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Kosovo parties find common ground in first round

Kosovo parties find common ground in first round of status talks, says UN envoy

The first round of direct negotiations between delegations from Albanian-majority Kosovo and Serbia on the future status of the Serbian province found common ground on the issue of decentralization of services, according to the United Nations envoy who chaired the talks, which ended today.

“The kind of matters we discussed are not earth-shattering matters in the political sense, but they are extremely important for the people concerned and we tried to approach this really from a practical point,” Albert Rohan, the Deputy Special Envoy of Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the future status of Kosovo said at a press conference in Vienna, where the talks were held.

Delegates exchanged views on municipal concerns such as health care, education, culture, social welfare, police and justice, provisions on which will have to be incorporated into any resolution on Kosovo’s future status, according to Mr. Rohan.

Future status options could include independence or autonomy for Kosovo where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1, and which the UN has administered ever since North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid grave rights abuses in ethnic fighting. Serbia opposes independence.

Last month, Secretary-General Annan called on Kosovo leaders to work to promote government reform and other key goals in the province, saying he was “seriously concerned” by the slow progress and setbacks between May and December last year.

Both parties decided to meet again on 17 March to continue the discussion of decentralization, including such matters as local finance, inter-municipal cooperation and links between Kosovo municipalities and municipalities in Serbia as well as with Belgrade.

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