Kosovo Serbian sides hold third round of status talks under UN chairmanship

Delegations from Kosovo and Serbia today ended a third 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 were held under the auspices of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Envoy for the future status of Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari. The parties agreed to meet again in Vienna on 4 May. 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 in February, Mr. Ahtisaari said he was using “a bottom-up approach,” 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 then.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 last month.

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