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4 of November, 15:25

Russian FM to visit Kosovo ahead of `decisive` talks
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Kosovo next week, ahead of UN-backed negotiations this month on the future status of the breakaway province.

Lavrov will travel on Sunday and Monday to Serbia and Montenegro and "a trip to Kosovo is planned" during that visit, ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS news agency.

The Russian foreign minister will also hold talks with top government officials in Serbia and Montenegro on ideas for resolving the disputed status of Kosovo, Serbia`s breakaway province populated mainly by ethnic Albanians.

"The process has entered a decisive phase of negotiations to determine the future status of the region," Kamynin was quoted as saying Thursday.

UN chief Kofi Annan on Tuesday officially announced that he was appointing former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari as his special envoy to the talks on the future of Kosovo.

The key issue in the talks, expected to begin sometime this month, will be whether the province should be allowed to become independent, as sought by its Albanian majority, or must remain part of Serbia, which regards Kosovo as the cradle of Serb civilization.

Russia has historically close bonds with fellow Slavic country Serbia, and strenuously opposed a 1999 bombing campaign in Serbia by NATO, which accused Serb forces of engaging in ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

Lavrov met in Moscow on Thursday with the speaker of the Serbia-Montenegro parliament and said afterwards that Russia`s relations with Serbia and Montenegro were "the priority of Russian foreign policy in the Balkans," according to ITAR-TASS

sections: Politics, World News

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