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Kosovo Government, Opposition Say No Serbia Talks Without U.S.

Serbian President Boris Tadic in Belgrade on July 22, when a UN court ruled that Kosovo's 2008 independence declaration was legal.
PRISTINA -- Kosovo government officials and opposition members say there can be no high-level talks with Serbian officials without a U.S. presence, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci said that "in our view the U.S. role is irreplaceable in any talks on Kosovo. The United States should be present in such talks not because we wish so, but as a guarantee for a durable solution. Any acceptable solution would come [only] as a result of EU-U.S. unity."

Ahmet Isufi, the vice president of Kosovo's main opposition party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, echoed Kuci's position.

"We consider that no political talks will take place without American participation," he said.

Talks between Pristina and Belgrade were encouraged in a UN General Assembly resolution on Kosovo adopted on September 9. The resolution "welcomes the readiness" of the EU to facilitate dialogue "between all players." The document does not specify the issues that should be discussed between two sides.

Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, has expressed her readiness to host such talks in Brussels. But she has underlined that it will be up to both Pristina and Belgrade to decide on an agenda and the level or type of participation in the dialogue.

The UN resolution mentions the EU only as a facilitator of talks but does not specify a possible role by Washington or the UN.

Oliver Ivanovic, an official in Serbia's Kosovo and Metohija Ministry, said Belgrade would prefer to see the UN involved in the talks. Ivanovic suggested that dialogue can start with the discussion on the fate of missing people.

Working groups on missing people from Kosovo and Serbia have been successful in establishing regular meetings, with the mediation of the International Red Cross. There are 1,862 people unaccounted for since Kosovo War ended in 1999. Most of them are Kosovar Albanians.

Kosovo's government has said on several occasions that there will be no talks on the territory's status or territorial integrity. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has been recognized by 70 countries.

According to a survey published earlier this week in Pristina, the majority of Kosovo citizens support the idea of talks with Belgrade. The poll was conducted by the Club of Foreign Affairs, an independent think tank.

In the same poll, 50 percent of the participants said the Ahtisaari Plan that recommended supervised independence for Kosovo should not be negotiated. Kosovo's declaration of independence was based on that proposal, made by former Finnish President and UN mediator Marti Ahtisaari.