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Historic talks begin on Kosovo status

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Historic talks begin on Kosovo status

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Long awaited talks on the future of status of Kosovo have been taking place between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians in the Austrian capital, Vienna. It is the first round of negotiations between minority Serbs and ethnic Albanians that will decide whether the disputed province becomes independent or remains part of Serbia.

The meeting was delayed for a month by the death of President Ibrahim Rugova. The province has been run by the UN since 1999, when NATO bombing drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against ethnic Albanian civilians in a 2-year war with separatist rebels. Neither side has given much ground since then. Trying to break the ice, the meeting will skirt the extremely sensitive issue of status and focus on how to devolve power to the 100,000 remaining Serbs. Western diplomats have stressed that independence hinges on Albanians offering Kosovo’s minorities a viable future. Belgrade insists independence is unthinkable, but Albanians say it is a non-negotiable option after a decade of Serb repression in the 1990s.