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Balkans: German FM calls on EU countries to recognise Kosovo

last update: August 11, 17:49

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Pristina, 11 Aug. (AKI) – Kosovo's independence, declared by majority Albanians in 2008, is irrevocable and all European Union countries need to recognise the Pristina government, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said on Thursday.

“Our position is that the geographic map in this region has been drawn up and there is no return to the times when borders could be disputed,” he said after talks with top Kosovo officials.

A total of 77 countries, including the United States have recognised Kosovo so far. Out of the European Union's 27 members, only Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, Romania and Spain have not.

Serbia and Bosnia, both aspiring EU members are the only two west Balkans countries that haven’t recognised Kosovo.

Serbs consider Kosovo the cradle of their civilisation and Pristina is still trying to establish a full control over the Serb-populated north. Bosnia’s majority Muslims back Kosovo independence, but its recognition has been blocked by local Serbs, the second biggest group.

Significantly, Westerwelle, who was on a tour of the region, did not visit Serbia or Bosnia.

After talks with Kosovo's prime minister Hashim Thaci, president Atifete Jahjaga and other officials in Pristina, Westerwelle said Germany had supported Kosovo's independence from the outset and would “remain faithful to that position”.

Prior to visiting to Kosovo, Westerwelle stopped over in Montenegro and Croatia, where he lent support to local leaders in their journey to join the EU.

Montenegro is an official candidate for EU membership, while Croatia is set to enter the bloc in 2013.

Accompanied by the commander of NATO forces stationed in Kosovo, German general Erhard Buehler, Westerwelle visited two northern border crossings with Serbia, Jarinje and Brnjak, which have been a source of tensions for the past two weeks.

Local Serbs had set up roadblocks to prevent special Kosovo police taking over the crossings amid a trade dispute and Jarinje was burned down by the protesters. One Kosovo policeman was killed in clashes with local Serbs.

The tensions have eased in the past few days following a temporary, Nato-brokered agreement under which the Nato-led KFOR peacekeeping force has taken over the Jarinje and Brnjak crossings.

“It’s pretty shocking to see the traces of violence here,” Westerwelle said. He warned that violence could break out again in the area and that such possibility “shouldn’t be underestimated”.

He called on Pristina and Belgrade to resume EU-sponsored talks broken off last month as soon as possible.

“It is important that all disputes be resolved by dialogue,” said Buehler, whose plan to wed an ethnic Albanian woman has sparked a recent political row.


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