German minister to visit strife-wracked Kosovo

8th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will travel to Kosovo this week after warning it and Serbia Monday to cool border tensions if they hope to one day join the European Union, a spokesman said.

Westerwelle will be the first EU minister to visit Kosovo since a flare-up in a small Serb-dominated region after Pristina ordered its security forces to take control of border crossings to enforce a ban on imports from Serbia.

A spokesman, Dirk Augustin, said Westerwelle would hold talks with officials Thursday including prime minister Hashim Thaci and General Erhard Buehler, the German commander of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force.

The stop in Kosovo, which could include a brief helicopter trip to the flashpoint northern region, will come at the end of a three-day Balkans tour starting Tuesday that will also take in Croatia and Montenegro.

Westerwelle was in London Monday for talks with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Foreign Minister William Hague, with whom he issued a joint statement urging Belgrade and Pristina to end their border crisis.

Serbia and Kosovo must find a diplomatic solution "that recognises Kosovo's borders, improves life for everyone and puts the two states on the road to EU membership," the two ministers said in the text published Monday in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

"If they don't, they'll miss out on a historic opportunity," they added.

Kosovo, populated mainly by ethnic Albanians, unilaterally proclaimed its independence in 2008 with Western backing but Serbia never recognised it.

In the latest violence, an ethnic Albanian police officer was killed and four people were injured in clashes which NATO troops had to defuse.

Both Serbia and Kosovo aim to join the EU.

© 2011 AFP

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