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Kosovo

Germany's Westerwelle urges Serbia Kosovo progress

Germany's Foreign Minister has called for further progress in normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Bipartisan talks are set to take place, with Serbia keen to strengthen its case for EU accession.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday called for "brave decisions" from Belgrade, so that progress could be made towards Serbia's accession to the EU.

Westerwelle claimed that an EU-brokered agreement in April, aimed at normalizing ties between the two, was a rare opportunity.

"Such historic circumstances do not occur every day, and when they occur they have to be grabbed," said Westerwelle, after talks in Belgrade with Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic.

Evidence of an improvement of ties with Kosovo would help cement the case in Berlin for Serbia becoming a member of the EU, he added.

"If the concrete results are visible, I can give a positive message to our parliament," Westerwelle said.

Warning against delays

Dacic - who is due to meet his Kosovar counterpart Hashim Thaci on Tuesday - stressed the importance of EU accession talks for Belgrade. He said that more delays in the opening of talks would have "disastrous consequences" for Serbia, and that his country would stand by the terms of the April accord.

"An agreement on the plan means deadlines for actions. We must define the plan and implement what is foreseen for the initial few weeks," said Dacic.

Later in the day, Westerwelle moved on to the Kosovar capital, Pristina, where he met Thaci in advance of Tuesday's talks.

"I want all sides to show a sufficient degree of flexibility, patience and wisdom," Westerwelle said after meeting the Kosovar premier. "Talks tomorrow should be developed in this way, in order to show that concrete steps are taken just before important meetings of the European Union."

Relations between Serbia and Kosovo have been strained since the 1998-99 war that ended after a NATO bombing campaign forced Belgrade's troops out of Kosovo.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority unilaterally declared independence in 2008, a status that Serbia has refused to recognize.

rc/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)