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Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
No breakthrough at Kosovo talks
Ethnic Albanian woman looks out of window in Kosovo
Most of Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians want independence
Top-level talks between ethnic Albanian and Serbian leaders on the future status of Kosovo have failed to produce a breakthrough, a UN mediator has said.

"Belgrade was willing to give everything but independence and Pristina wanted nothing but independence," Martti Ahtisaari said.

The UN special envoy was speaking in Vienna after the talks - the first on Kosovo's status since 1999.

Kosovo, technically part of Serbia, is being run by the United Nations.

[Serbia] cannot accept the creation of a separate state on 15% of its territory
Vojislav Kostunica
Serbian PM

There were no handshakes before the one-day talks started, and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica declined to go to a joint lunch with the Kosovo delegation, correspondents say.

'Quite apart'

The presidents and prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo attended the meeting behind the closed doors - the first time such high-level delegations have met since Nato bombing forced the Serb army out of Kosovo in 1999.

Independence is the alpha and omega, the beginning and end of our position
Fatmir Sejdiu
Kosovo President

Both sides were setting out their future visions of Kosovo and trying to agree on a timetable for future negotiations.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian President Fatmir Sejdiu said "the will for independence cannot be ignored, or negotiated away in talks".

"Independence is the alpha and omega, the beginning and end of our position," Mr Seijdu said, according to a copy of his speech.

On his part, Mr Kostunica rejected the demand, saying that Belgrade could offer "substantial autonomy" instead.

He said Serbia "cannot accept the creation of a separate state on 15% of its territory".

Mr Ahtisaari said after the talks that it "is evident that the two sides are quite apart".

Western pressure

The actual negotiations are expected to begin at a later date, the BBC's South-east Europe analyst Gabriel Partos says.

Mr Ahtisaari is under pressure from the Western powers to produce a deal by the end of the year because they believe uncertainty over Kosovo's future could lead to its destabilisation, our analyst says.

BBC map

Mr Ahtisaari has some clear guidelines to follow. These were formulated by the six-nation Contact Group that is spearheading the UN's mediation efforts.

Three possible solutions are ruled out completely:

  • no partition of Kosovo

  • no return of the situation before March 1999

  • no union of Kosovo with another country.

Earlier this year, the Contact Group made it clear that a deal should be in line with the wishes of Kosovo's people.

Since the 90% ethnic Albanian majority are insisting on independence, that has been seen as a possible pointer of the kind of settlement that may emerge from the diplomatic process, our analyst says.

He says the Western powers in the Contact Group have hinted at independence, albeit under close international supervision, as a likely solution.

Russia, on the other hand, has said it will not go along with a deal that is imposed on Serbia.

Previous talks at a lower level have tackled practicalities such as the local government reform and economy, avoiding the central issue.

There remains a great deal of tension between the two communities and Nato recently reinforced its presence in the province.


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