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Time of ethnic strife in Europe must end, says German minister

German Foreign Minister expresses deep concern about the latest outbreak of violence in the North of Kosovo

AFP , Thursday 11 Aug 2011
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German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, is the first high-ranking European official to visit Kosovo since violent clashes over two weeks ago.

"We are very concerned about the latest outbreak of violence in the North Kosovo.... The time of violent clashes, the time of wars and conflicts along ethnic lines in Europe must end," Westerwelle said after meeting Kosovo Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci.

"We are talking about Europe and the future of Europe. We are looking to the EU-led dialogue and counting on it being resumed as soon as possible," he added.

The crisis flared on July 25 when Pristina ordered its security forces to take over the two border crossings to Serbia to enforce a trade ban.

The residents of the Serb-majority Northern Kosovo reacted angrily and an ethnic Albanian police officer was killed and four injured in ensuing clashes.

NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops moved in when a border post was razed and set on fire. Belgrade and Pristina have since agreed to a deal whereby the KFOR troops will man the disputed border posts until both sides resume the European Union-mediated talks in mid-September.

These negotiations are aimed at cooling friction and ending the day-to-day headaches faced by ordinary people after Belgrade's refusal to recognise Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence in 2008.

Westerwelle boosted Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian government by stressing that for Berlin "the territorial integrity (of Kosovo) is non-negotiable".

"We believe that the map of this region has been drawn and there is no going back," he stressed. Germany is among the majority of EU members who recognise Pristina's independence.

Asked if recognition of Kosovo was a condition for allowing EU-hopeful Serbia to get EU candidacy status by the end of the year, Westerwelle said he did not want to draw conclusions yet.

"We think that dialogue is necessary. This also means that everyone must respect the borders," he said.

Thaci, who has been criticised by Brussels for suddenly moving to change the status quo on the ground by seizing the border posts, was unrepentant.

"The latest development that happened in the republic of Kosovo was necessary to create a reality in which law and order will rule. (It was) our right under ... the constitution and law of Kosovo," he said.

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