Diplomatic and Military Affairs

Germany rules out Kosovo partition on ethnic lines

Updated: 2011-08-12 08:53


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PRISTINA - Germany will oppose any partition of Kosovo, its foreign minister said on Thursday following a warning by Kosovo Albanian leaders that Serbia wants its former province divided along ethnic lines.

Guido Westerwelle said the map of the Balkans had been decided and the issue of territorial changes was closed.

"For us it is clear that the situation and territorial integrity in this region is decided; this means this is out of discussion for us," Westerwelle said at a news conference with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian premier during a visit to Pristina.

Westerwelle said German Chancellor Angela Merkel will pass on the same message during a visit to Serbia later this month.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO bombing halted a Serbian military crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians. But 60,000 Serbs in north Kosovo rejected the breakaway and still deem Belgrade their capital.

Some Serbian officials have floated the idea of partitioning Kosovo, effectively hiving off its northern Serb enclave.  

Violence flared in the enclave two weeks ago after Pristina authorities tried to seize border posts controlled by Serbs in order to enforce a ban on imports from Serbia and gain control of its northern part.

One Kosovo police officer was shot dead and Serb mobs blocked all the roads in the north and torched a border station.

"We think dialogue is necessary, we think cooperation instead of confrontation should be the foundation for every process in the region but this also includes that we want respect for the borders," Westerwelle said.

With 1,023 troops, Germany has the biggest military contingent in Kosovo's NATO peacekeeping mission (KFOR). It is sending another 500 after the recent violence.

Mediated by the NATO commander in Kosovo, a German general, Serbia and Kosovo last week reached a temporary deal to ease tension through mid September when Belgrade and Pristina are scheduled to resume talks in Brussels to resolve trade issues.

However, ethnic Serbs in Kosovo have only partially accepted the accord and have not completely removed roadblocks.

Under the deal, KFOR will continue to guard two border posts and let civilians pass in and out of Kosovo. No goods from Serbia will enter Kosovo but Pristina will not send its police and customs officers to the northern border posts.

After arresting recently the two last Bosnian Serbs wanted for war crimes in Bosnia's conflict, Serbia's road to join the European Union now partly depends on its relations with Kosovo.


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