PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - A U.N. envoy told ethnic Albanian leaders Wednesday that minority protection was essential to resolving Kosovo's disputed status.
Albert Rohan, who is helping U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari lead the talks, also told representatives of the Serb minority in Kosovo to participate in the province's political life, which they have boycotted for nearly two years.
"Status won't come automatically," Rohan told reporters, concluding his visit in Kosovo.
"The solution won't fall from heaven," he said. "They have to really pull up their socks and start to work."
Rohan urged ethnic Albanian leaders to reach out to the Serb and other minorities living here by addressing issues such as local government reform aimed at giving them more say in the areas where they live.
Kosovo's 100,000-strong Serb minority lives in isolated enclaves, protected by NATO-led peacekeepers. Their leaders have refused participation in the province's ethnic-Albanian dominated institutions since a wave of riots by ethnic Albanian mobs targeted them in 2004.
"We want them to have a future in Kosovo, we want to facilitate this and guarantee this, but they must also participate in shaping the future of Kosovo," Rohan said of the Serbs.
After the meetings in Kosovo, Rohan traveled to Serbia's capital, Belgrade.
Kosovo, officially a province of Serbia-Montenegro, has been administered by the United Nations since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign halted the Serbian crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.
The U.N.-mediated talks on solving Kosovo's future status are expected to formally begin in January. Negotiations are expected to be tough, with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority insisting on independence, while Serbia and the Serb minority wanting to retain at least formal control over the region.
Rohan said that the intetention of joining the European Union one day was an essential incentive in the process of determining the future of the province, but conceded that the body "is in crisis" over the future enlargement which could eventually bring in the countries of the Balkans.