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Russian FM slams independence bias in Kosovo talks

RIA Novosti

27/11/2007 12:19 ANNAPOLIS, November 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister said claims that Kosovo's independence is inevitable were disrupting collective efforts to find a resolution to the status of Serbia's breakaway province.

Sergei Lavrov told a briefing following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "We again reiterate constant statements that Kosovo's independence is inevitable undermine our joint efforts by stripping Pristina of any impetus to compromise."

Lavrov reminded journalists that the issue of the Albanian-dominated region is currently under discussion in Austria, where Russia, the United States and the European Union are mediating dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. "This is a very important round of talks, and we will be firm in our drive for rapprochement and solution through negotiations," he added.

A crucial round of negotiations between Serb and Kosovo Albanian leaders opened on Monday in the Austrian spa town of Baden, as the December 10 deadline set by the UN for a status agreement approaches.

Kosovo has been a UN protectorate ever since NATO's bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999 ended a bloody war between Serb forces and Albanian separatists in the region. Negotiations on the final status of Kosovo have so far stalled, with Belgrade offering broad autonomy to the province and Pristina insisting on full sovereignty.

The U.S. and some EU states have pushed for Kosovo's independence, while Russia says that security and humanitarian requirements must be met first and that independence would set a dangerous precedent, including for post-Soviet states.

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