On a visit to the Balkans, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Serbia to ensure constructive talks with its former province of Kosovo. Earlier, she warned Bosnia it was falling behind in integrating with Europe.
Clinton met with Bosnia's tri-partite presidency
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has praised the decision by Balkan nation Serbia to return to talks with its breakaway province of Kosovo, in an effort to resolve the long-running standoff over Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.
"That dialog can and will benefit people in Kosovo and in Serbia by addressing practical, day-to-day issues and the long-term relationship between you," Clinton said after talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic in Belgrade.
Tadic, meanwhile, said Serbia wanted "to be predictable partners," adding that "only in that way will we rebuild trust."
Many Serbians still remember Clinton's husband, former US President Bill Clinton, as the leader who supported the 1999 NATO bombing that led to Serbia's withdrawal from Kosovo.
Praise for police
Clinton also used her visit to Belgrade to praise Serbian police for protecting a weekend gay pride march from attacks, as prosecutors opened a criminal investigation against the leader of a far-right group for orchestrating the violent anti-gay protests.
"I especially want to commend the bravery of the police who provided security for the event at last Sunday's Pride Parade," Clinton said. "It was not easy, and yet we watched as the official law enforcement forces demonstrated unequivocally your support for the rights of all."
More than 150 people were injured Sunday in downtown Belgrade in running battles with police as thousands of far-right demonstrators tried to disrupt the march by hurling Molotov cocktails and stun grenades at police.
Clinton : Bosnia must do more
Clinton was welcomed by the Serbian people
Earlier Tuesday, Clinton visited Bosnia, where she warned the Balkan country it was falling behind its neighbors in integrating with Europe.
She said Bosnia risked having its hopes of joining the European Union and NATO dashed unless it starts bridging its internal political and ethnic divide. The country is ethnically divided along Bosniak, Serb and Croat lines.
"Hatreds have eased, but nationalism persists," she said. "Meanwhile, the promise of greater stability and opportunity, represented by integration into Europe, remains out of reach.
"Your neighbors have taken strides in that direction," Clinton continued. "Now is the time for the citizens of this country to make your voices heard."
Clinton will travel to Kosovo on Wednesday on the second and final day of her diplomatic tour of the war-torn region. She is expected to push the government in Pristina to make the most of talks with Serbia.
The US is among 70 states, including most of the 27 EU countries, to have recognized Kosovo's independence.
Author: Darren Mara, Gabriel Borrud (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel