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Mahmud Abbas (left) and Vladimir Putin met today in Moscow (file photo) (official site) July 31, 2007 -- The Russian Foreign Ministry says talks between Serbia and Kosovar Albanians over the future status of the Serbian province could start "very soon."


The ministry said in a statement today that no "artificial time limit" should be imposed on the negotiations.

The ministry also said Russia has appointed senior diplomat Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko to represent the country during the talks. Botsan-Kharchenko will join representatives from the European Union and the United States to oversee the negotiations.

Aso today, Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas as the "legitimate leader of all Palestinians."

Putin was speaking at the start of talks with Abbas in Moscow. The visit is Abbas's first to Russia since the radical Islamist group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, deepening the fued between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah party.

Russia is the only member of the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators to have maintained political contacts with Hamas.


But First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov today told reporters that Moscow has downgraded its ties with Hamas, and is trying to influence Palestinian leaders "directly and indirectly to resume national unity."

(Reuters, AP, AFP)

Final Status For Kosovo

Pro-independence graffiti in Prishtina (epa)

FINALLY STATUS? Sabine Freizer, director of the Crisis Group's Europe Program, told an RFE/RL briefing that deep divisions in the UN Security Council make it uncertain what form Kosovo's future status might take.


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Listen to the entire briefing (about 70 minutes):
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RFE/RL's coverage of Kosovo. The website of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Language Service.

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