After failed talks, Austria hosts forum on security in Kosovo

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The Austrian Foreign Ministry is hosting a conference on security in Kosovo in a follow-up to the latest round of talks on the status of the Albanian-dominated province in Serbia.

"It is vital that during the period when important decisions are being made regarding the future of Kosovo that the international community reaffirms its responsibility for security of all residents [of Kosovo], and continues contributing to the peace process there [in Kosovo] for as long as it is necessary," said Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo chief Joachim Ruecker are expected to attend the conference.

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

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.

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

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

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 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.

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. - RIA Novosti

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