Source AP ©

Russian FM: there are alternatives to Kosovo independence

Russia’s foreign minister insists there are alternatives to Kosovo becoming independent.

Serbian and ethnic Albanian leaders remain bitterly opposed about Kosovo's future. Ethnic Albanians, who make up about 90 percent of the province's 2 million people, are demanding independence, while Serbia requires that it retain at least a formal authority over Kosovo.

"It is unproductive to claim that in searching for the final status of Kosovo there is no alternative to its independence," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Ljubljana after meeting Slovenian counterpart Dimitrij Rupel.

Moscow's position clashes with that of the U.S., which supports independence for Kosovo.

Lavrov did not elaborate on possible solutions, but Serbia has offered wide autonomy for Kosovo - a proposal that ethnic Albanians have rejected.

"We should not burden one or another side by claiming that there is no alternative" to Kosovo's independence, Lavrov said.

Several rounds of internationally-mediated talks have not brought the two sides any closer. The talks - mediated by the U.S., Russia and the European Union - should be over by Dec. 10, when the so-called troika will report back to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Some of the mediators doubt a compromise solution will be found by that date. Serbia has said it would negotiate past the deadline if necessary, but Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders announced they would immediately proclaim independence after that date.

Kosovo formally remains a part of Serbia, but it has been under U.N. administration since 1999, when NATO airstrikes ended former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Lavrov, who was on a brief visit to Slovenia, also met Danilo Tuerk, who won presidential elections Sunday.

It was the first official meeting for Tuerk as president-elect. He will be inaugurated Dec. 22.

The two know each other from the 1990s, when both worked in the United Nations in New York.