Talks on Kosovo's future
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Talks on Kosovo's future

Serbian and Kosovo leaders met face to face for the first time for the start of the UN-mediated talks about the future of Kosovo.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 17:54 IST

Serbian and Kosovo leaders met face to face for the first time on Monday for the symbolic start of the sensitive UN-mediated talks about the future of Kosovo.

The closed-door session marked the start of complex negotiations, expected to last at least until the end of this year.

The session was held under the chairmanship of UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari, former Finnish president and veteran UN troubleshooter.

The talks will initially focus on the transfer of competencies in the fields of health care, education, welfare and culture, while on Tuesday, the delegations will discuss more important topics including justice, police and administration.

Both delegations are expected to evaluate the discussions at the end of the meeting.

The negotiations will ultimately determine whether Kosovo will become independent of Serbia, as demanded by its ethnic Albanian majority of almost two million, or remain a part of the former Yugoslav republic, the option backed by Belgrade and the province's Serb minority.

Some 80,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians who have remained in Kosovo since the 1998-99 war live in tiny isolated enclaves, heavily protected by NATO-led peacekeepers.

Serbia and its people broadly reject independence for Kosovo because they see the southern territory as the cradle of their nationhood and Orthodox religion.

First Published: Feb 20, 2006 17:18 IST