LONDON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday she wanted to avoid any moves toward a partition of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia this year.
“What we can’t let happen is that there is a sort of any kind of slippery slope toward questioning the territorial integrity of Kosovo,” Rice said as she flew to London for talks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran’s nuclear program and the status of Kosovo.
Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia on February 17 in a move that had Western backing but was rejected by Serbia and its ally Russia.
The decision stoked tensions with the ethnic Serb minority in northern Kosovo that erupted into riots last month in which a Ukrainian police officer serving with the United Nations was killed and dozens of U.N. police and NATO troops were injured.
The United Nations mission that has run the former Serbian province since 1999 is due to hand over its remaining powers to Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders and its European Union-led overseers in June.
Questions remain over how the transition will proceed, after Russia blocked the adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing the EU takeover and a U.N. plan for independence.
Rice, along with top officials from Britain, France, Germany and Italy, will discuss how to help smooth the transition. “We are going to look at how to move forward more quickly on the deployment of the European forces,” she said.
“We want to make certain that there are no efforts to partition Kosovo,” Rice said in what appeared to be an allusion to northern Kosovo and its large ethnic Serb population.
About 120,000 Serbs live in Kosovo among 2 million ethnic Albanians.
Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia