BRUSSELS, April 29, 2006 (AFP) -
NATO urged Serbia Saturday finally to arrest war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic and find a positive solution for Kosovo to pave the way to acceptance within the North Atlantic Alliance.
"See that Mladic gets to The Hague, and I can tell you that NATO will bring you in very quickly, then you can continue stabilisation and association with the European Union," said NATO Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, speaking at a forum in Brussels on transatlantic relations.
Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb military commander, has remained at large for more than 10 years since being indicted by The Hague war crimes tribunal for his role in Bosnia's 1992-95 war on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"The only recipe for security and stability is EU and NATO membership," said de Hoop Scheffer."We need Serbia in an active and positive role in the Kosovo negotiation ... My plea is: make it possible for all of us, to make this happen. You can do it happen, please do it quickly."
United States diplomat Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Dayton agreements on Bosnia, said the main issue for Serbia was "to figure out how to protect your long-term future. And to start the process by which Serbia finally takes its role as an important country inside the EU over time."
Holbrooke also foresaw an independent future for Kosovo.
The majority ethnic Albanian province has been run by the UN since Serb forces were forced out by a NATO-led assault in 1999.
"How it happens is of immense importance to the future of Europe," he stressed. "All the rights of the minority people of Kosovo, which means primarily the Serbs, must be respected, their churches, culture, their language.
"This will require an international security presence, and, speaking personally, I hope there will be an American participation in that."
But Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic warned against an independent Kosovo.
"The main objective must be security and stability," he said. "There will be no freedom, no security and stability in Europe if we keep some parts of Europe far away from security and stability. We mustn't ignore the issue of Kosovo. The problem is not solved."
Draskovic said he was participating here as "a warning that plans of Kosovo's independence are very very dangerous.
"The boundaries of a province, Kosovo, could not be changed, while borders of an internationally recognized state could be changed. Separatists all over the world are watching now."