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Kosovo, Serbian delegations hold new status talks

Kosovo, Serbian delegations hold new status talks under UN chairmanship

Delegations from Kosovo and Serbia today held their second round of direct talks on decentralization in the Albanian-majority Serbian province, which the United Nations has administered ever since the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid grave rights abuses in ethnic fighting.

The talks in Vienna, chaired by Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Deputy Special Envoy for the future status of Kosovo Albert Rohan, focused on local finance, inter-municipal cooperation and cross-boundaries cooperation.

The talks are seen as an important start in the process of determining Kosovo’s final status. Independence and autonomy are among options that have been mentioned for the province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1. Serbia rejects independence and Kosovo’s Serbs have been boycotting the province’s provisional institutions.

After the first direct talks in Vienna last month, Mr. Annan’s special envoy for the process, Martti Ahtisaari, said he was using “a ‘bottom-up approach,’ in other words starting the process by dealing with practical and ‘status-neutral’ issues.

“Apart from decentralization, we will run parallel discussions on cultural and religious heritage, minority rights and economy,” he added.

He has appealed to Serbian leaders to encourage Kosovo Serb leaders to participate in the province’s institutions. “If you people don’t participate, it will be very difficult for any administration to create conditions where people can live together,” Mr. Ahtisaari told them during a visit to the province earlier this month.

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