04 April 2006

EU calls for negotiated settlement of Kosovo status

XINHUA (CHINA), 2006-03-11 23:44:12


SALZBURG, Austria, March 11 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU)on Saturday urged both Belgrade and Pristina to work toward a lasting Kosovo Status Agreement.


"The participants agreed that every effort should be made to achieve a negotiated settlement of the status of Kosovo, mutually acceptable to the parties concerned," said Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.


"The agreement should promote a multi-ethnic and democratic society and good neighborly relations within the region," he said.


Plassnik has been the chairperson of a two-day informal meetingof EU foreign ministers since Friday in Salzburg.


Under the UN auspices, Pristina and Belgrade are currently negotiating a deal on the lasting status of Kosovo. The next roundof talks was scheduled for March 17.


On Friday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters that Kosovo's path to independence "almost inevitable." The idea was countered by his French counterpart Douste-Blazy on Saturday, who said "it is unjustified to prejudge the negotiations."


Ethnic Albanians, pushing for independence, make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million population.


Almost seven years after the end of the war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas in 1998, during which both sides suffered heavy casualties, the central government in Belgrade and the provincial government in Pristina remained entrenched in rival positions.


The 1998-99 war ended with a NATO bombing campaign that forced the former Yugoslavia to withdraw Serbian troops and turn the southern province over to the UN control. Enditem