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Closer Regional Cooperation Stressed In Balkans

Closer Regional Cooperation Stressed By Balkan Leaders During General Assembly Debate

New York, Sep 21 2006 5:00PM

Strengthening relations between neighbours is essential if the countries of the Balkans are to consolidate the peace achieved over the past decade and continue their fight against such problems as organized crime and corruption, two leaders from the region told the United Nations General Assembly today.

Branko Crvenkoski, President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said there was no substitute to dialogue for resolving outstanding issues between countries in the region.

Mr. Crvenkoski said Macedonians were focused on carrying out the necessary reforms that will allow the nation to become a member of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as soon as possible.

Turning to Kosovo, he voiced support for the work of the UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his team on the talks between Pristina and Belgrade about the status of the province.

“Every effort should be made to achieve a negotiated settlement mutually acceptable to the parties,” he said, adding that he also wanted the demarcation of the border between his country and Kosovo to be resolved first.

Serbian President Boris Tadic told the Assembly’s annual debate that the issue of Kosovo’s permanent status must be approached “on the basis of recognized principles of international law and universal democratic values,” or the region will not avoid “the vicious circle of old animosities and mutual recriminations.

Mr. Tadic said Kosovo Albanians have autonomy from Serbia that is “broader than any currently enjoyed by any region or a federal unit in Europe,” and recommended that this situation continue.

He added that there must be “an end to seven years of discrimination of the Serbs as well as other non-Albanian communities” before Kosovo’s status can be determined.

The Serbian leader also emphasized that unless they improve their levels of cooperation, countries of the Balkans, which was beset by war during the 1990s, will struggle to make progress in their goals of joining the EU, NATO and similar groupings.

Ends

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