Friday, March 04, 2005

Too soon to decide Kosovo status, Austrian leader tells Serbia's Tadic

"It is still too early" for a decision on the final status of the UN-administered southern Serbian province of Kosovo, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel told journalists in Vienna on Thursday [4 March] after talks of about one and a half hours with Serbian President Boris Tadic. First a careful analysis of the criteria must be undertaken, and talks on the status could start in the summer at the earliest. "Then", Schuessel added, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan "will have to decide what is going to happen to Kosovo".

Solutions can be found to difficult issues in the western Balkans such as the question of Kosovo's status, the future of the federation of Serbia and Montenegro, or cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. "Everything is possible as part of the EU prospect," the Austrian chancellor stressed. In addition, Schuessel expressed the hope that the stabilization and association agreement with the EU would be concluded during Austria's EU presidency in the first half of next year.

Earlier Tadic had affirmed Belgrade's position that Kosovo's independence is out of the question. The president stressed during his first visit that there is agreement on the future of southeast Europe. The opening of the southeast European economic area could be the engine for the acceleration of EU integration, he said.

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