U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told journalists at a pre-holiday press conference in Washington on Friday 21 December that “the fact is that Kosovo and Serbia are never going to be a part of the same state again. I think that’s quite clear.”

What could be clearer?

After months and years of following a talks-based process, the U.S. appears now to have come to the conclusion that there needs to be a quick resolution.

The “Troika effort”, Rice said at the news conference “was a very good faith effort and frankly, produced more than many of us thought it might because it got the parties talking to each other one last time. But that effort is at an end“.

Rice had been asked by a journalist: “The Kosovo talks seemed to not go terribly well the last round and I’m wondering if you would advise the Kosovars to put off any independence move until the diplomatic situation can be resolved a bit?”

Rice’s answer was a clear NO. She said that “over the next several weeks, it’s going to be important to take decisions because not taking decisions about the status of Kosovo is not — it will not be stabilizing for the Balkans. It’ll be destabilizing for the Balkans. And so we’re working with — very closely with our European allies. They are having a series of discussions within the European Union about a way forward. They’re also — we’re all trying to reach out to the Kosovars to make certain that they are attentive to the responsibilities that they would get from the Ahtisaari plan. And we’re reaching out to the Serbs to make sure that they understand that there is a European perspective for them”.

But will the Serbs, and the Russians — and even the Cypriot Government, which is now part of the European Union — accept the carrot of “a European perspective” for Serbia? What was all this fighting about, if it could now end so easily?

But Rice seems convinced. Breaking through the usual diplomatic obfuscation, Rice even said, amazingly, that Kosovo’s independence was the “logic” of UN Security Council Resolution 1244: “The fact is that Kosovo and Serbia are never going to be a part of the same state again … It was the logic, really, even of 1244 that the special status accorded Kosovo as a result of the war. And the important thing is for these two peoples to get on with their futures. But we will be consulting very closely with the Europeans. We’ll be working through it. We’ll be talking to the Kosovars. We’ll be talking to the Serbs. And we will talk to all parties and this includes the Russians, because it is really incumbent on all of us to make sure that we take actions in the Balkans that are stabilizing, that allow us to bring to an end the tragic chapters and the tragic circumstances of the Baltic — of the Balkan states so that the European construction can finally be completed some 17 years after the end of the Cold War“.

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