U.S. envoy urges Serbia to play constructive role in Kosovo talks

A U.S. envoy urged Belgrade officials Monday to play a "constructive role" in the ongoing Kosovo talks, as Serbia announced it would soon come up with a specific proposal for the future autonomy of its U.N.-run province. Frank Wisner, who is the U.S. representative in the U.N.-brokered negotiations on the future status of Kosovo, met Serbian leaders as part of a tour of the region that also included visits to Kosovo and Macedonia.

Wisner met with Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, President Boris Tadic and Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic. The visit is aimed at giving fresh impetus to the U.N. efforts to negotiate the final status of the province of 2 million, which has been an international protectorate since 1999 NATO bombing forced Serbia to end a crackdown against the separatist rebels and pull out.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority insists on independence, while its Serb minority and Belgrade are seeking to keep Kosovo at least formally within Serbia's boundaries. In Belgrade, Wisner focused "on strengthening relationships with Serbia's leaders" and urged them "to play a constructive role in the ongoing negotiations to ensure a peaceful, democratic Kosovo that protects the rights of all its residents," the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

A statement from Kostunica's office, issued after the meeting, quoted Wisner as saying "it would be very important that the Serbs join the work of the interim institutions in Kosovo," which they have boycotted since last year's election, complaining of discrimination. The statement also quoted Kostunica as telling Wisner that independence for Kosovo would be "unacceptable" for Serbia, and would "present a dangerous precedent, to impose a solution on a democratic country and strip it of part of its territory."

Instead, Kostunica said, the solution for Kosovo should be a compromise, and "all extremist solutions should be left behind." "Belgrade will soon present a concrete proposal for the autonomy of the province in accordance with European standards," Kostunica was quoted as saying. The ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in the past have rejected any proposals that fall short of independence.

Serbian media and officials blasted Wisner ahead of the visit for allegedly saying in Macedonia that the best solution for Kosovo was that it become an independent state. The U.N.-mediated talks on Kosovo's future, which began in February, aim at finding a settlement by the end of the year, reports the AP.


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