The European Union's foreign policy chief expressed hope Monday that a balanced solution would be found for the contested Kosovo province at upcoming U.N.-mediated negotiations.
Javier Solana spoke after meeting Serbia-Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic as part of his two-day visit to the Balkan republic. On Tuesday, he planned to travel to Kosovo to meet the province's ethnic Albanian leaders.
The negotiations on Kosovo's future status are expected to begin in January. Although still officially a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999.
Belgrade and Kosovo's Serb minority want the province to remain within Serbia's borders, while its ethnic Albanians majority seeks full independence. Solution to the dispute is considered key for stability of the Balkan region.
Solana said he "hoped very much that a solution will be found that will enable everybody to feel comfortable."
Serbia-Montenegro president Marovic warned that, "if we end up having one winner and many losers, the real loser will be regional stability."
EU officials have said a status settlement should respect rights of all Kosovo communities, saying the province cannot return to being directly ruled from Serbia nor be partitioned between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.
The EU is expected to play a key role in reaching a solution, and has appointed Austrian Balkan expert Stefan Lehne to assist U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, in leading the status talks, the AP reports.