S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BELGRADE 001566
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2016
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PBTS, YI, SR
SUBJECT: A/S FRIED'S SEPT 25 MEETINGS WITH SERBIAN LEADERS
Classified By: Ambassador Michael C. Polt for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
(S/NF) Summary: In separate meetings on September 25 in
Belgrade, Assistant Secretary Fried delivered to Prime
Minister Kostunica, President Tadic and Foreign Minister
Draskovic the following unambiguous messages: Kosovo will be
independent, Serbs and Serbian culture in Kosovo will be
protected, and the USG is committed to support Serbia's
integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. Trying to hold
on to Kosovo through destabilization will fail and derail
Serbia's Euro-Atlantic integration while action on ICTY will
accelerate it. As usual, Kostunica gave legal arguments
against Kosovo independence and said Serbia's future in
Europe is "beyond dispute." Tadic, by contrast, thinks he
can avoid "losing Kosovo" in the eyes of the electorate if
certain church/minority guarantees are in place and hopes we
can provide him a boost (such as PfP) during elections.
Draskovic, closer to Tadic on the way forward, stressed the
need to arrest Mladic. The three men are already in campaign
mode and expect elections before 2007. End Summary.
(S/NF) The Prime Minister, uncharacteristically upbeat
and joined by advisors Aleksandar Simic and Vladeta Jankovic,
wanted to talk about the past despite the opportunity A/S
Fried provided him to discuss how best the USG can help him
and other democrats after Kosovo status is resolved.
Kostunica said that standards were always a precondition to
status (the PM cited Kai Eide's 2005 report) and a lack of
returns, freedom of movement and security from ethnically
motivated crime are all indications of this. The PM seemed
energized in deploying his customary legal arguments, saying
he "feels good, even if alone, on the side of international
law." A/S Fried noted frankly that Kosovo was gone. He made
clear Serbia's choice: either go Milosevic' route to "a dark
nationalist place" by fomenting insurrection in Mitrovica,
Republika Srpska and elsewhere or take the road to Europe and
an improved economy, more jobs and a better future for all
Serbs. The day after Kosovo status, A/S Fried emphasized,
would be critical to determining along which path Serbia
proceeds. Kostunica assessed that Serbia's European vocation
was unquestioned despite reiterating his refusal to accept an
independent Kosovo on legal grounds.
(S/NF) Kostunica repeated his position that "all possible
things are being done" to deliver Mladic (whom he called "an
obstacle" for Serbia) to The Hague and said it is simply "a
matter of time" before this is attained. A/S Fried reminded
the Prime Minister of the USG's recommendations of action the
GOS should undertake and handed him again our 11 suggestions.
Kostunica was generally dismissive, saying "we can't have
two action plans."
(S/NF) The President, joined by advisors Vuk Jeremic and
Branko Radujko, responded very differently from Kostunica by
wanting to focus on the future after Kosovo status. Tadic
told A/S Fried that Kosovo's independence does not
necessarily mean a "loss" if properly defined in the minds of
the electorate. He elaborated that ethnic violence, an
exodus by Kosovo Serbs or the loss of rights would all
certainly mean they "lost Kosovo." A/S Fried posited that
protections for Kosovo Serbs and "Serbian-ness" (church,
minority and other protections) might mean avoiding such a
loss. A/S Fried underscored that now is the time for Tadic
to discuss these arrangements with Special Envoy Ahtisaari.
(S/NF) Tadic said that he left New York with the
impression that some EU countries are considering relaxing
PfP conditionality if there is more evidence that the GoS is
actively pursuing Mladic. A/S Fried acknowledged that clear
actions by the GoS to arrest Mladic might provide a basis
"for some" to argue for taking another look at PfP
(S/NF) Tadic also raised Bosnia, affirming his opposition
to redrawing borders or partition of the country. A/S Fried
pushed Tadic to make that clear to RS PM Dodik and work
against his calls for a referendum. Tadic commented that USG
pressure on Dodik in this regard is a positive factor.
Referring to the recently agreed on "special relationship"
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between RS and Serbia, Tadic said Serbia planned to offer the
same to the rest of Bosnia, including a plan under
consideration to offer Serbian citizenship to all Bosnians.
A/S Fried strongly criticized this idea, citing similar and
destabilizing offers by Russia in places like Abkhazia.
(S/NF) Draskovic expressed his usual arguments against
Kosovo independence: a new Berlin Wall between Serbia and
Kosovo, instability in Albanian regions in Macedonia and
Montenegro, precedence for "frozen conflicts" like Ossetia
and Transdnister, and "turbulence in Bosnia." Nevertheless,
the Foreign Minister responded favorably to A/S Fried's
commitment of USG support for Serbia's integration in
Euro-Atlantic institutions. Draskovic said that in Serbia
the call for such integration "is no voice in the
wilderness," citing overwhelming support in polls for EU
membership. On ICTY, Draskovic said that Mladic is a
"disgrace to his nation" and that he is committed to repair
(S/NF) Comment: A/S Fried central message -- the
overriding importance of Serbia's European future -- was
clearly heard in his private and public messages during this
visit. Neither Serbia's leaders nor its public are really in
doubt about the Kosovo outcome. What is lacking is clear
communication between the leadership and the citizens about
the hard truth. Ambassador Fried pushed hard on encouraging
that dialogue. End Comment.
(U) A/S Fried cleared this message after departing post.