US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on Wednesday she plans to visit the two countries ahead of upcoming talks between Belgrade and Pristina.
(DPA, Blic, The Sofia Echo - 30/09/10; AFP, Reuters, AP, VOA, UPI, Blic, B92, Radio Srbija, US Department of State - 29/09/10; DPA, B92, Blic - 27/09/10; RFE/RL, Beta, B92 - 26/09/10; Reuters, VOA, Beta - 25/09/10)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will hold talks in Serbia and Kosovo. [Reuters]
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday (September 29th) that she will visit Serbia and Kosovo next month, and voiced hope that the upcoming talks between Belgrade and Pristina will be fruitful.
In remarks during a joint appearance with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Washington, Clinton told reporters that she would travel to the region "in about ten days" in a bid to facilitate reconciliation between the two Balkan countries.
"I am very much looking forward to my visit to both Belgrade and Pristina and the opportunity not only to speak with leaders, but also with citizens," said Clinton. "Because it's important that we keep the goal of that future in the minds of both Serbs and Kosovars, because there are difficult issues that they will have to resolve."
Earlier this month, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution urging Belgrade and Pristina to engage in a dialogue that would aim to promote co-operation, facilitate both countries' progress on the path to EU integration and improve the lives of their citizens.
Following the adoption of the document, Ashton met separately with Serbian President Boris Tadic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci to discuss the possible agenda of the talks, which will be mediated by the EU.
The new negotiations are expected to focus on a broad array of practical issues, ranging from protection of cultural and historical sites to co-operation in areas such as customs, trade and economy, transport, telecommunications, border security and the fight against organised crime.
During a debate Saturday at the 65th UN General Assembly in New York, Tadic said his country is ready for the talks, which would begin "soon". But he also urged members of the world organisation that have not yet recognised Kosovo to refrain from doing so during the forthcoming negotiations.
Seventy countries, including the United States and 22 of all 27 EU states, have recognised Kosovo since its February 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia. Belgrade has pledged to never follow those nations' example. In the days following the adoption of the UN resolution this month, some Serbian officials and politicians have insisted that the issue of Kosovo's status should be included in the upcoming talks.
Pristina and Western diplomats have rejected this as an option.
"The United States, of course, supports Kosovo as an independent state, and we believe that the dialogue will not revisit the issue of Kosovo's status," Serbian media quoted the US Embassy in Belgrade as saying this week.
The main priority is for the two sides to first find solutions to "critical" issues in the areas of energy supply, telecommunications, and the movement of people, goods and services, Serbia's Liberal Democratic Party leader Cedomir Jovanovic said on Wednesday. The question of Kosovo's status should be discussed when it becomes viable and realistic, Belgrade-based B92 quoted him as saying.
Washington remains committed to helping all Western Balkan countries achieve their Euro-Atlantic integration goals and is prepared to facilitate reconciliation between Serbia and Kosovo, Clinton said on Wednesday.
"The EU and the United States stand ready to assist and facilitate, to support and cajole that the parties do reach these agreements with each other," she said after talks with Ashton. "But ultimately, it is up to the leaders and the people ... to come to a decision about their future."