Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy on the final status of Kosovo has met with Serbia's leaders to discuss the future of the Serbian province, which the United Nations has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid grave human rights abuses in fighting between majority Albanians and Serbs in 1999.
Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, a veteran UN trouble-shooter appointed earlier this month to lead the talks on the future status, met with President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic in the Serbian capital of Belgrade following two days of talks in Kosovo with ethnic Albanian and Serb leaders.
The talks could include the options of independence or autonomy for the province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities by 9 to 1, but Serbian officials have already rejected the idea of independence.
"We have touched the issues of decentralization, the return of the people who have left Kosovo for one reason or another, their right to return back to Kosovo and also have the right to settle wherever they find it convenient for themselves. They have a right for that," Mr. Ahtisaari told a news conference in Belgrade.
"I have emphasized that when we talk about future status, we talk about status with standards," he said, referring to a set of eight targets in such areas as building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and establishing an impartial legal system.
"I have emphasized that, when we talk about the standards in Kosovo, we need the action of the Kosovo Albanians, but we also need the support of all the minority population groups like the Serbs."
Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen, told a news conference earlier this week it was clear Kosovo cannot be partitioned and cannot link up in any kind of union with a neighbouring State. Greater moves towards decentralization by Kosovo's Albanians were needed to reassure minorities, he said.
Far too little had been done by Kosovo's Albanian leaders in terms of reaching out to minorities and really showing that Kosovo is strongly committed to being a multi-ethnic society, he added. They needed to do much more.
In a report in July, Mr. Jessen-Petersen stressed the need for stronger commitment by Kosovo Albanian leaders to move forward on the return of Serbs who fled their homes during the fighting in 1999, as well as on freedom of movement.