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Kosovo Troika Counts Province Division Among Possibilities

After three days of talks, envoys from the US, EU and Russia said they could no longer rule out dividing the province into Serbian and Albanian segments.

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KFOR soldiers have been keeping the peace in Kosovo since 1999

The aim of the troika of Kosovo negotiators was to encourage any possible accord between the partners, according to German European Union representative Wolfgang Ischinger, who spoke to reporters on Sunday in Pristina.

Kosovo could be divided into Serbian and Albanian sectors -- a notion heretofore taboo -- if all parties agreed to it, Ischinger noted.

If both sides are prepared to follow up on any option, it would be "good for us," Ischinger told the press. But if they stick to their opening positions, he acknowledged that there would be little chance for a compromise between the parties that negotiated with UN mediator Martti Ahtisaari for over a year.´

'A good start' to talks

From the beginning of the weekend's talks, the Kosovo mediators had met with uncompromising negotiating partners, he said. Nonetheless, the talks are off to a "good start," Ischinger added.

EU, US and Russian negotiators started talks on Friday in the Serbian capitol of Belgrade, and continued them in Albanian-dominated Pristina.

Verhandlungen über Zukunft des Kosovo - Großbild

Troika diplomats, officials met in Pristina on Saturday

After the talks, when asked whether a division of the country would be considered, Ischinger said: "If they want to. ... We are open to any possibilities."

Kosovo PM sticks to plan

Western policy on Kosovo previously ruled out partition, arguing it could spark regional conflict. Any division would be likely to leave the northern slice -- where about half of Kosovo's 100,000 Serbs live -- as part of Serbia.

Kosovo Albanians, who number some 1.9 million, are principally opposed to dividing the province and have instead have called for complete independence from Serbia.

After initial talks with the troika on Saturday, Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku said he would stick to his demand for an independent Serbia. This should take place this year -- and should represent the current borders of the province.

The Serbs are not seeking independence. Serbian President Boris Tadic spoke Friday of the "necessity" of keeping Serbia's "sovereignty and territorial integrity."

120 day time limit

Along with Ischinger, negotiators included Russian Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko and US diplomat Frank Wisner. The troika was created after Russia, a close ally of Serbia, refused a suggestion for Kosovo independence that the EU and USA brought to the UN Security Council.

Albaner verlangen Unabhängigkeit des Kosovo

Kosovo Albanians protested for their cause: independence

The troika has 120 days to make headway in the region, before presenting a report to the UN on Dec. 10. Russia has, however, protested the deadline and called for open-ended talks.

The head of KFOR peacekeeping troops, Germany's Lt. Gen. Roland Kather, urged a rapid solution in Kosovo.

"People need this decision in order to have a clear view of the future," he told German radio. Residents of Kosovo care less about political status of the province than they do about having peaceful lives, he said.

Observers say dividing Kosovo could be a way out of the dead-end negotiations over Kosovo's status. The southern-Serbian province has been under the administration of the United Nations since 1999, with KFOR troops overseeing public security and helping with civil reconstruction.

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