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Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 23:35 GMT

World: Europe

Kosovo talks: What's on the table?

By South East Europe Analyst Gabriel Partos

Kosovo Section
After weeks of hesitation the Kosovar Albanian delegation at the Paris peace talks announced on Monday that it was ready to sign the three-year Kosovo peace plan drawn up by the six-power Contact Group.

But Serbia's President, Milan Milutinovic, responded to the Albanian move by saying that there was as yet no agreement to sign. But what are the key features of Contact Group's deal?

So is there a deal or no?

Last month's talks at Rambouillet ended inconclusively with neither side being prepared to sign the document. But the Contact Group claimed that both delegations had accepted the deal in principle; and that the next round of discussions - which has since opened in Paris - would be only about the implementation of an already agreed document.

Publicly the Contact Group has dismissed any notion of renegotiating the deal, other than making cosmetic changes relating to the details of implementation.

What is the main purpose of the agreement?

There are two fundamental objectives - to bring peace to Kosovo and restore self-government to the province. The signatories commit themselves to an immediate ceasefire as soon as the agreement enters into force.

And following elections within nine months Kosovo is to have its own autonomous institutions while staying as part of Serbia within the Yugoslav federation.

How is peace to be achieved?

Through a combination of disarmament and the deployment of a Nato-led implementation force - a point Belgrade continues to oppose. The Yugoslav army (apart from a 1,500-strong border guard) and the Serbian police are to be pulled out of Kosovo in a phased withdrawal.

All paramilitary forces - primarily the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA, are to be disbanded and their members are to be disarmed. Policing duties are to be taken over by a newly-formed community police with only 3,000 members. Overall, the demilitarization process within Kosovo goes well beyond what was put in place in Bosnia and Hercegovina.

What about the government envisaged for Kosovo?

Kosovo will have an extensive form of autonomy. It will have its own president, parliament and government headed by a prime minister. They will share control over most matters relating to Kosovo - including local administration, education and health.

Kosovo will also be allowed to conduct relations with foreign countries. But Yugoslavia will continue to have control over key areas, such as monetary policy, defence, foreign policy and customs services. By contrast, Serbia will have little authority over Kosovo.

What kind of protection is envisaged for Serbs and other minority communities in a Kosovo where around 90% of the population are ethnic Albanians?

There are to be ethnically-based quotas or forms of positive discrimination in virtually all areas of public life. Out of the 120 seats in the Kosovo assembly, 25 will be reserved for non-Albanians in addition to those they gain in the normal course of voting.

The president and the speaker of the assembly will have to belong to different ethnic groups. The new community police will reflect the local ethnic mix. And individuals charged with crimes will have a chance to choose the area where they wish to be tried so as to avoid a case being judged by a local judiciary that may be considered ethnically hostile.

Who is going to implement all these plans?

Kosovo is to have an international Implementation Mission - similar to the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia. The Chief of the Implementation Mission will have extensive powers to issue binding instructions, to arbitrate between the opposing sides and to dismiss local officials who obstruct the implementation of the deal.

These powers are greater than those granted at Dayton to the High Representative for Bosnia which were subsequently increased to get the peace process moving. This time the international community wants from the very beginning to prevent the local parties from obtructing parts of the implementation that they've only grudgingly accepted.

What would happen after three years?

The future of Kosovo will be reviewed - presumably at another peace conference. The Kosovar Albanians have failed to get an explicit promise of a referendum on independence - although the further talks are meant to take into account the will of the people. In practice, there may be several more interim agreements before any long-term solution is found.

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