Diplomats try to strengthen U.N.-mediated process on Kosovo

The six-nation Contact Group overseeing talks on Kosovo's future met with the province's officials Friday as it tries to invigorate stalled U.N.-mediated process. Diplomats from the U.S. , Britain , France , Russia , Italy and Germany met with Kosovo's local and international officials, a day after urging Serbia 's leader to seek "realistic solutions" in the negotiations on the future status of the contested province.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, following NATO's bombing of Serb forces after their bloody crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatist. The U.N. also launched negotiations on the province's future earlier this year, but the process has been stalled with the two sides failing to agree on the issue tabled the reform of local government aimed at giving Serb and other minorities more say in areas where they live.

Western officials have indicated that Kosovo's quest for independence is conditional on its respecting minority rights, especially those of Serbs, with local government reform being key to that goal. Serbian officials want the province to have broad autonomy, but Kosovo's ethnic Albanians insist on the outright independence.

About 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million population is ethnic Albanian. Tens of thousands Serbs and other non-Albanians fled the province after the end of war in 1999. Serbian officials have insisted that the remaining Serbs in Kosovo about 100,000 people be granted self-rule within Kosovo and be allowed to maintain close ties with the government in Belgrade .

But the Contact Group officials on Thursday urged the Serbs, who are concentrated in the north of the province, to take part of the province's existing institutions rather than seeking territorial division. Serbs have complained that the provincial institutions are dominated by ethnic Albanians, reports the AP.


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