LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The world's major powers reminded Belgrade on Tuesday that any agreement on the future status of Kosovo must be acceptable to the people living in the province, many of whom want full independence from Serbia.
In what appeared to be a toughening of its stance, the contact group on the future of Kosovo also called on all parties to do everything possible to reach such an agreement by the end of the year.
"Ministers look to Belgrade to bear in mind that the settlement needs ... to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo," the contact group said in a statement issued after talks in London.
"The disastrous policies of the past lie at the heart of the current problems," read the statement, issued jointly with the European Union presidency, NATO's Secretary-General and United Nations representatives including the U.N. special status envoy.
"Today, Belgrade's leaders bear important responsibilities in shaping what happens now and in the future."
New talks on the future of Kosovo -- the first under a U.N. mediation process launched last November -- had been due to start on Jan. 25 but were postponed due to the death of Kosovan President Ibrahim Rugova four days earlier.
A U.N. mediator was quoted on Tuesday as saying they could now take place in late February.
Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against ethnic Albanian civilians during a 2-year war with separatist guerrillas.
Ninety percent of Kosovo's population of two million people is made up of ethnic Albanians, most of whom demand nothing less than independence from Serbia.
Although Serbs oppose secession, Western diplomats say the final settlement on Kosovo will almost certainly meet the calls of the local population.