HELSINKI, Oct 9, 2006 (AFP) -
UN special envoy on the status of Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, said Monday he did not think the Kosovo Albanians and the Serbs would be able to reach a negotiated settlement on the province.
"I can't see (that) there will be a negotiated settlement," Ahtisaari told a seminar on Kosovo held at the Finnish parliament.
"I don't see the parties moving on the status issue. The parties remain diametrically opposed," he said.
The negotiations on the future status of the southern Serbian province, administered by the UN since June 1999, began in February under United Nations auspices, but no concrete results have emerged so far.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, which makes up 90 percent of the population, wants independence from Serbia.
But the government in Belgrade and the minority Serb community in Kosovo insist that the province -- considered to be the cradle of Serbian culture and history -- should be granted greater autonomy but not full independence.
Ahtisaari, who is to present a report on the negotiations by the end of the year, said talks have stumbled over issues such as decentralisation and minority rights.
"Pristina has been prepared to make clear concessions but Belgrade has been considerably less so," he said.
"My overall assessment of these technical talks is that the prospect for finding a common ground is very limited," he said, adding: "Without a lasting solution of the Kosovan questions, there is no lasting solution for the Balkan puzzle."
"Nevertheless I and my team will continue to press forward until all potential areas for compromise have been explored," he said.
Kosovo's prime minister, Agim Ceku, warned on Friday that any delay in reaching a long-term agreement on the province's future would damage the credibility of the international community in the eyes of the local population.
"That would damage credibility and (citizens') trust in the position of all the relevant international factors ... who have said many times that Kosovo's status would be resolved this year," Agim Ceku told reporters.
"No one would benefit from such a delay."
Foreign ministers from the so-called Contact Group -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States -- in September reaffirmed their goal of achieving a "status agreement" between Pristina and Belgrade by the end of the year.