Tuesday, April 05, 2005

German FM optimistic ahead of talks on final Kosovo status

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Tuesday he was optimistic about talks later this year on the final status of the UN-run province of Kosovo, calling for them to be held in a "spirit of reconciliation."

"We wish international community and concerned parties to respect a spirit of compromise and reconciliation -- we are optimists," Fischer said after a meeting of western Balkans foreign ministers in the town of Durres, northwest of the capital Tirana.

Talks on the final status of Kosovo, a Serb province which has been administered by the United Nations since the end of 1998-99 conflict, may start in September if the international community finds that the province has met democratic standards.

Ethnic Albanians, who make 90 percent of two-million strong population, want Kosovo to become an independent state, a solution that Belgrade categorically rejects.

All concerned parties should "be engaged in the process" of negotiations, Fischer said.

Kosovo "is one of the most important issues this year," he added.

Serbia-Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic said Kosovo should have "European status" that would ensure security for Serb minority in the province.

"We will instigate a constructive and intensive dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina," he said.

Top Serbian and Kosovo politicians held their first direct talks since the war in Vienna in October 2003. But the dialogue was derailed in March 2004 when Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority rampaged for three days through Serb enclaves, leaving 19 dead and thousands homeless.

The talks resumed last month, focusing only on the fate of the people listed as missing from the war.

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