BELGRADE (AP)--The chairman of Europe's leading security organization said Friday that it was very important to begin talks on the fate of U.N.-run Kosovo province.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel - the current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - said the negotiations could start next month.
"For me, OSCE, Slovenia and most our friends in the E.U., it is of great importance that this process starts," Rupel said after talks with Serbia- Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic.
"What we wish to see is a united and free Europe, and without solving ... the Kosovo problem it is hard to imagine such a Europe," Rupel said.
Rupel will travel to Kosovo from Belgrade for meetings with local ethnic Albanian and Serb leaders.
Serbian media reported ahead of Rupel's visit that his meetings in Belgrade will focus on the OSCE's role in the future negotiations on the status of Kosovo that are expected to start by the end of the year.
Kosovo is formally part of Serbia-Montenegro, although it has been run by the U.N. and NATO since 1999, when a NATO bombing of the country forced Belgrade to end a crackdown against separatist ethnic Albanians.
Belgrade is hoping to retain at least formal control over its southern region at the future negotiations, while Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians insist the province should become an independent state.
Foreign Minister Draskovic complained during the meeting with Rupel about the position of the minority Serbs in Kosovo, who live in isolated enclaves there guarded by NATO troops.
Draskovic said that "nowhere in Europe are the rights of a nation so violated as those of the Serb people in Kosovo."
A top U.S. official has said Washington will appoint a special envoy for the Kosovo negotiations.
Rupel also met in Belgrade with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and other top officials. In Pristina, Rupel will meet with U.N. administrator of Kosovo Soren Jessen-Petersen and local leaders.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires