Top U.N. official says Kosovo's status will be resolved soon

Kosovo's top U.N. official on Wednesday visited neighboring Albania to meet with the new government. Soren Jessen-Petersen meets with Albanian President Alfred Moisiu, Premier Sali Berisha and Foreign Minister Besnik Mustafaj during his one-day trip.

Jessen-Petersen said he would attend a U.N. Security Council meeting that will decide on the start of the talks to resolve the Kosovo status, "clearly in the interest of each and every state in the region," and appoint an envoy.

The envoy was expected to start his trips to Pristina, Belgrade and regional capitals next month, he said.

Kosovo became an international protectorate in 1999, after NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days to stop a crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatist rebels.

The province is formally part of Serbia-Montenegro but has been run by the United Nations and NATO since 1999 and remains a potential flash point in the Balkans because of its unresolved status.

"We have all come to the conclusion that after six years (Kosovo's) status quo is no longer tenable," Jessen-Petersen said at a news conference after meeting with Berisha.

The United Nations is hoping to start negotiations on Kosovo's future by the end of the year. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority insists on independence, while Belgrade hopes to retain at least formal control of the region.

"Our stand for independence is in accordance with the will expressed by the Kosovo citizens who want independence in cooperation with the international community," Berisha said.

He added that it was "absolutely fundamental to guarantee the rights of the Kosovo Serb and other minorities" and that Pristina hold a constant dialogue with Belgrade, the AP reports.

Jessen-Petersen appealed to Belgrade to "to give the green light to the Kosovo Serbs to engage in the democratic processes in Kosovo" because there would "always be a limit to our progress if the Kosovo Serbs ... do not take part in our efforts to improve their situation."

"Clearly, the Kosovo Serbs must have a voice in deciding the status ... and I trust that Belgrade will also recognize that there is a need for a particular role of the Kosovo Serbs," Jessen-Petersen said.

"The next several months will be very important for the future of Kosovo and also crucial for the region," he added.


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