Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kosovo talks fight for space with beauticians' seminar

Kosovo talks fight for space with beauticians' seminar

Ivonne Marschall, dpa

November 27, 2007

Baden, Austria_(dpa) _ A few months down the track, Europe may witness the birth of another state, Kosovo. Diplomats hope the scales will tilt towards peace and prosperity in the Balkans and not towards unrest or another frozen conflict.

Representatives of Serbia and Kosovo gathered in a renaissance-era castle-turned hotel in Baden, a sleepy spa town in Austria, for a second day Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to thrash out a compromise over the breakaway Serbian province.

But somehow the gravity of the event was overshadowed by the fact that the Balkan leaders had to fight over buffet and meeting room space with software engineers and a beauticians' seminar taking place at the same time.

The UN mediators' - Russia, the United States and the European Union - wish for secret talks was thwarted, with scores of cameras crowding the space underneath the plastic deer heads and antlers decorating the walls of Schloss Weikersdorf.

"Who invited you?" EU-troika representative Wolfgang Ischinger quipped at the start of the talks, but all appeals could not prevent both delegations basking in the limelight of the international media for a flurry of statements.

Skender Hyseni, Kosovo's spokesman with the perfect haircut, assures the media that "nothing new" has happened and Serbia's dynamic duo, ministers Vuk Jeremic and Slobodan Samardzic, look well poised to become icons of the YouTube world.

But for Serbia in particular, the run-up to the talks did not bode well. The delegation could not get rooms in the conference hotel as all available rooms were taken by Austrian beauticians learning the latest about hot stone massage techniques.

On Monday, Serbia's ambassador had to face the wrath of hotel management. The hungry diplomat had grabbed some fruit off a buffet when he was accosted by angry hotel staff: "Are you with the seminar?"

Chewing on his grape, the ambassador could only mumble a confused "no" and was reprimanded for stealing from someone else's buffet.

As negotiations go on in the rustic halls of Baden, confused software executives wonder how they've suddenly become involved in world politics.

Delegates hurl well-prepared statements at each other as they meander through the journalists camping on the rugs.

The unfortunate delegates can't even have a drink after hours -Serbia's team have to make their way back through the snow to their own domiciles. Another victory for the beauticians.

However, despite appearances, the talks are serious. Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has vowed that his country would not give up "one inch" of its territory in the breakaway province.

His counterpart, Kosovo's likely next prime minister Hashim Thaci, making his way to the cameras after comfortably lounging in a faux-empire armchair in a press-filled corner, strikes back, saying that even 100 years of negotiations would lead to no compromise.

Independence is the only option, says the man who exchanged his rebel's combat uniform for a well-cut grey suit.

Meanwhile a group of confused Japanese tourists thread their way through the waiting cameras, shooting curious glances at the actors in this drama and probably wondering where on earth Kosovo is.
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