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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 15:56 GMT
Nato welcomes Serbian peace plans
Albanian rebels
Albanian rebels stop and search a car in the buffer zone
Nato has welcomed Serbian proposals to end fighting on the border between Kosovo and southern Serbia.


Nato strongly welcomes the initiative that has been taken by Belgrade

Nato Secretary General George Robertson
At a meeting in Brussels, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic proposed changes to the demilitarised buffer zone between the two regions, which would allow Yugoslav forces to push back Kosovo Albanian militants.

They also put forward a plan to improve the social conditions of Albanians living in the area.

Albanian separatists have taken hold of the Presevo valley inside the buffer zone giving rise to fears of another conflict in the Balkans.

At present Yugoslav forces are not allowed into the buffer zone without the Nato commander's permission.

Appeal to Albanians

Nato Secretary General George Robertson said the plans were a "constructive and encouraging basis for negotiation", but that they needed further consideration.

UCPMB rebel behind sand bags
Ethnic-Albanian rebels train and patrol inside the zone
He told Kosovo Albanians this was a sincere attempt at peace by the Serbs.

"We today call on the ethnic-Albanian community in southern Serbia to enter into a dialogue with Belgrade to build together a balanced, long-term settlement," he said.

He urged Serbian authorities to immediately implement confidence building measures and said there should be no ultimatums or attempts to resolve the situation through violence.

The Presevo valley became a focus of attention when Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica rushed home from the World Economic Forum in Davos, warning that conflict was about to erupt in the area.

On Tuesday, President Kostunica proposed that the Yugoslav army and Nato peacekeepers should carry out joint patrols of the zone.

He also suggested the zone should be shifted by reducing it on the Serbian side and extending it into Kosovo.

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See also:

07 Feb 01 | Europe
Kosovo rebels accept peace talks
02 Feb 01 | Europe
Guerrillas threaten fragile peace
29 Jan 01 | Europe
Kostunica warns of fresh fighting
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