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Clinton urges Kosovo to start talks with Serbia

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended her two-day Balkan tour in Pristina, where she pressed the prime minister of Kosovo not to put off dialogue with Belgrade.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Clinton is wrapping up a three-nation tour of the Balkans

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on Wednesday urged Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci not to delay talks with Belgrade, despite an internal political crisis in Pristina over the president's resignation.

Following a meeting with Thaci in the capital city of Pristina, Clinton said the dialogue should begin as soon as possible.

"...even though there will be elections here and then in the following years elections in Serbia, we believe that it is in Kosovo's interest for this dialogue to begin and to conclude in as expeditious a manner as possible," Clinton said.

Clinton said the United States would take on a support role in the talks, which are to be brokered by the EU. Washington has been a strong supporter of Kosovo, one of about 70 nations that recognizes Kosovo as independent.

Common interests

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci

Serbia vows it will never recognise the independence of Kosovo

The US Secretary of State emphasized that the talks must not be allowed to drag on.

"It needs to be focused and produce results," Clinton said.

The two nations had agreed in September to move ahead with talks about shared practical concerns such as transport and telecommunications, as well as more sensitive issues like the return of refugees, the status of Serbian Orthodox monasteries and the majority Serbs living in northern Kosovo.

But just weeks after the agreement, the sudden resignation of President Fatmir Sejdiu ignited fears that the internal political crisis could stall the talks.

A step forward

Following his meeting with Clinton, Thaci said that Pristina was ready to move past the rift with Belgrade.

"Time has come for finishing a century old conflict between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo is ready," the prime minister said.

Author: Sarah Harman (afp/Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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