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Talks on Kosovo's Status Open in Vienna


Ethnic Albanian and Serb delegations have begun U.N.-mediated talks on the future of the province of Kosovo. The negotiations aim to determine whether the U.N.-administered province should become independent, or remain part of Serbia and Montenegro.

The negotiations in Vienna are not expected to solve the complex issues overnight. Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who was appointed by the United Nations to steer the talks, hopes to see a status agreement by the end of this year.

Serbs want Kosovo to remain part of Serbia, while the province's majority ethnic-Albanians want independence.

At Monday's talks in Vienna, delegates were focusing on practical issues, including local government reforms, aimed at improving the rights of Serbs and other minorities in the province.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Ferenc Somogyi met with Kosovo officials before the negotiations began. Hungary is the only European Union country which borders Serbia-Montenegro and Hungarian officials are watching the talks closely. Somogyi told VOA, regardless of the outcome of the talks, minority rights must be protected.

"If there is no respect for human rights, or minority rights, there will be no Serbs staying or returning," said Ferenc Somogyi. "No matter what the final formula would be, it is absolutely important that standards are met."

An estimated 100,000 Serbs live in Kosovo, where 90 percent of the population is ethnic Albanian.

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