Belgrade: US Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton today urged Serbia and its former province of Kosovo to settle their differences, more than a decade after NATO launched airstrikes on Serbia to halt violence against
Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.
Clinton made the call in the Serbian capital of
Belgrade, the second stop on a three-nation tour of the
Balkans aimed at pressing for reconciliation and reform in the
region still politically splintered following the breakup of
Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the bloody civil wars that
Clinton said rapprochement between Serbia and Kosovo,
combined with Serbian political reform, would put Serbia on
the path to European Union membership, a role that it could
use to anchor stability in southeastern Europe.
"That dialogue can and will benefit people in Kosovo
and Serbia by addressing practical, day-to-day issues and the
long-term relationship between you," she said after meeting
with Serbian President Boris Tadic.
"It will also have a positive impact on the
relationship between Serbia, your neighbours, Europe and the
Tadic said he is ready for talks, called for last
month by the UN Security Council. But leaders in Kosovo, where
Clinton will visit tomorrow, have sought a delay, saying
negotiations would be more productive after elections expected
early next year.
Although Tadic stressed he wants the talks to begin
"as soon as possible," he also insisted that Serbia would
never accept Kosovo's 2008 secession, which has been
recognised by most of the countries of the European Union and
ruled legal by the International Court of Justice in July.
"Serbia is not going to recognise the independence of
Kosovo," Tadic said, standing beside Clinton, whose husband's
administration was the driving force behind the NATO bombings
of Belgrade and other Serb cities in 1999.
"However, we respect the rights of the Albanian people
and, by respecting Albanian rights, we defend our own rights
Clinton praised Tadic for his commitment to reform and
human rights, his promise to work toward European integration
and his support for the international court that is
prosecuting former officials for war crimes committed in the
1990s. But Clinton said Serbia needed to go further, and
candidly allowed that Washington and Belgrade would likely
never see eye-to-eye on Kosovo.
"There are areas, as the president said, where we
will not agree and foremost among them is Kosovo," she
First Published: Wednesday, October 13, 2010, 10:13