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German defense minister urges calm in Kosovo

After the latest talks on Kosovo’s future failed to compromise Germany's defense minister appealed Friday for calm in the province.

Franz Josef Jung urged all sides to avoid violence that would hamper the continuing internationally brokered negotiations. So far both sides have refused to back down from their political demands. Ethnic Albanians want independence for Kosovo, while Serbia wants to keep control of the province.

"I ask all sides for restraint," Jung told reporters.

"We are making all efforts for these talks to end by December and to avoid turmoil that would hinder the talks."

Jung, who Friday met the province's president and prime minister, arrived in Kosovo a day after ethnic Albanians and Serbia's officials met international envoys in separate, closed-door sessions in Vienna.

Diplomats from the United States, European Union and Russia

Jung: I ask all sides for restraint(www.lachen-helfen.de)
Jung: I ask all sides for restraint(www.lachen-helfen.de)
are trying to get the two sides to agree on Kosovo's political future, eight years after NATO airstrikes were launched to stop a crackdown by Serb troops on separatist Albanians.

Since then the province has been under U.N. and NATO control, although it is formally still part of Serbia.

Kosovo Prime Minister, Agim Ceku reiterated Friday that the province's leaders would declare independence if no agreement was reached during the talks. But no unilateral move would be made without support from the U.S. and EU, he added.

His comments came after EU representative Wolfgang Ischinger told reporters in Vienna Thursday that he obtained assurances that neither side would make statements that could be "regarded as provocative for the future."

The envoys leading the latest effort are to report to U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon by Dec. 10.

The negotiations follow the failure of U.N.-sponsored talks led by former Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari, to lead to a resolution in the Security Council. Russia sided with Serbia, and threatened to veto the proposal to grant Kosovo internationally supervised independence.

Jung is in Kosovo for the change from German to French leadership of 16,000 NATO-led peacekeepers. The French Defense Minister, Herve Morin, will also be at the ceremony.

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