France, NATO urge calm in row over Kosovo's future

France and NATO appealed for calm Friday amid rising tensions over the future of Kosovo, while Russia called for an "impartial" envoy to sort out divisions over the Serbian province's status.

France, NATO urge calm in row over Kosovo's future
During a visit to the provincial capital, Pristina, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner urged Kosovo's Albanian majority, which is impatient for independence from Belgrade, to work with the international community.

"We have to work together for some weeks or some months. Unity is very important," Kouchner, who was the first UN administrator in Kosovo, told reporters.

"This is a difficult process and we will do it together," he added, following talks with the head of the UN mission in Kosovo, Joachim Rucker.

France backs the proposal by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari for Kosovo to be granted supervised independence -- a move staunchly opposed by Serbia and its powerful ally.

Kouchner arrived in Pristina after a visit to Belgrade where he had insisted that Serbia would have to make an agreement over Kosovo before it could join the European Union.

Russia has threatened to use its UN Security Council veto to block any resolution that fails to meet with Belgrade's approval.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, on a visit to the Serbian capital on Friday, sought to keep a lid on the simmering tensions.

"I would like to repeat my call for calm end restraint from all sides. Then we can have a controlled process," he said after talks with Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremi.

"This status quo is not tenable and we should avoid unnecessary delay in finding a solution for the statute of Kosovo."

In what was seen as a message to Moscow, De Hoop Scheffer added: "I hope that those who until now have prevented this resolution from being accepted will show the necessary flexibility."

In Belgrade to discuss Serbia's cooperation with NATO, the alliance chief was scheduled to hold talks with President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, Defence Secretary Dragan Sutanovac and armed forces chief General Dragan Ponos.

Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a new envoy should be found to replace Ahtisaari.

"If one of the sides in the talks can't accept the proposals" Ahtisaari has made, "then the task of continuing talks should be given to an impartial international envoy," Lavrov said.

Growing Kosovo Albanian impatience with the delay in implementing the Ahtisaari plan prompted the province's prime minister, Agim Ceku, to urge European leaders Wednesday to sidestep the United Nations and recognise the independence of the Serbian province unilaterally.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Temmuz 2007, 19:39