A few days ago Ahtisaari received some Dutch award. For that reason he gave a lecture in Amsterdam last friday. A nice opportunity to hear his story. I hope that the museum that organised the lecture will publish it, but for the moment I will have to rely on my memory.
Ahtisaari started with telling that he is a principled man and that his principle in this case was that Kosovo shouldn't return under Serb rule. And the first thing he did after he was appointed as a mediator was to make sure that the big powers supported this approach. He was very annoyed that Kostunica - whom he considers a worse nationalist than Milosevic - didn't buy this.
His talk was all about his consultations with the Americans, the Russians, the Germans, etc. Albanians and Serbs or his plan were hardly mentioned. On the question whether the local autonomy for Kosovo's Serbs was enough he stated that Kosovo was until recently governed by the UN and that he has good hope that now that they have taken over Kosovo's leaders will do better. He also pointed out that the European mission will only leave when the Kosovar leaders behave well and that for that reason they will be stronly motivated to do so. I found both arguments rather strange: Kosovo's leaders have had some power in the last 8 1/2 years and they have showed with a string of Serb-unfriendly proposals how they think. And Kai Eide concluded in his report in 2005 that "standards before status" does not work in Kosovo. Yet mr. Ahtisaari's way of convincing Kosovo's leaders to behave looks suspiciously similar. Unfortunately, Ahtisaari refused further questions from me.
The lecture left me with the following impressions: his success as negotiator is mainly based on getting the big powers behind a plan - not on any skills to bring two sides together; the plan is very probably written by some subordinates and he has had only minor involvement with it; and it looks like his knowledge about Kosovo is very limited.