political patronage in public appointments; the recent selections of solid professionals to lead their intelligence agency and the ministry of the Kosovo Security Force (the small, NATO-trained civil response force) gives at least some cause for hope in this regard.

7. (C) Sejdiu and Thaci may reaffirm their conviction that U.S. troop contributions in Kosovo remain essential, particularly since U.S. forces alone are trusted enough by Serbs and Albanians to maintain peace in one of the most volatile parts of Kosovo. Kosovo leaders will also express their belief that only the United States can provide the kind of lasting leadership in Kosovo and the region that is necessary for prolonged stability. Frankly, we agree. While many in the EU and most notably the “Quint” countries were vigorous in supporting Kosovo’s independence, the intensified problems we predict as a consequence of Belgrade’s intransigence -- especially those surrounding Kosovo’s north, where Serb extremists have shown their readiness for continued confrontation -- could easily lead some queasy Europeans to back away from their commitments over time and settle for a partition-like outcome that has been adamantly opposed by Kosovars of all political persuasions. The United Nations, as well, though “reconfiguring” and downsizing its presence here, has shown a negative tendency to retain certain important authorities, under pressure from Belgrade and Moscow. If Kosovo is to succeed as a long-term proposition -- and it most certainly can -- our sustained engagement is necessary to bolster European resolve, bring Belgrade to a more realistic sense of its equities in peace and stability, and take a firm line with the UN on further reducing its presence in Kosovo. These meetings in Washington will help reinforce the sense that Kosovo is moving forward and imbue Kosovo’s leadership with a renewed sense of confidence as they prepare to face the many challenges ahead. KAIDANOW