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Serbia, Kosovo fail to reach accord, but agree to avoid violence

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Kosovo Albanian and Serb leaders failed to reach an agreement on Kosovo's status during three days of tense negotiations in an Austrian spa town, but pledged on Wednesday to refrain from violence.

The 'troika' of mediators - Russia, the United States and the European Union - adopted a joint communique following the meetings in a castle hotel, which were aimed at reaching a compromise between Serbia and its secessionist Albanian-dominated province.

"Both parties made it clear that they want to avoid violence," the document said.

The three mediators are set to visit Serbia and Kosovo on December 3, and will submit a report to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by December 10.

The European Union's envoy at the talks in Baden, Wolfgang Ischinger, expressed his regret that the talks had produced no agreement.

The status of Kosovo has been a contentious issue since NATO's bombing of the former Yugoslavia ended a bloody conflict between Serb forces and ethnic Albanians in the province in 1999.

Negotiations on its status have stalled, with Belgrade offering the region broad autonomy, and Pristina, backed by the U.S. and some European countries, insisting on independence. Russia has repeatedly warned that independence could have a knock-on effect, provoking instability in other secessionist regions, including in the former Soviet Union.

Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, Moscow's envoy at the talks, said: "Russia remains committed to a compromise solution."

Kosovo has said it will declare independence unilaterally if the UN fails to give its approval, while Serbia has warned it may impose an economic blockade on the small impoverished region if Kosovo Albanians carry out their threat.

U.S. envoy Frank Wisner said: "The peace of the region is very much at stake. It is a volatile region. We're going into a very difficult time."

Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu confirmed after the Baden talks that the region would proclaim its independence in the near future, but did not give a specific timeframe.

In their communique, the mediators called on the parties to maintain contacts regardless of disagreements. - RIA Novosti

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