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A Defining Moment In History

A Defining Moment In HistoryFive years after the United States-led NATO intervention into Kosovo, the region remains at a crossroads – and according to a Tufts expert, it’s time for the U.S. to step in again.Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.26.04] This week, violence returned to the troubled Balkan region as ethnic Albanians attacked dozens of Serbian communities across Kosovo - killing 28 people. With attacks occurring less than half a mile from United Nations peacekeepers stationed there to preserve peace, a Tufts expert says that the U.N. is failing its mission. It's time, he says, for the United States to intervene.

"We are at a defining moment in the history of the Balkans," Tufts professor R. Bruce Hitchner and his colleague Paul Williams of American University wrote in an op-ed published in the Baltimore Sun. "Securing the independence of Kosovo and Montenegro is a long-overdue step in the political transformation of the Balkans. The longer this crucial step is delayed, the more volatile the region will become."

According to Hitchner, professor and chair of Tufts' classics department, the region has failed to stabilize in recent years - instead returning to ethnic conflict under the watch of the U.N.

"Four years ago, the United Nations was charged with the responsibility of establishing a protectorate over Kosovo in order to facilitate ‘a political process' to determine the future of the Balkan province," Hitchner wrote in the Sun. "The United Nations has failed in its mission, as the outbreak of ethnic violence across Kosovo and Serbia revealed."

Hitcher - who is chairman of the board of trustees of the Dayton Peace Accords Project - says that both the U.N. and the European Union are waffling on action in the region, instead choosing to stall negotiations that will move toward a solution.

"The United Nations and the E.U. have purposely delayed Kosovo's final status because of misplaced fear that independence in the province - the only viable option short of renewed conflict - would be vetoed by Russia and China in the U.N. Security council would threaten stability in Serbia and Bosnia," wrote the Tufts professor in the Sun. "As the hostilities last week demonstrate, the imagined fears are being outpaced by realities."

In light of the violence, the Tufts professor says that the U.S. must take a leadership role in restoring peace to Serbia and Kosovo before tensions increase further.

"The first step is to appoint a senior U.S. representative with the political credibility to command the respect of the Serbs and Kosovars," Hitchner wrote. "Then the United States should insist on a discontinuation of the meaningless Kosovo-Serb dialogue and replace it with a U.S.-led effort to determine the final status of Kosovo by summer."

According to the two experts, U.S.-led talks could help an independent Kosovo emerge. They also urge the U.S. to lobby the E.U. to recognize the independence of Montenegro, a key step to peace in the region.

"Only when Kosovo and Montenegro are separated from Serbia will Serbia be able to focus on the corruption and political stagnation at the core of the instability in the Balkans," wrote Hitchner in the Sun.

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