PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro, May 18, 2006 (AFP) -
UN-backed talks on Kosovo will likely tackle core issues determining the status of the disputed Serbian province in two months, a senior mediator in the negotiations said Thursday.
Speaking ahead of the fifth round of talks in Vienna on Tuesday, Albert Rohan said that his chief, UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari, would report to the UN Security Council in July.
"That is the moment when, in all likelihood, he will call for direct talks on the status questions," Rohan said at the end of a brief visit here.
Kosovo has been run by the United Nations and NATO since mid-1999, when the alliance's air war drove out forces loyal to former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic over a crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.
Talks on Kosovo's future status, chaired by Rohan, started in February. The leaders of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority are pushing for independence, a demand the Serbian government firmly opposes.
The Austrian diplomat said Thursday that Ahtisaari had yet to decide on precisely how the delicate issue of Kosovo's future would be framed.
"It is an open question but, sooner or later, we will need to approach the status question itself."
Speaking to reporters before leaving Pristina, Rogan admitted "there were some differences of opinion on the substance of the decentralization in Belgrade and Pristina."
Rohan said the United Nations was determined to ensure that the eventual settlement would be implemented. "We have a very strong view that the future international presence should be as light as possible and as robust as necessary," he said.