Greek foreign minister urges EU membership for Balkan states

Greece's foreign minister said Wednesday the eventual European Union membership for all Balkan states would guarantee peace in Kosovo and other troublespots in southeastern Europe. "Our opinion is that the European perspective for all in the region is the best, if not the only way to secure peace, security and democracy," Petros Molyviatis said after his talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic. "That is our strategic goal."

Molyviatis was leading a regional cooperation initiative together with Croatian and Romanian foreign ministry officials intended to highlight the importance of preserving Balkan stability during upcoming U.N.-mediated negotiations on the hotly contested Serbian province of Kosovo.

The three officials visited Kosovo and Belgrade to hear diverse stands on whether Kosovo should gain independence as demanded by Kosovo Albanians, or remains a self-governing entity within Serbia-Montenegro, as sought by Serbia.

The U.N.-mediated talks, which will be led by the former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, are expected to formally begin in January.

In Kosovo on Tuesday, Molyviatis appealed to Serbs and Kosovo Albanians to stay engaged throughout the negotiating process which is expected to last several months.

Although still technically a province within the loose union of Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations for over six years, since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign ended Belgrade's hold on the region of 2 million people.

Tadic on Wednesday reiterated his proposal that Kosovo should be administratively split between its majority Albanians and minority Serbs. This would grant Albanians self-government while formally keeping the province within Serbia's borders, he said, reports the AP. I.L.

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