Direct talks on Kosovo status to begin early next year

U.N. special envoy for the Kosovo status stalks Marti Ahtisaari said he hoped the first direct meeting between Serbs and Albanians would take place early next year.

Ahtisaari said at a Belgrade news conference following two days of talks in Belgrade and Pristina that his mandate was to encourage and facilitate direct talks between the two parties.

"I hope we will be able to bring the two sides together in the first half of 2006," the Finnish diplomat said.

His mission headquarters in downtown Vienna "will be fully operable at the beginning of the new year," Ahtisaari explained. He said the offices would host liaison officers maintaining contacts with the United States, Russia, the European Union and NATO and that "just like in any other mission," different experts will be also working there.

The U.N. envoy said he was satisfied with the talks he had in Belgrade and Pristina, and that there were no dissenting views among the Serb officials he met with, Beta reports.


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