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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 16:59 GMT
Talks focus on Kosovo war missing
Pictures of missing in Pristina
Members of most ethnic groups in Kosovo are among the missing
Serbs and Kosovo Albanians have held talks to discuss the whereabouts of more than 3,000 people missing since the Kosovo war ended six years ago.

It was the first meeting of its kind since talks were disrupted a year ago by an outbreak of violence in Kosovo.

Officials in both Kosovo and Belgrade have been criticised for failing to locate, exhume and return bodies.

Most of the missing are Kosovo Albanians, but Serbs and people from other ethnic groups also disappeared.

This meeting, chaired by the International Committee of the Red Cross, focused on establishing the whereabouts, identification and return of almost 3,000 ethnic Albanians, Serbs and Roma who disappeared during the war.

Most of them are presumed dead, and many are thought to be buried in mass graves as yet uncovered.

The talks were also a step towards fulfilling a key demand of the international community that a dialogue should be established between Belgrade and Pristina, ahead of negotiations on the final status of Kosovo later this year.

Framework

The head of the International Red Cross' European branch, Francois Stam, said it marked "an important step forward in what we hope will be a process that brings clarity for thousands of families still waiting for news of their missing relatives.

"Not closing these cases will make reconciliation difficult."

Speaking after the meeting, officials said that it had established a framework for resolving a pressing humanitarian issue, but the Red Cross said that the families of the missing would be the final judges on whether the process was a success or not.

The BBC's Belgrade correspondent Matt Prodger says the whereabouts of the missing is one of the most emotive issues dividing Kosovo Albanians and Serbs.

Some 800 bodies were exhumed from mass graves at a police training ground near Belgrade in 2001.


SEE ALSO:
Serbia returns bodies to Kosovo
16 Dec 04 |  Europe
Timeline: Kosovo
08 Mar 05 |  Country profiles
Regions and territories: Kosovo
08 Mar 05 |  Country profiles


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