March 27, 2008 / 8:16 AM / 11 years ago

Serbia to push for separating ethnic Serbs from Kosovo

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Serbia will push for a proposal to govern ethnic Serb areas in Kosovo under an interim agreement with the United Nations mission there, the Serbian foreign minister said on Thursday.

Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic speaks with the media after talks with Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem at the Government Guest House in Hanoi March 24, 2008. REUTERS/Kham

Kosovo’s 90 percent Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia on Feb 17 with Western support but the move was branded illegal by Belgrade. About 120,000 Serbs still live in Kosovo.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said an interim agreement between Kosovo’s Serbs and the United Nations mission on a separate administration there was necessary to avoid violent conflict.

“We’re talking about how to bridge the situation in which nobody’s talking to anybody down there in Kosovo, there’s a threat to security in Kosovo, there are issues of the legitimacy of international presence in Kosovo,” Jeremic told reporters after talks with his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda in Jakarta.

“We are going to continue talking about it with the United Nations because this is supposed to be the counter-party to this proposal in any circumstances,” he said.

About half of Kosovo Serbs live in a northern strip bordering on Serbia proper and the rest in scattered and isolated enclaves to the east and south.

Former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov said on Wednesday that the ethnic partition of Kosovo was the only option to avoid future conflict, and it would entail population movements.

The Albanians, the West and the Serbs have all insisted for their own reasons in the past that partition is not an option, although some Western diplomats suspect it has always been on the Serb agenda as a “plan B”.

The government of Serbia would continue pushing for integration with the European Union, Jeremic said, despite remarks by nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica that Serbs should be prepared to defer EU membership for “many, many years”

“This is the only way in which we can stabilize our part of the world and in which we can achieve progress,” he said. “One thing is for sure, the future of southeast Europe (western Balkans) is in the European Union.”

Kostunica said on Tuesday that until the West reverses its recognition of Kosovo, Serbia should “cooperate with” the EU without becoming a member.

Reporting by Ahmad Pathoni, Editing by

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