US embassy cable - 06TIRANA408

U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE WISNER DISCUSSES KOSOVO STATUS TALKS WITH ALBANIAN LEADERS

Identifier: 06TIRANA408
Wikileaks: View 06TIRANA408 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2006-04-21 11:18:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV KS AL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TIRANA 000408 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/SCE (BENEDICT, SAINZ) 
NSC FOR BRAUN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/20/2016 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, KS, AL 
SUBJECT: U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE WISNER DISCUSSES 
KOSOVO STATUS TALKS WITH ALBANIAN LEADERS 
 
REF: STATE 59894 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Marcie B. Ries for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  Albanian officials expressed appreciation 
for the USG role in the region and especially in Kosovo.  All 
accepted the role that Wisner asked Albania to play as the 
Kosovo status negotiations advanced, and pledged that Albania 
would do its part to reach a successful conclusion. 
Ambassador Wisner told PM Berisha, President Moisiu and other 
GoA officials that Albania should use its influence in 
Pristina to convince Kosovar leadership to be flexible in the 
negotiations on Kosovo's status.  Ambassador Wisner said 
three issues needed to be resolved for the negotiations to 
proceed -- de-centralization, church property claims, and 
protecting minority rights.  Ambassador Wisner also counseled 
the GoA to make extra effort to assuage the concerns of other 
countries in the region that there was no intention of 
re-thinking borders and creating a "Greater Albania."  The 
goal of all this was to pull Serbia along to a place where it 
could co-exist peacefully with an independent Kosovo, and be 
a participant in regional prosperity.  End Summary. 
 
2. (SBU) USG Kosovo Special Representative Ambassador Wisner 
held a series of meetings with Albanian government and 
opposition party officials, including President Moisiu, PM 
Berisha, Deputy FM Harxhi, and NGO representatives during his 
April 19-20 visit to Tirana.  Ambassador attended the 
meetings as well. 
 
AMBASSADOR WISNER: NEGOTIATIONS WILL BE DIFFICULT 
 
3. (C) Ambassador Wisner told PM Berisha that the 
negotiations would be difficult, primarily because the 
political class in Belgrade had not yet accepted the fact 
that Kosovo would be independent.  The trick was not to 
impose a solution on Serbia, but to find a way to "bring them 
along" so that the end result would not be a hostile Serbia 
bordering a new country in desperate need of economic growth. 
 Serbia's own fragile stability in the wake of Kosovo's 
independence constituted another factor. 
 
4. (C) Three issues would dominate the initial stage of 
negotiations: 1) de-centralization; 2) resolution of property 
claims by churches; and 3) establishing the basic principles 
for protecting minority rights.  Ultimately, Kosovo would be 
independent, but a strong international presence would be 
needed for a transitional period and the EU would be expected 
to bear most of the financial burden to establish basic 
security services, an economic plan and budget assistance. 
He discounted speculation that the USG was preparing to "wash 
its hands" of the region, and said that the U.S. would remain 
deeply engaged and work closely with the EU. 
 
5. (C) To achieve the goals sought by the USG and Albania, 
Ambassador Wisner said the GoA could do two things.  First, 
work closely with Kosovo PM Ceku to encourage him to take the 
hard practical steps -- assure churches of protected lands, 
return lands to returning Serb families, for example.  He 
also suggested that Kosovar leaders at all levels of 
government take additional steps to make Serb returnees feel 
welcome.  Second, GoA leadership has to assuage the concerns 
of other countries that Albanians harbored dreams of 
re-thinking borders and creating a "Greater Albania." He 
encouraged PM Berisha to emphasize the GoA's commitment to 
fighting crime and corruption as part of this campaign 
because much of the fear of "Greater Albania" resided in the 
perception that more Albanian assertiveness and mobility 
means more crime in Europe. 
 
BERISHA: IDEA OF "GREATER SERBIA" PERSISTS 
 
6. (C) PM Berisha thanked Ambassador Wisner for the USG role 
in the Kosovo status process and stated his government's 
chief priority was to fight crime and corruption.  Berisha 
added that Albania needed help with the fight against money 
 
TIRANA 00000408  002 OF 003 
 
 
laundering and would "pay any price" to join NATO in 2008. 
On Kosovo, Berisha said that in Serbia the idea of "Greater 
Serbia" still persisted and that de-militarization was 
needed.  Kosovo leaders Ceku and Sediju were "committed" to 
doing what had to be done, but party leaders in Kosovo were 
not sending a strong enough message that the interests of 
ethnic Albanians were best served by reconciliation with 
ethnic Serbs.  Berisha said he advised Ceku to use the 
position of the Serb Orthodox Church -- to keep Serbs in 
Kosovo -- to his advantage.  He also felt that 
inter-religious dialogue would be effective, particularly if 
Don Vicenzo Paglia of the San'Egido Community was involved. 
 
7. (C) Berisha noted that Ceku was not strong within his own 
party and needed visible USG support to help him weather 
internal dissent.  Ambassador Wisner said the USG had and 
could continue to give Ceku strong support.  Berisha said he 
agreed with all of Ambassador Wisner's suggestions and would 
encourage Ceku and other to be flexible on the initial set of 
issues and that he would assure regional leaders that Albania 
did not support border changes or ideas of Albanian 
unification.  Berisha told Wisner that he -- like other 
Albanians -- had been raised to believe in "Greater Albania". 
 But the Kosovars' decision to pursue independence had 
changed all that and Albanians accept the Kosovar decision. 
Berisha added that international, and especially U.S., 
presence in an independent Kosovo was "fundamental" -- and a 
proposition accepted by all Kosovar leaders. 
 
