Merkel calls on Belgrade to resume Kosovo talks

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday called on Serbia to resume talks aimed at cooling frictions with Kosovo ahead of a trip to Belgrade this week.

Merkel spoke of the tension between the countries in her daily podcast broadcast on the Chancellory website.

"That's why one of my tasks will be to convince Serbia that it must resume dialogue with Kosovo," said the chancellor.

"There cannot be a European prospect for this region if every effort is not made, despite the scars of the past which remain deep and painful," the leader said.

"Over and above the respect of the principles of the European Union, we also need to see if each country has the willingness to work in agreement with their neighbours to resolve conflicts peacefully and show mutual respect," said Merkel.

The chancellor hailed the arrest of war crimes suspects Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic along with their transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

"The proceedings underway are of major significance" in the process of overcoming the region's past crimes, Merkel said.

The chancellor will visit future EU member Croatia on Monday, the first visit by a German head of government since 2003, before meeting Serbian leaders in Belgrade the following day.

Relations between Serbia and Kosovo are frayed following violent clashes on their border at the end of July.

The crisis flared when Pristina ordered its security forces to take over two crossings to enforce a trade ban.

The residents in Serb-majority northern Kosovo reacted angrily and an ethnic Albanian police officer was killed and four injured in ensuing clashes.

Belgrade refused to recognise Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 and European Union-mediated talks aimed at easing day-to-day headaches between the sides are due to resume in mid-September.

© 2011 AFP

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