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The Albanians in Kosovo have achieved their historic dream by declaring their independence from Serbia. They proclaimed the independence of their state without the mandate of the United Nations and with the strong backing of the United States and a majority of the European countries. Since 1999, the province had been placed under UN protection in the wake of international intervention and the provision of a NATO-led peacekeeping force to protect civilians and to put a stop to the carnage considered one of the biggest human rights violations during the last decade of the 20th century. In addition, arrangements were made for the return of the refugees and the displaced who had been forced to flee their homeland as a result of the policy of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Serbia's regular army and its paramilitary forces.
The international community's intervention put in place a mechanism under the supervision of the UN, led by former UN Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, who was also entrusted with overseeing the NATO-led KFOR (Kosovo Force). The latter was responsible for ensuring security and stability in the province that had been battered by a vicious civil war between the province's Albanian majority (90% of the population) and its Serbian minority, backed by the Serbian government and political leadership.
The unilateral declaration adopted by the parliament in Kosovo, based on a draft resolution for the declaration of independence under international supervision, guaranteed at the same time wide-ranging rights for the other ethnicities. It also defined the nature and substance of the political system, based on democracy, political pluralism, the transfer and devolution of power through peaceful and democratic means, and the adherence to international standards of human rights as well as to international conventions and charters.

Justifiable Apprehensions

The step taken by Kosovo to declare independence unilaterally had raised and still raises many fears and reactions. These remain linked to the respective interests of the surrounding countries, especially Bulgaria, Rumania, Greece and Cyprus. And, naturally, there is the stance of Russia, which has a number of perhaps justifiable apprehensions. For Russia and the other countries, these fears are not so much based on ethnic considerations as on the fact that Kosovo's move would encourage other national minorities in these countries to follow suit and secede from the central government. Such a development could lead to further fragmentation in a region already under the dark cloud of a return to the Cold War and to the frantic pursuit of a new form of arms race, and would include many international and regional conflicts that are emerging as causes of tension and regional flare-ups.
These fears, then, are understandable and perhaps justified, given the present international climate. However, it would be unreasonable and unacceptable to acquiesce to the fact that the present conditions - which are liable to shift at any moment - should be inconsistent with the most basic rights of nations, enshrined in the UN Charter: the right of peoples to self-determination.

A Good Example to Study

Conceivably, the Kosovo experience and its unilateral declaration of independence could prove a valuable example for our people and political leadership to study and from which to draw lessons. The option of a unilateral declaration of independence was placed on the Palestinian political agenda before the expiration of the interim stage in May 1999. This date was allowed to pass in the hopes that the intensive negotiations that had begun at the time, including at Camp David under the auspices of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, would lead to a resolution of all the final status issues and to the declaration of independence, based on an agreement between the two parties and on the resolutions of international legitimacy.
Now we are in a seemingly different political stage; however, there is a similarity between the situation on the eve of the end of the interim period and today's negotiations that have set a new deadline at the end of the current year [2008], in accordance with what was agreed upon in Annapolis. And as physical facts - not theoretical analysis - indicate, the Israeli government is seeking to void the Annapolis agreement of all its substance, and to annul even what has already been agreed upon in order to move the process forward towards a settlement of final status issues. Israel has demolished the first stage of the Road Map, even though it was the one that insisted on the implementation of this stage as a condition for the negotiations to progress. The execution of the first stage was meant to pave the way for the implementation of the final phase of the agreement, i.e., the application of the resolutions of international legitimacy pertaining to the withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The Need for Alternatives Options

The negotiations now underway do not point to the possibility of arriving at an agreement by the end of this year. The declarations by Israel's prime minister that the objectives of the negotiations for this year should be limited to defining the framework for the settlement, and his sidestepping of the question of Jerusalem, leave no doubt as to the direction of the Israeli government. This, combined with its activities on the ground - the confiscation of lands, the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the rush to complete the construction of the separation wall - lead to this unequivocal conclusion: Reaching an agreement to end the occupation and to realize freedom and independence for the Palestinian people in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy appears not only unfeasible but also impossible. Consequently, the search for alternative options has become not simply a matter of necessity; it has become a matter of urgency in light of our assessment of the political situation.
A Palestinian political move that starts now to prepare the international, regional, Arab and Islamic communities for an option akin to the Kosovo independence move is a matter of vital importance, especially given that Palestine's situation and its cause are not incompatible with regional interests, nor do they threaten other countries with fragmentation. On the contrary, the establishment of an independent and geographically contiguous Palestinian state will prevent the partition schemes of other neighboring countries. It will also place the U.S. and the other countries that have backed Kosovo's independence so robustly in a political and moral position where they would have to prove their credibility. Otherwise, their rejection would constitute a clear case of double standards in dealing with nations and their search for self-determination.
It is imperative that we study the dimensions of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence and to prepare ourselves for this option which, in the end, may prove inevitable.

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