8. (C) Berisha put on the table the possibility that some 
would argue for denial of a UN seat for Kosovo as a 
face-saving measure for Serbia.  Ambassador Wisner replied it 
was too early in the negotiation to consider such a strategy. 
 He also doubted at end of the day this strategy would 
deliver Serb agreement.  He stressed that now is the wrong 
time to consider such propositions -- the Serbs have given no 
such indication that there is a price short of their 
preferred position (i.e. "more than autonomy, less than 
independence"). 
 
9. (C) Berisha did not object to the notion of the need for 
flexibility later in the day.  He said he was committed to 
working closely with the Kosovars to keep them together in 
support of Ceku and his reconciliation program.  He noted 
several times though that he worried about Ceku's position. 
He pledged he would play "Dutch uncle" to Kosovar political 
leaders, but would also push for strong measures aimed at 
reconciliation with Kosovar Serbs.  Wisner underscored, and 
Berisha said he understood, that Kosovar Albanians must deny 
Belgrade any evidence either today or after independence that 
supports the contention that the Kosovars will not treat the 
Serb minority equitably. 
 
HARXHI:  WE SUPPORT AHTISAARI'S APPROACH 
 
10. (C) In his meeting with Deputy FM Harxhi (FM Mustafaj was 
unavailable due to illness), Ambassador Wisner reiterated the 
need to "pull Serbia along" and urged the MFA to both use its 
"special ties" with Pristina to keep them pointed in the 
right direction while at the same time calm the fears of 
others in the region who worry of a "Greater Albania." 
Harxhi expressed support for Ahtisaari's approach in the 
negotiations and said that Albania understood that playing a 
moderate role benefited both Kosovo and the region.  She said 
the initial focus on decentralization was good.  She 
understood the negotiations had been "tedious" thus far, but 
was under the impression that the issue of status would be 
discussed on May 4.  She also said she had heard rumblings of 
a Tadic-Sediju meeting.  Ambassador Wisner explained the 
sequence of negotiations and dismissed the idea of a 
Tadic-Sedjiu meeting outside of the auspices of Ahtisaari, 
which he described as a "not a good idea." 
 
MOISIU:  STABILITY IN KOSOVO EQUALS STABILITY FOR EUROPE 
 
11. (C) President Moisiu observed that resolving the Kosovo 
 
TIRANA 00000408  003 OF 003 
 
 
issue this year, meant stability not just for the region but 
also for Europe.  Moisiu reported that he personally has met 
with Serb leaders and urged them to move beyond the past, be 
realistic, and look to the future.  The Kosovars are doing 
just that.  He identified as the most difficult issues for 
the Serbs their insistence that Kosovo is the "cradle of the 
Serb identity".  Regarding religious monuments, he noted that 
many Albanians are themselves Christian.  (NOTE:  President 
Moisiu is Orthodox.  End Note.)  Turning to Albania's role in 
the region, the President stated firmly that "Albania will 
not ever ask for Kosovo to join Albania"; there should be no 
changes in borders, and Albania fully supports the position 
of the international community.  Kosovo, he noted, should be 
independent, but must respect minority rights.  At the same 
time there can be no double standards.  The international 
community should apply the same standards for Kosovo 
independence that it applied to the other parts of the former 
Yugoslavia.  Moisiu said he is arranging a meeting of 
regional Presidents at the end of the week to discuss 
regional security issues.  He agreed that Albania could do 
more to advance the process by a) helping to convince 
regional leaders that Albanians had no designs on creating a 
"Greater Albania", and b) helping Kosovar Albanians navigate 
the negotiation process by urging them to be flexible and 
keep their eye on the desired result. 
 
SP LEADERS:  SERB LEADERS LACK VISION; ALBANIA CAN PLAY A 
ROLE 
 
12. (C) Former PM and MOD, and current Socialist Party SecGen 
Majko told Ambassador Wisner there would continue to be 
problems during the negotiation process because political 
leaders in Belgrade, specifically President Kostunica and PM 
Tadic, lacked the courage to lead.  None was willing to 
prepare the Serbian people for the inevitable outcome -- an 
independent Kosovo.  In contrast, he said, Kosovo politicians 
have public opinion on their side, and expect the status 
question to be resolved this year.  An unresolved Kosovo 
would create "unbalance" in the region.  Belgrade was causing 
problems because it wants to sell its cooperation for EU 
integration and a seat at the table.  Majko predicted that 
Macedonia would have an excellent relationship with Kosovo, 
and that the Tirana-Pristina-Skopje triangle would function 
well politically and economically.  Eventually, Greece would 
also become part of that group.  In addition, armed with 
their traditions of religious tolerance, both Albania and 
Kosovo could be used to foster better relations in the 
Islamic world.  Finally, Majko downplayed the idea of a 
"Greater Albania" arguing that, "Albanians will be three 
times as strong with an independent Kosovo, Albania, and the 
Albanian community in Macedonia."  He agreed with Ambassador 
Wisner that Albania needed to convince its neighbor's that an 
independent Kosovo was not a threat to the region. 
 
 
Roundtable with Opinion-makers 
 
13. (C) Ambassador Wisner met with a roundtable of leading 
opinion-makers and NGOs dealing with regional issues.  The 
participants noted the difficulty in understanding 
Ahtisaari's statement that Albania be "active, but not an 
actor."  Wisner offered that Albania should decide its own 
role, and should be active in encouraging Kosovar leaders to 
engage on the issues currently on the table.  Because of its 
relationship with Kosovo, Albania could play an important 
role in encouraging moderation on the Kosovar side as well as 
calming fears on the Serb side.  The participants also 
queried whether the USG approach was the same as Brussels's. 
Ambassador Wisner responded it was. 
 
14. (U) Ambassador Wisner cleared on this cable. 
RIES 

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