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Russian Mediator: Direct Talks on Kosovo Later This Month

04 September 2007

A Russian mediator says Serbian representatives and leaders of the ethnic Albanian majority in Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province will hold direct talks later this month.

Alexander Bostan-Kharchenko told a Moscow newspaper Vremya Novostei Tuesday that the direct talks could mark a key shift in the negotiating process. He said he expects the meeting to take place about September 28 on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York.

Representatives of the two sides held indirect talks in Vienna last week.

News media reports from Serbia and Kosovo say mediators from the United States, the European Union and Russia will continue consultations with the two sides until the New York talks.

EU envoy Wolfgang Ischinger is in Belgrade Tuesday for meetings with Serbian officials.

The series of meetings is scheduled to end December 10.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has called for unity among EU countries in dealing with the Kosovo issue. He made his comments during a brief visit to Romania.

Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999. Its majority ethnic Albanian population wants independence. Serbia has offered broad autonomy to its breakaway province, but rejects its independence.

Serbia's traditional ally, Russia, says it will not support any proposal that fails to win the approval of both sides.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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