U.N. Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari says life for Kosovo's minorities, particularly Serbs, must improve before the status of the province can be determined.
Mr. Ahtisaari just completed a five-day visit to Kosovo and Serbia following the first round of talks on the future status of the Serbian province, which has a majority Albanian population. Another round of talks on the issue resumes in Vienna March 17.
Mr. Ahtisaari says issues such as cultural heritage and religious sites still must be discussed along with practical economic and infrastructure issues. But right now, the former Finnish president says, decentralization talks are concentrating on the main issue: improving life for Kosovo's minorities, particularly Serbs.
"I made a visit to a municipality close to Pristina and I said there in my town hall meeting that to improve the education and health services and infrastructure in municipalities, you need money," he said. "But to improve human relations, you need only will. That does not cost a penny."
Autonomy and independence are among the options for Kosovo's future. But Serbia rejects the idea of independence and Kosovar Serbs have been boycotting the province's provisional institutions.
Parties on both sides of the issue, Ahtisaari says, share responsibility for improvements.
"I have emphasized also that while we are encouraging Kosovar Albanians to move forward, be forthcoming, be generous, it is as important to send a message to Kosovar Serbs that they have to participate," he said.
Mr. Ahtisaari made his comments after briefing the Security Council. The United Nations has administered the province since 1999, when NATO forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid grave human rights abuses against ethnic Albanians.